Intimidate (3), trained by Luc Blais and driven by Sylvain Filion, pulled off a 45-1 upset over the heavily favored Sebastian K in the $603,000 Maple Leaf Trot on Saturday at Mohawk Racetrack.
Sent postward as the 1-5 favorite, Sebastian K got away in second behind post 10 starter Modern Family who was sent hard to the lead over the "sloppy" rated track to post an opening quarter of :26.4. In the second quarter, trainer-driver Ake Svandstedt sent Sebastian K to the lead and controlled the race through the middle half with fractions of :57.3 and 1:26.4.
Intimidate got away in sixth and picked up cover in the second quarter behind Flanagan Memory and was towed around the final turn second-over and just a few lengths away from Sebastian K. In the stretch, Sebastian K continued to dig in and try to hold off his challengers, but Intimidate in the final stride nailed the heavy favorite to win the 63rd edition of the Maple Leaf Trot in 1:54.2.
Market Share, the 2013 Maple Leaf Trot winner, came off the rail and made a late charge on the far outside to finish third, while Modern Family held on for fourth.
The Maple Leaf Trot victory was the third win in seven starts this season for Intimidate, a 5-year-old son of Justice Hall-Fabulous Tag, and the biggest triumph of his 24 career wins.
"I know (he wasn't supposed to win)," grinned Filion, in the winner's circle. "I had a lot of confidence in my horse, he hasn't been exactly 100 percent this year, but Luc (Blais) has done a great job and he had him ready for tonight, he was just amazing. We had kind of a perfect trip and I think the muddy track kind of helped us."
Filion added he was just trying to keep Intimidate in the right spot to take his best shot in the stretch.
"I was just trying to keep focus and keep my horse flat and I knew he was going to kick home for me, but I just didn't know if I was going to go by that Sebastian K."
Intimidate has had an up-and-down season following a 2013 campaign that saw the Blais trainee win seven times in just nine starts.
"I tip my hat to Luc Blais he did a great job with this horse he was in top shape tonight," said Filion. "So far this year he's been very inconsistent…but he put it all together tonight and it was good timing."
Following the race, Svandstedt commented on Sebastian K's first loss on North American soil.
"It was a heavy track and when we opened that fast it took a lot of energy from our horse. It was too fast, a tough first quarter," he said.
Linda Toscano, trainer of defending 'Trot' champion Market Share, was full of praise for a hard-earned third-place run engineered by Tim Tetrick.
"He had to turn right halfway down the stretch in order to find a clear lane," said Toscano. "He probably cost himself two lengths when he had to do that. He raced as well as a horse could race."
Intimidate's Maple Leaf Trot victory is the first 'Trot' title for both Filion and Blais.
The winner's share of the $603,000 purse boosts Intimidate's career earnings to over $943,000 for owners Determination and Judith Farrow.
Intimidate now joins the illustrious list of past Maple Leaf Trot champions that includes No Sex Please (1989, '90, 92), Mr. Muscleman (2004, '05) and San Pail ('09, '10, '11).
Intimidate paid $96.50, $12.20, with show wagering not offered. He combined with Sebastian K ($2.10) for a (3-1) $309.70 exactor. (WEG)