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Storm Weathered, Gillis Now #1


Published: October 20, 2011 5:24 pm ET

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"He'll always hold a soft spot in my heart, he came at a tough time for me. Without him I don't know if either of the other two [colts] would have existed for me."

Jeff Gillis started 2007 with two tremendous strikes against him: the loss of his father and a positive test barring him from racing on the nation's top circuits. Instead of packing it in, he persevered and finished the year exonerated from the Aminorex scandal and the part owner of Breeders Crown winner Santanna Blue Chip. Gillis heads into this year's Breeders Crown eliminations atop the Canada's trainer standings for money earned and looks to add to that total with three solid contenders: sophomore pacer Mystician, freshman pacer Speed Again and trotting mare Frenchfrysnvinegar.

Last year's Metro winner, Mystician has had a case of seconditis in his sophomore campaign finishing in the runner-up spot in half of his 16 starts. Despite being in with some of the division's speedsters, Gillis feels Mystician shouldn't be discounted from Saturday's Breeders Crown elim.

"Mystician's a cooler weather horse, he's kind of rounding into form," Gillis told Trot Radio's Norm Borg. "We freshened him up and he came off that little hiatus in good form and I think he deserves a chance. He's certainly earned it.

"He's kind of a trip horse and if there's enough big dogs that tussle a bit he could scoop up some pieces."

Unlike stablemate Mystician, Speed Again was the favourite in the Metro but couldn't quite connect just falling a length short to winner Simply Business, ironically a longshot from post 9 - just like Mystician. Speed Again also comes into the Crown elims fresh with Gillis doing his best to not sound too confident in his Dragon Again gelding.

"Speed Again just seems to be all racehorse. He's surprised the heck out of me, I didn't expect it from him," noted Gillis. "He just loves to race and we really haven't seen the bottom of him. He's always charging at the wire."

While Gillis doesn't like to travel too much with his two-year-olds, plans are for Speed Again to head to the Governor's Cup at Harrah's Chester if he comes out of the Breeders Crown to the trainer's satisfaction.

The third Crown hopeful for the 34-year-old trainer is Frenchfrysnvingegar, a surprise supplemental entry into the older mare trotting event. Owner David Smith paid $31,250 to race in the Breeders Crown Mare Trot, now worth $276,250. Gillis saw the move as a calculated gamble.

"I suggested to Dave that we do it. From a dollars and cents standpoint, it's risky. You're supplementing basically third money to get into the race so you have to be first or second to turn a profit. But on her best day I think she can beat that bunch and it's my job to make sure she has that best day on Saturday."

As the Ontario Racing Commission had denied the appeal of Buck I St Pat, all 11 mares entered in the Breeders Crown will advance straight to the final.

To listen to the full interview with Gillis and Borg, click the play button below.

Episode 231 – Trainer Jeff Gillis
Audio Format: MP3 audio
Host: Norm Borg

The $6 million Breeders Crown championships get under way with elimination races, as needed, on Friday and Saturday nights at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto. The finals for every age, gait and sex – 12 in all – will be held on October 29, also at Woodbine. Complete elimination and final fields for harness racing's championship night are now available. To view the entries, click the following links:

Please note that the opinions expressed in the featured interview are those of the participants and do not necessarily reflect Rideau Carleton Raceway and/or Standardbred Canada.

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