For harness racing trainer Ben Baillargeon, who focuses on conditioning trotters, winning the $462,000 William Wellwood Memorial Trot or the $435,000 Peaceful Way final with a pair of rookies would be a truly meaningful accomplishment.
The veteran horseman has yet to win either high-profile event, but hopes it’s in the cards this year.
“It would be nice to win them,” said Baillargeon, who is known for campaigning a well-balanced stable of top conditioned and stakes stock. “Just to be part of it is pretty nice. It means I did my job right.”
Baillargeon, along with his brother and reinsman Mario, a.k.a. Team Baillargeon, will send Rockin With Dewey postward in Thursday’s Peaceful Way eliminations and Murmur Hanover postward in Friday’s William Wellwood Memorial eliminations. Both will be contested at Mohawk, each for a purse of $30,000.
Rockin With Dewey is a daughter of first-crop sireout of the mare, Silky Celine. The bay miss is winless from four starts with $15,060 in earnings, but is rounding into form.
“She’s made some mishaps here and there,” said Baillargeon, who shares ownership with breeder Diane Ingham. “She has enough speed to go with any of them, I’m pretty sure, but she needs to manage her speed. That’s one thing she hasn’t done yet, but we are getting there.
“Last week (in her Champlain division), she trotted in 1:56.4, but she made a little break at the end,” he continued. “She gets nervous a little bit. She is a nervous type filly. She's learning and getting over it. She needs maturity, too.”
Stablemate Murmur Hanover has had an impressive start to his young career. Currently he is the Ontario Sires Stakes divisional leader in both Gold points (208) and earnings ($173,200).
The son of-Mrs Ronerail has crafted a record of 4-0-1 from seven starts and boasts earnings of $190,109 for owner R Berthiaume Inc.
“He has been nothing but good,” noted Baillargeon. “I feel good about (going into the elimination with him). He’s had a good week so far. I know he can trot in (1):55. I know if he gets a decent trip, and he doesn’t have to fight everybody off, he’ll trot in (1):54 when he follows them. These are good miles, like two weeks ago he won (a Gold Final) in an OSS record in (1):55.2. Last week, he got beat in the Champlain, but we went in 1:55.4. The other division went in 1:57.1.”
Baillargeon likes the way 'Murmur' is continuing to mature, but wishes he could race out of a hole.
“You have to let him have his own way when the gate leaves,” he stated. “After that, he settles down, but eventually a horse will go faster than him at the gate and he’ll race out of a hole and then he is going to be a better horse out of the hole. When the gate folds its wings, he wants to get out of there and we need to let him get out of there because that’s the way he is. But he will get better with time.”
It’s that aggressiveness that ultimately led to the two breaks on his chart lines at half-mile tracks.
“He does get around the half-mile, but the turn comes too quick,” explained Baillargeon. “The first eighth of a mile he is very aggressive and then on a half-mile, the turn comes right away and he hasn’t settled down yet so he gets out of gear because of that. He will probably be okay next year on a half-mile. On the big track, he has almost a quarter of a mile to settle down so then he settles down and he's okay when he gets in the turn.”
Both freshman will look to get their trainer one step closer to capturing the coveted trotting titles.
“I’m going in with horses that fit there,” offered the Rockwood-based conditioner. “They have enough speed to go there.”
Rockin With Dewey will leave post five in the first of two Peaceful Way dashes and Murmur Hanover will leave post three in the second of two William Wellwood Memorial eliminations.
The top five finishers in each elimination will advance to their respective finals. The finals of the William Wellwood Memorial and Peaceful Way are set for Saturday, September 15, part of the Canadian Trotting Classic undercard.
by Ashley MAYOTTE