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Lachance Prepping For Stakes Season

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Published: May 6, 2010 9:16 pm ET

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The return of Mike Lachance to the Meadowlands' driving colony is a sure sign that summer is near.

The 59-year-old Hall of Famer and second leading money winner of all-time returns Friday night to sit behind Lanson in the $40,000 prep race for the Arthur J. Cutler Memorial.

Lanson, trained by Don Swick, banked more than $450,000 last year while racing in the shadow of dominant divisional champion Lucky Jim. Lachance and Lanson teamed for a 27-1 upset in the 2009 Su Mac Lad Final, nosing out Misterizi and Enough Talk for their biggest win of the year. On May 15, they'll look to upend a field that includes Lucky Jim, Arch Madness and Corleone Kosmos, in the $200,000 Cutler Final.

"Lanson is obviously not the best around with horses like Lucky Jim, but he's come back real good," Lachance said. "I qualified him twice and I was very happy with him. He's sound, relaxed and muscled up. Track size doesn't matter to him. He can race real well from behind, but he can also leave like a rocket."

Lachance ranked among the Top 5 drivers at the Meadowlands for 15 years, before deciding in 2005 to lessen his workload and spend more time with his family.

"I didn't want to drive in the winter anymore," he said. "There's not much there for me [to drive] at that time. What am I going to do? Battle everybody else up and down the Turnpike to drive 30-1 shots? I don't need that.

"I've adjusted to this time in my life the way I want to do it," he continued. "I just want to take it easy in the winter. I've been doing this for the last four years now, and it's been good for me. So, I'm not going to change anything. As far as slowing down, when the time comes I'll get out of the way. But right now you'll see me a lot. I'm not going anywhere soon. I still like to get up and do it every day. Horses are my life. It's not work for me."

After spending the winter assisting his son Patrick, a top driver and trainer with a stable of his own, Lachance made his official return to the sulky last week at Harrah's Chester in Pennsylvania.

"So far, adjusting and coming back to drive against others who have been driving regularly hasn't bothered me one bit," he said. "When I came back at Chester last week, I drove maybe 17 horses and had five wins. Mentally, it's not an issue and my reflexes are good. Physically, I was a little stiff. I just have to keep myself physically fit. I try to get to the gym three days a week, and I've been doing that for about 20 years now. I also have to be careful what I eat because I can gain weight very easily. I don't drink or smoke, but I love to eat.

"I'll take the same approach this season as last year," he continued. "I've got some good two-year-olds from last year turning three, so I'm going to work with them. I'm busy, but I don't have to drive 10 or 12 a night. Four or five a day is plenty, and I'm happy with that."

Lachance's lengthy list of wins includes two Meadowlands Pace victories and four Hambletonian wins. He will aim for Hambletonian win No. 5 this year with Pilgrim's Taj, runner-up in the voting for freshman honours in 2009. The $1.5 million Hambletonian is Saturday, August 7.

"Next week, I'll qualify Pilgrim's Taj," he noted. "He's stabled at Showplace Farms with Monte Gelrod. He spent the winter in Florida and came back here about three weeks ago. I've been going the last training trip with him. He's going to train again on Friday. That should be his last training mile before qualifying next Thursday. Mike Lachance winning the Hambletonian again? Why not? As long as the colt is okay, I'm not concerned one bit. The last time I won it was in 2003 with Amigo Hall, but it should be easier for a guy like John Campbell or me because we've been there before. Experience with trotters always helps."

While his accomplishments are many, when Lachance gets up each morning, he is most proud of his longevity.

"I was a leading driver in Quebec in the sixties, right from the start," he said. "I've been to almost every track in the country, and I was always on or near the top of the standings. Some guys win for a few years, then they disappear. I never disappeared. I think it is work ethic and a clean lifestyle. You also better be dedicated to what you're doing. You have to focus on your work, and you have to have determination and discipline.

"I know I've had some good luck and stayed healthy, but I worked with my abilities, and everything I have now I planned well for it," he added. "You reap what you sow. Now I dictate my own terms. My dreams came true for me."

Swick, Jamieson Sit In The Sulky This Weekend

Trainer Don Swick will sit ‘In The Sulky’ to discuss top trotter Lanson and his other summer stakes hopefuls on Meadowlands Racetrack's Friday night pre-card broadcast, while Jody Jamieson takes the hot seat Saturday to talk about Berry's Creek favourite Kyle Major.

Fans can e-mail questions for Swick and Jamieson to answer on-air to [email protected]. The broadcast begins at 6:30 p.m. each night.

(The Meadowlands)


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