Can I Say, an eight-year-old mare owned by Jim Whelan of Troy, Ontario with partners Terry and Clarence Devos, will make her 27th start of the season Sunday, November 26 at Saratoga Raceway in the $20,780 Open Trot.
A homebred for Whelan and the Devos, Can I Say, by Fourth And One from the Earl mare Emerald Eclair, recently surpassed the $500,000 mark in career earnings with a second-place finish in the Open Trot last week.
“We mainly breed and train our own horses, and that’s what we breed them and train them for: hopefully they can race and earn money,” co-owner James Whelan said.
Her sire, Fourth And One, is a horse Whelan trained back when he raced through 2008. Over 105 starts, he banked $81,066 with 10 wins to his record.
“He’s a Valley Victory out of a Speedy Crown mare, the same bloodlines as many of the top trotters in North America,” Whelan said. “He’s a very pretty horse, and a fast horse – I drove him myself in 1:58 over Flamboro, so that was quite a feat considering I’m a little heavier than the average driver. Overall [he’s] an extremely nice horse; clean gaited.”
Her dam, Emerald Eclair, had a sesamoid fracture as a three-year-old early in the season, and Whelan decided to breed her while she was shut down, foaling Can I Say. She was bred again as a four-year-old, but, after her sesamoid fractures healed, she debuted as a five-year-old, and raced until she was nine.
“We need cash flow in this business, so if have a horse that can earn money and bring in a monthly cheque, that’s what keeps you in business: cash flow and horses,” Whelan said. “That’s the way I’ve always operated.
Grinding against claimers at Flamboro Downs, Whelan shipped Emerald Eclair to Charlottetown in 2013 for five starts and Old Home Week.
“I sent her to the East Coast to a friend of mine to drive. He’d never won with a trotter and he won with her during Old Home Week. That was worth a million dollars to him. Fortunately I did it, as he passed away later that year. It was probably the highlight of his career.”
While Emerald Eclair was battling in the conditioned ranks as a six-year-old, her daughter Can I Say was making a name for herself in the OSS Grassroots program. She won four-straight stakes in the summer of 2011, including an eye-catching 1:57.2 score in her Grassroots semi final.
After banking nearly $140,000 as a two- and three-year-old, Can I Say continued to excel as an older performer. The trotting hopples – used more out of trainer preference than trotter preference – came off, and she conquered some of the best trotters stateside with multiple wins in the Open at Yonkers Raceway.
“She can get over a big track, a small track; she’s such a great-gaited mare,” Whelan said. “Anthony Morgan won a couple of races with her. Here’s a guy that’s a global leader – perennial leading dash winner. I talked to him about her and he said she’s just push-button, flawless gait, perfect to drive; he was very impressed with her.”
After her seven-race stint stateside, Can I Say did not race for a year as she recovered from an injury, making only seven starts in 2014.
“She injured her foot so we gave her time off. She hurt herself at Yonkers and she came back really while, so that’s why I don’t race her a lot. I try to keep her around 25 starts a year, make sure I rest her and keep her off the frozen tracks if I can. ”
Following her 2014 season, Can I Say has raced mostly in the United States, taking a lifetime-mark of 1:53.1 in 2015 at Pocono Downs and equaling that this season again at Pocono Downs. She raced three times at Flamboro at the start of the season before shipping south.
“She just has much more opportunity down there to race,” Whelan said. “I’ll probably just race her until the end of the month. Saratoga shuts down, Pocono shuts down so when they shut down I’ll bring her home and rest her. She’s had more than 25 starts.”
Heading into her nine-year-old season, Whelan and long-time partner Clarence Devos continue to enjoy the ride with Can I Say.
“Clarence Devos has been a partner of mine for 37 years. Every time she wins, you’d think he’d won the Olympics. Him and his wife, they absolutely get more enjoyment out of watching her than anything.”