A full weekend of Grand Circuit racing action at Mohawk got underway Friday night with two $101,296 Casual Breeze Stakes divisions for 3-year-old trotting fillies.
Lifetime Pursuit, this year's Hambletonian Oaks winner, cruised to a stakes record victory of 1:52.1 in the second division.
A daughter of Cantab Hall-Queen Of Grace, Lifetime Pursuit and driver Yannick Gingras got away third and followed along as Cantabs Fortune and Rick Zeron set fractions of :27.4 and :56.4. As the field made their way around the final turn, Gingras sent Lifetime Pursuit first-up and she immediately blew by Cantabs Fortune to trot by the three-quarter station in 1:24.2.
In the stretch, Lifetime Pursuit put on a show as she separated herself from her rivals and trotted effortlessly to a 3 3/4-length stakes record victory. The old stakes mark of 1:52.4 was set by Action Broadway in 2010.
Designed To Be finished second, while Cantabs Fortune held on for third.
The clocking of 1:52.1 was not only a stakes record, but it also equaled the track and Canadian record co-held by Check Me Out and Bee A Magician.
"She can really scoot," Gingras said following the race. "She's been good all year, but she's really stepped it up since Hambletonian Oaks day and she was scary good that day and she's just as sharp now as she was then."
Trained by Jimmy Takter, Lifetime Pursuit was coming into the Casual Breeze off world record-setting miles in the Hambletonian Oaks at the Meadowlands and a division of the Pennsylvania Sires Stakes at the Meadows.
While Lifetime Pursuit has really come into her own over the last month, Gingras said she was starting to show her true talent leading up to the 'Oaks'.
"No doubt she's got better in the last three starts, but also a couple starts leading up to the 'Oaks' it was just the trip wasn't working out," said Gingras. "Maybe she was getting a little bit sharp then and the trip just wasn't working out, maybe it's a combination of both, but obviously on paper it looks like her last three starts have been vicious, but she's been good all along."
Lifetime Pursuit is owned by the Brittany Farms of Versailles, Ky.
The Casual Breeze Stakes victory was the eleventh win of her career, fifth win in ten starts this season, and it boosted her career earnings to more than $700,000.
Lifetime Pursuit paid $2.90 to win.
The first division of the Casual Breeze Stakes saw Sweetie Hearts pull off a 48-1 upset.
Sweetie Hearts and driver Randy Waples grabbed the early lead and led the field into the backstretch. On the way to the half, My Inspiration came first-up and overtook the lead to reach the halfway point in :56.3. Donatella Hanover, the 6-5 favorite, was sent to the outside and came up to challenge My Inspiration as they reached the three-quarter pole in 1:25.3.
In the stretch, Donatella Hanover took the lead, but Waples brought Sweetie Hearts off the rail from the two hole to go around a fading My Inspiration and trotted up the inside by Donatella Hanover to win by a quarter of a length in 1:54.2.
Danica, who made a charge on the far outside, finished third by only three-quarters of a length.
Trained by Ron Parsons, Sweetie Hearts was coming into the Casual Breeze off a victory in an Ontario Sires Stakes Gold leg at Grand River on Aug. 13.
Following the race, Parsons said the daughter of Angus Hall-Sweetheart K has been getting better as the season goes on.
"She's a great mare and she gets stronger as the year goes and I think you're going to get a lot cheaper price on her in the next few weeks," said Parsons.
Owned by Robert Key of Leechburg, Pa., Sweetie Hearts was moved during her 2-year-old season from Paul Reid's barn to Ron Parsons' stable.
"When I got her from Paul Reid (last year), he told me 'you're getting a nice filly, but just take your time, put the right driver on her and she'll be good and that's what she did. She went a big race in the Goldsmith Maid and then we shut her down and then we brought her back and she's just starting to get her mojo about her."
The mile time of 1:54.2 is a new career best for Sweetie Hearts and the victory was her third win in eleven starts this season. She has now visited the winner's circle seven times in her career and has earnings exceeding $210,000.
Sweetie Hearts paid $100.70 to win. (WEG)