TORONTO, ON — Reigning Gold Final champion Winning Mister heads to Woodbine Racetrack on Saturday night off a miscue in the Valley Victory eliminations, but trainer Keith Klages is looking at the error as a minor hiccup in what has been an otherwise solid late season for the two-year-old trotting colt.

“He has a nice size to him, he’s good gaited, he has all the attributes you want in a trotter, it’s just a matter of him learning to use them,” says the Guelph resident, who trains Winning Mister for breeder Robert Key of Leechburg, PA.

Winning Mister started his season under the direction of Pennsylvania resident Richard Gillock, and won a division of the W. N. Reynolds Memorial at Pocono Downs in his second lifetime start. Shipping north for the Gold Series season opener at Kawartha Downs, Winning Mister made a break in his July 15 elimination, but still managed to finish second. Unfortunately he was not able to overcome a second break in the final and finished out of the money in sixth.

Gillock took the Angus Hall son back to Pennsylvania to requalify, and then sent him up to Klages in time for the third Gold event on Aug. 18 at Mohawk Racetrack. Starting from Post 9, the colt finished seventh in his elimination, but came back with a solid effort in the consolation to earn a third-place cheque. A miscue in the Champlain Stakes followed, along with fifth-place finishes in the elimination and consolation of the William Wellwood Memorial at Mohawk.

Back in Gold Series action at Mohawk on Sept. 25, Winning Mister finally found his way back to the winner’s circle with an impressive 1:56.1 effort from Post 8, and he followed that up with a 2:00.2 triumph in the Gold Final over a sloppy track rated three seconds slower than normal.

“The mile in 1:56.1 stretched him out a bit, and maybe settled him down a bit, because he was really good in the Final,” says Klages. “That was probably the best he’s raced, in the Final.

“If you start him up too much, he’s hard to shut down. He doesn’t know how to gauge his speed,” adds the horseman.

After the Gold Final win, Klages dropped the colt into an overnight at Woodbine, and Randy Waples piloted the first foal from Key’s mare Winning Missbrenda ($123,639) to a strong runner-up finish from Post 9. Things did not go as well in the Oct. 18 Valley Victory elimination, where the colt made an early break and finished well back of the leader in seventh. Klages says the colt went off stride when he hit the race bike on a loose track, and Winning Mister will sport a different race bike when he returns to Woodbine on Saturday.

“He trained good this week and I changed the bike, so we’ve eliminated that as an excuse,” says the trainer. “And I think the track has tightened up enough I don’t have to change his shoes.”

Waples will steer Winning Mister from Post 4 in the first race on Saturday, and the duo will be looking for a top three finish to advance on to the Nov. 8 Gold Final. The top three finishers, plus one fourth-place finisher selected by random draw, will return to Woodbine Racetrack for the Gold Final.

The two-year-old trotting colts will also square off in Races 2 and 4 on the 7:30 pm program this Friday. The other three early season Gold Final winners — Senator Hall, Sin To Win and Hibbler — will start from Post 1 in the second race, Post 2 in the fourth race, and Post 1 in the first race.

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