Updated on 09/16/2011 7:29AM

Baker Road paying off the re-claim


STICKNEY, Ill. - Trainer Leo Gabriel couldn't believe it when Baker Road was claimed from him for $35,000 early this year at Fair Grounds. But when Baker Road dropped back in for a $40,000 claiming price after two conclusive losses, Gabriel and his owners did not hesitate to claim him right back.

Just in time, too. Back in Chicago, and back in with Illinois-breds, Baker Road won the $100,000 Milwaukee Avenue Handicap at Sportsman's Park in late March, and though he subsequently was third in an open allowance race, Baker Road ranks as the horse to beat in Hawthorne's Sunday feature.

"I never dreamed I'd lose him being in Louisiana, since he's an Illinois-bred," Gabriel said. "We just got lucky that the Milwaukee Avenue came up light."

Baker Road will face six horses in a fourth-level allowance (with $50,000 claiming option) run over 1 1/16 miles. One of his rivals, Fred of Gold, rallied late to finish ahead of Baker Road in his last race, but Baker Road might have been too close to the pace and in the wrong part of the racetrack that day.

Of the others, both Bandana and Saquache have on-again, off-again form, while Major Omansky and Chief's Hogan may be better on turf than dirt.

Apalachee Special comes out of a pair of open stakes races and was a closing second in his last allowance try.

Gore traveling in time

Trainer Terrel Gore reveres racing's glory days, when powerful, picturesque farms bred top-class stock to raise and race. Gore thinks so much of the era that he is trying to emulate it.

With a small band of broodmares, Gore and his wife are breeding, raising, and racing their own horses, and with help from the lucrative Illinois-bred program, they are making it work.

"It sounds kind of corny, but I just feel fortunate that right here in Illinois, I can go back in time to the way it used to be," Gore said. "Those large farms that bred and raced their own horses - you really can't do that anymore."

Gore's 22-horse string still includes horses for outside clients, but he has done very well with his homebreds, especially this year. When Des Arc, a Gore homebred, won the seventh race last Sunday at Hawthorne, it was Gore's 11th win this year from only 43 starters. Another of Gore's recent homebred winners is Scooter Roach, who finished second in the Grade 3 Hawthorne Derby earlier this meet.

Gore bought a farm outside Joliet, Ill., in 1989, thinking he'd use the space to house racehorses he had decided to turn out. "Then, somebody gave us a mare, and the rest is history," he said.

Gore not only develops horses from foals to racehorses, he is working with his second generation of stock. Des Arc, for instance, is out of the mare Casilca, who Gore also trained.

"With the Illinois-bred program, you don't have to breed the best horses in the world to compete," he said. "To me, this is being in the business the way it was meant to be."

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