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Gillis Hopes His 10s Are Perfect

Friday, October 28, 2011  By: Standardbred Canada

Canada’s leading money earning trainer Jeff Gillis may have just about had the worst luck at the post draw for the $6.2 million Breeders Crown championships set for Saturday at Woodbine Racetrack, but no one is counting the Hillsburgh horseman out as he has some of the top picks on the card.

Coming out of the Breeders Crown eliminations, Gillis qualified all three of his entries including trotting mare Frenchfrysnvinegar, freshman pacer Speed Again, and sophomore pacer Mystician.

Six-year-old Frenchfrysnvinegar was a supplemental entry into the $300,000 Breeders Crown Mare Trot and has drawn Post 10 in the 11-horse field, but is the 7-2 co-favourite. The daughter of Angus Hall-Gugus has hit the board in 17 of 24 starts (seven wins) this year while banking over $200,000 racing against the top male trotters on the WEG circuit -- including North America’s top ranked standardbred, San Pail -- for owner David Smith of Rockwood, Ont. She established her 1:53 lifetime mark in back-to-back wins in mid-August at Mohawk Racetrack and enters the Breeders Crown off a 1:54.2 second-place effort in a conditioning assignment on Oct. 15 at Woodbine. Driver Jody Jamieson will sit in the sulky.

“I don’t mind [coming into the race with] a week off for her,” Gillis told Trot Insider. “She had raced three times in a row so should be plenty tight. Obviously the post doesn’t help, but she’s got tremendous gate speed.”

Speed Again will give Gillis a shot at his second Breeders Crown trophy in the two-year-old pacing colt division and has the best post out of his three starters -- Post 8. The son of Dragon Again-Sand Speed is the 4-1 third choice in the field and will also have Jamieson in the sulky for the championships.

“Obviously I prefer to be inside, but he’s got some tactical speed and I have confidence Jody will work something out for him,” said Gillis, part owner of the 2007 Breeders Crown winner Santanna Blue Chip, who banked over $1.6 million while racing in the shadow of the great Somebeachsomewhere.

Speed Again has never missed a paycheque in nine career starts, which includes victories in his Nassagaweya and Champlain Stakes divisions. He had a perfect second over tow in his elimination, but was interfered with when D Terminata made a break from the two-hole around the final turn. Speed Again still managed a fifth-place finish behind winner A Rocknroll Dance to secure a spot in the championships.

“Well obviously I was concerned,” said Gillis, who co-owns Speed Again with Ken Henwood of Mississauga, Ont., Mac Nichol of Burlington, Ont., and New York’s Gerald Stay. “First of all that the horse could be injured and secondly that he wouldn’t make the final. We came out of it relatively unscathed and still held on for a spot in the final. He’s a tenacious colt and he doesn’t know how to quit. But we were lucky.

“I think I’m going to take the Murphy Blind off the outside of Speed Again, but really that’s all,” he added.

Mystician, this year’s Upper Canada Cup champion and one of the top three-year-old pacing colts in the Ontario Sires Stakes program, followed the cover of eventual upset winner Westwardho Hanover en route to a fourth place finish in his elimination, just one and a half lengths behind with Jamieson in the bike.

The son of Camluck-Mystic Mistress drew the outside Post 10 for the final at the press conference at WEGZ Stadium Bar on Tuesday and will pick up the services of driver Brian Sears as Jamison opted to drive his father’s colt, the Carl Jamieson trained-Up The Credit. Though an outside post has its challenges, Gillis has said all along that his pupil is a trip horse. And he’s proven it before winning last year’s $1 million Metro Pace at Mohawk Racetrack from the nine-hole.

“Obviously you can’t go wrong with picking up Brian at scratch time. I’m hoping they go a half in :52 and change and then maybe that [Post 10] will be the spot to be,” laughed Gillis, who also co-owns this colt with Henwood, Nichol and Stay. “But he does have gate speed if Brian likes to use it. He hasn’t been firing off quite as well as he was earlier in the year, but I think that’s just him taking it easy. It’s a wide open race and the trip generally wins, at this time of year especially.”

Entering the eliminations, Gillis changed Mystician’s shoes from steel to aluminum.

“I’ve pick my spots to put aluminums on him. He’s only raced in them about four of five times this year. He can go either way.”

For the final he says he hasn’t decided on any further equipment changes.

“I might mess with his bridle a bit,” he said.

Following the Breeders Crown championships Mystician will head back to the provincial ranks and tackle Ontario’s top colts in the $300,000 OSS Super Final on November 12. Meanwhile, Speed Again will head to Pennsylvania for Harrah’s Chester’s Governor’s Cup (eliminations on November 6).

All 12 of the 2011 Breeders Crown finals will take centre stage this Saturday (October 29) at Woodbine Racetrack in suburban Toronto. The program will feature a special first-race post time of 6:30 p.m. (ET).

With more than $6 million in purses money on the line, the racing program will mark the first time in Canada that all 12 of the Breeders Crown championships will be contested on the same card. The Score will be broadcasting the evening live, coast-to-coast in Canada. The broadcast will begin at 7:30 p.m. and run until 11:15 p.m.

To view the entries for Woodbine's Breeders Crown program, click here. To access a free printable program for Breeders Crown Night courtesy of TrackIT, click here.


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