Imperial Count is a three-time winner in Gold Series harness racing action this season, including an Aug. 27 Gold Final title at Rideau Carleton Raceway, but trainer Kevin O'Reilly knows the two-year-old trotting colt will be an under dog in Thursday's (October 21) $130,000 Gold Final at Woodbine Racetrack.
"He's a good little guy. He's kind of a sleeper in there; nobody notices him, but he makes good money," says the Moffat, ON resident.
Imperial Count won his elimination at Mohawk Racetrack last week with a 1:57.2 personal best, but his under dog status comes from the looming presence of three-time Gold Final winner Buckhams Bay, who was absent from the field when Imperial Count won his Gold title.
The two elimination winners will line up along side each other at Woodbine on Thursday, with Imperial Count getting Post 8 and Buckhams Bay Post 9. Both have early speed, and O'Reilly would love to see regular reinsman Steve Condren put Imperial Count's to use tucking into a hole behind the favourite.
"He's handy to drive. You can leave hard and he's two fingers once you've left with him, he doesn't get grabby or stupid," O'Reilly explains. "He can come from behind too, but he's so handy, and he relaxes when he gets there."
Milton, ON resident Condren has been in the race bike for all but one of Imperial Count's eight starts this season, guiding the colt to three wins, one second, two thirds and earnings of $154,740 for owner Neven Botica of Perth, Australia. Botica acquired the son ofand Miss Imperial for $37,000 from last fall's Lexington Selected Yearling Sale and Richard "Nifty" Norman taught the youngster his early lessons before handing off to O'Reilly in mid-July.
Prior to last week's elimination start Imperial Count had enjoyed a three-week break in his schedule, so O'Reilly hopes he might be even sharper for the Final.
"He hadn't really done much since Flamboro (Sept. 25)," notes the horseman, who will prep the colt for Thursday's start with a training mile on Tuesday morning. "Him I'll train pretty good, because he can take a bit of work that fellow."
Imperial Count will train alongside stablemate Edit, who finished fifth, five lengths behind Buckhams Bay, in last week's elimination and gets Post 5 for his Gold Final debut.
Edit made his career debut in mid-August so then trainer Norman opted to start the son ofand Vintage Chip in the Grassroots program at Kawartha Downs on Aug. 17. Edit made an early break, but managed to recover and trot home to a runner-up finish. The break was the gelding's second straight so he was required to qualify, and after moving into O'Reilly's barn made his next start in a Sept. 3 division of the Champlain Stakes at Mohawk, finishing sixth.
Another break and a fifth-place finish in his Sept. 10 William Wellwood Memorial Elimination, and a third in the consolation one week later followed before Edit made his way back to the Grassroots program at Georgian Downs on Sept. 28. A solid 2:02.2 effort earned the trotter a seven length victory and a shot at the Gold Series colts.
"He's a nice horse, he's got some go," says O'Reilly, who conditions the $25,000 yearling purchase for Melvin Hartman of Ottawa, ON, David McDuffee of Delray Beach, FL and Herb Liverman of Miami Beach, FL. "I was a little disappointed the other night, I thought he might be better.
"I expect him to be a bit better again this week, having a race in him," he adds.
Mike Saftic of Campbellville, ON has piloted Edit in his last two starts and will be back in the race bike on Thursday, exercising a bit of extra care at the start of the $130,000 skirmish due to the long legged gelding's history of making early breaks.
"We're being a bit cautious with him," explains O'Reilly. "I figured it was better to be cautious and at least make the final than do something stupid and not."
Both colts will wrap up their freshman campaign in fair health, with a maximum of 10 starts under their belt and O'Reilly expects both of them will be players in the Ontario Sires Stakes program next season.
"There is nothing wrong with either of them, so there's no reason they shouldn't come back next year and do the same job again, I hope," he say. "The main thing is not getting them raced too hard."
O'Reilly's duo, and the other eight Gold Final contenders, will square off in Woodbine Racetrack's fifth race on Thursday evening. The Toronto oval's first race rolls in behind the starting gate at 7:30 pm.
To view Imperial Count's previous Gold Series starts please go to: http://www.ontariosiresstakes.com/participants/display_horse.html?tattoo=6FN97.
To view Edit's previous OSS starts please go to: http://www.ontariosiresstakes.com/participants/display_horse.html?tattoo=4FL09.
ENTRIES - WOODBINE RACETRACK GOLD FINAL - THURSDAY, OCT. 21 AT 7:30 PM:
(For complete entries please go to: http://www.standardbredcanada.ca/racing/entries/data/e1021wdbsn.dat.)
RACE 5 $130,000 2 YEAR OLD COLT AND GELDING TROT GOLD FINAL
1 - ATTORNEY HANOVER (ANGUS HALL) L OUELLETTE B NOREN
2 - AIR STEWART (STRIKING SAHBRA) RA WAPLES B WALLACE
OWNED BY CANAMERICA CAPITAL CORP AND HYATT HOLDINGS INC, MILTON, ON AND DOUGLAS MILLARD, WOODSTOCK, ON.
3 - TYMAL COLOSSUS (STRIKING SAHBRA) MA MACDONALD J WRAY
4 - DELCREST JULIAN (OAKLEA JULIAN) A MACDONALD J MACDONALD
5 - EDIT (KADABRA) M SAFTIC K OREILLY
6 - PLATO (ANDOVER IMAG) T RITCHIE G JOHNSON
OWNED BY GEORGE JOHNSON AND GREGORY JOHNSON, MILTON, ON.
7 - SIM BROWN (ANGUS HALL) R WAPLES J GILLIS
OWNED BY JEFFREY GILLIS, HILLSBURGH, ON; MAC NICHOL, BURLINGTON, ON; AND GERALD STAY, BUFFALO, NY.
8 - IMPERIAL COUNT (ANGUS HALL) S CONDREN K OREILLY
9 - BUCKHAMS BAY (KEN WARKENTIN) J HEBERT J SMITH
10 - MAX MONEY (AMIGO HALL) T RITCHIE B BURGESS
OWNED BY ROBERT BURGESS, CAMPBELLVILLE, ON AND KARIN OLSSON BURGESS, MILTON, ON.
AE1 - CALIPARI (KEN WARKENTIN) P WALLINDER A LORENTZON
AE2 - DAYLON MAGICIAN (KADABRA) J MOISEYEV D LEMON
AE3 - UNDERCOVER STRIKE (STRIKING SAHBRA) K OLIVER W COMPANION
Sandra SNYDER - Ontario Sires Stakes News