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Gillis Has 1-2 Grassroots Punch

Published: September 19, 2013 8:51 am ET

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Jeff Gillis will harness two starters in the three-year-old pacing colt Grassroots Championship at Mohawk Racetrack on Saturday, Sept. 21 and the Hillsburgh resident thinks both Santanna One and Dull Roar have a shot in what promises to be a hard fought affair.

“Both of those colts are coming in on good form. They’ve kind of picked it up in the second half of the season,” noted the trainer. “I’m happy with them.”

Santanna One will make his bid for the division title from post two, coming into the $50,000 contest off an easy 1:56.2 win in the Sept. 8 Grassroots event at Clinton Raceway. The Santanna Blue Chip son was also a front end winner over the Grand River Raceway half-mile on Aug. 16, but Gillis says the location and style of the gelding’s victories was more a case of racing luck than track size and trip preference.

“When Jack [Moiseyev] drove him a couple of starts ago he was near the back and had one run there at the end,” said the horseman. “I thought that was one of his better efforts.”

In that Aug. 26 Grassroots start at Mohawk, Santanna One was nine lengths off the pace in 10th at the three-quarter marker and closed to within one and one-half lengths of winner Sea Harrier in the stretch.

Gillis bred Santanna One and shares ownership on the winner of $70,192 with Mac Nichol of Burlington, reinsman Jody Jamieson’s 1140545 Ontario Ltd. of Moffat and Ellen Ott of Buffalo, New York. The gelding comes into the season finale ranked sixth in the point standings with his two victories, one third, two fifths and one eighth-place result in six Grassroots starts.

Santanna One’s stablemate Dull Roar was also a winner at Clinton on Sept. 8, keeping a nose in front of Classic Gent for the 1:55.3 score. The win was the Mach Three son’s third straight in Grassroots action, and combined with the three runner-up finishes he recorded at the start of the season, boosted him to the top of the division standings with 225 points.

Dull Roar was a $55,000 purchase out of the 2011 Canadian Yearling Sale and Gillis was very impressed with his early efforts, but the half-brother to $354,610 winner Village Janus made just two starts last season before being sidelined by injury.

“When we bought him I was high on him and in the early stages of training we were very high on him, but with only two starts we didn’t get a good read on him last year,” says Gillis.

“We gave him the time he required and he’s come back good,” continued the trainer. “I call him a tweener; he’s not quite a Gold colt, but he’s a pretty darn good Grassroots horse.”

Gillis and Mac Nichol share ownership of Dull Roar with Ken Henwood of Vaughan and Gerald Stay of Buffalo, New York. Moffat resident Jack Moiseyev will steer the winner of $96,834 from post seven in Saturday’s season finale.

Among the other colts aiming to claim the division crown are Champagne Phil, who was undefeated through the first four Grassroots events and will start from post six, last year’s division champion Panpero Firpo who starts from post nine and his stablemate in the Dave Menary barn, Panongahela, who has been flawless in four Grassroots outings, but has been saddled with the outside post 10.

Mohawk Racetrack sends its first race behind the starting gate at 7:25 p.m. on Saturday evening and the eight Grassroots Championships will go postward in races two through six and eight through 10. The three-year-old pacing colt division wraps up the Championship festivities in race 10.

To view Saturday's harness racing entries, click on the following link: Saturday Entries - Mohawk Racetrack.


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