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Ouellette Aims For Hambo Triumph With 'Caviar'

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Published: August 5, 2009 6:59 pm ET

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In his chosen profession, Luc Ouellette has pretty much been to the top of the mountain.

He's won over $117 million in purses, and more than 8,000 races, including virtually all of the classics. Except one - the Hambletonian; he has never won harness racing's greatest prize. His Hall of Fame uncle Mike Lachance has won the coveted trophy four times and Ouellette has lined up behind the Hambletonian starting gate five times, but his best finish was a second place with Sugar Trader in 2003. Now, five years after relocating to Canada where he has continued to enjoy success at the highest levels, Ouellette is once again in pursuit of Hambletonian glory, this time as an owner after guiding his Triumphant Caviar to a second place finish in his elimination.

Hambletonian Elim #3

Triumphant Caviar will start from Post 5 in the $1,520,333 Hambletonian, harness racing's most prestigious event, on Saturday, August 8 at Meadowlands Racetrack. The Hambletonian headlines more than $4.6 million in stakes races to be contested Saturday afternoon. First race post time is 12:30 p.m. The Hambletonian is Race 10, estimated at 4:15 p.m. The race and its companion event, the $783,042 Hambletonian Oaks for fillies, will be broadcast live on NBC from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. [EDT].

"I've owned horses for a very long time, at least since I was 19 years old," said Ouellette. "I've known [trainer] Chris Beaver a long time. A few years ago, when he was racing in Canada, we got to be good friends and I would help out at his barn. He has a really good eye and works very hard so I thought it might be nice to own horses together. I don't have any other hobbies, I don't play golf and that's what I enjoy. I trust him completely with the checkbook at the sales. One day he called me about this horse he thought would be a good investment. That was Triumphant Caviar. I thought for $13,000 he seemed like a good investment.

"He trained down well as a two-year-old," Ouellette continued. "He had some minor issues, but nothing serious."

In fact, the SJs Caviar colt ended his season on a relative high note. He was fourth in the Breeders Crown final won by overwhelming Hambletonian favourite Muscle Hill.

"Because he was pretty good at the end of the year, we kept him staked up pretty well," Ouellette said. "Our goal was to stay away from Muscle Hill as much as we could."

Triumphant Caviar signaled early in his sophomore campaign that he might just be the real deal. In his first start in June he trotted in 1:53.4 while finishing second in a Pennsylvania Sire Stake. He has since compiled two wins and three more seconds, including his runner up finish to Muscle Hill in their Hambletonian elim.

Beaver and Ouellette tapped Pennsylvania superstar Dave Palone to drive the colt while Ouellette continued to fulfill his own driving commitments north of the border. "I told Dave, just drive him like you own him. Get as much out of him as you can, but save some too. I have complete faith in him and Chris."

Still, Ouellette likes to be hands on when he can and after the colt made a break and finished back in a Meadowlands mile on July 10, it was Ouellette who "drove all night" to Scioto Downs to win with him in qualifier. He then turned the reins back over to Palone, who quickly won another Pennsylvania Sire Stake, setting the stage for the Hambletonian elim performance.

In that race, Ouellette and Triumphant Caviar got closer to Muscle Hill then a lot of other horses have. At one point they looked him in the eye, before Muscle Hill drew off for a 2 3/4-length win.

"They were going up front," said Ouellette of the fast early fractions in his elim. "I got to sit in the first half of the race and I was out the second half. My horse raced very well. Of course the winner looked like he did it pretty easily. It's not like he was running us over at the wire. He beat us, but the other divisions weren't as tough as this one so I'm pretty happy with that. It's a little more exciting [to own a piece of the horse]. And now having said that, he made enough to pay his entry fee for next week so I don't have to put my hand in my pocket."

"We've been aiming for this race with this horse all year long, and were pretty sure that he was going to be up to the task in this race," added trainer Chris Beaver after the race. "He wasn't the most brilliant colt training down but he showed a lot of speed. He made a lot of breaks initially and that's why we added the trotting hobbles to his equipment. He had a bad abscess last season but still finished fourth in the Breeders Crown. This colt wants to follow other horses all day long and just really enjoys racing. Luc's got him pretty well figured out. His only real issue now is behind the gate. If the driver doesn't time the gate just right, he'll get mad and possibly go off stride. But Luc timed it perfectly with him and he was really sharp."

Ouellette knows that it will be to tough play David to Muscle Hill's Goliath, but he's eager for the chance: "Touch wood, it will all work out. My horse has a lot of speed and a lot of stamina. As nice as it would be to win it as a driver, it will be really nice to do as an owner and with my family."

To view the harness racing entries for Hambletonian Day at the Meadowlands, click here.

(NJSEA)


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