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Dilinger gunning for SPC

April 04, 2007

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John Dilinger’s win in last weekend’s second round of the Spring Pacing Championship at Woodbine Racetrack may have come as a surprise to many, but not to his conditioner Gaetan Hebert. In fact, the biggest surprise for Hebert came after he entered the 4-year-old son of DM Dilinger-Jens Beach Toy in the series which is an open event for pacers who are 4 years and older.

“I’ll be honest with you, when I first entered him in this (SPC) I didn’t even know what the conditions were,” admitted Hebert recently. “He wasn’t paid into anything really and I saw that it was $500 to nominate him, so I decided to do it. When I saw the draw sheet come out the first week, I thought I may have made a big mistake.”

His concerns were quickly alleviated, however, when John Dilinger raced very competitively in the first leg of the series. After a slow start, John Dilinger was left parked in ninth through the first quarter and was never able to find a spot along the pylons.

As the race unfolded, he and driver Mario Baillargeon remained parked while continuing to move up on the outside. As the field neared three-quarters, the pair found themselves second on the outside and challenging the heavily favored Escape The Wind past the third panel in 1:23.

As they straightened for home, John Dilinger was able to wear down the pacesetter and take a short lead. However, the grueling trip finally caught up to the pacer who eventually finished sixth, beaten less than three lengths.

“I couldn’t believe how good he raced the first week,” said Hebert. “He showed us that he was competitive in there and that’s all we could ask. It left me kind of confident heading into last weekend.”

And Hebert’s confidence was rewarded when John Dilinger scored an impressive first-over victory last weekend in 1:51--a lifetime-best clocking. He returned a hefty $42.50 to win while turning back round-one winner Secrets Nephew.

John Dilinger’s recent success is even more amazing considering that he has been battling sickness since returning to Hebert’s barn early in the new year.

Hebert had the pacer earlier in his career and also had to work with soundness issues that have continued to plague him as an older horse.

“He has always had bad feet and when they start stinging him it causes him to crossfire,” explained Hebert. “When I got him back this January, he was struggling with that again, plus he was a bit sick, so his first few races weren’t that great. Since then, I’ve changed him to a bar shoe with a rim pad and he’s as good as he has been in a long time. He’s still a bit sick, but is getting better each week.”

John Dilinger will have to be even better this Saturday night if he is to capture this year’s Spring Championship final. Unfortunately the post position gods were not kind to the pacer who has drawn the outside post in the high-powered field of 10.

Hebert, who is known for his shoeing prowess and his patience, has been down this road before with champion mare Lady Dillinger. He was able to nurse her through an outstanding career on the track in which she banked more than $1 million. Hebert reports that she has been officially retired from racing and will head to the court of Bettors Delight.

Like John Dilinger, she is a daughter of DM Dilinger, a sire that Hebert is understandably quite fond of.

“I’m not sure why I’ve had luck with the Dilingers,” he said. “The one trait that both John Dilinger and Lady Dillinger share is their heart and the ability to race with pain.”

Hebert may have another Lady Dillinger in the wings as Whitesand Gem is almost set to return to the track. The Blissfull Hall filly won four of nine starts and banked $113,000(C) as a rookie while taking on some of the best fillies in North America.

First post this Saturday at Woodbine is 7:40 p.m. Here is a complete look at this Saturday’s field for the $88,000(C) Spring Pacing Championship:

1 Our Lucky Killean (J. Moiseyev)
2 Stormaway (Ma. Megens)
3 Rare Jewel (B. Forward)
4 Escape The Wind (R. Mayotte)
5 Tigerama (L. Ouellette)
6 Blue Burner (M. MacDonald)
7 Make It Brief (R. Zeron)
8 Secrets Nephew (L. Macarthur)
9 Four Starz Sisco (Pa. Hudon)
10 John Dilinger (M. Baillargeon)
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