Day At The Track

Blais isn't intimidated by the competition

06:50 AM 28 Oct 2017 NZDT
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Emoticon Hanover, harness racing
Emoticon Hanover
Harness racing trainer Luc Blais is feeling good about the horses he has in this year's $6 million Breeders Crown at Hoosier Park in Anderson, Indiana but there's also a feeling of melancholy because he'll be competing without his greatest horse, Intimidate. The eight-year-old gelding was retired earlier this year.
Blais, co-owned and trained Intimidate, who won the 2012 Breeders Crown for three-year-old male trotters and went on to win many other significant races and almost $1.5 million in his career.
"It's a big hole (not having him in the barn)," Blais said. "He was a proud competitor. He loved racing. He was a professional horse."
Blais' contingent for the 2017 Breeders Crown include: Emoticon Hanover in the $250,000 Mare Trot; Dream Together in the $500,000 3-Year-Old Filly Trot; and Lookslikeachpndale in the $526,250 Open Trot. It includes many hard-knocking horses Intimidate faced in his career.
Blais also has 3-year-old filly trotter On A Sunny Day racing in a $63,000 supporting feature on Friday's card. She's been a star on the Ontario Sires Stakes circuit.
All of the horses are owned by Serge Godin's, who races under the stable name Determination.
Blais' best chance would appear to be with Emoticon Hanover, who is the 4-5 favorite in a field only four competitors and leaves from the rail.
Emoticon Hanover has won 15 of 36 career races and is on the way to surpassing the $1 million mark in earnings. Purchased for $165,000 as a yearling at the Harrisburg Sales, Blais and Godin had a good feeling about the horse the first time they saw her because she was "very sporty" and "very alert."
She goes into her race with consecutive wins in her last three starts and victories in five of her last six. Included in the win streak is a world record time of 1:50 2/5 for four-year-old mares on a five-eighths mile track. It happened in the Joie De Vie at Tioga Downs and shaved a full second off of the old mark. Daniel Dube drives the daughter of Kadabra, who has been flashing some front-end speed or sitting just off of the lead in the last six starts.
"I think it's the first time she's raced in front in that caliber of competition," Blais said. "She's been good all season, she's stepped up, and it's a good feeling. She's an honest mare."
This will be Emoticon Hanover's third consecutive Breeders Crown start. She posted a second in last year's 3-Year-Old Filly Trot won by Broadway Donna. She was sixth in the 2-Year-Old Filly Trot.
Blais said this will be the first time in his career with an entrant in a field of only four starters. Maybe the third time will be the charm for Emoticon Hanover. She's certainly in a good spot.
Dream Together, a daughter of Muscle Hill, was purchased for $240,000 as a yearling at the Lexington Select Sales.
"That was a lot of money, but she had the family and the conformation," Blais said. "She was not right at two, but she's come back better at three and doesn't look tired at this time of year. I think she's going to be better at four. She's a very strong filly."
She has won three of 13 starts this year and banked $235,778, but happens to be a good filly racing against the superbly-talented Arianna G., the 3-5 morning-line favorite. Dream Together is listed at 10-1.
"I always say when you're in the race, the first thing is you have a chance," Blais said. "The second thing is, you try to put your horse in the best position you can. The competition is so tough, if (the favorite) has a bad trip you never know. Arianna G. is very special, but you never know. When we go into a race, we go (for the win). We like competition."
Lookslikeachpndale, a $185,000 yearling purchase at the Harrisburg Sales, has won two of 16 starts this year and 12 of 50 overall with earnings of $531,438. The field includes the likes of Hannelore Hanover, Crazy Wow, Marion Marauder and Resolve, each of whom has banked more than $2 million in their careers. Lookslikeachpndale, is listed at 20-1.
"That's a big race, but you never know, sometimes you get the trip," Blais said. "It's going to be an interesting race to watch, lots of good horses inside.
"It's tough to say how it's going to go, but I'm very confident for this weekend," he said. "I got a good feeling about all my horses."
By Perry Lefko for Breeders Crown
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