08/24/2011 12:34PM

Talented filly Claresmiezie could be Tracy's ticket to racing's center stage

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Trainer Greg Tracy, who began his career racing at bush tracks in Montana, is hoping for a chance to play in the big leagues with Claresmiezie. The 2-year-old filly has won her last two starts in stakes races at Hastings and Northlands Park by a combined margin of more than 23 lengths.

Tracy has sent Claresmiezie to Monmouth Park for the $100,000 Sorority on Sept, 5, and if she runs well he will point her to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Churchill Downs.

“She is also nominated to the Spinaway at Saratoga, but the Sorority figures to be an easier race,” said Tracy. “If she runs well at Monmouth we’ll take her to Belmont and then hopefully to the Breeders’ Cup.”

Claresmiezie arrived at Monmouth on Tuesday. Tracy said Channing Hill will ride her in the Sorority.

Tracy, 49, grew up and still lives in Montana, but his stable has been based in Alberta since 2002. He is currently tied for leading trainer at Northlands Park with 33 wins. He is approaching a milestone in his career with 987 total wins, 470 in Canada.

He was introduced to horse racing at an early age by his father, who was a high school English teacher. The Tracy family lived in Miles City.

“My father needed something to do in the summer so he trained horses for my uncle,” said Tracy. “He raced at the fairs in Montana and I began going with him when I started high school. We also raced in Gillette, and Wyoming and South Dakota. We had mostly Quarter Horses.”

Tracy went to college after graduating from high school, but the lure of training horses proved too hard to resist.

“I went to Montana State in Bozeman on a wrestling scholarship,” he said. “But I only lasted one year. When spring rolled around I wanted to get back to the horses. I started out with my older brother Ray in Miles City. He would take the Thoroughbreds to Washington and I would race the Quarter horses in Montana. That was in the ‘80s and we did that for quite a few years and then I started racing at Thoroughbred tracks in Billings and Great Falls.”

Though Tracy was successful, the purse structure in Montana made it hard to earn a living. With 34 wins at the 1990 Great Falls meet he earned total purse money of slightly more than $43,000. So he started looking for tracks reasonably close to home that offered better opportunities. He followed his brother to Washington and became the leading trainer at Playfair in Spokane, Wash., in 1993.

“I raced at tracks that circled Montana and kept trying to improve the quality of the horses I was training,” Tracy said. “And then I went to Winnipeg and was the leading trainer at Assiniboia in 1998.

“I still had mostly cheap horses, but they fit nicely at Assiniboia. I took a few horses to Stampede Park in the spring but it was hard to get enough stalls there once the slots came in. I finally got stalls at Stampede and Northlands in 2002.”

Stampede Park, which no longer has horse racing, was attractive to Tracy because it is only a six-hour drive from Calgary to Victor, Montana, where he lives with his wife, Shelli, and their three children, Raegan, Ryanne, and Rowan. Raegan and Ryanne are serious cowgirls. Ryanne was the All Around Cowgirl at the 2010 Montana Wrangler Division Junior High Rodeo State Finals. Raegan is president of the Montana High School Rodeo Association. Rowan is just starting to compete at the junior high school level.

“The kids used to come with me when they were younger, but now they are too involved in rodeoing,” he said. “My daughter Caitlin, from a previous marriage, works with me at the track.”

Tracy’s main clients, and the owners of Claresmiezie, are Norm Castiglione and Robert Vargo who race under the stable name, Riversedge Racing Stable. Tracy started training for them at the end of 2009. In the summer of 2010, however, it looked like Tracy’s career could be in jeopardy when he had his license suspended after he tested positive for cocaine.

“It’s a hard business and the pressure got to me,” he said. “It was more the drinking than anything else.”

He is thankful Riversedge stuck with him through that turbulent time.

“I thought I was going to have to start over, but they stuck with me when a lot of other people were running,” he said. “I am very grateful to them, and I want to do everything I can to make it up to them.”

Castiglione and Vargo said one of the reasons they hired Tracy was his ability with 2-year-olds. This year Tracy has reinforced their faith with 11 wins out of 24 2-year-old starts.

“I think a lot of my success with 2-year-olds goes back to working with Quarter Horses,” Tracy said. “I also have a really nice group of babies to work with this year.”

The star of the group is Claresmiezie.

“She’s a freak,” said Tracy. “I have no idea how fast she really is. She has just done everything so easily and hasn’t been tested. I guess we’ll soon find out how good she is. If she can’t cut it there, we’ll just bring her home and give her the winter off.”

Tracy followed a similar path with Fancy Prancer in 2001. After winning a stakes race at Prairie Meadows, Tracy shipped her to Del Mar where she ran last as the 4-5 favorite in the $125,000 CTBA Stakes for California-breds.

“She got stepped on by the pony on post parade,” said Tracy. “We’re hoping for a little better luck this time.”