Mystician, craftily handled by Jody Jamieson, exploded in mid-stretch to pull off a 29-1 shocker in the $1 million Metro Pace, the richest harness race on the continent for two-year-olds, Saturday at Mohawk.
Mystician, who enjoyed a pocket trip behind pacesetter Prodigal Seelster after leading the field to the opening quarter in :27.2, rallied from third, blowing by Great Vintage, who had come around to challenge the leader and briefly take charge in early stretch.
Mystician, a son of Camluck who sold as a yearling for $45,000, quickly opened two lengths, then held off a closing Feel Like A Fool to win the rich event by one and one-quarter lengths in 1:53.4, over a 'good' Mohawk strip pounded by evening rains. Great Vintage faded to third, while favoured Prodigal Seelster, after a half in :55.4 and three-quarters in 1:24.2, dropped to ninth down the lane.
Trained and co-owned by Nova Scotia native Jeffrey Gillis, Mystician entered the Metro with an excellent record, two wins and four seconds in six starts. But he'd finished a distant runner-up to Prodigal Seelster in his last two outings, the Battle of Waterloo at Grand River and last week's Metro elim. Hence, the 29-1 odds, while Prodigal Seelster went off as the 9-5 choice.
"I talked to (trainer) Jeff (Gillis) pre-race and he thought the horse was as good as he's ever been," said Jamieson, enjoying his second Metro win after steering Yankee Skyscaper to victory in 2006.
"This horse is way better in the cooler weather. The track isn't really that great but the front end has been holding up most of the night. The horse is aggressive and is a great horse and wants to go forward. So it was easy decision for me at the gate when he had his ears up going in."
Big Jim, the betting favorite, struggled in the first turn--clocked with a :12.4 first eighth--and finished sixth.
"The track is changing every race," noted Jamieson. " We get a little bit of rain. Then it stops. I didn't want to take anything for granted. I just wanted to be up close and let us make our own luck. The horse was awesome and he did make some luck."
Added Gillis, "I thought pretty early on he was a nice colt. I'd be lying if I thought we'd be winning the Metro but I thought we had a good colt. We did our regular routine this week. We brought him in and trained him here in around 2:12. That's just standard for him."
Gillis indicated that there likely won't be any rest for the Metro winner, as he'll probably contest next week's Champlain Stakes.
Mystician picked up a pot of $500,000 for the victory, his second stakes win after taking an Ontario Sires Stakes Gold final at Mohawk on July 15. He paid $61.10, $14.20 and $6.90, combining with Feel Like A Fool ($9.40, $6.40) for a $539.50 (9-5) exactor. A 9-5-1 (Great Vintage, $4.60 to show) triactor was worth $3,375.50 while a $1 Superfecta [9-5-1-6 (Ohmygosh Hanover) lit up the toteboard with a $15,180.80 payoff. (WEG)