Wedgewood Ready For Gold Ranks
Geoff Maltby does not expect two-year-old trotter Wedgewood to be among the favourites in his $40,000 Ontario Sires Stakes Gold elimination at Grand River Raceway on Wednesday, July 28, but the trainer does expect the diminutive gelding to look like he belongs in the big leagues
“If we want to tackle the Gold colts, this is the track to do it at. My little guy scoots around the turns real good. He’s used to the half,” explains the Acton, ON resident. “He’s shown me enough speed, he’s a sound enough horse; I think he’ll give a good account of himself.”
Wedgewood heads into Wednesday’s contest off two qualifiers and a start in the Grassroots season opener at Hiawatha Horse Park on July 15. The son of Ken Warkentin and China Doll B made a break and finished fifth in his first Ontario Sires Stakes test, but Maltby says any colt that made a mistake over the rain soaked Sarnia oval has a legitimate excuse.
“It was brutal rain — heavy, hard rain,” he recalls. “There were puddles on the track. It wasn’t nice.
“He still trotted a back half in :58 and a last quarter in :29,” adds the horseman, who conditions the gelding for Shanna and Gail Maltby of Acton, ON and Bill Manes of Rockwood, ON.
Wedgewood’s Grassroots appearance was a rare occurrence for a horse from his family tree. China Doll B is a half-sister to such exemplary trotters as Kewpie Doll B ($660,847), Dresden Dolly ($598,265) and Harlequin ($379,310), and none of them raced as two-year-olds.
“He’s the first one out of that entire family that’s ever been trained as a two-year-old, and he made it,” Maltby points out. “Cecil Burns doesn’t like to start them too early, he likes to let them grow and mature. I usually get them in December of their two-year-old year to break.
“This little guy was bought through the sale, so we thought, we’ll give him a go and see what happens, and he’s got there,” Maltby continues.
Toronto, ON resident Burns and Jeff Ruch of Innisfil, ON bred and raised Wedgewood, and entered him into the Canadian Open Yearling Sale. Maltby acquired the youngster, China Doll B’s third foal, for $15,000 and through the early going wondered if he would ever have a racehorse.
“He was a wing nut,” recalls the horseman. “After I bought him, Jeff Ruch said, ‘He’s kind of a high spirited horse.’ I said, ‘What do you mean by that?’ And he said, ‘Well, you’ll find out.’”
What Maltby learned was that Wedgewood hated to have his mouth handled. The gelding did not mind a halter or a bridle going over his ears, but he became a little unhinged when faced with the prospect of opening his mouth for a bit. It took two months of patient work, putting the bridle on in pieces, before Wedgewood got over his phobia, but Maltby says the gelding is now a model student.
“In the barn he’s just a perfect little gentleman, nothing really upsets this horse,” notes the trainer. “He’s a nice little horse to have right now. I’m glad he’s showing some speed. If he can build on that he could be one of those real nice horses.”
In some respects, news of Wedgewood’s feisty attitude was music to Maltby’s ears. Having trained all of the gelding’s siblings, aunts and uncles, the horseman knew the more successful members of the family possessed an aggressive edge.
“Jeff told me this colt was the littlest guy he had out in a field with six others, but he ruled the roost,” Maltby explains. “That’s the same attitude the good ones in this family had. They liked to dominate, and that was kind of how they raced too. When they were good, they were really good.”
Starting from Post 4 in the second $40,000 Gold elimination at Grand River on Wednesday, Wedgewood faces a field of eight colts, including two Grassroots division winners and one former Gold elimination winner. Maltby has no illusions of dominating the field, but the trainer does expect Wedgewood to arrive at the Elora oval ready to compete.
“I’m not going to say he’s going to run out and beat everyone in the race, but I don’t think there’s anybody head and shoulders above what I think he can do,” notes the trainer. “It will depend on how he gets away from the gate and how he settles at the quarter pole.”
The top three finishers from each elimination will earn a return trip to Grand River Raceway for the August 4 Gold Final. The two-year-old trotting colts will kick off Wednesday’s program at 7:15 p.m. in the first race, with the other two eliminations going postward as Races 5 and 7.
To view Wednesday's entries, click here.