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Gingras Speaks On COSA TV

Published: August 25, 2020 10:08 pm ET

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From quarantine at a cottage off Lake Simcoe, Yannick Gingras joined the Tuesday (Aug. 25) edition of COSA TV live to talk about the Pepsi North America Cup and his drive on morning-line favourite Tall Dark Stranger.

Gingras, a Canadian native living in the United States, is the only driver stationed south of the 49th parallel in competition at Woodbine Mohawk Park due to ongoing sanctions in place to manage the coronavirus pandemic which started in mid-March. Though, despite the added protocols in place limiting travel between borders, Gingras said that his opportunity to race in the North America Cup made him go the extra kilometer.

“Of course I’m going to be here for six more weeks so it’s not the only race, but it is the race why I came,” said Gingras, who plans to race at Woodbine Mohawk Park through the Mohawk Million and Metro Pace at the end of September. “If it wasn’t for Tall Dark Stranger, there’s no doubt I’d still be in the U.S. right now.

“It’s been two or three months in the coming,” Gingras also said. “The minute COVID started—and maybe a month after that—I started to make phonecalls to Jessica Buckley, Bill McClinchey, Mr. Lawson… they’re probably annoyed with me, but I went months trying to figure out what they wanted from me and what they needed me to do. I was in contact with immigration, with border patrol... I did my homework, and I know there are a lot of people who are not happy. And really the last couple of days it’s gotten to me. It didn’t bother me—I don’t care, I’m Canadian and I knew I could come here—but it’s bothering me the way the people have been complaining and stuff like that. I think I’ve done everything that’s been asked of me and more. I know in my heart I did what I had to do and I didn’t put anybody at risk.”

Starting Saturday, Gingras’ quarantine lifts, meaning that he can interact with the horsemen at Woodbine Mohawk Park while still abiding by social distancing standards. Previously, Gingras—including on the night of the eliminations—had to sequester away from the paddock, by himself. Gingras also said that the criticism he has received for making the move to Mohawk for the event will not hang over his head.

“Once I get on the racetrack it has nothing to do with it,” Gingras said. “Realistically [on] Saturday I’ll be good to go—it’s more the people [bothering me] than the racing part of it. I can’t wait to get on the racetrack and be able to go and race horses and be done with the side part of it. Because after Saturday, I’m one of them—I’m like both of you—and I can go in the paddock and do whatever I want. It’s going to be a nice relief on Saturday to be able to race horses and not worry about anything else.”

Along with the limits on travel created as a result of the coronavirus, Woodbine Mohawk Park will also limit only a handful of people to attend the night of races Saturday (Aug. 29)—a sight which remains an anomaly even after large harness racing days including the Meadowlands Pace and Hambletonian Day.

“It definitely takes away from the highs and the crowd and the cheering and stuff like that,” Gingras said. “We all thrive to be in it and be a part of it. That’s the fun part of racing horses, but also I think we all understand—I do anyway—that it is what it is now. That’s the best we can do about it, and I think WEG has done a tremendous job like last weekend. Everything is organized, and [they] were ready for it. It was the same thing at the Meadowlands—I think Hambo Day was really well done and I think people are happy with the results. I think everyone is doing the best job they can in the world we’re living in right now.”

Gingras nonetheless heads into the North America Cup for the first time driving a favourite in an attempt to grab his first victory in the event. The Nancy Takter-trained millionaire by Bettors Delight enters off a narrow win in his elimination, a finish made tighter—as Gingras said after the race—due to the earplugs failing to pull. Gingras said that the finish surely makes the connections of the other finalists much more confident they can topple the current giant of the glamour boy division, but Yannick remains as confident in the Meadowlands Pace champ as ever.

“I’m not one bit worried about it,” Gingras said. “Part of it was him being off a week—I think he’s better if he races back to back. Part of it I think was my fault too. I raced him last week like a 1-9 shot thinking that he can’t get beat—left him loafing in the post parade and let him relax. You can only go so much with these horses and push them at 100 per cent every time, so in the post parade I was letting him be.

“If you watch the replay, he was flatfooted leaving the gate and he was kind of just half rolling and not paying attention. It took me all the way to the three-eighths to clear—[being wide] to a :26.1 quarter. Believe me he’s going to be on his go Saturday night, the same way he was in the Meadowlands Pace and the Cane Pace. I’m sure Nancy will train him a little bit harder this week and the horse is going to be ready, there’s no doubt in my mind. Last week goes to show you how great of a horse he is—he was beat on both sides but he refused to lose.”

Tall Dark Stranger won his elimination by a diminishing head over Capt Midnight with Odds On Osiris just a quarter-length behind in third and Captain Barbossa weaving home in a :25.3 final quarter for fourth—one length behind the elimination winner. Gingras, admitting overconfidence in his horse, clarified that he did not underestimate the competition.

“I think Capt Midnight is a tremendous horse, so is Odds On Osiris. Obviously those two Ontario breds—I’ve heard great things about them,” Gingras said. “It’s just that I felt my horse is so good and so sharp right now that some times I can let him loaf a little bit and he’s going to get the job done any way. But at the end of the day it is a horse race and I’m not going to make that mistake again—I’m going to make sure he’s ready on Saturday night.

“If my horse was one dimensional I might worry a bit, but he can do any which way I want. So if they go a quarter in :24, he’ll be racing from second or third over. If they go slow, I’ll be moving. If they don’t go off the gate, I’ll be going forward. I can do whatever I want—and that’s what’s great with Tall Dark Stranger: there’s no certain trip he needs. His first start of the year he came from second over off bad cover and came :25 at the end of it.”

For Gingras—a driver sitting atop the ranks for the last few years with wins in nearly every top race in the sport including an unprecedented string of victories in the Hambletonian Oaks—finally winning one of the two million-dollar races which have eluded him would mean a lot, especially during a global pandemic.

“All the sacrifices, all the changes that I’ve had to do and that my family’s had to do it’d mean that much more,” Gingras said.”

The COSA TV broadcast also featured a handicapping segment with hosts Greg Blanchard and Mark McKelvie joined by Robert Reid Jr., author of the Horseplayer's Journal at Woodbine Mohawk Park, and Garnet Barnsdale, Woodbine Mohawk Park handicapper for the Daily Racing Form.

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