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Portland Meadows GM hopes to win "Clover"

March 26, 2010

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Racetrack executives give out hundreds of stakes trophies each year, but few ever stand on the receiving end in the winner’s circle. Will Alempijevic, the 31-year-old general manager of Portland Meadows in Oregon, could experience that thrill if Alexie Mattosie wins the $132,000 Four Leaf Clover Final Saturday night at Meadowlands Racetrack.
Alexie Mattosie, a 4-year-old pacer, bids for his third straight win, and a series sweep, in the featured seventh race. Rated as the 3-1 second choice on the morning line, Alexie Mattosie will start from post seven with leading driver George Brennan at the lines.
Though he manages a Thoroughbred track, Alempijevic is a Toronto native with a love of harness racing. One of his earlier jobs was as a correspondent for The Horseman and Fair World magazine.
Today  Alempijevic often scouts the Ontario Sires Stakes (OSS) circuit for horses to purchase with partners Donald Lindsey, Paul Kleinpaste and Dennis Mavrin. The group took note of Alexie Mattosie during his 3-year-old season and arranged a private purchase of the pacer from trainer Matthew Dupuis on Nov. 11, 2009.
“I know I’m a ‘homer,’ but I’m a strong believer in that program [OSS],“ Alempijevic said. “Time and time again it produces great quality racehorses, particularly the pacers. I watch all the races from the WEG circuit [Woodbine and Mohawk] and follow the OSS program. We’re always looking to buy horses and this one caught our eye on video. I flew home for a couple of weddings last year and got to see him on the track a couple of times. I thought he was an unbelievable animal and I mentioned him to Donald Lindsey. Donald gave Matthew Dupuis a call, went to his farm to jog him the next day. The day after that, we made an offer.”
Alexie Mattosie, who is racing under the care of Tony Montini at the Meadowlands, has earned checks in 11 of his 15 starts for his current owners. In the $80,000 Aquarius Final on Feb. 27, his third start against older horses at the Meadowlands, Alexie Mattosie closed to finish fourth, only two lengths behind the winner River Shark.
“Right away, we decided to pay him into a lot of series,” Alempijevic said. “He has some quirks, he’s had some off days, but he’s a gifted animal. We knew we had a special horse when he exploded to an upset in slop at Woodbine back on December 26. He was pretty competitive in the Willowdale Series there, although he threw in a clunker in that final.
“The Aquarius came up as tough as I’ve ever seen it,” he continued. “He showed some signs of coming around when he finished fourth in that final. It was another vindication we bought the right horse. Then he came up flat with a perfect trip in a cheaper condition. He bled a little, so Tony put him on Lasix.”
Alexie Mattosie is two-for-two in the Four Leaf Clover Series after wiring the field in 1:50.3 in week one and stopping the teletimer in 1:49.1 after a battle to the wire with Beeeyouuuuuu and Golden Receiver on March 20.
“George Brennan’s been aggressive with him and the horse has responded well,” Alempijevic noted. “Last week was a great race. When you read Ron Burke’s comments [before the race] you got an indication Beeeyouuuuuu was going to be better. It was an unbelievable race the way he beat those nice animals. I’ve never owned a horse that has paced sub-1:50. I had dreams this horse would do it, but you never how much they’re going to progress from three to four. Much of his success last year was because he was on or near the front. That’s the way he raced because he was often the best horse in his OSS division and caught the winning habit.”
Alempijevic, whose parents immigrated to Ontario from the former Yugoslavia, spent many hours of his childhood attending the races with his father. He earned a degree in economics and financial management from Wilfred Laurier University in Waterloo before going on to hone his skills at Western Fair Raceway and Flamboro Downs. Four years ago, he seized an opportunity to work at Magna Entertainment Corporation’s (MEC) Portland Meadows.
“I was working on a masters in economics at Simon Fraser University, but decided to quit that and get a job in the industry at Flamboro Downs,” he said. “At the time, it was owned by MEC and one of my bosses there ended up at Portland Meadows. He asked me to come down here to help him out. It’s a great opportunity and MEC is a great company to work for. It’s an old track with a lot of charm that was built in 1946.”
Alempijevic owns several horses in partnership with trainer Donald Lindsey, blacksmith Paul Kleinpaste and retired Canadian pro-football player Dennis Mavrin.
“Dennis Mavrin was a childhood friend of mine,” he said. “We played soccer against each other and our fathers worked together. My father is a machinist in the tool and die business. Dennis ended up playing in the CFL for the Saskatchewan Roughriders. When he retired, he went to an ownership seminar in Toronto, he told people that he knew me, and ended up giving me a call. He’s owned a small piece of some of our horses.
“We’ve raced at the ‘B’ tracks in Ontario, but we prefer to race the better quality horses on the WEG circuit,” he added. “We’re just trying to make money racing at the premier tracks. The Meadowlands is one of the places to be. Last year, we had Card Dealer and Windsong Destroyer and won two races on a Saturday night there. It was a phenomenal experience.” (Meadowlands)
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