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Broodmare Thrives When Given Chance

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Published: January 10, 2012 6:23 pm ET

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What do you do with a six-year-old, unraced broodmare that has just been separated from her second foal? How about train her down, qualify her and then break her maiden, all in a three-month span?

The whole scenario may sound like a stretch for even a 'C' track, but an optimistic outlook by Murray Gilkinson, an astute job by Bruce Gilkinson, and an urge to prove her worth has Winter Terror showing she is more than just a broodmare that can be packaged off for a bargain-basement figure.

The bay daughter of Western Terror didn't cause much of a ripple in the harness racing world when she initially sold for $6,000 at the 2007 Morrisville Sale. She apparently didn't make much of an impression on her then-owner, Bulletproof Enterprises, either.

Winter Terror never got the opportunity to record a charted line before being bred. She dropped B Western Wallis in May of 2010 and was in foal when she was sold to the Cat Sass Stable of Listowel, Ont. as part of an Innkeepers Act Sale, which was conducted at Meadowcroft Farm in Priceville, Ont. last spring.

The Cat Sass Stable spent $2,800 at the sale and acquired what would turn out to be a total of eight horses. Three of the horses were broodmares, two of which had recently foaled. There was also a pair of yearlings. Winter Terror was the third broodmare in the bunch and was ready to drop her second foal.

"She foaled the day after we got her," explained Murray Gilkinson, who comprises the Cat Sass Stable along with his brother, trainer Bruce Gilkinson, and Eleanor and John Gilkinson.

"Western Terrors have been in so much demand over the past few years, and for good reason, but they tend to be more on the smaller side," Murray said. "Bruce had noticed that Winter Terror was just such a huge broodmare."

Standing at 16 hands, Winter Terror caught the eye of the Gilkinsons while in the field. Although it was Bruce that pointed out 'Winter's robust stature and pushed to train her, it was Murray who would be the unwavering force behind getting the mare to the races, even if the venture seemed unlikely at times.

"Early on in the process, we were schooling her one day at the farm when she couldn't have seemed more disinterested," said Murray, making reference of Winter Terror's baby steps, which took place at her Listowel, Ont. training base. "I was driving the truck and Bruce was with her on the gate behind me. When I looked back again the two of them were far behind and she was actually laying down on the track."

Intent of giving the broodmare every chance to prove what she's made of, the Gilkinsons continued to drive on with their quest to get Winter Terror to the races. Murray told Trot Insider that Bruce was ready to throw in the towel at one point.

"Bruce said, 'Maybe we shouldn't be doing this,'" said Murray, who explained that the Cat Sass Stable is interested in racehorses, not broodmares. "At that point she had only cost us $200 in stall rent and I wanted to see her succeed. My brother said that we should consider sending her to the Mennonites to be a trotting horse."

It was at that point that Bruce made Murray a particular wager, one which has proven to come back and bite him in the rear.

"He told me that he would buy me a nice steak dinner if Winter Terror ever won a race," Murray explained.

Some say that the night is darkest before the dawn, and according to Murray, Winter Terror began to actually take to her training after her bout of track-laying.

"We continued with her and she started to come around. In total, we had her in the jog cart just two weeks before she qualified for the first time ever (in 2:01 on November 26 at Georgian Downs)."

Winter Terror broke stride in her pari-mutuel debut on December 3 at the Innisfil, Ont. raceway. She would re-qualify in 1:59.1 at Mohawk Racetrack on December 8 before racing at Georgian again on December 17 (an eighth-place finish in 1:59.1).

Given her racing handle, it was only fitting that Winter Terror would overcome all of her racing obstacles on December 27 at the Western Fair District. On a day where trucking to and from the raceway was anything but optimal due to area snow, Winter Terror's on-course talent cut through the 'good' track, which was rated three seconds off due to seasonal conditions.

After having left from the pole position, Winter Terror tactically grabbed the engine and led the field through splits of :30.1, 1:02.1 and 1:32.4. Her 32-second closing quarter may not have been something that dreams are made of, but it was more than enough for Winter Terror and the entire Cat Sass Stable.

The win time was 2:04.4 and the victor's share of the purse was $3,500 - although, according to Murray, the intrinsic value of the win and the promise of a fine dinner have left a good taste in his mouth.

The Cat Sass Stable has Winter Terror back in to race Wednesday, January 11 in the same class at the Western Fair District. Although she has been assessed as the 7-5 morning-line favourite, Winter Terror will have to overcome Post 7.

To view the harness racing entries for Wednesday at the WFD, click the following link: Wednesday Entries - Western Fair District.


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