Metro champ Stag Party wins qua. in '19 debut
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The conditions weren't ideal and the listed driver wasn't available but that didn't stop 2018 O'Brien Award winner Stag Party from making a successful sophomore debut on Friday.
Stag Party was the most notable of the horses entered to qualify on a soggy session at Woodbine Mohawk Park, with the track listed as “sloppy” and assessed a three-second allowance from the AGCO judges. Those conditions did prompt some horses to scratch from the Friday session, but trainer Casie Coleman wasn't concerned and sent out her 2018 Metro Pace winner for his first charted mile of 2019.
Coleman told Standardbred Canada in advance of the mile that driver David Miller was initially listed to drive but was unable to attend as he's serving days for a driving suspension--and in Ontario, a driver cannot qualify a horse while serving a suspension, different from the rules stateside. That prompted Coleman to enlist Louis-Philippe Roy aboard Stag Party in the morning's first qualifier.
Roy settled Stag Party away comfortably in fourth while Lyons Coppertop (Colin Kelly) carved out panels of :30.1, 1:00 and 1:29.2. Shortly before the third station, Roy right-lined Stag Party from fourth and received cover around the final turn from a pocket-popping Quebec Blue Chip (Jody Jamieson). Turning for home, Roy tipped Stag Party off that helmet into the three path and the sophomore sped home under no urging to collar the pacesetting Lyons Coppertop and trip the timer in 1:56.3.
"Really happy with him," Coleman told Standardbred Canada after the mile. "Louie said he was strong through wire, perfect manners...the track's a bit off and we didn’t expect a half in 1:00. Louie drove him perfectly.
"He wouldn't blow out a match and hasn't been a fast mile in three weeks since he shipped," Coleman continued. "He needed that nice easy start so I'm very happy with the way it went."
Coleman noted that Stag Party will qualify a second time, likely pointed for the Monday, May 13 session at Mohawk.
A son of Bettor’s Delight-My Lady Day, Stag Party enjoyed a brilliant rookie season in 2018 that included six victories and more than $514,000 in purse earnings. The colt didn’t miss the board in any of his nine races, with his biggest win in the $685,300 Metro Pace. Among his victories were a 10-length romp in his Nassagaweya divison and two Ontario Sires Stakes events, including a Canadian record 1:52.3 performance over Grand River Raceway's half-mile oval in August. The colt is owned by John Fielding of Toronto, Mac Nichol of Burlington, McKinlay & Fielding of Toronto and Coleman's West Wins Stable of Cambridge, Ont.
Stag Party has been installed as the 4-1 favorite in the 2019 TROT Magazine Pepsi North America Cup Spring Book.
Sophomore trotters Dark As A Pocket and Knight Angel made strong strides toward prepping for purse money in their respective qualifiers. Trotting filly Dark As A Pocket made every call for driver Paul MacDonell and trainer Mike Keeling en route to a 1:59.3 mile that was 17 lengths better than her closest rival.
Dark As A Pocket (Trixton-Mariongotchocolate) is owned by the Dreamville Stable of Cambridge, Ont. She took a mark of 1:55.4 at The Red Mile, one of her three rookie season scores.
Trotting gelding Knight Angel looked like a seasoned veteran in his second qualifier of the year. Unfazed by a breaking tempo-setter White Tiger (James MacDonald) in his face at the half-mile station, Knight Angel inherited a lead that looked to be his for the taking. He opened up daylight approaching the third station and powered home to hit the wire in 1:57.4, nearly five lengths the best.
Shane Arsenault trains Knight Angel (Archangel-Dream Taker) and co-owns along with Justin Fisher, Gary Leeming and Giuseppe Mascia. Knight Angel picked up a win in an OSS Gold event at Grand River last year and managed two runner-up finishes in Gold events for the majority of his $68,178 (C) rookie bankroll.
Making her first appearance as an older competitor, pacing mare Alexis Faith paced home in :27.1 for driver James MacDonald to best her qualifying rivals in 1:57. Casie Coleman trains Alexis Faith (American Ideal-Cannae Cammie) for Crawford Farms Racing. (with files from SC)