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Ballykeel Ulysses Goes For The Gold

Published: May 22, 2012 7:51 pm ET

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Sending Ballykeel Ulysses out in last week’s Ontario Sires Stakes Gold elimination over The Raceway at Western Fair District was a strategic move by owner Cam McKnight, which paid off in spades when the three-year-old trotter earned a berth in this Friday’s $130,000 Gold Final.

A solid second in his $40,000 Gold elimination last week, Ballykeel Ulysses will attempt to replicate that effort from post four on Friday, taking part in a star-studded evening of racing in the Western Fair District, highlighted by the $300,000 Molson Pace.

“It’s nice and close to home, and we have lots of friends in the area, which makes it fun,” says McKnight, who hails from Tillsonburg, Ont.

“If we can get a cheque, that’ll make it fun,” he adds with a chuckle.

McKnight and trainer Richard Moreau of Puslinch opted to send Ballykeel Ulysses out in the Gold Series season opener because of the gelding’s ability over a half-mile oval. Although the youngster was a two-time Grassroots winner last season, the pair felt he had a legitimate shot in the upper tier, made even more credible by the absence of last year’s Gold Series stars Prestidigitator and The Game Plan.

“I’m not convinced he’s a Gold horse by any means, but when you had two of them, Prestidigitator and The Game Plan, both not in this one it made us think, well we’d take a shot,” McKnight explains. “He’s a nice horse, handles the half-mile track well. I trained him down myself to 2:01 and then gave him to Richard to qualify him and race him, and I feel confident about the fact that I’ve got one of the best trainers in the game, and certainly the top driver at London, so that gives us a couple of pluses I’d say going into it Friday. We just have to keep our fingers crossed.”

Trevor Henry, who is well out in front of his peers in the London driving colony with over 140 wins and $860,000 in earnings, will be back in the race bike behind Ballykeel Ulysses on Friday, taking on seven other hopefuls in the Gold Final. Henry and Ballykeel Ulysses will start in the centre of the racetrack at post four with elimination winners Il Mago, Cold Certified, and Northern Escort getting posts one, five and six, respectively.

In spite of Ballykeel Ulysses’ performance in last week’s elimination round, McKnight says the Oaklea Julian son will have to ramp up his game again this week to earn a regular spot on the Gold Series circuit. The gelding earned $38,700 through seven starts in the Grassroots program last season — finishing second in his season ending Semifinal and sixth in the Championship — and McKnight expects that is where he will return for the second OSS event of the 2012 season.

“I think we’ll base it on how things work out on the weekend. I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself. I mean I know he’s good on half-miles so...I believe the next Grassroots is back on a half-mile,” notes the horseman, who shares ownership of the gelding with his wife Cynthia through their Ballykeel Racing operation. “He did race very well last week, so if he were to step up to the plate this weekend I guess we’d consider Georgian [Gold Series]. I’ll just play it one at a time and talk it over with Richard in between and see what his feelings are, and how the horse seems.

“The Grassroots is a great program and you get a $100,000 final out of it if you can accumulate enough points, so I wouldn’t be against moving into the Grassroots level,” he adds.

Ballykeel Ulysses and his sophomore trotting peers will battle in the eighth race on Friday evening’s program, which gets under way at 6:50 p.m. The Molson Pace for aged horses goes postward as race 10, and the four City of London Series finals are slated as races one, three, six and nine. In addition to all the on-track action, The Raceway at Western Fair District will celebrate the conclusion of its successful meet with the Molson Post-time Party, featuring emerging Canadian Country Music star Dallas Smith, who takes the stage in the Progress Building at 10:30 p.m. in a special ticketed event for those aged 19 and over. Complete details about all the evening’s events are available at westernfairdistrict.com.

To view Friday's harness racing entries, click on the following link: Friday Entries - Western Fair Raceway.

(OSS)


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