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Keeling trainees land Post 1 for Monday’s Gold Elims
July 29, 2010
By Sandra Snyder

CAMPBELLVILLE, ON — Trainer Mike Keeling will place the Number 1 saddle pad over the backs of two freshman trotting fillies on Monday evening at Mohawk Racetrack, but the Cambridge, ON resident says the similarities between the fillies end with their starting position.

Pedigree, purchase price, size, attitude, ability — Miss Janine and Walked Into Heaven have none of these in common and as a result Keeling has mapped out a very different plan for each filly’s freshman campaign. Miss Janine will make her Ontario Sires Stakes debut in the first $40,000 Gold Elimination on Monday, and Keeling says fans should not expect to see the leggy youngster anywhere other than the Campbellville oval or its Toronto counterpart Woodbine Racetrack.

“She is a very big filly and we have no intention of racing on any track other than Mohawk,” explains the horseman, who conditions Miss Janine for P C Wellwood Enterprises Inc. of Cambridge, ON, Paul MacDonell Racing Stable of Guelph, ON and Charles Armstrong of Brampton, ON. “She is big, and she is still a little excitable. We have a better chance of making her into a usable racehorse if we don’t get her into tight spaces.”

The third foal of former Ontario Sires Stakes competitor Miss Michelle H, who earned $391,828 in her career racing against the great Peaceful Way, Miss Janine was a $72,000 yearling purchase at the Lexington Selected Yearling Sale last fall. The Angus Hall daughter was a handful during her early training sessions, and continues to require an extra dose of patience and creativity from Keeling and his staff.

“We’ve had to handle her with kid gloves all winter long. She’s very strong and high strung,” says the trainer. “We’ve really had to work with her and find the easiest ways to get her to do things.”

Miss Janine made her first appearance at Mohawk on July 13 in a qualifying event, and under the guidance of co-owner Paul MacDonell the filly toured the seven-eighths mile oval in 2:05.1. On July 20 the filly was back for a second qualifying effort, and laid down a 2:01.1 mile. With the first Gold Series event held over the half-mile track at Flamboro Downs, Keeling entered Miss Janine into the second leg of the In Free Trotting Series at Mohawk on July 26 and the filly delivered a steady 2:00.4 effort in spite of some tense moments before the start of the race.

“We had a scare Monday night,” admits Keeling. “She spooked at the white outrider horses and almost dumped Paul. She broke her head check — she’s a very strong filly — and she got her head down below her withers and started to go.”

Fortunately MacDonell was able to reel the youngster in, get the check replaced and head back out onto the track without further incident. To the surprise of her connections, Miss Janine seemed unfazed by the pre-race excitement and delivered a steady runner-up effort that turned into a victory when Quantum Glidingby was ruled to have traveled inside the pylons.

“In their first start, you really just want everything to go right,” laments Keeling. “But she showed a bit of maturity that was actually a little surprising.”

MacDonell will be hoping for much less drama when he leads the parade of two-year-old fillies onto the racetrack in Monday’s first race, where Miss Janine will be one of five first time OSS starters in the field of eight.

One race later MacDonell and Walked Into Heaven will lead the second group of Gold Elimination contenders onto the track, but this time the pair will be among the five fillies with an OSS start under their belt.

Walked Into Heaven made her provincial debut in the July 16 Gold Eliminations at Flamboro Downs, where she finished a closing second to Peach Martini in 2:02.1. The daughter of Angus Hall and Maybe Shes Anangel then made an early miscue in the July 23 Gold Final and finished a disappointing eighth. Keeling blames himself for the error, and hopes fans will not see a repeat in Monday’s contest.

“She’s a horse that hogs into her head check and I knew in the back of my mind that I should have taken her head up, and I didn’t do it,” he explains. “So I blame myself for that.”

P C Wellwood Enterprises Inc. and Danterra Racing Stable of Strathroy, ON share ownership on Walked Into Heaven, and Keeling admits they have been pleasantly surprised with the filly’s progress thus far. Keeling and Dan Creighton purchased the filly for $14,000 from last fall’s Canadian Open Yearling Sale, based purely on her conformation, but fully expected the lack of depth in her pedigree would hinder her prospects as a freshman.

“She was just a filly that, strangely, both of us said we loved, from a family that hasn’t produced a racehorse in two generations,” Keeling recalls. “We figured we’d play with her and not expect too much of her.”

Keeling calls the filly an overachiever, and hopes she can maintain her standing near the top of the leader board in an elimination that also features reigning Gold Final champion Extraordinaire from Post 9.

Post time for Mohawk Racetrack’s Monday, Aug. 2 program is 7:20 pm, with the two-year-old trotting fillies facing off in Races 1, 2, 6 and 9. The top two finishers from each Gold Elimination, plus two fourth-place finishers selected by random draw, will return to the Campbellville oval on Aug. 9 for their second $130,000 Gold Final.

This Monday’s program also features the $50,000 final of the Dream Maker Pacing Series for two-year-old colt and gelding pacers.

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