CAMPBELLVILLE, ON — When Amigo Hall pulls up after the seventh race at Mohawk Racetrack tomorrow night, trainer Blair Burgess is hoping he can offer the colt a Super Final trophy to scratch his head on.
“When he comes off the track he always has an itchy head,” says the Milton resident. “If he doesn’t get an automatic opportunity to scratch it, he’ll just about knock you down trying. It’s kind of an aggravating habit.”
Burgess and his staff have learned to put up with the aggravation through a season that has seen the three-year-old trotting colt capture six of 13 starts including the $1 million Hambletonian. Amigo Hall heads into Saturday’s $300,000 contest off victories in his elimination and the Final of the October Gold Series event at Rideau Carleton Raceway, proving he is back on track after having to scratch sick out of the Sept. 20 Canadian Trotting Classic Final.
“Things got off the rails in the Trotting Classic and he still wasn’t himself in Kentucky (Sept. 27),” says Burgess. “So he showed some resilience in Ottawa.”
The Balanced Image son starts from Post 3 in the Super Final, but Burgess is not convinced that fans will see the winner of $803,705 and driver Mike Lachance control the pace the way they did in the Rideau Carleton Gold Final.
“When he’s on his game he’s capable of racing from anywhere,” says the trainer. “But it’s up to Mike. He’ll see what kind of trip shapes up and make the decisions.”
Burgess trains Amigo Hall for his wife Karin Olsson Burgess of Milton, father Robert Burgess of Campbellville and breeders Walnut Hall Limited of Lexington, KY and the partners have already begun to discuss the colt’s future. So long as he remains healthy, after the Super Final he will head to The Meadowlands for the Nov. 22 and 29 Breeders Crown events and then enjoy a well deserved rest before preparing for his four-year-old season.
“The plans are right now to race this horse at four. We have no intentions to send him to stud yet, but unless things go horribly wrong I expect he’ll be breeding mares somewhere eventually,” Burgess says. “This horse resembles Balanced Image more than any other Balanced Image I’ve ever worked with, or seen. His head and his body type closely resemble the old man.”
The conditioner also notes that the colt shares some of the fighting spirit his sire has become legendary for, the difference being that Amigo Hall reserves his aggression for his dinner.
“He’s a very aggressive eater, probably the best eater I’ve ever had in a good horse,” says Burgess. “He’s just an unbelievably good doer, which makes things easier for the trainer. When they get stressed they sometimes back away from the rations, but he’s not like that at all.”
Burgess notes that the colt’s adaptability makes it easy to manage stints at distant racetracks or in the retention barn, a critical factor for top stakes horses.
Trainer Carman Hie had to learn the hard way that three-year-old trotting filly Queen Of Jewels did not care for the restrictions of the retention barn. In her first start (Sept. 19) from Mohawk’s overnight facility the King Conch daughter delivered a lacklustre performance, so for her Oct. 20 Gold Elimination the Beamsville resident attempted to recreate the filly’s normal routine.
“She’s not like a horse that’s stabled at the track. As soon as it’s daylight I turn her and Queen Connie out in a field that’s five or six acres and they play for three or four hours while I do all my other work,” explains Hie. “As soon as it’s daylight in the barn she wants out, and you can’t do that in the retention barn, so I go up early and get her out and jog her.”
Hie’s early morning visit paid off and Queen Of Jewels easily captured her elimination, then repeated the effortless performance in the Oct. 27 Gold Final over a track rated one second slower than normal.
“She was so good,” says Hie, who trains the filly for partners Stewart Cockshutt of Rockwood, Gary Smith of Burlington and Peter Kloepfer of Harley. “Last week was the first time I thought she was back to where she was before. I think we’ve turned the corner, hopefully she’ll peak Saturday night.”
Queen Of Jewels and Steve Condren start from Post 3 in the sixth race and once Hie hands over the lines to the driver he plans to sit back and enjoy the filly’s last race of the season.
“I’m just going to sit back and see how it goes, let Steve handle it. He’s done a great job with her this year,” says the veteran trainer. “He’s made a lot of money with her and he hasn’t hurt her. He’s engineered great trips. She’s never come to the wire — other then the Standardbred Breeders and that wasn’t Steve’s fault — where she was on her chin strap and didn’t want any more.”
Condren will attempt to engineer a seventh win for the filly in Race 6 on Saturday night, the fifth of the eight $300,000 Super Finals which get under way at 7:40 pm. The Mohawk Racetrack spotlight also shines on Ontario’s most talented trotters and pacers in Races 2, 3, 5, 7, 8, and 9.