Yannick Gingras is well on his way to securing his first Meadowlands driving title as the 2012 Championship Meet kicks off Friday, May 4.
Gingras carved out the lead in the standings over the winter with 76 wins and $1.7 million in purses won through April 21. The 32-year-old Quebec native feels his confidence and horse power will help him maintain that momentum through the Championship Meet, which runs through Friday, August 17.
“The year started off great and I was winning a lot of races at the Meadowlands,” said Gingras, who recently picked up his 4,000th career win. “Things cooled down a little bit during the last four or five weeks, but I was still winning my share. It’s definitely exciting being the leading driver at the Meadowlands for a little while anyway.”
Gingras acknowledged that driving first call for leading trainer Ron Burke gave him about half his wins, but that being the stable’s go-to guy also led to more live drives.
“Sure, it’s great driving six or seven a night for Ronnie, but in the other four or five races I was also getting live horses,” Gingras said. “Everything just seemed to fall into place. Obviously, Ronnie was racing a lot of horses in the right classes. Plus, when you’re winning three or four a night, you’re no doubt driving with a lot more confidence. It can make the difference between a second and a win here and there.
“Again, everything seems to cycle in the same positive direction. But you also don’t want to get too high or low. Fortunately, I’ve never gone into a real huge slump. You have to remember you’re never as good as you look and you’re never as bad as you look as well. And the Top 10 drivers at the Meadowlands are all capable.”
Gingras swept the Complex and Exit 16W finals with red-hot pacer Itrustyou, who ran up a 13-race winning streak.
“He was the standout horse of the meet for me,” he said. “He was such a hard-trying overachiever. He threw in steps here and there, yet he was all heart. In his last few wins he wasn’t quite as sharp, but he overcame it. He just kept putting up one big effort after another.”
Gingras is also the regular driver of Foiled Again, the 2011 Pacer of the Year and triple millionaire who is in pursuit of Gallo Blue Chip’s $4.2 million all-time earnings mark. Fresh off a second-place finish in the Levy Final, Foiled Again returns to defend his Graduate title from post nine in Saturday’s $50,000 elimination. The eight-year-old son of Dragon Again won the 2011 edition in 1:49.3.
“Foiled Again has actually come back even better this year, and I’m looking for even more highlights from him,” Gingras noted.
Gingras would like to add one or both of the track’s signature events to his resume this year, and has legitimate contenders lined up for both the Meadowlands Pace (July 14) and Hambletonian (August 4).
“A Rocknroll Dance (1:49.4) is my Pace horse and right now I think he’s got a great shot at it,” he said. “I haven’t sat behind him yet this year, but he’s filled out nicely and come back good. He’s qualified and I’m looking forward to seeing what he’s like again.
“As far as the Hambletonian is concerned, I really like Lightning Storm. He won an elimination for the Peter Haughton Memorial in a monsoon. I couldn’t get him to trot in the post parade. He was struggling the whole way, and still won on his own. I was really impressed that he was able to hold it together. He’s a big, strong, powerful horse trained by Jonas Czernyson. He’s been coming back good with no problems.
“I’ve got another one that Tony Alagna trains named Mr Chicago. He’s a Cantab Hall colt who was a little sore and immature last year. If he improves on what he did last year he could be a contender.”
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