Canada's reigning Horse of the Year made his season debut Saturday night at Mohawk Racetrack, but Nickle Bag spoiled the party with the nation's fasted mile of 2016.
A strong field of nine older pacers competed in the $34,000 Preferred Handicap pace. State Treasurer, last year's Canadian Horse of the Year, was making his 2016 debut and started from the outside post-nine. Driven by Chris Christoforou, State Treasurer was able to float out and drop in sixth as the even-money favourite. Nickle Bag, the 8-5 second choice, left hard from post-six for Trevor Henry to grab the front and post an opening-quarter of :26.
Nickle Bag kept the pace honest in the second-quarter and reached the half in :54.3. Christoforou started up State Treasurer nearing the half and the Dr. Ian Moore trainee was sent first up entering the final turn. However, cover did develop for State Treasurer rounding the final turn, as stablemate Arthur Blue Chip angled out from third at five-eighths.
After reaching the three-quarter pole in 1:22.3, Nickle Bag brought the field into the lane and waved goodbye. The Bill Robinson trainee finished off his mile with a blazing :26.2 final-quarter to win by 4 ¾ lengths in a career-best 1:49.
State Treasurer came off cover in the stretch, but was unable to gain any spots and finished fourth in his season debut, pacing home in :26.4. Mohawk Warrior came from sixth at the top of the lane to finish second, while The Rev turned his two-hole trip into a third-place effort.
A six-year-old gelded son of Rocknroll Hanover, Nickle Bag secured his ninth victory of the season Saturday. The Robinson trainee has picked up seven of his nine victories this year in the Preferred. Owned by Linda and Harry Loyens, Nickle Bag surpassed his 2015 earnings total with Saturday's victory. The veteran pacer has banked $167,860 in 15 starts this year, compared to $162,790 in 26 starts last year. Nickle Bag's victory Saturday was his 28th career triumph and it brings his career earnings to $627,490. He paid $5.30 to win.
Although State Treasurer was unsuccessful in his season debut, history shows that may not be a bad thing. The Dr. Moore trainee finished sixth last year in his debut (May 2, 2015 – Preferred Pace) before going onto divisional and Horse of the Year honors.
Also on Saturday, the second leg of The Diplomat Series was contested. A group of 13 three-year-old pacing colts and geldings were split into two $20,000 divisions.
War N Munn continued his WEG Series success with a 1:52 victory in the first division. The Carmen Auciello trainee got away fourth in the field of six for driver Jonathan Drury. Mach Power posted an opening-quarter of :28.3, but was quickly passed in the second-quarter by Shocking Image. The new leader reached the half in :57.2 and led the field around the final turn, while War N Munn charged first up to pull to within a length of the lead at the three-quarter pole.
Shocking Image reached the third marker in 1:25.3, but quickly surrendered the lead in the lane to War N Munn. The 2-5 favorite rocketed home in :26.1 for a 2 ¼ length victory. Shocking Image was second, while Mach Power finished third.
A son of Stonebridge Regal, War N Munn now has five wins in nine starts this season. The sophomore pacing colt has signature victories this season in The Count B and Youthful Series finals. War N Munn now has seven career victories and earnings of $119,261 for owner George Munnuiksma. His mile of 1:52 knocked three-fifths of a second off his previous career mark. The Auciello trainee paid $2.80 to win.
In the second division, Gerries Sport got his own way in the middle-half and finished up strong for an impressive victory.
Driven by Sylvain Filion, Gerries Sport, the even-money favourite, left from post-seven and touched down on the front just after passing the opening-quarter in :26.1. Flaherty, the 7-5 second-choice, got a two-hole trip behind the favorite.
Gerries Sport went unchallenged in the middle-half and posted panels of :55.4 and 1:25.1. The soft middle-half was the turning point, as the public's choice left his rivals behind and charged home in :26.4 for a 3 ½ lengths victory in 1:52. Flaherty maintained his position to finish second, while Worthy Art was third.
A son of Mach Three, Gerries Sport is trained by Richard Moreau for Gerrie Tucker. The three-year-old colt is now two for two to start 2016 after posting three wins in 12 starts as a rookie.
Just like War N Munn in the first division, Gerries Sport lowered his lifetime mark by three-fifths of a second. The son of Mach Three now sports a career bankroll of $56,845. Gerries Sport paid $4.20 to win.
The first leg of The Diplomat did not fail, therefore the 10 horses that earned money Saturday night have landed spots in next Saturday's $57,600 final. In order to be eligible to The Diplomat, the three-year-old pacing colts and geldings had to be non-winners of $100,000 in 2015.
Live racing resumes Monday night at Mohawk Racetrack. Post time is 7:30 p.m. (WEG)