Story by Chris Lomon / @ChrisLomon
Big Petes Style is a chart-topping North American hit in 2020.
The eight-year-old bay’s current off-track address is in the barn of eastern Ontario horseman Guy Gagnon. His on-track home is Rideau Carleton Raceway, the 5/8ths-mile oval he’s competed at in 28 of his 33 starts in 2020.
And what a year it’s been for Big Petes Style, the Ontario-bred son of Jeremes Jet.
In those 33 starts, the gelding has notched 16 wins on the campaign, the most of any standardbred in North America this year. Party Girl Hill, the multiple stakes winning superstar 3-year-old filly, is part of a group that has registered 15 victories on the season.
Not bad for Big Petes Style, a horse that’s been claimed a grand total of 15 times over a 184-race career. This year alone, he’s been claimed on four occasions.
Gagnon, closing in on 5,500 driving victories, saw something he liked in the bay, but knew the gelding would be a work-in-progress type.
Even so, the veteran reinsman believed the well-traveled horse would feel right at home at Rideau Carleton. It’s why he was confident the first time he claimed Big Petes Style (the pacer has changed hands several times since Gagnon first had him in October 2018) that the investment would yield a healthy profit.
As Gagnon noted, Big Petes Style didn’t have big shoes to fill, he just needed an adjustment or two on them.
“He’s just a very good horse,” praised Gagnon, of the horse whose lifetime best mark of 1:51.3 came at Woodbine Racetrack in 2018. “He won at Mohawk, and he raced very well. He had a shoeing problem because for a time, he didn’t like the 5/8ths tracks, and he would have problems on the turns. So, I worked on the shoeing and now he looks like he’s perfect.”
Guy Gagnon and Big Petes Style
Bred by Tara Hills Stud in Port Perry, Ontario, Big Petes Style launched his racing career on October 10, 2015 at Kawartha Downs, winning the lion’s share of the $4,000 purse.
Since that time, his provincial travels have taken him to Woodbine Mohawk Park, Woodbine Racetrack, Georgian Downs, Grand River Raceway, Hiawatha Horse Park, Leamington Raceway, Flamboro Downs, The Raceway at Western Fair District, and Dresden Raceway.
He’s been competing at Rideau Carleton since mid-February.
A $9,000 Forest City Yearling purchase in 2013, he’s amassed over $229,000 in purse earnings to date.
“I like the way he raced before when he was in Toronto,” said Gagnon. “When they brought him here, he looked rough out there, and he had some tough starts, making a break, that sort of thing. I saw him as a challenge and thought he should be better than what he was showing. I felt if we could get him right, he would be very good.”
He’s been far better than that.
After making 45 starts and winning 10 races in 2019, Big Petes Style has a record of 16-5-7 from 33 starts this year.
His latest winner’s circle trip came on November 15 at Rideau Carleton, a neck score, with Gagnon in the race bike, in a time of 1:58.3 over “good” footing.
“During the week, he’s very calm, but on the racetrack, he’s an aggressive horse. He’s on the job, and he likes to race. He wants to go. He’ll sit behind the gate and you can feel that he’s ready to go. He has never given me a bad race. He tries the best he can. Week after week, he comes back strong. He’s at 100 percent right now.”
Just the type of competitor any horseperson would want in their barn. On July 7, 2018 at Hiawatha Horse Park, Big Petes Style delivered conditioner Gord McDonnell his 1,000th
“He really is a nice horse,” said Gagnon, a top 10 trainer in Canada this year. “He’s the type of horse you dream of having. He just goes out every time and gives you all that he has. That’s all you can ask for. He can race from behind or the front… he will never quit. Even if he sits fifth, sixth or seventh, he will come back on strong during the race. He’s a really nice horse. He likes to eat. He likes to race. He likes to win.”
And Big Petes Style, who’ll chase win No. 17 on Sunday at Rideau Carleton, also has high regard for the man he’s teamed up with.
“Well, I think he likes me,” said Gagnon with a laugh. “He keeps getting better. He had the shoeing issue, but that’s been figured out. When you look at his record, you can see how good and consistent he’s been.”
And precisely why he’s become a No. 1 hit on the USTA charts.
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