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Ritchie High On Trotting Rookie

Published: August 16, 2011 10:06 pm ET

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One month after they were originally scheduled to compete, Ontario’s two-year-old trotting colts return to Mohawk Racetrack for Gold Elimination action this Friday.

Originally slated for July 21, the colts’ Gold Series calendar was interrupted when Mohawk cancelled its racing program due to the extreme heat wave that swept through Ontario. Since then the juvenile trotters have competed at Rideau Carleton Raceway in Ottawa, and return to the Campbellville with two additional races under their belt. Il Mago captured the Gold Final in Ottawa and driver Trevor Ritchie of Acton, ON will be back in the race bike as the colt begins defense of this title from Post 5 in the second $40,000 Gold Elimination.

“He raced super,” says Ritchie. “We got away fourth and I ended up coming first up with him. The favourite was on the front end and he mowed them down in the stretch.”

Ritchie steers the son of Kadabra for trainer Rod Boyd of Cambridge, ON and owners Chris Alexander Stbls Inc. of Aurora, ON and Mark Harder of Freehold, NJ. Harder taught the colt - a homebred out of Alexander’s mare Northern Style -his early lessons and sent him up to Boyd in time for the originally scheduled Gold Elimination at Mohawk. When the elimination was cancelled, Boyd and Ritchie had a chance to give Il Mago a test run before the Rideau Carleton event, and it was Ritchie’s assessment of the youngster’s ability that sent him to Ottawa.

“The first time I raced him, if you punch up his lines you’ll see he went a half in :56.3 or something of that nature, and he came home in :27.4 or something,” explains the trotting specialist. “To me that was good enough to put him in the Gold.”

Things did not go quite as planned in the Aug. 5 Gold Elimination at Rideau Carleton, as Il Mago made a series of unforced errors and finished at the back of the five-horse field. The colt drew the lucky straw and landed a spot in the Gold Final, and Ritchie says Boyd spent the week in between fiddling with equipment and having veterinarians check the colt over from head to toe, trying to make sure Il Mago was able to take full advantage of his good fortune.

“The first one I was maybe blaming on me. I’d never been on top with him before and he was a little green going into the turn and just maybe lost his footing,” says Ritchie of the series of breaks the colt made in the Ottawa elimination. “Then he caught back up to the field, he caught up to Scott Zeron and was following him out of the half and felt great and he just rolled off for no apparent reason, and he did it one more time in the last turn.”

Il Mago will make his fifth lifetime time start from Post 5 in Friday’s fifth race, and Ritchie is hoping it is the steady, hard charging colt of the Gold Final that comes out to play, rather than the green, unpredictable horse from the elimination round.

“I’ve got a little salt and pepper going here. I’m not sure who is going to show up,” says the reinsman ruefully. “I hope it’s the latter and not the former.”

In addition to Il Mago, who faces a field of 10 in the second elimination, Ritchie will also steer Pokerface It for trainer Jimmy Takter in the first $40,000 contest.

Ritchie piloted the son of Kadabra and Unbelievable F in the Ottawa Gold Elimination, matching Il Mago’s fifth-place result, but doing it in steady fashion. Pokerface It drew the short straw to Il Mago’s long one and had to watch the Gold Final from the sidelines, so heads to Mohawk straight from his Aug. 5 Ontario Sires Stakes debut. The youngster’s only other start came in a two-year-old conditioned event at Mohawk on July 28.

“I drove him in the other elimination and I liked him, he’s a big colt,” says Ritchie of Pokerface It, who is owned by Falkbolagen AB of Allentown, NJ. “I’m not sure how much high speed he’s got, he’s a little green when it comes to changing gears, but he seems like he can trot a long way. I think if I can get him in a high enough gear, he can keep it for a while.”

Pokerface It will be handicapped by the outside Post 10 in Friday’s second race, where he will face off against early season Gold Final winner Good Sound Advice from Post 6 and Game Plan, runner-up from the Ottawa Gold Final, from Post 4.

The top five finishers from each of Friday’s $40,000 Gold Eliminations will return to Mohawk Racetrack for the third Gold Final on the two-year-old trotting colt schedule on Aug. 26. The Campbellville oval sends its first race in behind the starting gate at 7:10 p.m. this Friday, with the juvenile trotters showing off their skills in Races 2 and 5.

(OSS)

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


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