by Victoria M. Howard
You often hear “watch out for the quiet ones,” for they are the people who never boast, brag or need others to recognize their feats, but they often come out on top.
One of those known as ‘reserved but forceful’ is a Canadian female trainer named Chantal Mitchell, who has worked her way up as a force to reckon with.
Today, Mitchell, along with her boyfriend Kris DiCenzo, train 14 horses at Classy Lane near Mohawk/Woodbine racetrack in Canada.
It all began when Mitchell was 12 year old and started going to the barn with her father. Until then, Mitchell rode hunters, but it only took one look at a standardbred and she was hooked.
“I couldn’t get enough of those gentle giants and began going back as much as I could, trying to learn every aspect of harness racing,” said Mitchell.
Over the years, Chantal went from training one or two horses to training 14. Although she may not have the high numbers that many top trainers have, in her case it’s not quantity, but quality.
The star of her barn is a small, but mighty 2-year-old daughter of Bettor’s Delight named Alicorn, who driver Louis-Philippe Roy calls, “the big beast in a small body.”
In the 2019 Ontario Sires Stakes (OSS) 2-year-old pacing filly Alicorn re-wrote the history books not once, but twice, and lowered her own record by two-fifths of a second in 1:50.3.
Alicorn first set the OSS record of 1:51, then lowered it to 1:50.3 before tying her own record in the final Gold of the season. She also tied the record for 2-year-old pacing fillies at Grand River Raceway in her elimination of The Battle of The Belles, in a time of 1:54.2
“Alicorn is a super horse — she’s small, but speedy,” Mitchell said. “I feel so honored to have been given the opportunity to train her.”
Alicorn, a Bettor’s Delight out of the mare Mythical, came into Mitchell’s barn while she was training for a group who owned some yearlings in Pinehurst under trainer Rolland Millar.
“They called me up around the beginning of May and asked if I would train two fillies for them. They said they were both on the small side: one was having trouble in the turns and the other had just qualified at Harrah’s at Philadelphia in 1:58. When they stepped off the van, I remember saying to myself, ‘Wow! They weren’t kidding,’” Mitchell said, laughing, for both fillies were quite small.
“However, the first time I trained the girls I couldn’t believe how professional they both were. I saw that Alicorn had a very efficient way of going and could carry her speed quite a ways. She’s very easy going and nothing really gets her worked up for the most part. She likes to go in the paddock, play in the mud, and sleep. A typical youngster.”
Like her trainer, thee petite filly is a quiet one who is not to be reckoned with.
“In the barn Alicorn is a pussycat, but when she hits the track — watch out! She bites, kicks and raises hell. And it doesn’t matter how you race her: either coming from the back or putting her on the front. You can pretty much drive her however you want and that’s a desirable quality,” said Mitchell.
“I feel like Alicorn’s getting stronger and stronger. When she gets on the racetrack, she knows how to turn it on. At home she’s an unassuming nice quiet filly, but when she’s on the track, she has her game face on.”
Thankful and blessed for the opportunity to have trained these two great horses, Mitchell said she knows that it takes a tremendous amount of confidence and faith in giving your horses to another trainer to train.
Winter is right around the corner and racing horses in the winter in Canada is not easy or fun. The temps can get below zero and the track can freeze and become slippery.
“Racing in frigid temperatures is definitely less than ideal. Horses can bleed from the lungs more easily, but that’s something the trainer’s need to watch closely and monitor. However, when I feel it’s too cold to race, I scratch my horse. There’s even some mornings that it is simply too cold to jog and I personally feel the horse is better staying in the barn, instead of taking the risk of getting them sick or injured.
“After all, tomorrow is another day.”