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Roy looks for first Pace win in first try

July 13, 2018
HOME PRINT

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If Louis-Philippe Roy gets goose bumps at the finish of Saturday's Crawford Farms Meadowlands Pace, it will not be the first time he experiences that sensation as a result of the race. This time, though, it would occur from an entirely different seat and, presumably, for an entirely different reason.
 
The 28-year-old Roy will drive for the first time in a Meadowlands Pace final on Saturday, sitting behind Jimmy Freight in the Meadowlands Racetrack's signature event. Jimmy Freight is 9-2 on the morning line, the third choice behind 5-2 favorite Courtly Choice and 3-1 Stay Hungry in the $701,830 race for 3-year-old pacers. Roy will try to become the first driver since Tim Tetrick in 2007 to win the Meadowlands Pace in his first attempt.
 
"I was thinking about it last week," said Roy, a native of Quebec who got his start on the fair circuit in his home province. "I remember 10 years ago I was watching Somebeachsomewhere in the Meadowlands Pace and I had the goose bumps when he got beat (by Art Official for the only loss of his career).

"The two biggest races in my mind have always been the North America Cup and the Meadowlands Pace because where I'm from (in Canada) we were only racing pacers. So those were the two biggest races I always wanted to win. To be in it this year is very special."

Roy spent six years competing, and dominating, at the fairs before making a name for himself at Hippodrome Trois Rivieres, which propelled him to regular drives on the Woodbine-Mohawk/Ontario circuit. In 2016, he won the Gold Cup & Saucer with YS Lotus on Prince Edward Island and received Canada's Future Star Award. Since then, he has lived up to the billing.

In 2017, Roy won 377 races, good for second among all drivers in Canada, and earned $4.44 million (U.S.) in purses and was a finalist for Canada's Driver of the Year, which ultimately went to Doug McNair. This year, Roy has 232 victories and $2.66 million in purses and leads Canadian drivers in both categories.

"It's just a dream," Roy said. "From the time I got interested (in the sport) I always wanted to be a driver. But it's a long step from starting on the fair circuit and then making it as a living. It's like dreaming about playing in the NHL; you dream about it, but you never expect it."

Roy's success has attracted attention on both sides of the border. Ron Burke, the sport's leading trainer in wins and purses for 10 years running, has given Roy drives in several stakes races. Roy won the 2017 She's A Great Lady with Youaremycandygirl, at odds of 40-1, and finished second with Rockin Ron in the Canadian Pacing Derby. He won this year's Camluck Classic with Rockin Ron and also captured the Fan Hanover Stakes with Shower Play for trainer Rene Dion.

Starting in 2016, Roy has driven in 29 Grand Circuit-level races and posted five wins and a total of 18 top-three finishes, good for a .391 driver's rating. He has sat behind only one favorite in those 29 starts, and while several others have gone off at short odds, most of his drives have been with horses with double-digit odds.

"Last summer, especially with stakes horses, I didn't have much experience with young horses," Roy said. "I think this year that is part of my driving that might improve. I still have a lot of experience to get, but I have a lot more than I had last year. I hope it will keep helping me.

"Getting drives from the big stables, that does help for sure. I guess they like what I'm doing in Canada. As a driver that's what you need, a good stable behind you giving you a lot of chances. We've had some good results so far. I'm very thankful."

Roy's drive in the Meadowlands Pace, Jimmy Freight, was not staked to the race, so owner Adriano Sorella paid a supplement of $61,690 to give his horse a shot at the trophy. Jimmy Freight, a son of Sportswriter out of Allamerican Summer, has won five of eight races this year and hit the board in every start. Last year, he won seven of 12 and again was always among the top-three finishers.

Jimmy Freight's wins this year include a division of the Somebeachsomewhere Stakes and two divisions of the Ontario Sire Stakes. The colt finished third in the Gold Cup Invitational, behind top older pacers Sintra and McWicked. He enters the Meadowlands Pace final off a dead-heat third in his elimination. He led for much of the way before Courtly Choice and American History passed him in the stretch.

"I can't complain about Jimmy, he raced good like he's always done this season," Roy said. "Courtly Choice impressed me. Even though he had a tough mile having to go first-up, he was a rocket down the lane. We'll have to find a way to beat him, and the eight other horses, in the final."

If Roy can, watch for the goose bumps. (Ken Weingartner/USTA)

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