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Trace Of Class hunts for second straight win Thursday
July 5, 2004
By Sandra Snyder

SARNIA, ON — Ontario’s talented three-year-old trotting colts resume their Grassroots schedule on Thursday evening at Hiawatha Horse Park with 69 colts competing for a total of $120,000 in eight Ontario Sires Stakes divisions.

Among the colts Hiawatha fans will have an opportunity to see in action is Central Huron Trotting Series winner Trace Of Class. George Johnson owns and trains the Wesgate Crown son, who barely resembles the cantankerous colt who arrived in Johnson’s barn in mid-April.

“He was kind of a nasty little thing when I got him,” recalls Johnson. “He was one of those horses that kind of had an idea of how he wanted to do things, and we just made him understand that we were in charge too. He learns quick, now you show him something once or twice and it becomes his whole way of doing things.”

The 84-year-old horseman was attracted to Trace Of Class for the physical qualities he possessed and the colt has proven him an astute judge of horseflesh by amassing a record of two wins, one second and one fourth-place finish since making his racing debut on June 8.

“There were several features about him that I liked. He is kind of deep in the chest and I insist on that because they just seem to be able to breathe better,” says the Toronto resident, who stables Trace Of Class at Mohawk Racetrack. “And I have this silly notion about the length of a horse’s pastern. I have found that all good horses, whether pacers or trotters, have long pasterns.

“His rear end — hips, stifles and everything — were in proportion to the rest of his body, and he had a nice head on him. I figured he had the potential,” adds Johnson.

Through his four-race career Trace Of Class has also demonstrated a length of stride that aligns with another of Johnson’s beliefs about equine conformation.

“I don’t like a horse that can’t trot past his nose. I think a horse tires in proportion to the number of steps he takes, not the distance,” says Johnson. “I could show you a picture of this little guy in his last race and he is a good six inches out in front of his nose with one foot.”

In spite of his success, the gelding’s career has not been without its hiccups. The first time Johnson attempted to qualify Trace Of Class the trotter made a break and finished well behind the field.

“I don’t think the horse went in 2:15 and Mario (Baillargeon) came back to the paddock and said, “Get rid of this bum,”” recalls Johnson with a chuckle. “My son Greg, he’s a very good man with a horse, and I trained him down again and put Tom Strauss up to qualify and he went in 1:59.3 with a last quarter in :28.2.

“We started him in an overnight at Woodbine and he finished fourth, then we went to Clinton (Grassroots) and he won there and we started him back in the Clinton stake (Central Huron).”

Trace Of Class and Strauss will start from Post 2 in the seventh race at Hiawatha on Thursday where they will meet up with Central Huron rival Onyx Seelster for the third straight week. Onyx Seelster and trainer-driver Lorne House will start from Post 8.

The first Grassroots division for the three-year-old trotting colts rolls in behind the Hiawatha Horse Park starting gate at 7:30 pm on Thursday, with the other seven divisions going postward as Races 2, 3, 4, 7, 8, 9 and 10.