Suc­cess in rac­ing is more than luck

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS -

Own­er­ship of race horses is of­ten a funny old game. At­tain­ing suc­cess is fleet­ing and of­ten frus­trat­ing to the point that many pro­claim it to be the ul­ti­mate game of chance.

One who at­tests to that the­ory is He­lene Fil­ion of Mirabel, Que­bec. She is com­ing off her best ever year own­ing horses and seems poised for a big 2017 in­clud­ing a pos­si­ble start with her four-year-old pacer En­deavor in the Con­fed­er­a­tion Cup at Flam­boro Downs in late May.

In­ter­est­ingly, her suc­cess has all been in New York thanks to the ef­forts of The Real Deal who won $229,000 and En­deavor who banked $105,000. Both were raced there by New Jersey horse­man Pat Lachance who grew up five min­utes driv­ing time from Fil­ion.

“One day I got a phone call from here ask­ing me if I would take The Real Deal and try him at Yonkers Race­way,” re­calls Lachance.

“Ob­vi­ously, I had never seen the horse so could only go by his race lines. He looked OK and said he was worth a bus ticket. But never did ei­ther of us think he would be­come the horse he is.”

Now seven, The Real Deal rose to be one of the top per­form­ers at the New York oval and in fact set the all age track record of 1:50 in Novem­ber.

“He is maybe a step be­hind the likes of Wig­gle It Jig­gleit but on a week-in and week-out ba­sis at New York he is a Satur­day night spe­cial. He al­ways comes to race and sel­dom goes home-empty handed. And He­lene is the one who de­serves all the credit. What­ever her horses need they get ... with­out ques­tion. It’s all about what’s best for the horse and there are not many peo­ple like that to­day.”

Fil­ion was a former care­taker for noted Mon­treal horse­man Robert Char­ron but in re­cent years has trained a small string of horses at a train­ing f acil­ity. She ac­quired The Real Deal in a pri­vate trans­ac­tion from On­tario trainer Ben Bail­largeon for sev­eral thou­sand dol­lars and that has turned into a bo­nanza.

“She raced him at Rideau Car­leton and Hip­po­drome Trois Rivieres where he steadily im­proved to be a use­ful horse but now he is a lot more than that.”

And she struck again when she went year­ling shop­ping in Har­ris­burg, Penn. The now re­tired Char­ron was her con­sul­tant in an ef­fort to pick a year­ling. En­deavor at $18,000 was the re­sult. Mod­estly suc­cess­ful as a two-year-old, he strug­gled last year at three un­til fall, when he blos­somed.

“I have no idea what hap­pened but he just be­came an­other horse win­ning three in a row. We shut him down healthy and I’m re­ally en­thused about him for this year. He was sound and has now shown he’s got all the tools to have a big year. Likes the smaller tracks with a great gait and is very f ast. He has the chance to do some big things.”

Fil­ion would qual­ify as an old­time horse per­son. She does not short change her­self or her horses by hav­ing too many. She knows her role is in de­vel­op­ing them be­fore turn­ing them over to Lachance for the New York ex­pe­ri­ence and she does not over-race them. It seems a sim­ple for­mula but too few peo­ple in to­day’s game get it.

While many would say that she sim­ply is lucky, Lachance de­clares her to sim­ply be a per­son who un­der­stands horse­man­ship. Her horses do not win ev­ery race, which none ever do, but at the end of the day they stand pretty tall against the com­pe­ti­tion. Over a span of time, suc­cess has to be more than luck.


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