CAMPBELLVILLE, ON — Blair Burgess has trophies from most of harness racing’s premier events in his home, but the trainer says My Friend’s victory in last week’s Gold Elimination was memorable because of the colt’s close connections to the Burgess family.
The two-year-old trotting colt, who will make his fifth lifetime start in the $120,000 Gold Final at Mohawk Racetrack on Monday, Aug. 23, is sired by former Burgess trainee Amigo Hall and arrived at the family’s Campbellville farm when he was just a weanling.
“He was an emotional winner on Monday because of all the connections I have with him. It was a little more personal than some of the winners we’ve had,” says Burgess, who conditions the colt for his father Robert Burgess of Campbellville and wife Karin Olsson Burgess. “We raised him — we didn’t breed him, although my father does own the mare now — and it’s that much more fun when you do well with one you’ve raised.”
My Friend clocked the quickest win in last week’s elimination round, reaching the wire two and three-quarter lengths ahead of his peers in 1:58. Jason Brewer drove the colt to the win for Burgess, and the reinsman was impressed with the young trotter.
“Jason said if he’d been a three-year-old he would have pulled him in the backstretch last week, he felt that good,” notes the trainer. “It takes him a couple of steps to get into gear, but as long as you don’t rush him, he tries pretty good.”
In four starts My Friend has recorded two wins, one fourth and one fifth, and Burgess says the colt was not responsible for the only error on his card, an early break in the Gold Series season opener at Kawartha Downs.
“I probably rushed him away from the gate a little bit in the elimination,” explains the horseman, who drove My Friend in his qualifiers and first two starts. “That’s probably why he made a mistake. The gate was going slowly and I tried to compensate for that.
“In the Consolation he had a lot of road trouble and never really had a shot. I skipped Grand River because it’s a half-mile track, and he won the first leg of the Bridger Series. He hasn’t really done anything wrong,” Burgess adds.
A tall lanky colt, My Friend bears some resemblance to his million dollar winning father, but Burgess says the youngster is far more mature than Amigo Hall was at two. The colt has already made more starts than his father did at two, and his $34,200 is just $4,000 shy of what Amigo Hall earned in his brief freshman campaign. Amigo Hall, a son of the great Ontario sire Balanced Image, would go on to win the 2003 Hambletonian and that year’s Super Final.
“His father didn’t really get going until Lexington at two, and his father was precocious enough I had to be patient with him,” says Burgess. “This guy seems to be a little more mature earlier. He just seems to be more mature mentally, and more mature physically.”
My Friend will put that mental maturity to the test from Post 8 in Monday’s Gold Final, and Burgess is hoping Brewer can craft a trip that allows the colt to hold some speed in reserve. The other elimination winners, Hibbler and Lemon Candy, will start from Posts 1 and 3.
“Jason will have to use him more early than I would have liked. He’ll have to make his own way, and that might cost us later,” speculates the horseman. “There are some nice colts down inside of him.”
The talented freshman trotting colts will battle in the fifth race on Monday’s program, which gets under way at 7:20 pm. Mohawk Racetrack fans will also be treated to Gold Consolation action from the colts that did not qualify for the Gold Final. The $20,000 Consolation goes postward as Race 2.
For complete entries please go to: http://www.standardbredcanada.ca/entries/data/emohsmo.html.