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Gingras Is Gearing Up

Published: October 20, 2015 3:19 pm ET

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“This is as big as it gets. It all comes down to the Breeders Crown; that’s the old saying, but it’s the truth. Thankfully and luckily, I’ve been able to do well in it lately.”

Yannick Gingras will have nine drives in Saturday night’s 12 Breeders Crown finals at Woodbine Racetrack as he looks to continue his hot streak in harness racing’s championship event.

Gingras has won 10 Breeders Crown titles in the past three years, including four last year at the Meadowlands Racetrack. He captured three trophies each of the previous two years, in 2013 at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono and in 2012 at Woodbine. Gingras’ streak began five years after he won his first – and only other – Crown with 50-1 longshot Southwind Serena at the Meadowlands Racetrack. Tim Tetrick is second to Gingras in the past three years with eight Breeders Crown trophies.

“It’s a great thrill, not only to be in the Breeders Crown, but the last few years I’ve had great horses to drive in it,” said Gingras, a Quebec native who now lives in New Jersey. “That definitely makes it more exciting. It’s like Hambletonian Day, where everybody wants to be part of those days. To be able to win some of the races makes it very enjoyable.

“This is as big as it gets. It all comes down to the Breeders Crown; that’s the old saying, but it’s the truth. Thankfully and luckily, I’ve been able to do well in it lately.”

Ironically, Gingras’ success in the Breeders Crown followed a Breeders Crown night he would like to forget. In 2011, Gingras and several other drivers and trainers were unable to fly from New Jersey to Toronto for the Breeders Crown at Woodbine because of a fluke snowstorm on the east coast.

Gingras lost the chance to drive several top contenders that year, including A Rocknroll Dance and Foiled Again.

“It took me a while to win a Breeders Crown (after Southwind Serena) and I thought I had a great shot that year,” Gingras said. “I had a great card that night. It was very disappointing. But it’s been a good run since then.”

Gingras, a third-generation horseman, moved to the U.S. in 2001 and began driving at Yonkers Raceway. Two years later, he won 426 races and received the Rising Star Award from the U.S. Harness Writers Association. The 36-year-old Gingras now has 5,750 career wins and $128 million in purses. He was the second youngest driver to reach $125 million, behind Tetrick.

Last year, Gingras set a career high with 556 wins and led all drivers in North America in purses with $17.29 million, the fourth highest total in history. He was voted Driver of the Year by the U.S. Harness Writers Association.

Gingras has enjoyed working with trainers Ron Burke and Jimmy Takter in recent years, and eight of his 11 Breeders Crown victories have come behind horses from those two powerful stables. This year, six of his Breeders Crown finalists are from Burke and two are from Takter. The remaining one is trained by Mark Silva.

Three of Gingras’ drives in this year’s Breeders Crown are with past champions: Burke’s Mission Brief in the three-year-old filly trot and Foiled Again in the Open Pace plus Takter’s Pinkman in the three-year-old male trot.

Foiled Again, who won the 2013 Open Pace, heads to this year’s final off a win in his elimination on Saturday at Woodbine. The 11-year-old Foiled Again is the richest horse in harness racing history, with $7.18 million in lifetime purses. He snapped a 12-race skid with his victory in his Breeders Crown elim, which was the 85th triumph in his award-winning career.

“Every win is special with him,” Gingras said. “He’s the greatest horse I’ve ever driven.”

Not surprisingly, Foiled Again’s Breeders Crown win at the age of nine at Pocono in 2013 is Gingras’ top memory in the championship series. Foiled Again won by a nose over Pet Rock on a ‘sloppy’ track and became, at the time, the oldest horse to win a Breeders Crown trophy.

“He had been so close a few times,” Gingras said. “I felt really guilty when I missed here in Canada (in 2011). I thought he had a great chance that night and he finished second. To be able to get it done with him, especially the way he did it, was special. He took on all challenges and went a hundred miles an hour the whole race, for a full mile. It’s not often you see a horse that can go that hard for that long and be able to finish it off.”

Mission Brief, a world-record-setting daughter of Gingras’ first Crown champ Southwind Serena, and Pinkman both advanced straight to their respective finals this year because eliminations were unnecessary. Pinkman’s wins this year include two legs of the Trotting Triple Crown – the $1 million Hambletonian, where the Gingras-driven Mission Brief finished second in her bid to become the first filly to win the race since 1996 – and the Kentucky Futurity. Pinkman also won the Canadian Trotting Classic.

Other top contenders for Gingras on Saturday include Breeders Crown elimination winners Yankee Moonshine in the two-year-old filly pace, Southwind Frank in the two-year-old colt trot, and All The Time in the two-year-old filly trot. Yankee Moonshine and Southwind Frank are trained by Burke, who last week topped $20 million in purses for the third consecutive year, and All The Time is trained by Takter.

“I have a lot of power this year,” said Gingras, who in August captured his fourth consecutive driving title at the Meadowlands. “I train a lot of young horses during the year between Jimmy and Ronnie, and I enjoy it. I like going to the barn in the spring and watching them develop. To see them come to this point now is very exciting.”

No driver has ever won more than four Breeders Crown finals in a single year, and Tetrick is the only driver to win four on a single card. Gingras is unconcerned with trying to rewrite the record book.

“I don’t think about things like that at all,” Gingras said. “I just take them one at a time. We’ll see how it goes. But you’ve got to be in it to win it.”

(Hambletonian Society)

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