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Rankin's Surprise O’Briens Return

Published: January 9, 2019 11:58 am ET

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This time last year, owner Tom Rankin was planning a trip to the O'Brien Awards after the stellar season of rookie trotter Alarm Detector. One year after that O'Brien Award win, Rankin is set to return to the O'Brien Awards thanks to the exploits of an unproven trotter that by year's end upstaged his sophomore stablemate.

"One year ago I was honoured to win the O'Brien Award with Alarm Detector,” Rankin told Trot Insider. “I lived for the moment and never thought of future honours... if I did I should have bought the tux instead of renting one! As the year progressed I thought Alarm Detector had best opportunity to repeat but that was not to be. Instead this virtually untried three-year-old homebred was given to Ben Baillargeon with the comment 'I think he has some talent.'"

Run Director, a homebred for Rankin and wife Elizabeth, established himself as a three-year-old following a two-year-old season with only one start: a ninth-place finish in a division of Ontario Sires Stakes (OSS).

The Kadabra colt hit his best strides when moving to the Baillargeon barn, winning six races from 17 starts and over $400,000. He competed on the Grand Circuit locally, finishing second to Hambletonian runner-up Mets Hall in the $169,183 Simcoe Stakes, and took the $225,000 OSS Super Final before capping his year south of the border in the $500,000 Breeders Crown at Pocono Downs with a fourth-place finish to Tactical Landing.

"I think the highlight for us was in the OSS Super Final,” Rankin said. “Leaving from post eight, he was parked every step of the race. When he couldn't pass Stormont Ventor in the stretch [Sylvain] Filion tucked him in and I conceded to myself that we would not win the race. But he pulled him in a few seconds, and he dug in to pull out the victory. This horse would not be denied.

"I owe my horse's success unquestionably to my trainer Ben Baillargeon; mastery at taking a horse and developing them so they reach their highest echelon,” Rankin also said. “And Sylvain Filion drove him skillfully knowing he could not leave with him because of OCDs in an ankle that bothered him."

Rankin was ecstatic when learning of his O’Brien nominations last year. And, despite winning with Alarm Detector and having R First Class nominated for sophomore of the year, he had as much enthusiasm when learning of Run Director’s nomination. Run Director is a finalist in the three-year-old trotting colt category along with Stormont Ventnor.

"I was in the office when Kathy [Wade Vlaar from Standardbred Canada] called me and likely acted cool on the phone,” Rankin said, “but [I] gave a thunderous ovation [likely] heard throughout the office and probably down the street.

"I thought the awards were first class,” Rankin said on last year’s O’Briens. “Kathy and her team do an outstanding job and we all truly enjoyed ourselves."

Standardbred Canada will present the 30th edition of the O’Brien Awards on Saturday, February 2, 2019 at the Hilton Mississauga/Meadowvale Hotel. Tickets and program ads are now on sale and can be purchased by contacting the Member & Stakeholder Relations Department at 905-858-3060. Tickets are $200 each (includes HST) and include a cocktail reception, gourmet dinner, wine, and complimentary portrait.

Program ads for the souvenir program are $600 (plus HST). The deadline to reserve space in the program is Wednesday, January 9.

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