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Northern Illusion To Make Grassroots Debut

Published: September 24, 2008 3:48 pm ET

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Northern Illusion will make just his second start, and his Grassroots debut, at Hiawatha Horse Park on Saturday night, but the two-year-old trotting colt has already earned stakes winner status thanks to an impressive performance in the Balanced Image Stake last weekend.

With just two qualifiers under his belt, the Kadabra son shipped into Hanover Raceway for the August 20 Balanced Image and laid down an impressive mile to claim a five length victory in 2:02.1.

"He's probably the smartest colt I've ever trained or broke," says Strathroy resident Dan Creighton, who conditions Northern Illusion for his partners in the Danterra Racing Stable. "He'll do anything you want."

Creighton says the colt handled the crowds, the lights, the paddock, and all other aspects of his first start like a veteran. The young trotter also performed like a seasoned campaigner on the track, easing off the starting gate into fourth and then sitting on the outside through the middle half of the race before he reached the front and pulled off to the open-length victory.

"He never got excited," continues Creighton. "When you can get a young trotter that has that temperament, it can work to your benefit. He can make a break too, but when they've got that temperament it really helps them out."

The colt's impressive performance did not come as a surprise to Creighton, who had been confident in the young trotter's natural ability since his earliest lessons. In fact, the veteran conditioner says a horse with lesser talent would never have seen the Hanover Raceway starting gate.

"A number of times I was close to quitting with him and I didn't," explains the trainer. "If he didn't show me that he had some talent I probably would have quit with him in early summer."

Fortunately Creighton's patience and perseverance paid off, and Northern Illusion will make his Grassroots debut from Post 6 in the ninth race, a spot his trainer feels is ideal over the Hiawatha Horse Park oval.

"I didn't want the one or two, and I didn't want the eight or nine. The middle of the track is good," notes Creighton. "Until they get some experience, the centre of the track is a real good spot for a green trotter."

Creighton and his partners also felt the Grassroots program was the best spot for their green trotter, rather than sending him up against the Gold Series colts in his first provincial start. With just two regular season events remaining, Creighton already has his sights set on next season and believes the Grassroots program will best position the colt to achieve his maximum potential as a three-year-old.

"With one lifetime start in late September it's difficult to say I want to race the horse in the Gold. If he has three or five lifetime starts, then it's different," the trainer explains. "Confidence is a huge thing with young trotters, and it's hard to get confidence when they're on their toes every step of the mile trying to keep up with the pace.

"We certainly have aspirations or hopes that he'll be a Gold quality horse," he adds. "We're just hoping things work out for him over the next couple months, and he comes back decent as a three-year-old."

Hiawatha Horse Park's Saturday evening program, which gets underway at 7:00 p.m., features six $20,000 Grassroots divisions. The two-year-old trotting colts will square off in Races 3, 4, 6, 8, 9 and 10.

To view the entries, click here.


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