Some of Standardbred racing's biggest stakes races, the $667,000 Metro Pace, $634,000 Canadian Pacing Derby and the $480,000 She's A Great Lady Stakes, take a rich center stage this Saturday evening at Mohawk.
North America's finest 2-year-old pacers will be showcased in the Metro (colts & geldings) and the Shes A Great Lady (fillies) while the best older pacers on the continent will do battle in the historic Canadian Pacing Derby. Also on the card are two Simcoe Stakes - for 3-year-old filly pacers and 3-year-old trotters.
Those stakes are part of a 12-race card which will offer purses of $2.4 million. In addition, the Jackpot Hi-5 (correctly predicting the top five finishers in order) will have a mandatory payout on the final race of the night, regardless of the number of winning tickets.
The carryover pool currently stands at $647,331.22 and has been building since June 7. The Jackpot Hi-5 is won when there is only one winning ticket - except when there is a mandatory payout.
The Canadian Pacing Derby, first contested in 1936, annually brings together the finest older pacers in North America, boasting a winner's roster in the past 10 years that includes Real Desire, Art Major, Lis Mara, Mister Big and 10-year-old Foiled Again, the richest pacer in history, with over $6.3 million, who will try to win the race for a second time
Trainer Ron Burke, who won the Derby in 2010 with Won the West and in 2012 with Foiled Again, holds more than a strong hand for this year's renewal. Not only does he condition the continent's current best older pacer in Sweet Lou, but he also will send out Foiled Again and the top two from the other elimination as well, winner Clear Vision and runner-up Bettors Edge.
Sweet Lou (PP3, Ron Pierce) took his elim by one length over Foiled Again in 1:48.1.
It was his 10th consecutive win of the year, which also includes victories in the Dan Patch at Hoosier Park, U.S. Pacing Championship and Haughton at the Meadowlands and the Franklin at Pocono Downs.
"He was just on cruise control,” said Pierce, who won the 2011 edition of the Derby with We Will See. "He just does it so easy. I've never sat behind a horse like this. He's all racehorse. I love his gait, his speed, he's scary fast.”
The 5-year-old son of Yankee Cruiser-Sweet Future has banked over $3 million, but has enjoyed more success this year than ever, including a two-year-old campaign when he won 10 of 12 starts, capped by the Breeders Crown, en route to divisional honors.
Clear Vision (PP2, Brett Miller) came from last in a five-horse field to nail stablemate Bettor's Edge on the line in the second elim in 1:50.3.
"With a five-horse field, I kind of assumed it would be slow fractions,” said Miller afterwards. "If you can sit in with him and really rate him, he can fly home. That's his strong suit.”
The 8-year-old Clear Vision, who has now banked over $2 million, just missed winning last year's Derby, dropping a nose decision to A Rocknroll Dance.
Just a neck behind Clear Vision in the elim was third-place finisher State Treasurer (PP6, Chris Christoforou), trained by Dr. Ian Moore.
"He came out of the race good,” said Moore. "I think I'll just go a little easy on him this week. Get him sharp and he should be ready to go."
Completing the line-up for the 10:25 p.m. post time classic are Modern Legend (PP1, David Miller), Domethatagain (PP4, Tim Tetrick), Captive Audience (PP5, James MacDonald), Foiled Again (PP7, Yannick Gingras), Bettors Edge (PP8, Matt Kakaley), 2012 Pepsi North America Cup winner Thinking Out Loud (PP9, John Campbell) and Ellis Park (PP10, Steve Condren).
Campbell is a four-time winner of the Canadian Pacing Derby, the last with Art Major in 2003.
The Metro, which has been won in the past 10 years by such champions as Rocknroll Hanover (2004), Somebeachsomewhere (2007), Sportswriter (2009) and Captaintreacherous (2012), is headed by the elimination winners from last Saturday – Artspeak and Go Daddy Go, who earned their connections the opportunity to select a post position before the balance of the field was drawn.
Unbeaten Artspeak (PP3, Scott Zeron) will undoubtedly be favored. A perfect five-for-five, the son of Western Ideal zipped to a 4 1/2-length romp in his elim in 1:51. Trained by Tony Alagna, who also conditions 2012 Metro winner and champion Captaintreacherous, Artspeak's smallest margin of victory has been 1 3/4 lengths.
"He's an absolute freak,” said Zeron, after the colt's elim win. "When we came off the top turn I chirped to him once and he was gone. I didn't have to pull the plugs. He showed us right off the bat he's the real deal.”
Go Daddy Go (PP2, John Campbell) posted a 1 1/4-length win in his elim in a career best 1:52.4. The son of Ponder has three wins in seven outings for his Hall of Fame trainer Bob McIntosh, including the Battle of Waterloo at Grand River Raceway in Elora on Aug 4.
Hall of Famer Campbell is a four-time winner of the Metro while McIntosh, who also raced sire Ponder with great success, earning over $1.6 million, will be looking for his first win.
Completing the field for the Metro Pace, which goes postward at 9:25 p.m., are Dudes The Man (PP1, Ron Pierce), Traceur Hanover (PP4, Randy Waples), Trading Up (PP5, Doug McNair), Lyons Levi Lewis (PP6, Sylvain Filion), Pierce Hanover (PP7, Paul MacDonell), Lyons Again (PP8, Yannick Gingras), Lone Survivor (PP9, David Miller) and Amora Beach (PP10, Tim Tetrick).
The She's A Great Lady had three eliminations last week, including wins by two fillies, JK She'salady (PP3, Yannick Gingras) and Band of Angels (PP2, Ron Pierce) who have yet to taste defeat. The other elim winner was Bedroomconfessions (PP4, Scott Zeron).
JK She'salady, a daughter of Art Major trained by Nancy Johansson, was a dominating 7 1/2-length winner in the fastest elim, posting a career best 1:51.1, her fifth victory in as many starts.
"She just goes out there and does her work,” said Johansson. "She has tremendous determination, which you can obviously see on the track and she just loves what she does.”
Band of Angels, a daughter of Rock N Roll Heaven, was equally impressive, chalking up her sixth win with a five-length victory in 1:51.3.
Yannick Gingras drove both fillies in their elims but has opted for Jk Shesalady in the final at 8:45 p.m.
Completing the field are Divine Caroline (PP1, John Campbell), Solar Sister (PP5, Doug McNair), Happy Becky (PP6, David Miller), Bettor Be Steppin (PP7, Corey Callahan), Palette Tina (PP8, Randy Waples), Shakai Hanover (PP9, Jody Jamieson) and A Plus (PP10, Tim Tetrick).
Post time for the first race on Saturday is 7:25 p.m. (WEG)