Trainer Jeff Gillis is confident Knows Nothing can make his second trip to the Hambletonian a more pleasant experience than his first.
Knows Nothing has drawn post six in the second [Race 6] of three $70,000 eliminations for the Hambletonian on Saturday at the Meadowlands Racetrack. The first three finishers in each elim, plus the richest fourth-place finisher overall, will advance to the $1.5 million final on August 4. Jody Jamieson, the 2011 World Driving Champion and O’Brien Award winner, has the driving assignment behind Knows Nothing.
Unraced at two, the son of Kadabra has won six of seven starts and $182,152 for Gillis and Ontario-based owners Al Libfeld, Marvin Katz, Mac Nichol and Gerald Stay. Libfeld and Katz were co-owners of 2010 Hambletonian winner Muscle Massive.
In 2009, Gillis arrived at the Meadowlands with hot Hambletonian prospect Federal Flex. Everything went well until health issues doused his flames in the the big race.
“It’s hard to look back on it as a fond experience,” recalled Gillis. “Federal Flex came down there after winning the Goodtimes and then won the Dancer. Unfortunately, sickness and inexperience caught up with him, and he was never the same again.”
Gillis has bounced back. The 34-year-old from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia was voted the 2011 O’Brien Award as Canada’s top trainer after a career best season of 112 wins and $3,926,251. He was also the leading trainer on the Woodbine Entertainment Group circuit and won his first Breeders Crown with Frenchfrysnvinegar.
Gillis spotted Knows Nothing at the Harrisburg Sale in the fall of 2010.
“There’s a bit of story behind how we got him,” offered Gillis, who is based at Ideal Training Center in Acton, Ontario. “He was scheduled to sell at the beginning of Day Four at Harrisburg. We had found him and fell in love with him on Day Two. Once we saw his video that was it. It was breathtaking. So, we passed on a few other colts, and on the morning he was to sell he was pulled out for some reason. We were initially distraught, but Al Libfeld and Marvin Katz knew the breeder [Herb Liverman] and arranged to buy him.”
Gillis and his connections were forced to wait on Knows Nothing, and their patience has started to pay off.
“Last year, he had a bone chip removed,” explained Gillis. “It compromised his season, so we decided to just shut him down and bring him back. We entered him in the Goodtimes after he won his first four starts because we knew he measured up. I was more surprised that he got beat [finished fourth] in that final than winning his elimination. We expected a lot of him. He had really just raced against lesser company, getting his feet wet, but we knew there was a lot more there. We’re just hoping he can keep it going.”
Knows Nothing arrives fresh off a 1:54.3 triumph in the Canadian Breeders Championship at Mohawk. That winning rally came after a 35-day layoff.
“I think that big kick from off the pace is his forte,” noted Gillis. “I also hope that start will help him. He was good enough to win, but he could be better. He’s a big, majestic animal, and the mile track should suit him. We’ve passed on taking him to smaller tracks because of his size.
“I’m not worried about racing him on the mile track there. I’ve shipped trotters down there before and haven’t had any difficulty coming from Woodbine or Mohawk. The Lasix is a bit of a concern. We didn’t really need to put him on Lasix. We thought it would help him and it did. It remains to be seen. I don’t know what to expect.
“His sire Kadabra has been great. The outcross that he brings is something the trotting breed has really been looking for.
“Obviously, Jimmy Takter’s colts have been impressive. I saw the stretch drive of Little Brown Fox in the Dancer, and Uncle Peter rates highly. It’s just a pretty solid group of colts overall.”
Last Saturday at Mohawk, Gillis and Jamieson teamed up to win the $742,500 Maple Leaf Trot with Mister Herbie in a Canadian record of 1:50.4. The four-year-old son of Here Comes Herbie upset 2011 Horse of the Year San Pail in the Glorys Comet Final at Woodbine, and he also won the Arthur J. Cutler Memorial at the Big M. Both miles were in 1:51.3.
“We’re very tickled about Mister Herbie. He’s en route to New Jersey for the Nat Ray.”
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