10/22/2012 9:47PM

Breeders Crown: Intimidate is a force to be reckoned with

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Intimidate defeated Hambletonian winner Market Share in his Breeders Crown elimination.

In racing, sometimes a trainer must listen to the advice he gets from the horse. In the case of Intimidate, a supplemental entry to this year’s $555,000 Breeders Crown three-year-old trot on Saturday October 27 at Woodbine, it was all about giving the horse a chance.

“I had the check with me when we went to race him at Woodbine that night (October 15),” said Blais in regard to the pressure he felt with the $62,500 payment in hand. “You can always trust the horse. They’re honest,” Blais said referring to the guidance he received from his precocious three-year-old.

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This could be a rags-to-riches story with this altered son of Justice Hall, already victorious over Hambletonian winner Market Share in last Saturday’s elimination race.

What makes the Intimidate story so special is the fact that the homebred has had to reach this point the hard way. With no stakes events on his card due to the virtual collapse of the Quebec program, Intimidate had to build up a resume before attempting any kind of stakes action.

“We had him eligible to the Wellwood last year,” said Blais defending the high aspirations he had for the horse.

Yet last year didn’t happen, as Intimidate hadn’t put it all together by the time the major race unfolded and raced just three times before ending his freshman season.

This year, with little racing experience, Blais elected not to make the final payment on the Canadian Breeders. That decision left Intimidate with just one major stakes race on his card, the Simcoe at Mohawk.

“I wasn’t even so sure we would race him in the Simcoe,” said Blais. “He won at Rideau Carleton the week before we had to enter in 1:56 and I thought he could go in 1:54 at Mohawk.”

Still the trainer was apprehensive about racing against the best sophomores in North America.

“I was hoping there would be two divisions so that at least we’d have a chance to get a check,” Blais said.

In retrospect, it appears as if the Simcoe in one $246,521 division was the turning point in the year for Blais and his horse.

Sent off at odds of 26-1, Intimidate was aggressively driven by Ron Pierce, contesting the early fractions and sprinting off with a three quarter time in 1:22 4/5. Intimidate dueled with the multiple stakes-winning Little Brown Fox gamely through the length of the Mohawk stretch and lost a neck photo in a blistering 1:51 4/5 mile.

“Ron (Pierce) told me that if he had driven the horse before that night he would have won the race,” said Blais.

But the trainer didn’t know exactly what to make of the sudden speed his horse had shown. With experience, he knew that Intimidate’s next race would be more telling as to how the horse had progressed as far as speed and class were concerned.

In that next start on Septembr 17 at Mohawk, the horse reverted to his preferred off-the-pace style and overpowered a solid field in 1:53 1/5.

“He came a last quarter in :27 with Doug (McNair) driving and was very strong,” said Blais.

Perhaps after last week’s victory in the Breeders Crown elimination race, sent off at odds of 11-1, the public and other horsemen will start taking Intimidate more seriously.

He’s won 12 of his 16 starts this year with most of those coming from off the pace.

“I think it helps keeping them brave,” said Blais.

When it comes to being brave, Blais and co-owner breeder Judith Farrow have exhibited an enormous amount of courage defending the honor of their three-year-old by sacrificing nearly half the purse money the gelding earned this year.

The pair elected to breed Fabulous Tag, a filly they campaigned together but proved unsound, to a local stallion. The fact that the mating produced a racehorse of any kind defies the odds.

It’s the beauty of this sport that those who start on the bottom just looking for a horse they can race, have the opportunity to compete and defeat the best in the Breeders Crown.