After a freak accident in his stall last month, Encore Seelster’s three-year-old season seemed to be in jeopardy, but luck was on the pacer’s side and trainer Jim Ritchie says he is ready for battle at Grand River Raceway on Monday evening
“I was racing in Barrie about three weeks ago and I got a call. He’d got caught on the bars in his stall with his hind foot. He was caught up there for about an hour until somebody found him,” Ritchie recalled. “They had to break the bars to get him out. I thought he was buggered.”
On his return home from Georgian Downs, Ritchie met his veterinarian at the farm and the pair examined Encore Seelster. While the gelding’s leg was cut and scraped up, no bones were broken and the horse was able to walk, so they administered an anti-inflammatory, dressed the wounds and crossed their fingers.
“The next morning he was sore, but he wasn’t horrible sore,” continued the Grand Valley, Ont. resident. “We started doctoring his leg, hosing it and working on the cuts, and he come sound. I was lucky, really lucky.”
Ritchie said Encore Seelster may not have been entirely back to his former self at the July 29 Grassroots event at Hiawatha Horse Park where he finished sixth, but says the gelding’s August 9 effort at Grand River — third from Post 7 in 1:56.2 — and a schooling mile this week indicate that there will be no lasting effects from the injury — aside from some new living arrangements.
“He was kicking at the horse beside him,” explained the trainer. “I put him in a stall that’s all boards, no more bars.”
Encore Seelster will be looking for his second sophomore Grassroots victory from Post 4 in Monday’s seventh race, the fourth of six $24,000 Grassroots divisions. The gelding scored his first provincial win in the July 17 event where he circled Hanover Raceway in 1:56.4, matching the personal best he recorded at Western Fair Raceway in May.
Doug McNair will step into the race bike behind the son of Western Maverick and Espirit Seelster on Monday, and will steer the laid-back gelding for Ritchie and his partners Murray Cox of Rockwood, Ont. and Paul Ritchie of Orangeville, Ont.
“He’s a very lazy horse, so he needs somebody kind of aggressive,” said Ritchie,who noted that Trevor Henry and Simon Allard have also piloted the young pacer this season. “That’s his biggest problem, he’s always been lazy. He’s terrible to train.”
With a preferred speed of ‘slow,’ Encore Seelster is unenthusiastic about training miles without company, so Ritchie shipped the pacer to Mohawk Racetrack on Tuesday, August 17 for a schooling mile behind the starting gate. The gelding was an easy winner, and his trainer is expecting a sharp effort over the Grand River oval on Monday night.
“He’s pretty good on a half. He can go as fast on a half as he can on a big track,” noted the veteran horseman.
“He schooled really well,” Ritchie added. “It should be a good race this week.”
Among the colts that McNair and Encore Seelster will face in Race 7 is Mister Russ, a winner in the June 20 Grassroots season opener at Rideau Carleton Raceway who is currently ranked sixth in the three-year-old pacing colt standings with 74 points through three starts. Encore Seelster is currently tied with eight other colts for thirteenth spot with 50 points.
As the colts head into the second half of their six race season, the competition for Grassroots points will be intense. Only the top 16 point earners advance to the post season.
The three-year-old pacing colts will kick off their high-speed Grassroots battle in Race 1, with the other $24,000 Grassroots divisions featured as Races 3, 5, 7, 9, and 11 on Grand River Raceway’s Monday evening program, which gets under way at 7:15 p.m.
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