08/08/2013 10:41AM

Tioga: Gingras has confidence in Empire Breeders Classic finalist Sunfire Blue Chip

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USTA/Mark Hall
Sunfire Blue Chip already has an Adios win on his record.

Confidence is a great thing to have, especially if you drive harness horses for a living. Take Yannick Gingras, one of the sport’s most successful pilots. He didn’t pull any punches when he said, “I wouldn’t trade him for anybody.” The horse Gingras was referring to is Sunfire Blue Chip, the likely favorite in Sunday’s $257,250 Empire Breeders Classic at Tioga Downs.

Anybody?

Even Captaintreacherous?

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“I know he’s done a lot more and has earned his position,” said Gingras of Captaintreacherous, “But I love my horse and I think we’ll have chances down the road to beat him.”

As far as Sunday afternoon is concerned, Sunfire Blue Chip will start from post three, inside his main rival Vegas Vacation. The two have hooked up in major stakes action over the last month with Sunfire Blue Chip holding off his rival in the Adios at The Meadows (July 27). Prior to that, Sunfire Blue Chip went a big trip in the Hempt (June 29) but finished third behind both Captaintreacherous and Vegas Vacation.

“They both went big trips in the Hempt,” said Gingras, “My horse was used three times on the front end and his horse was three-wide from the back a long way. They both raced great that night.”

As for more current past performances, both Vegas Vacation and Sunfire Blue Chip were victorious in eliminations last Sunday at Tioga. For his part, Gingras was very pleased with the son of American Ideal, a full brother to last year’s Empire Breeders Classic champion Heston Blue Chip.

“I was very happy to go an easy trip with him. With the way these horses have to race each week it’s important to try to give them a breather, otherwise there will be nothing left for the remainder of the season,” Gingras said.

The 1:50 2/5 mile was a full second slower than Vegas Vacation’s elimination score, but there is hardly that much of a difference between the two.

“In the Adios I got the jump on him,” said Gingras, referring to the 1:48 3/5 mile posted by Sunfire Blue Chip in the $450,000 event at the Meadows where Vegas Vacation was a solid closing second.

Sunfire Blue Chip, trained by Jimmy Takter, has won six of his 10 starts this year and appears to be getting better and stronger each time he steps on the racetrack. Gingras first drove him in the eliminations for the Art Rooney at Yonkers back on May 25 and was quite impressed.

“He made a break on me on the final turn,” said Gingras, “I thought he was going to win that race.”

Gingras plans to race primarily at Harrah’s Philadelphia now that the Meadowlands has closed, while at the same time following the Grand Circuit’s schedule. As for the high point of last Saturday’s Hambletonian Day card, for Gingras it came driving Father Patrick to victory in the Peter Haughton.

“He won the race very easily. I’m really looking forward to driving him this year and next year,” said Gingras about the impressive two-year-old trotting colt.

The Empire Breeders Classic is race nine on the Tioga Downs Sunday afternoon program with a first post at 1:30 p.m. In addition to the pair of $300,000-plus elimination winners Sunfire Blue Chip (post three) and Vegas Vacation (post four), the field includes Meadowlands Pace runner-up Odds On Equuleus (post six) and Art Rooney champion Doctor Butch (post two).

Co-featured on the program is the Empire Breeders Classic for three-year-old pacing fillies (race six). Leading the $250,750 event is Shebestingin. The Bettors Delight-sired lass captured six of her 10 starts this season while finishing second three times. She drew post five for regular pilot David Miller.

Following losses to I Luv The Nitelife in the Lynch at Pocono and then the Mistletoe Shalee at the Meadowlands, Shebestingin righted the ship for trainer Joe Holloway with an effortless and powerful performance in the $29,883 Geers Stakes at Tioga on July 21. She’s undefeated at Tioga through her brilliant career, having captured a Geers division as a two-year-old as well as a New York Sire Stakes event earlier this season.

The Casie Coleman-trained Social Scene may be the biggest threat to Shebestingin’s possible dominance in the Empire Breeders Classic. She landed post three with George Brennan in the sulky. Social Scene is unbeaten this year with Brennan in the bike. Most recently she captured an $88,314 New York Sire Stakes event at Yonkers on July 2 in 1:52 flat and prior to that scored in a similar event at Tioga on June 9 in 1:51 2/5, a career best.

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