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Gillis Colt A Product Of Five-Year Plan

Published: June 26, 2012 10:41 pm ET

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Following Santanna Blue Chip’s stellar freshman campaign in 2007, Jeff Gillis began to assemble a group of broodmares he felt would pair well with the son of Art Major when the time came for the pacer to retire.

This Friday, Gillis will see his plan come to fruition as two-year-old pacing gelding Santanna One makes his debut in a Gold Series elimination at Mohawk Racetrack.

“So far, so good,” says Gillis, who owned a share of Santanna Blue Chip through his racing career. “He’s a homebred and we’re pretty proud of him.”

Gillis purchased Santanna One’s mother Pro Bowl Best at a mixed sale in early 2008, well before Santanna Blue Chip completed his $1.6 million career and retired to stud in Ontario. An early visitor to the stallion’s first court in 2009, Pro Bowl Best foaled Santanna One on Feb. 6, 2010, and Gillis was impressed with the youngster right from the start.

“He was a big colt and he was impressive enough. We liked him in the field and liked him enough that we got our partners involved, and sold pieces of him to good people like Mac [Nichol] and Gerald [Stay], and unfortunately I had to let Jody [Jamieson] in,” deadpans Gillis about his longtime friend Jamieson’s involvement. “So we’re excited.”

The Hillsburgh, Ont. resident shares ownership of Santanna One with Burlington resident Nichol, Ellen Ott of Buffalo, New York and driver Jamieson’s 1140545 Ontario Ltd. of Moffat, Ont. The group has watched the gelding qualify twice at Mohawk this month, the first a 1:59.3 third-place effort on June 2 and the next an impressive 1:56.1 winning effort on June 23.

“He’s well behaved, he trained down in our top set, he’s done everything right and we’re just hoping — with two-year-olds especially, you just hope everything kind of holds together,” notes Gillis. “They’re still fragile and developing, so you try and not lean on them too hard, but still make some money.”

While Santanna One is one of several homebreds Gillis is currently training, the horseman says he is not shifting his primary focus from purchasing to producing yearlings.

“I do have a little bit of a fondness for the ideal of breeding the horse and stuff, but I’ve let it kind of steamroll out of control here a little bit more than we needed, and we want, and should have,” he admits ruefully. “When one like Santanna One comes along it’s great; it’s the eight or nine or 10 others that you have that year. The goal is to select top yearlings and develop them, but when you’re dealing with your own homebreds, you get what you get, you don’t get to select conformation and what have you.”

Santanna One will have his first opportunity to earn a paycheque from Post 5 in the second of three $40,000 Gold eliminations on Friday evening. Gillis admits that he has not studied the competition, but knows that any race among untested two-year-olds is a wide open affair.

“That’s a good spot, middle of the gate, it gives us options,” says the trainer. “Truthfully, I haven’t been through the entries, I don’t know how tough of a bunch he’s in with. I guess nobody knows how tough they are just yet.”

The contenders in each elimination will be looking for a top three finish to secure a berth in next week’s $130,000 Gold Final. Only one of the three fourth-place finishers, selected by random draw, will advance on to the Final.

The two-year-old pacing colts and geldings will battle in Races 2, 4 and 8 on Mohawk Racetrack’s Friday evening program, which gets under way at 7:10 p.m.

To view Friday's harness racing entries, click on the following link: Friday Entries - Mohawk Racetrack.


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