Gillock hopes for "stepping stone" efforts at Meadows
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Beach House and Dragon Striker took different paths last season as 2-year-olds, but the Rich Gillock-trained pacing colts seem to be heading the same direction this year, which could lead to stakes engagements down the road.
First, though, both horses will compete in Saturday’s $27,200 Unlocked Pace Series championship for 3-year-old male pacers at The Meadows. The series is for Pennsylvania-sired horses that were non-winners of three races or $30,000 lifetime through March 1.
Beach House, who started last year strongly before being derailed by sickness, won two of 10 races in 2016 and earned $39,798 for owner Harry Locke. So far this season Beach House has won three of four starts, including his two preliminary legs of the Unlocked Pace Series, and banked $20,400.
Dragon Striker, bred and owned by Bob Key, got sick early last year but finished strongly, won two of seven races and earned $20,250. This year, the colt has won once in four starts and earned $12,155.
The two horses are eligible to numerous stakes, including the Breeders Crown and The Meadows’ premier event, the Delvin Miller Adios. Beach House’s potential dance card also includes the North America Cup.
"We paid a good bit of money for that Beach House colt," Gillock said, referring to the $92,000 price tag at the 2015 Standardbred Horse Sale. "With that being said, we’ve got him staked somewhat this year hoping he’ll come on and improve a bit more. He’s got a ways to go before he’s that caliber, but at least we’re starting out on a positive note this year. That was our game plan. Hopefully we can do some good on Saturday."
Beach House, a son of Somebeachsomewhere-Sara Sue, won a division of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes last year and competed in the Metro Pace in Canada, but got sick and never regained his early form
"He started out like he could be a good colt for us," Gillock said. "It took a toll on him and he just never came back the same colt. So we shut him down to give him some time.
"This year he’s grown into being a nice-looking colt.
Dragon Striker, a son of Dragon Again-Lady’s Portrait, won back-to-back starts to finish last year.
"He trained better than he raced," Gillock said. "It took a while, but we finally got him straightened out. He came back really good this year too. He’s staked pretty heavy. Bob likes to keep them eligible."
Gillock hopes the Unlocked Pace Series can be "a stepping stone" to stakes competition. Both horses are eligible to the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes, which features some of last year’s top male pacers, including world champions Huntsville (a Dan Patch Award winner in 2016) and Downbytheseaside
"They let you know pretty quickly what you have and what you don’t," Gillock said. "They’ll come out right off the bat and be ready to roll. Hopefully we can stay healthy.
Beach House is the 3-1 second choice on the morning line in the Unlocked Pace final, behind Ron Burke’s 5-2 favorite Southwind Yukon.
The championship is one of four series finales for conditioned-level 3-year-olds.
Chris Beaver’s DD’s Comet is the 5-2 morning line favorite in the $28,400 Tamarind Trot for 3-year-old male trotters while Bill Zendt’s Canwood is the 5-2 choice in the $27,200 Princess Pablano Trot for 3-year-old female trotters and Burke’s Sapphire Breeze is the 2-1 pick in the $24,200 Medusa Pace for 3-year-old female pacers. (HRC)