Day At The Track

Local cheering section for El Diablo Hall

05:11 AM 21 Aug 2015 NZST
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El Diablo Hall
El Diablo Hall wins his first start of the season, a Gold Series division at Western Fair Raceway
AG Photography

AUGUST 19, 2015 - Four divisions of three-year-old trotting colts will battle at Hiawatha Horse Park on Saturday evening and the trotters are not the only ones with a chance to win Ontario Sires Stakes merchandise. Early arriving harness racing fans will receive an Ontario Sires Stakes t-shirt and throughout the evening fans trackside will have an opportunity to catch an OSS ball cap. In addition to taking home some OSS-wear, Hiawatha fans can enter "Last Chance" draws or catch a ride in the starting car..

Sophomore trotting gelding El Diablo Hall will be lining up behind number 4 on the starting gate in the second $18,000 division and will have an enthusiastic crowd of supporters on hand for his second Grassroots start. The colt is co-owned by Oil Springs native Dale Hunter, who currently resides in London, and Rick Podolinsky of Alvinston.

"It's a great group of guys," said trainer Anthony Montini, who also owns a share of El Diablo Hall, along with Paul Giammichele of Burlington, ON. "It's pretty easy when they win - like that night in London there, they had a ball - but the horse did struggle a little bit and not once did I feel pressured by them to say. 'Hey what's going on, let's get this horse raced.' They left it up to me. Good owners make good trainers."

El Diablo Hall started his three-year-old season in the May 27 Gold Series season opener at Western Fair Raceway and delivered a four and one-half length triumph, resulting in the fun-filled winner's circle celebration Montini referenced, but since then the colt has struggled, starting just three more times and posting third, fifth and seventh-place finishes.

"I wasn't satisfied with just accepting the fact that he's maybe not that good, because I think he is, so I just did more diagnostics on him," explained Montini, adding that veterinarians at the University of Guelph's equine clinic finally zeroed in on the cause of the gelding's lacklustre efforts and seem to have him heading back toward full strength.

"I think he's on the straight and narrow now," added the Acton, ON resident. "But it's always a horse race."

Among the seven horses El Diablo Hall will face in Saturday's Grassroots test is two-time Grassroots division winner Its Huw You Know, who will start from Post 5. Hiawatha's leading driver Nick Steward will pilot El Diablo Hall and Montini is hoping both fans and his connections see an improved effort from the gelding.

"He does everything right, he's probably the sanest trotter I've ever had," said the trainer. "He's such a - I'm going to call him a great half-mile track horse, he just zips around those turns like they're straightaways and that's really the main advantage we have."

A successful outing over Hiawatha's five-eighths mile surface on Saturday would see Montini and his partners faced with the choice of returning to the Gold Series at Mohawk Racetrack on Sept. 29 or remaining in the Grassroots program for a trip to Flamboro Downs' half-mile oval on Sept. 3.

"One hurdle at a time," said a cautious Montini about the gelding's future plans.

El Diablo Hall and his peers will battle in the fifth race on Saturday, with the other three Grassroots divisions going postward as Races 4, 7, and 10. The Ontario Sires Stakes Fan Celebration festivities get under way at 7 pm.

Ontario Horse Racing

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