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Perfetto Primed For 2021 Debut

Published: February 21, 2021 8:05 pm ET

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Perfetto's 2020 campaign earned him Canadian harness racing's highest honour: the O'Brien Award for the country's top older trotter. With a new year comes a clean slate, and the now six-year-old is poised to begin his quest for another O'Brien bronze on Monday (Feb. 22).

Initially, trainer-driver Dagfin Henriksen and his fiancée, caretaker Laura Trask, hadn't planned to give Perfetto a winter break, but when racing was shut down in Ontario the second time, at the end of December, it made sense to give the son of Majestic Son some well-deserved respite.

"We didn't plan to give him a break like that before we knew that they shut us down, but when they shut us down, we figured we might as well give him a little break," Henriksen told Trot Insider. "He got a few weeks off, and we've been getting him ready again."

Perfetto drew post six in Monday's featured event at Woodbine Mohawk Park, a $28,000 high-level conditioned trot which attracted a field of seven. Still, even as the 5-2 morning line favourite in the night's second of nine races, Perfetto will face a number of formidable foes in his 2021 debut, including fellow Preferred mainstay and O'Brien Award finalist P L Jill (Mario Baillargeon, 7-2) and Its Academic (Doug McNair, 3-1), the latter of whom will debut as a four-year-old after winning seven of 14 races in a stakes-heavy sophomore campaign.

"It's the same kind of horses he met all fall," Henriksen said of Perfetto's competition in Monday's test. "He's just as competitive as anyone else in there. We all have to race, and you're not done before you cross the finish line."


Perfetto, shown winning the Dec. 14 Preferred at Woodbine Mohawk Park, leads a field of seven in Monday's featured trot at the Campbellville, Ont., raceway.

By all indications, Perfetto is raring to go, and Henriksen feels that O'Brien glory will yield more — and due — respect for his stable star.

"I hope that people look at him a little differently and give him more respect on the track," he quipped. "I don't know if I look at him any differently — I guess Laura spoils him a little bit more! We don't look at him any differently. We knew how good he was all fall. Even if he didn't get the respect on the tote board as much as he should have — he should have gotten more respect than he did; he was always 8-1 or 10-1 and picked third or fourth — he came out and finished in the top three pretty much all fall. He didn't miss the board more than two or three times, I think, but he still didn't get the respect before the end of the season. I think people are going to respect him more now. They know how good he was, and a lot of people told us how much he deserved to get that the way he was racing."

Since September, Perfetto hit the board in eight of 11 starts for owner Gerry Haggerty, all in top-condition or Preferred company at Mohawk. As far as the calibre of competition that awaits, Henriksen finds Perfetto's foes a welcome challenge:

"Those are the horses we want to race against, too, so he can prove himself that he's good enough to be there. I think he'll be competitive in those classes this year too, as long as he does the same thing he did last year. I don't see any reason why he wouldn't."

This season will likely look much the same as last year for Perfetto in terms of competition, if not a bit tougher in places. But that being said, Henriksen aims to keep the top trotter fresh through what looks to be a long, sustained campaign.

"We're not going to race him every week all year," he said. "We're going to take it a race at a time and see how he comes out of every race. Gerry said he was going to stake him up this year. We'll just take one race at a time, and hope for the best that he shows us that he wants to do it as well as he did last year."

Henriksen has another starter on the Monday Mohawk program: Johnny Ping, an Ontario-sired three-year-old who broke maiden in 1:59.1 in his 2020 finale, has drawn the inside post in a field of eight in a $17,000 entry-level conditioned trot. And despite being sidelined for the last seven weeks, Henriksen feels renewed confidence in his abilities as a trainer given his first O'Brien bronze — which, admittedly, splits time between his mantel and Haggerty's.

"It obviously gives you a little confidence," Henriksen asserted. "You have that in the back of your mind that you can achieve anything you want to achieve if you work towards it. It always helps to get an achievement like that on the trophy board."

To view Monday's entries and program pages (courtesy TrackIT), click the following links:

Monday, Feb. 22, Woodbine Mohawk Park: Entries | Program Pages


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