In the same way that prospectors flocked to the Klondike over a century ago, Ontario’s most talented sophomore trotters and pacers have their sights set on Georgian Downs this Saturday, July 4 in hopes of striking a vein of gold
Saturday’s $400,000 program is the first step toward a berth in the Innisfil oval’s second annual Gold Rush event, which goes postward on July 11 and will be worth over $1 million.
Trainer Per Henriksen has two shots at striking gold on Saturday — three-year-old trotting filly Serenas Genie and three-year-old trotting colt I Won’t Dance. As the reigning Gold Final champion, I Wont Dance has been selected by Georgian Downs handicappers as the early favourite in Race 8, and Henriksen sees no reason why the gelding should disappoint.
"I think that if nothing special pops up, he is the best in the Gold division," says the Norwood resident. "He’s a dandy."
Through seven starts I Wont Dance has recorded four wins and one second for a total of $112,500 in earnings. The Angus Hall son heads into Saturday’s test off a tenth-place finish in the Goodtimes Final at Mohawk Racetrack on June 27, but Henriksen says fans can safely ignore that outing when evaluating the gelding’s recent performance.
"He got sick during the elimination of the Goodtimes, then of course he drew the outside for the final," explains the veteran horseman. "We thought there would be some speed in there, but there wasn’t and they went a last quarter in 27 seconds."
The last of the horses in Henriksen’s barn to fall ill, I Wont Dance seems to have bounced back faster than his stablemates and the trainer expects the talented youngster to be back in top form for Saturday’s elimination. Regular reinsman Trevor Ritchie will steer I Wont Dance from post five in the eighth race.
"I don’t think he had the same virus," speculates Henriksen, who trains the gelding for M. Biasuzzi Stable Inc. of Fort Pierce, FL. "The other ones were sick a long time and it seems like it only took him a week or so to get over it.
"I’ll blow him out a little bit tomorrow (Thursday)," adds the trotting specialist. "He will train just a little bit tomorrow."
If I Wont Dance delivers an impressive effort in this Gold Series, the trotter could be
headed for the prestigious Hambletonian in early August rather than the third event on the Gold schedule. Not bad for a horse that arrived in Henriksen’s barn this spring as something of a lost cause.
"Three trainers had him before me and couldn’t get him going," explains Henriksen. "I had a little problem with him earlier in the year, but since I got him going he’s been good."
While Serenas Genie does not head into Saturday’s skirmish as highly rated as her stablemate, Henriksen is expecting the trotting filly to earn her place among the cream of the sophomore crop before the season is over. The full sister to $163,980 winner Trophy Hall has just one win in seven starts to her credit, but the Angus Hall miss was among the group that struggled to bounce back from the virus that erupted in Henriksen’s barn this spring.
"She was coming very good early this year and then she got sick," explains the horseman. "When I had her ready again, she relapsed on me."
In her most recent start, June 25 at Mohawk Racetrack, Serenas Genie delivered a fourth-place finish in a 1:56.3 mile and Henriksen says she possessed some of the spark that saw her cruise to a five length victory at Rideau Carleton Raceway in late April.
"I was pretty happy with her last time at Mohawk. I could feel that she’s coming back, starting to wake up again," he says. "She finished pretty good. The time before she couldn’t go nothing, but this time she finished decent."
Andrea Lea Racing Stables Inc. of Lakefield Gore, QC own Serenas Genie, who will be hampered by the outside Post 8 in the ninth race on Saturday. Ritchie will step onto the race bike for the first time since a Gold Elimination event last October.
Post time for the first $40,000 Gold Elimination of the evening is 7:25 p.m., with the other nine eliminations taking place in Races 2 and 4 through 11. The top nine pacing fillies, pacing colts, trotting fillies and trotting colts from this Saturday’s eliminations will return to Georgian Downs on July 11 for their respective $130,000 Gold Final.
The Gold Finals are part of the lucrative Gold Rush program, which also features four $130,000 Masters Finals for aged Ontario-sired racehorses.
To view Saturday’s entries, click here.