CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Nursing another nasty cold in New Jersey, or taking a private jet to Cleveland? The choice isn't as easy as it appears.
If owner-trainer Nick Surick wants to stay true to what works best for his horse and thus his wallet, he'd let somebody sneeze on him. Then, with tissues and aspirin in hand, he'd head for his personal sick bay.
Instead, Surick is heading for the airport with Tim Tetrick, his driver, and Hannah Miller, his girlfriend, for a chartered flight to Cleveland where he'll send out Ella Christina in Saturday night's $120,000 Courageous Lady, the last major stakes race of the year at Northfield Park.
Surick purchased the sophomore filly pacer in a private sale in late July, a week before she raced in the $129,950 Adioo Volo at The Meadows. However, he then became too sick to travel to the Pittsburgh track from his home in Freehold, N.J.
"I had a bad case of the summer flu," said Surick. "I stayed in bed and slept most of the day. I did get up in time to watch my filly's race on television."
Surick thought Ella Christina was a good buy, but he wasn't sure she'd pace a big mile in the Adioo Volo. She left the gate at odds of 56-1.
The daughter of Western Ideal was more than ready to pace.
"I jumped out of bed and halfway down the stretch I said, 'I got a shot to win this.'" said Surick.
Ella Christina rallied from far back to prevail by a half-length. She paid $112.80 for a $2 win wager.
She's won six of her 15 starts this year and $107,811. In the Courageous Lady, Ella Christina will start from the No. 3 post and is the earlybird 3-1 second choice behind Bettor's Up (5-2), a winner of five of 13 starts in 2017 and $353,090.
"My filly is compact," said Surick. "She's made to race on a half-mile track like Northfield. She's super sharp right now and drew a good post."
The reason Surick charted a private jet is because Tetrick has a full schedule of drives at Harrah's Philadelphia on Sunday.
"Believe me, it's money well spent to have Tim in my corner driving my horse," he said.
Tetrick, 35, set harness racing's record for victories in a single season with a staggering 1,189 scores in 2007. Surick, just 29, currently ranks fifth in North America among winningest trainers with 210 victories.
Surick's girlfriend isn't just along for the ride. Miller is an accomplished amateur driver and will participate in the "Pace for the Cure," a race (10th on the card) that's part of Pinktober, a drive to raise funds for the fight against breast cancer.
Bonus races: Supporting the Courageous Lady will be eight Ohio Sires Stakes Consolation races, each carrying a purse of $50,000.
$120,000 Courageous Lady Field
PP. Horse / Driver / Odds
1. Bourbon And Barley / Ryan Stahl / 8-1
2. Al-Mar-Got A Fever / Chris Page / 9-2
3. Ella Christina / Tim Tetrick / 3-1
4. Big City Betty / Aaron Merriman / 12-1
5. Terrortina / Tony Hall / 6-1
6. Bettor's Up / Brett Miller / 5-2
7. Rosemary Rose / Mike Wilder / 10-1