Rockwood resident Benoit Baillargeon heads back to Grand River Raceway for Saturday night’s Grassroots Championships with a pair of trotting fillies that have provided him more than an average dose of aggravation this season.
On May 1, three-year-old trotting filly Cool Creek Breeze reared up and struck the trainer in the face when something spooked her, landing him in the hospital with gashes, fractures to his upper jaw and cheekbone, and bone fragments on both sides of his nose that required surgery to repair.
Three months later, freshman trotting filly Princess Lilly arrived in Baillargeon’s barn with an aversion to the starting gate and made several unforced errors while he sorted out her inexplicable quirk.
Fortunately, both fillies were on their best behaviour in last week’s Semifinal and he is hoping they continue to be model citizens for one more start.
Third in her Semifinal, Cool Creek Breeze is first out of the paddock for Baillargeon on Saturday, starting from Post 3 in the $100,000 sophomore trotting filly Championship. Although the horseman was pleased with her result last Wednesday, he knows she will have to be at her very best to claim the division crown.
“Last week I was okay with her race. It was nothing fancy, but she was okay,” says Baillargeon. “We’re going to need a little more out of her if we want to get the job done.”
The horseman notes that Post 3 will work to the filly’s advantage, but adds that a little racing luck will also have to come her way.
“I’m hoping she gets a little better and the other ones get a little bad,” he says with a chuckle.
Baillargeon shares ownership of Cool Creek Breeze with breeder Diane Ingham of Mount Pleasant and acknowledges that the Angus Hall daughter’s season has been something of a disappointment. The filly, a half-sister to $1.3 million winner Casual Breeze, competed in the Gold Series last season and her owners had hoped to continue racing at that level this summer.
“She’s been a disappointment for me,” admits Baillargeon. “I was hoping she’d have $100,000 made by now and we’re very far from that.”
In her 14 sophomore starts the filly has tallied two wins and three thirds for earnings of $41,455, giving her a total of $158,571 lifetime. The well bred youngster will wrap up her racing career at the end of this season and begin a second career as a broodmare in 2013.
While Cool Creek Breeze has not lived up to expectations, freshman trotting filly Princess Lilly has exceeded them. In spite of her issues with the starting gate the Muscle Mass daughter has posted five wins and one second in her seven starts for earnings of $68,000.
“She’s been pretty impressive so far, all the way, just her manners weren’t all there,” notes Baillargeon. “The last three races we’ve been tinkering with her equipment and she’s getting better. The more she races the better she’s getting. She’s learning; she’s relaxing more.”
The trainer, who conditions Princess Lilly for Les Ecuries Piramidan of Gatineau, QC, was very pleased with the filly’s Semifinal effort last Friday. Starting from Post 8 driver Mario Baillargeon eased her away in the centre of the racetrack and then dropped down onto the rail in seventh. The filly sat near the back of the pack until the three-quarters, when she tipped three wide and went straight to the front, trotting home in a track record 1:59.4.
“Mario’s done a great job with her,” says the trainer of his brother. “He stayed in the middle of the track with her, settled in sixth or seventh, and then when he tipped her out she did the rest.
“She’s fast. She’s got lots of speed, there’s no end to her.”
Mario Baillargeon will steer Princess Lilly after a fifth straight win from Post 5 in the two-year-old trotting filly Championship. The other Semifinal winner, Armstead Kyra, gets Post 4 in the fifth race.
The Milton resident will also steer Cool Creek Breeze in the third race, sandwiched between Semifinal winners Amber Kadabra at Post 2 and Noble Peace Prize at Post 4.
The eight $100,000 Grassroots Championship battles will take place in Races 2 through 5 and 7 through 10 this Saturday, Sept. 29. Grand River Raceway’s first race goes postward at 7:05 pm.
To view the harness racing entries for Saturday at Grand River, click the following link: Saturday Entries - Grand River Raceway.