Mister Herbie suffered from a quarter crack last March, but still won the Glorys Comet and Arthur J. Cutler Memorial on his way to six victories and four second-place finishes in 12 starts, good for $956,343 and the O’Brien Award as Canada’s best older male trotter.
Gillis, who owns the 5-year-old gelding with Mac Nichol and Gerald Stay, said the same issue resurfaced this season, preventing Mister Herbie from heading to Europe but giving him the chance to defend his Cutler title. Mister Herbie was one of 14 older trotters entered in the Cutler, which was split into two seven-horse elimination fields for Saturday night. The final is May 18.
|New Image Media photo|
|Mister Herbie enters the Cutler elims with lifetime earnings of $1.28 million.|
Mister Herbie won a qualifier in 1:58.2 on April 1 at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto, but was away from the track until May 2, when he won another qualifier in 1:54.4.
“He was going real good, but developed a rear quarter crack that set us back a little bit,” Gillis said. “He’s still not out of the woods, but he’s sound and seems to be going comfortably. He’s a lovely animal and overcomes these things. We dealt with the same issue on the same foot last year. It grew out and didn’t slow him down much. We were able to regroup.
“We originally planned to go to Sweden (this year) for the Elitlopp, but the foot issue made it difficult. But that opened up the chance for some other races, like the Cutler.”
Mister Herbie won last year’s Cutler by a half-length over Winning Mister in 1:51.3. It was his first race following his nose upset of San Pail in the Glorys Comet nearly five weeks earlier.
In addition to those victories, Mister Herbie won the Maple Leaf Trot and Frank Ryan Memorial and finished second in the Breeders Crown, Allerage and Nat Ray. His 1:50.4 triumph in the Maple Leaf Trot is the fastest mile ever trotted in Canada.
“I couldn’t have been more pleased; he had a limited number of starts and put a lot of money away,” Gillis said. “He got the big one up here for us. The Maple Leaf Trot was on our bucket list and he got it for us.”
Mister Herbie, who has earned $1.28 million lifetime, starts his Culter elim, the second of the two divisions, from post three with regular driver Jody Jamieson. The field includes Modern Family, who won the Maturity for 4-year-old trotters on May 4 at the Meadowlands, as well as stakes-winners Ice Machine, My MVP and Googoo Gaagaa.
“It’s difficult to say (Mister Herbie) is better than last year until we know the foot is better, but he’s on par with last year,” said Gillis, who was Canada’s Trainer of the Year in 2011. “And I learned a lot about him last year and think I can do some things differently to have him better.”
Mister Herbie is not Gillis’ only horse in the Cutler; the 35-year-old trainer also sends 4-year-old Knows Nothing into the mix. Knows Nothing is in the first Cutler elim, starting from post three with Jamieson. The field includes stakes-winners Guccio, Wishing Stone and Opening Night.
|USTA/Ken Weingartner photo|
|Knows Nothing won $616,755 in 2012, his first year on the racetrack.|
Last year, Knows Nothing won nine of 18 starts and $616,755. He won eliminations for the Goodtimes, Hambletonian and Canadian Trotting Classic, but finished no better than fourth in any of those finals.
Knows Nothing was unraced at age 2 because of surgery to remove a bone chip.
“He made a good bit of money, but it could’ve been twice that,” Gillis said. “I’m looking to build off last year; hopefully he’ll benefit from having a year of racing.
“People always say their horses get bigger over the winter, but he’s always been a big, strong colt and he looks much the same as last year. We’ve tempered our expectations for him since he’s a 4-year-old going against the older horses. We’ll probably take a conservative approach with him, but not necessarily a conservative schedule.”
The Cutler eliminations serve as the first of nine preliminary rounds for the TVG Free For All Series for trotters age 3 and up. In addition to the Cutler eliminations and final, the prelims include the John Cashman, Jr. Memorial eliminations and final, the Allerage Trot, the Breeders Crown and three Opens. A $500,000 final is scheduled Nov. 30 at the Meadowlands.
Saturday’s card at the Meadowlands also includes the first round of the TVG FFA Series for pacers and the $58,000 Hudson River Series final. The Hudson River final includes Holdingallthecards, who earlier this year captured the Clyde Hirt Series final at the Big M, as well as Exit 16W Series champ Mr Dennis and stakes-winners Take It Back Terry and Ideal Champ.