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Trainer Leaves Courtroom For Racing

Published: April 20, 2019 10:32 am ET

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Tahnee Camilleri couldn’t have been more excited to start racing Ideal Lifestyle A. The Australian mare came to Camilleri’s barn off a career-best 1:50.3 victory at Menangle in September 2018 and by late fall, Camilleri had the Western Ideal mare ready to qualify at the Meadowlands. However, Ideal Lifestyle’s North American debut suffered a delay.

“I had her ready to qualify at the Meadowlands roughly in October or November, but she had a bit of a mishap in the paddock when I had her in to qualify,” Camilleri said. “She kicked and got her leg caught over her hopples, so she ended up doing a little tear in her hamstring and she needed time off then.”

For Camilleri, the injury proved to be a low point. After embarking on a career as a lawyer, the Australian native changed course and came to the United States to pursue her passion of harness racing. After a brief stint here in 2009, Camilleri returned last year. Her growing stable of Australian imports have posted 20 wins from 54 starts since April 2018 and Ideal Lifestyle looked to be the star of the stable.

“It was really disappointing because I was quite excited to start racing her and just to have a horse of that caliber,” Camilleri said. “Her last start in Australia, she made a bunch of very good mares look ordinary, she absolutely destroyed them. I was pinching myself to be able to get my hands on a mare of that caliber and for it to all go pear-shaped her first time she set foot on a racetrack here was a little bit disappointing, but I suppose that’s racing.”

Tahnee Camilleri and Andrew McCarthy with Firebby A

A multiple Group 3-placed performer Down Under, Ideal Lifestyle came to Camilleri off an open-length victory in a one-mile mares free-for-all. After leaving from the far outside post, Ideal Lifestyle set and opening fraction of :25.4 and came home with a :27.3 quarter to post her lifetime mark. When she arrived in Camilleri’s barn, her impression in the flesh was even more impressive than that on the track.

“She’s built like a breeding stallion, she’s a very big Western Ideal mare, extremely highly-strung, but a lot of the good mares are,” Camilleri said. “Just looking at her, she’s a very impressive looking individual. I’ve never trained a Standardbred that big, let alone a mare. She’s quite impressive to look at. She was very hard to get out of the stall when I first got her. She’s very high-strung and you just have to train her with sheepskin gloves, I guess. She’s a little bit temperamental, but she’s entitled to be.”

After her arrival, Camilleri and Ideal Lifestyle quickly got off on the wrong foot. However, over time, she has become easier to work with.

“I got her off the truck when she had just come from quarantine and I put her in a stall. I let her rest in there for a little while, let her have something to eat and drink,” Camilleri recalled. “And then I went and hour or two later to let her out in the field and she wasn’t having it. She chased me out of the stall. That was basically my introduction to Ideal Lifestyle. It’s not very fun being chased out of a stall by a horse that size.

“She’s definitely taught me a lot,” Camilleri said. “She hasn’t been an easy horse to train, but I’m now starting to reap the rewards of the patience I’ve put into her. It’s been a bit of a ride, but it’s been an exciting one, anyway.”

Camilleri gave Ideal Lifestyle time to recover from her injury and by January, she was ready to qualify again. After two successful trials at the Meadowlands and a runner-up finish in 1:52 on debut February 1, Camilleri decided to nominate to the Blue Chip Matchmaker Series despite her concerns about the half-mile track.

“I had my doubts about whether she would get around Yonkers,” the trainer said. “I paid up for the Matchmaker and just thought I would put her around Yonkers and see how she goes. She’s a very big mare, a very long mare.”

Ideal Lifestyle made her Hilltop debut February 15, the evening after payments were due. She wired the field in a $29,000 overnight, scoring in 1:54 with Jordan Stratton in the sulky. Ideal Lifestyle subsequently posted two straight runner-up finishes in the $44,000 distaff feature before taking aim at the series.

Ideal Lifestyle continued to surprise her trainer with a 1:52.3 victory in leg one of the series March 15. After two straight second-place finishes in weeks two and three and a fourth April 5, Ideal Lifestyle accumulated 208 points, enough for an eighth-place ranking in the standings, earning her a spot in the $402,600 Final Saturday night (April 20).

“Probably half-mile racing isn’t really her go, but it’s a testament to her ability that she qualified for the final when it’s very obvious she struggles around a half,” Camilleri said. “I’m very proud of her; she does a lot of things wrong, but she still qualified for the final and she’s a great trier, so it’s going to be fun.”

Ideal Lifestyle drew post seven in the final and will be reunited with Jordan Stratton after George Brennan drove throughout the preliminary legs. Although she is a 20-1 outsider, the long odds take the pressure of Camilleri in her stakes debut.

“This is my first stakes race I’ve ever been in. She’s a bit of a forgotten horse and it’s a lot less pressure on me and her and I’m going to go into (Saturday) night and just enjoy myself,” she said.

“I’m still pinching myself. It’s very, very exciting and I’m very excited for the mare,” Camilleri continued. “George came off and said she was a little tired her last start. I skipped last week and freshened her up, she’s jumping out of her skin, so I’m expecting her to run a good race. I’ve got a great tactical driver on board in Jordan Stratton and I’ll just leave it up to him. Win, lose, or draw, I’m so proud she qualified for the final and I’m thankful to be there.”

The field for the Matchmaker Series Final is listed below:

(Post - Horse - Driver - Trainer)

1. Kaitlyn N - Matt Kakaley - Rich Banca
2. Apple Bottom Jeans - Corey Callahan - Dylan Davis
3. Feelin Red Hot- George Brennan - Ron Burke
4. Dont Think Twice - Jason Bartlett - Andrew Harris
5. Bettor Joy N - Dexter Dunn - Jim King Jr.
6. Shartin N - Tim Tetrick - Jim King Jr.
7. Ideal Lifestyle A - Jordan Stratton - Tahnee Camilleri
8. Seaswift Joy N - Jim Marohn Jr. - Tony Alagna

Saturday night’s card also features the $664,000 George Morton Levy Memorial Pacing Series Final, the $100,000 Levy Series Consolation, the $75,000 Matchmaker Series Consolation, and a $50,000 Open Handicap Trot. First post time is 6:50 p.m.

(SOA of NY)

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