by Kimberly Rinker, managing editor, Hoof Beats
Delaware, OH — Trainer Kevin Johnson, who conditions Jugette starter Elusive Prey, says his filly has only one problem.
“Her problem is that she was born in the same year as Southwind Tempo,” the 47-year-old Johnson laughed. “We’ve finished second to Southwind Tempo four times now. However, we’ve made a good deal of money finishing second to her.”
Owned by Joe and Joann Thomson of Chesapeake City, Md., and Johnson’s assistant, Rebecca Williams, Elusive Prey will start from the rail in the second (race 10) of two $48,000 Jugette eliminations on Wednesday afternoon (September 19) at the Delaware, Ohio County fairgrounds.
Johnson has been conditioning Standardbreds for over two decades and currently sports a barn of 40 at the Kristie Leigh training center in Goshen, N.Y.
“I bought this filly for $30,000 at Harrisburg based on her pedigree,” the Adrian, Mich., native stated. “Looks to me aren’t that important, as long as they don’t have a leg in the wrong place. I think breeding — the bloodlines, that’s what’s important in the end.”
Johnson could be right. Elusive Prey is a daughter of Western Hanover, out of the Goalie Jeff mare Duck Duck Goose, who has also produced half-siblings to the Jugette starter in the 28-race, stakes winning Abba Daba Doo (by Cam’s Card Shark) p,4,1:49.1 ($541,037); Duneside Perch (by Cam’s Card Shark) p,2,1:50.2 ($160,325); the 2007 freshman All Quacked Up (by Dragon’s Lair) p,2,1:54.2h ($88,148); and Eric (by Cam’s Card Shark) p,1:52.3s ($34,953), among others.
“At 2 we didn’t push her at all,” Johnson said of Elusive Prey. “We raced her in the Kindergarten Series (at Vernon Downs) because we felt it was a little softer than the Pennsylvania Sires Stakes. I think that’s why she’s come back so strongly this season. We really didn’t beat her up at 2.”
Elusive Prey scored six wins at 2 in 11 tries, with one second and a pair of thirds — earning $55,999 for her connections. Her freshman mark of 1:55.4 came in a division of the Kindergarten, when she won at Vernon on August 31, 2006, in near wire-to-wire fashion with Larry Stalbaum at the lines.
“She’s the type of filly that requires very little training,” Johnson remarked. “She jogs well and seems to enjoy her work.”
This year Elusive Prey has a 4-6-4 record with $217,907 in earnings upon entering her Jugette challenge on Wednesday, and gives Johnson his first Delaware experience.
“One thing that has really helped her is we started using the glue-on shoes on her,” Johnson said. “She has very shelly feet and regular steel or aluminum plates just weren’t working for her. So we tried these glue-ons, and they’ve been great. We couldn’t ever see that she was unsound somewhere, but I kind of thought all along her feet were bugging her.”
Elusive Prey captured a pair of Pennsylvania Sires Stakes earlier this season, and the $40,910 Tompkins-Geers on July 23. Her top mark of 1:52 came on July 28, when she roared to a 5-1/4 length victory in a Sires Stakes at the Meadows.
“My main goal with her is to keep her sound and healthy,” Johnson said. “She has acclimatized very well to her surroundings here and having the rail in a race like this doesn’t hurt either.”