Training a two-year-old trotting filly is always a challenge, but this season Arthur residents John and Kathy Cecchin have faced more than the usual dose of frustration with Jayport Cindy, one of 77 young trotters headed to Grand River Raceway for Grassroots action on Friday evening.
"She has been fighting a virus and she just can't seem to get to the other side of it. It's very frustrating," says Kathy Cecchin, who shares ownership on Jayport Cindy with George Lund of Sudbury. "She started out looking like she had so much potential, and this is how we end up."
Lund and the Cecchins purchased the daughter of Mr Lavec and Promus from last fall's Forest City Yearling Sale, offering up $9,000 for the half-sister to $326,069 winner Jayport Express.
She impressed John, who handles training duties, through her early lessons and the partners had high hopes for the filly when it came time to head to the races this spring.
Jayport Cindy stepped onto the racetrack for the first time in a June 14 qualifier at Mohawk Racetrack and toured the Campbellville oval, rated two seconds slower than normal that day, in 2:07.4.
She returned to Mohawk on July 4 and stepped off a 2:04.3 qualifying effort, convincing John that she deserved a shot at the Gold Series fillies in the July 13 season opener at Flamboro Downs.
In her Gold elimination Jayport Cindy finished fourth, 14 and three-quarter lengths behind the leader, and the Cecchin's were so concerned about the filly's lacklustre finishing kick they had her examined by a veterinarian following the race.
"We took blood after the Gold elimination and her white blood cell count was out of control," recalls Kathy. "We treated it, she seemed better, so John decided to race her in the consolation. She'd never had a temperature and never been off her feed."
In the Consolation Jayport Cindy replicated her fourth-place performance, but once again seemed to have no pop coming home, and a few days later she started to run a fever and became disinterested in her food.
"There were about two and a half, three weeks where one day she'd have a temperature and one day she wouldn't, one day she'd be off her feed, one day she wouldn't," explains her owner. "What can you do, you just wait it out."
Four weeks after the Gold Consolation the filly seemed to be on the road to recovery, so John entered her in the August 19 Grassroots event at Georgian Downs. Sent off as the favourite, Jayport Cindy was never a factor in the race and finished a distant sixth in the evening's slowest division.
"On paper she should have had a top three finish," asserts Kathy. "She just had no go. It wasn't like she had a tough trip or anything, she just never had any trot the whole mile."
Two more weeks passed and John dropped the filly into an overnight event at Flamboro Downs where she made the first break of her life, going off stride as the starting gate pulled away from the field and finishing a distant seventh. As a result of the break, Jayport Cindy was required to qualify, so she heads into Friday's Grassroots event off a 2:06.1 qualifier at Hanover Raceway.
"It feels like everything we've done with her has been wrong," admits Kathy. "There is a lot of the season left, but it really feels like time is slipping away. Hopefully she'll turn a corner and start to come back to herself."
On the up side, Jayport Cindy and driver Scott Coulter will start from Post 1 in the tenth race, and the filly seems to be training well at home, but Kathy is hesitant to feel any optimism after so much disappointment.
"I don't know if the rail is good or not," she says with a wry chuckle. "That's what she had when she made the break at Flamboro.
"You just never know when she races if she's going to be like she was when she started out, or like she was at Barrie when she just had no go," adds the owner. "The way things have been going, we'd be ecstatic with a top three finish."
Among the fillies that Jayport Cindy will face on Friday are three Grassroots regulars, one dropping down from the Gold Series, and three fillies making their debut in the provincial program.
Only Dutchess Seelster, who will start from Post 5, has already found her way to the winner's circle, scoring a 2:04.3 win in overnight action at Grand River on September 5.
The nine Grassroots divisions are slated as Races 1 through 5 and 7 through 10 on the Elora oval's Friday evening program, kicking things off at 7:25 p.m. A total of $180,000 is up for grabs in the fourth of six events on the freshman trotting filly Grassroots schedule.
To view Friday's entries, click here.