'More mature' HP Royal Theo ready for Goodtimes
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HP Royal Theo is a more easygoing horse this year, and trainer Ben Baillargeon is feeling more relaxed as well.
A 3-year-old gelding trotter and returning O’Brien Award winner, HP Royal Theo has lost only once in his age group this season as he prepares for Saturday’s $215,000 Goodtimes final at Woodbine Mohawk Park. HP Royal Theo won his Goodtimes elimination last week from post nine, besting Capricornus by 1 3/4 lengths in 1:53.1.
For the season, HP Royal Theo has won four of seven starts, finished second once, and earned $101,948. His only setback against 3 year olds came Aug. 19 in an Ontario Sires Stakes Gold event at Grand River Raceway. HP Royal Theo went offstride after the start, but Baillargeon wrote off the miscue to circumstance.
“I’m not even worried about that,” Baillargeon said. “He got squeezed a little bit in the first turn and made a break but besides that he’s been great. I just put a line through that race and we go forward, that’s all.”
HP Royal Theo made three breaks in nine races last year but finished worse than second only once in the remaining six starts. He won three times and earned $214,794.
“He’s more mature this year,” Baillargeon said. “He does his work and he relaxes. Last year he had an issue with tying up and this year he’s been nothing but good.’
HP Royal Theo, by Royalty For Life out of Mika’s Mazurka, is owned by breeder Claude Hamel and Michel Damphousse. Last year, he became Canada’s fastest ever 2-year-old gelding trotter, winning in 1:54.2 at Mohawk Park. This season, he equaled the Canadian record for a 3-year-old gelding on a five-eighths-mile oval, winning in 1:54.1 at Georgian Downs.
“He’s very tough,” Baillargeon said. “He likes to race, and he doesn’t want to get beat. He’s a gritty horse. When he’s in to go, he will give you 120 percent. He will give you more than he has in a race, that’s what is good about him.”
HP Royal Theo will start Saturday’s Goodtimes from post four with regular driver Louis Roy. Ready For Moni, who won the other Goodtimes elimination by three-quarters of a length over Play Trix On Me in 1:51.4, starts from post five with Yannick Gingras driving for Nancy Takter. Ready For Moni has lost only once in five races this year, finishing second in the Hambletonian.
“This will be a good test this week,” Baillargeon said. “Last week (HP Royal Theo) won pretty handy from the nine hole. Ready For Moni looks like a good horse and Play Trix On Me raced very good last week. We’ll see what happens.”
In addition to HP Royal Theo, Baillargeon sends out Hayek in the Goodtimes. The gelding finished third in the elimination won by Ready For Moni. One start earlier, he won his Ontario Sires Stakes division at Grand River in 1:53.3, the fastest time ever by a trotter on a half-mile track in Canada.
“I didn’t think last week was his best race,” said Baillargeon, who is a part of a group that purchased Hayek in June. “The week before at Grand River, he tore the track apart. I thought last week he could have been a little dull. Hopefully, he will bounce back this week. He’s got enough speed to go.” (Ken Weingartner/USTA)