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Stonebridge Terror To Prove His Mettle

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Published: May 29, 2009 9:09 am ET

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Jack Darling has worked with a number of exceptional horses during his career, but the Cambridge resident admits that three-year-old pacing colt Stonebridge Terror is edging toward favoured status in spite of his relatively unheralded race record.

“He might be my favourite horse of all time,” muses Darling, who will harness Stonebridge Terror in the third of three $40,000 Gold Eliminations at Rideau Carleton Raceway on Sunday evening. “He’s not necessarily the best; I just like him a lot. He has a great personality to him, he’s very classy.”

Darling has liked the young pacer since his earliest lessons and had high hopes for Stonebridge Terror as a two-year-old, but the colt developed a hitch in his gait that neither the horseman nor a legion of veterinarians was able to iron out. As a result Stonebridge Terror amassed a modest record of two wins, one second and three thirds in nine starts last season, and was unable to lay claim to an Ontario Sires Stakes trophy.

“He was short-stepping behind, there was something bothering him,” recalls Darling, who also owns the colt. “I took him to vets, we did x-rays, but we could never find out what it was; there wasn’t a sore spot, no swelling.”

After a runner-up finish in the season ending Super Final, Darling turned Stonebridge Terror out for the winter hoping that time and physical maturity would provide the answers that veterinary science had been unable to produce. When the Western Terror son returned to work this spring with a smooth, flawless gait, Darling was once again optimistic about the colt’s future, but that optimism was short lived.

“The hitch came back again. By the first time I qualified him (April 24) he was as bad as he ever was,” notes the trainer. “And again, we couldn’t find anything.”

Casting about for answers, Darling decided to give chiropractic treatment and massage therapy a shot. Using a massage machine he had purchased for his own bad back, Darling went to work on Stonebridge Terror and lo and behold the colt started to improve.

“I started doing chiropractic work on him myself, working on his gluteal muscles, and using a massage machine I got for myself in Florida, and geez if he doesn’t come around,” says Darling. “He’s 90 per cent better. It’s a semi-miracle.”

Although Darling has yet to identify the root cause of Stonebridge Terror’s troubles, the combination of chiropractic work, massage, stretching and a slow and steady exercise regimen have already started to pay off. Making his first sophomore start in the May 16 eliminations for the Upper Canada Cup at Georgian Downs, the colt finished second by a neck, and one week later he roared down the stretch to post a 1:52.4 victory in the $480,000 final.

“It really was a good race,” says Darling of the May 23 Upper Canada Cup Final. “I think there were eight horses that finished within two lengths of each other.”

The victory not only validated Darling’s faith in Stonebridge Terror, it made the colt’s name on the North America Cup eligibility list seem less like wishful thinking and more like a real possibility. Darling knows what it takes to win Canada’s richest sophomore event — he captured the North America Cup in 1997 with Gothic Dream — and he admits keeping Stonebridge Terror eligible was based more on his appreciation for the colt’s potential than on his results.

“I always knew he was borderline good enough,” says the horseman. “Now he’s healthy, he can show me how good he is. He has a chance now to show up.”

Sunday’s Gold Elimination is the second hurdle Stonebridge Terror will have to navigate before Darling forks over the starting fee for the North America Cup. The young pacer and regular reinsman Mike Saftic will start from Post 4 in the eleventh race, squaring off against Upper Canada Cup elimination winner OK Boromir from Post 2, and Ontario Spring Series winner Power Off from Post 8. The top three finishers from each $40,000 elimination will make the return trip to Rideau Carleton Raceway on Sunday, June 7 for the first $130,000 Gold Final on the sophomore campaign trail.

The Gloucester oval sends the first race of the evening behind the starting gate at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, with the cream of the three-year-old pacing colt crop kicking off their Ontario Sires Stakes season in Races 4, 8 and 11.

To view Sunday's entries, click here.

(OSS)


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