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Blais Duo Vs. Stacked Field Sunday

Published: August 10, 2018 10:26 am ET

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Trainer Luc Blais heads to Sunday’s (Aug. 12) $141,000 Joie De Vie Stakes with the race’s defending champion plus another horse coming off a major win, but not a lot of attention. That’s how it is when a race includes the returning Horse of the Year among a bevy of award-winners to create the most decorated field of female trotters in recent memory, if not ever.

Blais sends Emoticon Hanover, last year’s winner in a time of 1:50.2 that equaled the fastest mile ever by a female trotter on a five-eighths-mile track, and last week’s John R. Steele Memorial winner Dream Together to the Joie De Vie at Tioga Downs. The race also includes 2017 U.S. and Canadian Horse of the Year Hannelore Hanover, two-time Dan Patch Award winner Broadway Donna, and two-time O’Brien Award-winners Ariana G and Caprice Hill.

Ariana G (age two), Broadway Donna (three) and Hannelore Hanover (four-and-up) swept the Dan Patch Awards for female trotters in 2016, when Hannelore Hanover and Ariana G also received O’Brien Awards in Canada. Hannelore Hanover and Ariana G repeated as Dan Patch and O’Brien honorees in 2017, bringing the total of trophies in the last three years for the group to 15.

“Timing,” Blais said with a laugh. “It’s tough. When you are at that level nothing is easy. You need to be perfect. And you need to be lucky a little bit.”

Racing begins at 1:00 p.m. (EDT) Sunday at Tioga Downs, where the Joie De Vie is joined on the card by the $186,000 Crawford Farms Open Trot and eliminations for the Empire Breeders Classic events for three-year-old male and female pacers. Will Take Charge is the 5-2 morning-line favourite in the Crawford, which also includes past Dan Patch Award-winners Pinkman, JL Cruze, and Obrigado.

Hannelore Hanover is the 9-5 morning-line chalk in the Joie De Vie. Yannick Gingras selected the mare over another of his regular drives, Ariana G, who is the 3-1 second choice on the morning line. Tim Tetrick will drive Ariana G.

Dream Together, a four-year-old mare, won her first stakes of the year in the Steele at The Meadowlands, where she rallied from fourth in the stretch to win by a neck over Broadway Donna in a career-best 1:51.3 at odds of 51-1. Last year, Dream Together won the Matron Stakes, finished second in the Elegantimage, and was third in the Hambletonian Oaks, Breeders Crown and Kentucky Filly Futurity.

“She raced good,” Blais said about Dream Together in the Steele. “She always closes every race, but I think Saturday was her day. She had a good trip and she did right at the end.

“The four-year-old year, it’s tough to race with the older mares sometimes. I think the more the season goes on she is going to get better and better. I think (the Steele), she went (1):51 and she never went so fast before, stretched her out and maybe she is going to step up.”

Dream Together is a daughter of Muscle Hill out of Danae and a full sister to European star Propulsion, as well as a half-sister to North American stakes-winner D Orsay. For her career, Dream Together has won 10 of 32 races and $645,764 for Determination stable of Montreal, Que.

Determination also owns Emoticon Hanover, who was the 2017 Breeders Crown Mare Trot winner and the 2016 Ontario Sires Stakes champion. She finished second to Hannelore Hanover in June’s Armbro Flight Stakes and the 2017 TVG championship, second to Broadway Donna in the 2016 Breeders Crown, and second to Caprice Hill in the 2015 Ontario Sires Stakes Super final.

For her career, Emoticon Hanover has won 19 of 45 races and $1.39 million. In her past 34 starts, she has finished among the top three 31 times. She enters the Joie De Vie off one of those off-the-board occurrences, a seventh in the Steele.

“She’s always good, but she had a bad day,” Blais said. “It’s tough to explain why she raced like that. She never raced like that before. I don’t know. She was checked by the vet and nothing special. That’s why we decided to go back for the Joie De Vie. I jogged her (Wednesday) morning and she was happy. I think that’s the only bad race of her life.”

Blais knows Emoticon Hanover might have received more attention last year if not sharing the same stage as Hannelore Hanover, but he is OK with it.

“She has given us thrills,” he said. “We know she is a good mare, that’s the main thing.”

Following is the field for the Joie De Vie. For the day’s complete entries, click here.

$141,000 Joie De Vie Stakes
PP - Horse - Driver - Trainer - Morning Line
1. Hannelore Hanover - Yannick Gingras - Ron Burke - 9/5
2. Celebrity Ruth - Jim Marohn Jr. - Trond Smedshammer - 6/1
3. Broadway Donna - David Miller - Jim Campbell - 7/2
4. Ariana G - Tim Tetrick - Jimmy Takter - 3/1
5. Dream Together - Bob McClure - Luc Blais - 5/1
6. P L Jill - Brett Miller - Renaldo Morales III - 12/1
7. Emoticon Hanover - Dan Dube - Luc Blais - 8/1
8. Caprice Hill - Doug McNair - Tony Alagna - 12/1
9. Ice Attraction - Ake Svanstedt - Ake Svanstedt - 10/1


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