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Perfetto Prevails Against The Odds

Published: January 6, 2021 2:18 pm ET

Last Comment: January 6, 2021 8:51 pm ET | 1 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

Nothing quite compares to a good comeback story — especially when the comeback culminates in serious consideration for one of Canadian harness racing's most prestigious honours.

After a serious bout with colic sidelined him for half of his four-year-old season, Gerry Haggerty's Perfetto roared back with a vengeance at five. And, after winning seven times against Toronto's best and banking more than $150,000 in his comeback season, Perfetto's recent nomination as a 2020 O'Brien Award finalist was icing on the cake for his connections.

"It felt special, for sure," trainer Dagfin Henriksen told Trot Insider. "I got the phone call from my owner, actually, because he got the phone call." Perfetto was the first O'Brien nominee for either Henriksen or Haggerty — and the circumstances he overcame to become one of Canada's top older trotters make his story all the more remarkable.

"He showed me in 2019 that he was going to be a nice horse," said Henriksen, who welcomed Perfetto to his stable in the fall of 2018 after his uncle, the legendary Per Henriksen, spotted him at the Harrisburg Sale.

"He was in the Harrisburg sale, and I actually told Per to see if he could find something for me," Henriksen said. "He actually bought him before he called me — he had him and a couple other ones. He called me and he said, 'I've got three horses here,' and he was the one I felt was the most interesting. My owner bought him right off the bat."

Perfetto reeled off three wins in his first five starts for Henriksen, but his sharp ascent up the class ladder at Woodbine Mohawk Park was soon derailed.

"In June 2019, he had two colic surgeries within 24 hours," Henriksen explained. "We drove him to the University of Guelph, and he was there for nine days. He didn't look good."

But, thanks to exemplary care from the University's equine veterinary department and at home, Perfetto's road to recovery was made all the easier.

"My fiancée, Laura Trask, gave him all the best care he could get," Henriksen continued, adding that she visited Perfetto and took him for daily walks during his stay at the University. "I think that's one of the reasons he made it back."

Perfetto made it back to the races in November 2019, and while it understandably took him a few weeks to get back to peak form, he soared to new heights in 2020.

"He was pretty consistent in the Preferred, racing in the top class all fall," said Henriksen, citing that Perfetto's sustained strength all season against extremely tough competition on the whole was what stood out to him the most about his star trotter. "It's been a fun ride the whole fall with him, really. When he won in October and came back two weeks after and finished second to Hey Livvy and he trotted 1:51(.3), he trotted a big mile that week. I wasn't even ashamed of finishing second in that mile."

In addition to knocking heads with Preferred company at Woodbine Mohawk Park all summer and fall — up until a fourth-place finish behind Zig Zag in his final start of the year on Dec. 22 — the son of Majestic Son and Perfect Prelude more than held his own in the Earl Rowe Invitational in August at Georgian Downs.

"I had the eight, and P L Jill was the favourite and she had the nine," Henriksen recounts. "I was sitting pretty good, but we had seven good horses inside of us, so it wasn't easy competition. He trotted a big mile up at Georgian."

In what was arguably his toughest race of the year, Perfetto — the longest shot in the field at 77-1 — finished third, missing P L Jill by only 1-1/2 lengths. Since then, he has attracted far more respect — at the windows and in the headlines alike. And while the respect and prestige that come with an O'Brien nomination are surely not lost on Henriksen, the Norwegian expat did express that he'll miss the 'full experience' of the typical gala event.

"We did talk about it: it's kind of a bad year to be nominated!" Henriksen admitted, with a chuckle. "But it's always prestigious to get nominated. We'll sit home and watch it, for sure."

Looking ahead to 2021, Henriksen has high hopes for Perfetto to continue largely in the same vein:

"We talked about shutting him down a little bit sometime this spring, but we're getting the shutdown now, so we actually gave him a couple weeks off right now. He's been off since his last start; we'll train him back up and have him ready for the late winter meet. Hopefully we can race him like he's been racing all year this year. A horse like that — at six, too — he's just going to keep showing good form out there."

The 2020 Virtual O’Brien Awards Gala takes place on Sunday, January 31, 2021 and will be available for viewing on from 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. (EST).

(Note: Photo of Dagfin Henriksen and owner Gerry Haggerty taken prior to 2020)

January 6, 2021 - 8:51 pmCongratulations Dog. Great

Gord Brown SAID...

Congratulations Dog. Great accomplishment!

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