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Bouncing Back From Chip Surgery

Published: July 27, 2011 8:57 am ET

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Woodstock Raceway will host seven $24,000 Ontario Sires Stakes Grassroots divisions on Friday, July 29 for the province’s talented three-year-old pacing colts, and Stephen Gillard is looking forward to the short journey to the half-mile oval from his Tavistock farm.

“We’re only about 10 minutes from Woodstock Raceway, so it’s kind of, it’s a luxury,” said Gillard, who will harness Classic Call in the second Grassroots division.

Classic Call kicked off his sophomore Grassroots campaign with a runner-up finish at Mohawk Racetrack on July 1, and Gillard is hoping the homebred son of Your Nemesis and Lucky Call can match or better that effort from Post 2 on Friday. While his last four starts have been over Mohawk’s seven-eighths mile oval, the gelding demonstrated his half-mile ability in the City of London Pacing Series at Western Fair Raceway in May, where he emerged victorious in the $60,600 final.

“That won’t pose any problems for him,” Gillard said about the transition back to the half-mile, “But I must say, initially, when we went to London at the beginning of this year, I didn’t like this horse on a half-mile track. He’s a big horse and he was having trouble, but we went anyway just because we paid him into that series, and every time he went to the gate he got a little better about handling the turns at high speed; and after, say, three or four starts, really it hasn’t been an issue any more, but it didn’t start off great on a half, put it that way.

“I was really pleasantly surprised,” he added. “I didn’t expect that he would go from a horse that had a little trouble on the turns to a horse that paced the turns relatively well. I didn’t expect it, but it’s a nice surprise.”

Classic Call has delivered more than one pleasant surprise to the Gillard’s over the course of his racing career. Last season the gelding made three starts, including a third-place finish in a September Grassroots event, before x-rays revealed chips in both ankles. Veterinarians removed the chips and after recuperating, Classic Call resumed training with a cautious eye cast toward a three-year-old campaign.

To Gillard’s delight, the training went well and Classic Call made his sophomore debut at Western Fair Raceway on April 29, and posted a 2:00 victory. Since then, the gelding has amassed a total of two victories and five second-place finishes in eight starts for earnings of $54,400 and has yet to miss a paycheque.

“He really didn’t have much of a chance to strut some really good stuff (last year), but he acted like a nice horse, and we got those chips out of the way, and he basically came back real well,” the horseman said. “He trained down good for his three-year-old year, and it kind of worked out good, because you don’t always get those kind of results when you have chips removed. He’s kind of done everything quietly nice for us.”

Gillard says the gelding has evolved into an easy-going racehorse that knows when to get serious about his work, demonstrating a temperament similar to sire Your Nemesis.

“He doesn’t take his work seriously at home, but when you take him away he knows what he’s going for now. And he’s getting to be a kind of a seasoned type of horse, where he’s got it all figured out,” the trainer said. “He’s just like his sire, who we have here on the farm. The old horse, he’s just a real gentleman. He was a good horse to truck, paddock, jog, train, race, didn’t matter, he was just always a really nice horse.”

Looking beyond the OSS program, Gillard is hoping Classic Call can evolve into the kind of consistent, enduring racehorse that his full sister, Call Me Yours, has proven to be. During her racing career, the mare has banked $369,950 for the Gillards, and is one of the few horses the couple has kept beyond the sophomore campaign. The owner said Classic Call will be sold at the conclusion of the Grassroots season and says there is only one caveat he would offer prospective purchasers.

“The only thing that drives me crazy; our racetrack is in the middle of a hayfield and when the grass gets long and it starts to wave in the wind it drives him crazy, he just runs from one side of the track to the other, he thinks something is hiding in that long grass, I don’t know,” the horseman said, with a chuckle. “But other than that, he’s just a real kind of easy horse to get along with. He just does everything well, trucks, jogs, trains and races; he seems to do it all easy. It makes the job nice. You wish you had about five or six like him.”

Regular reinsman Stuart Sowerby will steer Classic Call in Race 2 on Friday. The three-year-old pacing colts will be featured in Woodstock Raceway’s first seven races, with the first $24,000 Grassroots division going postward at 4:00 p.m.

To view entries for Friday's card of harness racing, click the following link: Friday Entries – Woodstock Raceway.

(OSS)


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