An Ace Up Gillis' Sleeve

Published: October 27, 2012 02:31 pm EDT

"We're going to make a few changes. I'll hang onto that information a little while longer. We've got a few changes in store for him."

While the name of the horse is Knows Nothing, Jeff Gillis certainly knows something and isn't telling what should help his three-year-old trotter in his quest for a Breeders Crown championship. After Gillis captured his first training win in the Breeders Crown with older trotting mare Frenchfrysnvinegar last year, Gillis has returned to Woodbine with that defending champion plus three other contenders. Canada's Trainer of the Year for 2011 will also send out Mister Herbie in the Open Trot, Jet Wash in the three-year-old filly pace and the aforementioned Knows Nothing.

"We were thrilled to draw the six hole," Gillis told Trot Insider at the Breeders Crown draw in discussing Knows Nothing. "Obviously when you have two division winners and you're not one of them, two good posts are going to be gone and it increases your chances of drawing 8, 9 10. We avoided that. The six is a real good spot for him."

In last week's elim the son of Kadabra finished a solid third from that same post, behind Hambletonian and Canadian Trotting Classic winner Market Share and the impressive supplement Intimidate.

"We were content with the way he raced. I didn't think he was coming into the race just phenomenally sharp so we were looking to just kind of squeak through, hopefully get lucky with the draw and have an extra seven days to get him a bit better."

Knows Nothing was assessed odds of 10-1 in the morning line. Regular pilot Jody Jamieson will be aboard Knows Nothing for Al Libfeld of Pickering, Marvin Katz of Toronto, Mac Nichol of Burlington, Gillis and Gerald Stay.

Many of those same connections will also be watching the Open Trot closely as Mister Herbie will lock horns once again with divisional leader and morning line choice Chapter Seven. Mister Hebie finished second to Chapter Seven in their last race - the Allerage Trot at the Red Mile.

To tighten Mister Herbie up, Gillis schooled the four-year-old son of Here Comes Herbie last Friday at Mohawk Racetrack.

"He schooled last week very well. I think he's coming into the race on good form and I expect a big effort for him," said Gillis. "The European horse (Commander Crowe) brings an entirely different dynamic to the race and it's going to be interesting. I think it's really going to be a driver's race: whoever works it out the best is going to come out on top."

It was back in July that Jamieson worked out a better trip and won the Maple Leaf Trot, defeating Chapter Seven. Leaving from Post 2 on Saturday, Gillis feels that the short field diminishes any post advantage in this compact and talented group of trotters.

"I think with a six horse field the post becomes a bit irrelevant. I don't really have anything mapped out in my mind on how it will unfold. My job's to have him as good as he can be on October 27 and leave it to Jody to work out the trip."

Trip will be key to the success of pacing filly Jet Wash if she's able to score what would be a massive upset from Post 10. James MacDonald will make his Breeders Crown driving debut for Gillis, Jonathan Binks of St. Thomas, Nichol and Ellen Ott of Buffalo, N.Y. The sophomore daughter of Jeremes Jet, bred by Gillis, eked into the final with a fifth place finish last week. Gillis thinks she can improve off that effort, despite the outside post.

"She probably should have been third if she was at her absolute best but she scoped with a little bit of mucous. We think we can have her a little bit better, " stated Gillis. "It's a bit of a reach for her and also the 10 hole is going to be difficult, but we're hoping for something crazy to happen - maybe they go wicked fractions or somebody gets roughed up - something strange to happen for her to get a big piece but you can't win it if you're not in it."

Frenchfrysnvinegar supplemented last year to the Older Mare Trot and that move paid instant dividends. Her impressive first-over win in 2011 from Post 10 factored with her two most recent convincing wins against the trotting mares - 1:54 at Delaware in the Ms Versatility Final and 1:52 in the Allerage Mare Trot at the Red Mile - should make her the one to beat on Saturday.

"I really feel like if she's on her game she's the one to beat but she has had some bad days here and there, and it's a horse race - they're animals, not machines."

The seven-year-old daughter of Angus Hall is the richest mare in the field despite missing the board in her most lucrative race of the year - the 2012 Armbro Flight at Mohawk, where she finished a disappointing seventh.

"We really thought the Armbro Flight was ours to win and then she had some health issues and we couldn't have her right for those days. That's always a possibility but as of this interview (Tuesday) she's on top of her game."

After schooling the same day as Mister Herbie, Gillis admires the way his mare can bounce back from losses since he frequently has to race her in the tough Open ranks on the WEG circuit.

"The great thing about her is that we can plug her in here and there against the boys and she can get beat and it doesn't seem to hurt her confidence when she drops back in with the girls."

Win, lose or draw, Gillis is honoured to be back in the Breeders Crown but make no mistake: he's not here to settle for second best.

"It's great. It's truly an honour at this level to have multiple entries. It's one thing to be in them but you want to come out on top of one or two. That's our goal."

First race post time for Saturday’s Breeders Crown card is 6:30 p.m. The Score, Canada’s all-sports channel, will carry the $6 million Breeders Crown championships live from Woodbine Racetrack from 7 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. (EDT) and the broadcast will also be streamed live on MavTV in the U.S.

Entries for Saturday night's star-studded card of harness racing at Woodbine are available at the following link: Saturday Woodbine Entries.

Program pages are available here through TrackIT. An easy-to-read program is available here.

Think you know who will win Saturday's Breeders Crown races? Enter the Breeders Crown Fantasy Pool. It's easy to enter, free to play and you could win a $100 gift card for the racetrack of your choice. Click here to enter the contest.

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