Some of Ontario's most gifted sophomore fillies stepped into the spotlight at Mohawk Racetrack on Thursday evening and delivered two glittering Gold Final performances.
First behind the starting gate were the trotting fillies and fans sent Miss Paris off their top choice off her solid second-place effort in the Sept. 6 Simcoe Stakes at the Campbellville oval. Driver Rick Zeron let the filly float away from post 5 and the pair was sitting sixth when Smarty Pants powered by the opening eighth in :13.
Smarty Pants continued to lead through the :27.1 quarter, with the field of eight strung out along the rail in her wake. Heading for the :57.2 half reigning Gold Final champion Lexus Helios started the movement up the outside, quickly followed by Sugar Wheeler and Miss Paris.
The situation remained the same at the 1:26.2 three-quarters, Smarty Pants was on top by two lengths with the rest of the field marching along in pairs behind her, but as the fillies turned for home Zeron shifted Miss Paris into her closing gear and the filly cruised home a two length winner in 1:55.3. Sugar Wheeler claimed the runner-up's share of the $130,000 Gold Final prize and Smarty Pants hung tough to be third, ahead of Frisky Strike and One More Ginny.
Zeron engineered the win for trainer Richard "Nifty” Norman and owners Melvin Hartman of Ottawa, Herb Liverman of Miami Beach, FL and David McDuffee of Delray Beach, FL. Each owner now has a Gold Final trophy to call his own, as Miss Paris was also victorious in the July 7 final at Georgian Downs and the Aug. 12 final at Flamboro Downs.
The daughter of Kadabra and Pizza Dolce pushed her sophomore record to four wins, three seconds and three thirds in 12 starts with the win and boosted her lifetime bankroll to $817,423.
One race later the pacing fillies had fans on their feet with a thrilling stretch battle that saw favourites Doug McNair and Apogee Hanover prevail by half a length over reigning Gold Final champs Zeron and Mach A Wish.
Apogee Hanover was quickest away in the seven-filly field, reaching the eighth in :13 and the quarter in :27.1. Zeron had Mach A Wish on the move early and had wrestled control of the pace away from Apogee Hanover by the :54.4 half. Mach A Wish maintained that lead through the 1:23.1 three-quarters, but McNair was not content to sit in the hole and Apogee Hanover was pressing the pace.
Apogee Hanover edged in front of Mach A Wish, but the filly refused to throw in the towel and the pair battled all the way to the 1:51.4 finish. Jet Wash was part of the skirmish in the stretch, finishing just three-quarters of a length back, and Class Of O Nine and Mia Seelster completed the top five.
It was the first Gold Series win of the season for McNair and Apogee Hanover, who was the division champion as a freshman. The Jeremes Jet daughter has looked sharp in recent weeks, scoring a second-place result against a group of tough older mares at Mohawk on Sept. 7.
Ervin Miller conditions Apogee Hanover for Roger Hammer of Bedford, PA and has engineered three wins, three seconds and two thirds for the filly in 17 sophomore starts. The 1:51.4 clocking was a new personal best for Apogee Hanover, who has banked $503,025 in two seasons.
Apogee Hanover will have an opportunity to pick up a second Gold Series win when the three-year-old pacing fillies wrap up their regular season at Rideau Carleton Raceway Oct. 4 and 11. The three-year-old trotting fillies complete their season at Grand River Raceway Oct. 3 and 10.
On Saturday night Mohawk Racetrack hosts two Gold Eliminations for the exciting two-year-old pacing colts and the fourth $130,000 Gold Final on the sophomore pacing colt calendar. Post time for Saturday's program, which also features the $384,000 Milton Stakes Final for aged pacing mares, is 7:10 pm.(Ontario Sires Stakes)