Trainer Mike Keeling has announced that two-time O'Brien Award winner Elusive Desire has been
From 44 career starts, Elusive Desire compiled a record of 17-8-7 and earned $1,383,848 in purses for owners P C Wellwood Enterprises Inc. of Cambridge, Ont., Charles Armstrong of Brampton, Ont. and Robert Fasken of Oakville, Ont.
The four-year-old daughter of Angus Hall was bred by Valley High Stable of Freehold, New Jersey and lowered her mark to 1:52.1 over the Meadowlands Racetrack this season in a leg of the Miss Versatility Trotting Series.
"The ownership group and myself decided that it was time to retire her from racing," Keeling announced during an interview with the Woodbine Entertainment Group. "She's struggled with sore feet all year and there has been nothing that we've been able to do to get her 110 per cent again. She's just too good of a horse to race when she's not at her best, so we made the decision and we're very happy with it. Her breeder, Bill Weaver of Valley High Stables, has agreed to purchase her, and he'll manage her until she is done her broodmare career, which makes me really thrilled."
Keeling explained that Elusive Desire, who spent a lot of time in Ontario and took good advantage of the province's lucrative sires stakes program, will be staying close to home.
"Mr. Weaver expressed to me that he wants to take advantage of the Mare Residency Program here in Ontario and breed her to [a stallion standing in Ontario]," Keeling explained. "He's thinking about Deweycheatumnhowe, but anything can change. I'm pleased with it, because I can keep an eye on her and go visit her and stuff like that, so it keeps me involved a little bit I think."
A two-time winner of the Ontario Sires Stakes Super Finals, Elusive Desire had a knack for putting in impressive efforts during big-time stakes events. In addition to multiple wins in OSS Gold finals, she captured the Ontario SBOA Stakes, Simcoe Stakes and Canadian Breeders Championships.
While announcing the retirement, Keeling explained that the mare's gameness made it tough to retire her.
"Yeah, it really kind of caught us off guard. We never really had to deal with any soreness issues with her at two or three, just [regular growing issues]. Something just wasn't right with her most of this year. We could never really get her right down to the wire. She didn't have quarter cracks or anything like that, but we found out she had thin-soled feet. Because she is so tough she wouldn't make breaks, so we were always thinking that we had her right, but we could never get her (right). The best day she had was at the Meadowlands when she took that record. She was about 90 per cent that day, and she gave us that glimmer of hope of what she truly could accomplish. It was just a credit to her to keep going, and maybe the fact that she was so tough made it hard for me to stop with her, but eventually I had to make that decision."
When asked what race in Elusive Desire's career stood out the most to him, Keeling said that it was a particularly gritty effort over Mohawk Racetrack.
"For me it was the Simcoe as a three-year-old. It showed the real grit that she had. She had a sore foot -- but not what we were talking about. She had a stone bruise, so we knew she was dealing with something that night. She went first up, and looked like at the three-quarter pole that she was packing it in. She just dug in and raced on hard, and that's the race that sticks out in my mind. I've had some people tell me that they've seen that race and that it was the mark of a true champion, to be able to accomplish that type of a race."