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French trotter Ursis Des Caillons a nice surprise

July 18, 2018
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When the draw to randomly allocate the 22 trotters of the SOA of NY's French American Trotting Club to their new connections was complete, trainer Jenn Bongiorno was excited to begin researching her new prospect, Ursis Des Caillons. When she viewed the gelding's profile and saw he is already 10 years old and appeared small on replays, she didn't know what to expect.
 
"I started looking him up and I was like, oh my gosh, he's 10," Bongiorno said. "So we got an older one, but he has some nice races over there. From what we saw, we thought he was going to be extremely small. When we were watching replays, we thought we got a really small horse."
 
A son of Kool du Caux out of the Workaholic mare Jolie Nuit, Ursis Des Caillons won eight races and €239,580 in France in the stables of Hubert Hardy and Nicolas Ensch. Although his last victory came Nov. 20, 2017 and his two most recent starts resulted in disqualifications, Mike Lachance felt the 10-year-old was worth including in the French American Trotting Club.
 
"I asked Alex (Dadoyan) who ended up training him over in France and he said Mike Lachance. Mike's comment was that he's very well-mannered and he handles the turns very well," Bongiorno said.
 
Bongiorno's concerns about Ursis Des Caillons' age were alleviated when he arrived at her stable in good order last month. Although she and brother Joe Bongiorno did find Ursis Des Caillons to be small and narrow, he looked like he would be suited to the half-mile track at Yonkers Raceway.
 
"I was excited to get him over here and when he walked in the barn, he was just very narrow and he was skinny, so we definitely got him some groceries and we took care of him," Bongiorno said. "He's put on weight, so I'm happy to see that. How he's so narrow and small is not the worst thing when you're going to be racing on a half-mile."
 
Bongiorno then focused on adapting the gelding to her training style and changing his equipment. She started with a blank slate and worked her way up. A shoeing change proved beneficial and Bongiorno now says Ursis Des Caillons trots perfectly. She also added a headpole, a piece of equipment not worn in France.

"On day one, we just put a harness on him, put some cotton in his ears and he was fine, he jogged really well. Joe actually sat behind him day one and really liked him and every day he improves and adapts well," Bongiorno said.

"We put on a shoe that we really believe in here with our trotters. He does have a headpole on. We approached it like he was a baby though because they don't wear a lot of equipment over there. We actually jogged him with the headpole first to make sure he was going to be ok with it and then trained him with the headpole and he's fine. I thought that was funny, we have a 10-year-old that we're babying because we have to make sure he's not going to be uncomfortable with it."

Ursis Des Caillons proved impressive in the mornings. He went a training trip ahead of his first qualifier and beat one of Bongiorno's pacers.

"When we biked him up, he passed one of my pacers and came the last quarter in 26-and-a-piece," the trainer said. "Joe and I looked at each other and said, ‘we have a real horse here.' Really the question was just if he was going to handle the half."

Ursis Des Caillons completed his first qualifier at Yonkers Raceway July 13. After racing in second early, driver Joe Bongiorno moved Ursis Des Caillons to the lead before the half. He won the 1 1/4-mile trial by three lengths, stopping the timer in 2:30.4 with a :27.3 final panel. Scott DiDomenico's Deo finished second while Aigle De La Vallee was third for Rob Harmon.

Very Very Fast captured the other French-exclusive qualifier that afternoon for Bob Bresnahan, beating Rich Banca's Adagio De La Tour and Bob Bongiorno's Uhlan Noir in 2:29.4.

"When we came here the other day and Joe went a trip with him to warm him up, he was super. Joe thought he was going to handle the track perfectly and then he went out and that qualifier was really, really good. He was wrapped up, not asking him at all." Bongiorno said.

"When he was coming over here, I thought we were going to have a nice horse, I thought we would improve him for sure, but after that training mile and qualifier, I really think we have one of the best ones."

Other French American Trotting Club participants Alpha d'Urzy and Bioness made their first pari-mutuel starts in the United States this week. The former won a $4,500 overnight in 1:57.1 at Saratoga July 15 for trainer Rene Allard while the latter finished third, individually timed in 1:54.4, in an $11,000 race at Pocono July 17 for Chris Oakes. Ed Gannon's French trotter Ubanji finished second, individually timed in 1:55.3, in a qualifier at Harrah's Philadelphia July 17.

Yonkers will host qualifiers exclusively for the French Trotters at the 1 1/4-mile distance July 21 ahead of the start of the French American Trotting Club Series Aug. 5. The second and third legs of the series will be held Aug. 19 and 26, respectively, and the $100,000 final is set for Sept. 2. For more information, click here. (SOANY)

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