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Montini On ‘Great Half-Mile Horse’

Published: August 20, 2015 2:23 pm ET

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“I’m going to call him a great half-mile track horse, he just zips around those turns like they’re straightaways, and that’s really the main advantage we have.”

During Ontario Sires Stakes Grassroots action this Saturday at the Hiawatha Horse Park, sophomore trotting gelding El Diablo Hall will be lining up in Post 4 on the starting gate in the second $18,000 division. He will have an enthusiastic crowd of supporters on hand for what will be his second Grassroots start. The colt is co-owned by Oil Springs native Dale Hunter, who currently resides in London, and Rick Podolinsky of Alvinston.

“It’s a great group of guys,” said trainer Anthony Montini, who also owns a share of El Diablo Hall along with Paul Giammichele of Burlington, Ont. “It’s pretty easy when they win — like that night in London there, they had a ball — but the horse did struggle a little bit and not once did I feel pressured by them to say. ‘Hey what’s going on, let’s get this horse raced.’ They left it up to me. Good owners make good trainers.”

El Diablo Hall started his three-year-old season in the May 27 Gold Series season opener at The Raceway at Western Fair District and delivered a four and one-half length triumph, resulting in the fun-filled winner’s circle celebration Montini referenced, but since then the colt has struggled, starting just three more times and posting third, fifth and seventh-place finishes.

“I wasn’t satisfied with just accepting the fact that he’s maybe not that good, because I think he is, so I just did more diagnostics on him,” explained Montini, adding that veterinarians at the University of Guelph’s equine clinic finally zeroed in on the cause of the gelding’s lacklustre efforts and seem to have him heading back toward full strength.

“I think he’s on the straight and narrow now,” added the Acton, Ont. resident. “But it’s always a horse race.”

Among the seven horses El Diablo Hall will face in Saturday’s Grassroots test is two-time Grassroots division winner Its Huw You Know, who will start from Post 5. Hiawatha’s leading driver, Nick Steward, will pilot El Diablo Hall, and Montini is hoping both fans and his connections see an improved effort from the gelding.

“He does everything right, he’s probably the sanest trotter I’ve ever had,” said the trainer. “He’s such a — I’m going to call him a great half-mile track horse, he just zips around those turns like they’re straightaways and that’s really the main advantage we have.”

A successful outing over Hiawatha’s five-eighths mile surface on Saturday would see Montini and his partners faced with the choice of returning to the Gold Series at Mohawk Racetrack on September 29 or remaining in the Grassroots program for a trip to Flamboro Downs’ half-mile oval on September 3.

“One hurdle at a time,” said a cautious Montini about the gelding’s future plans.

Four OSS divisions will be contested during the evening card, and the trotters are not the only ones with a chance to win OSS merchandise. Fans that arrive early will receive an OSS t-shirt. Also, throughout the evening, fans trackside will have an opportunity to catch an OSS ball cap. In addition to taking home some OSS-wear, Hiawatha fans can enter ‘Last Chance’ draws or catch a ride in the starting car.

El Diablo Hall and his peers will battle in the fifth race on Saturday, with the other three Grassroots divisions going postward as Races 4, 7, and 10. The OSS Fan Celebration festivities will get underway at 7 p.m.

To view the harness racing entries for Saturday at Hiawatha, click the following link: Saturday Entries – Hiawatha Horse Park.

(With files from the OSS)

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