Kevin Bailey leads a four-horse qualifying at Inverness Raceway on Sunday with Travis MacLean’s Indywheelbarrow. In tow are Zach Mullins and Playin For Keeps, Andrew MacLean and Brookdale Buster, and Lewis MacDonell and Windmeredontmatter.
May 18, 2022
-by Bill Dunphy
To say Evan Gillis has harness racing in his blood would be an understatement.
The 16-year-old trainer (he’ll be 17 later this week) is going into his fourth year as an owner and second year as a conditioner at Inverness Raceway.
This past Sunday, he qualified two of the horses under his care and has one more to qualify next Sunday.
He got his youthful start into the sport honestly enough. His father, Jamie Copley, is a successful conditioner in Ontario after starting out in Inverness as a trainer and driver.
Evan’s grandfather is Jimmy Copley, a perennial top trainer and owner at Inverness, a former driver, and a past executive member who spearheaded the drive for a new horse barn in 2009.
His grandmother and Jimmy’s wife, Ann, is also active on the executive and comes from another big racing family. Her parents, Allister and Mary MacQuarrie, were a mainstay on the local harness racing scene for decades. Mary, at 85, still trains a horse out of her backyard barn.
Does he see himself following in his father’s footsteps at a big track in Ontario someday?
“One hundred per cent, it’s what I want to do. For now though, I’m happy to be here. I’m learning a lot from my grandfather. He’s a very good mentor and I couldn’t get much better,” said Gillis.
Along with 12-year-old Dashpedia, who he owns with his Ontario half-brothers Jacob and Ryan Copley, Gillis is also training two new horses to Inverness Raceway.
Three-year-old Peeping Tommy, who didn’t race as a two-year-old, is owned by Kim Eaton, of Brockville. The gelding is by the sire Artspeak and the Mach Three dam St Lads Peeper. Driver Redmond Doucet qualified the young horse in 2:04.
Gillis is also training 10-year-old Mr Big Top for Ontario owner Stacey Smith-Robinson. Scheduled to qualify next Sunday, the gelding has a lifetime mark of 1:54 set at Rideau-Carleton.
Gillis opted to take on more horses after losing Cliff Drummond last year to a racing injury.
“It wasn’t easy...he was a winner pretty near every time we put him on the track. I’m not sure we can ever replace him, but we’ll try. Just keep on going and try to keep winning,” he said.
Gillis said he was pleased with 12-year-old Dashpedia qualifying in 2:02.3. It was his first race without hopples. Hopples are the leather straps connecting front and rear legs on the same side of the horse to help it pace correctly.
“I was happy to see the old horse without hopples. You can put the work in all the way down, but it doesn’t always happen when you race them free-legged.”
Along with a two-year-old that Jimmy is training, four horses in the stable takes up a lot of the grade 11 student’s time.
“I miss out on a few things with school, but I don’t mind,” he said, noting he will come to the barn early in the morning and after school.
“I make it fit into the horses’ schedules. I get my work done with these guys and I get it done right.”
Along with Peeping Tommy qualifying in race one, Cougar On A Terr paced the mile in 2:02. The three-year-old is owned by Walter Walker and Richard MacInnis and was driven by Danny Gillis.
Lofty Shadow, a four-year-old by Shadow Play, is another newcomer to Inverness this year to young owners Avery Fraser and Dylan MacLean. He’s trained by Avery’s father Charles and was driven by Kevin Bailey to a 2:04 qualifying time.
Also qualifying on Sunday:
Race two: Indywheelbarrow, 2:02.1 (Bailey); Playin For Keeps, 2:03.1, (Zach Mullins); Brookdale Buster, 2:03.1 (Andrew MacLean); Windmeredontmatter, 2:03.4 (Lewis MacDonell).
Race three: JGs Fireball, 2:02.1 (Campbell MacIsaac); Dashpedia, 2:02.3 (Doucet); Docs Ronhenry, 2:02.3 (Rodney Gillis); Tuckers Best, 2:03.3 (Bailey).
Race four: Dam Lucky, 2:01 (Ambrose Gillis); Watt Machs Me Win, 2:02 (Mullins); Windemere Best Man, 2:03 (Doucet); This Old Millie, 2:03.1 (Charles Fraser).
Charles Fraser was warming Millie up earlier when his race cart broke in half. Neither he nor the horse were injured and luckily it happened when it did and not in a race.
Redmond Doucet got his driving season off to a good start in Truro on Friday. With seven races on the card, Doucet won four of them and picked up a second and third.
Ardon Mofford will likely never complain about post position again. At Northside Downs on Saturday, Mofford had three horses leaving from the undesirable six-hole. He won all three races.
A new rule, brought about by HPI Bet, which broadcasts races from Inverness and allows online and phone betting, will require all equipment and driver changes to be made an hour-and-a-half before post time or the horse will be disqualified. At Inverness Raceway, that means the changes will have to be in by 11:30 a.m. on Sundays and 5:30 p.m. on Wednesdays.
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