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Ohare Hanover crosses border for M Life Rewards Series

March 03, 2020

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Those of a certain demographic might remember the name ‘Whelan’ doing very good things at metropolitan New York-area harness tracks.

The ‘Whelan’ in question is Walter, and back in 1987, Walter Whelan teamed with then 4-year-old Armbro Emerson to take down both the Breeders Crown at Roosevelt Raceway and Yonkers Raceway’s William Haughton Memorial. Those and other stakes wins highlighted a $1.4 million racing resume (’87 Pacer of the Year) which, along with a prolific stallion career, earned ‘Emerson’ a 2006 induction into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame.

All of the above is a roundabout way of saying that Walter Whelan, the father/trainer, and Michael Whelan, the son/driver, are invading Yonkers Tuesday night, bringing with them Ohare Hanover for the opening round of the M Life Rewards Gents Pacing Series.

The event (nee the Sagamore Hill) is open to 3- and 4-year-old lads who are/were non-winners of four races and/or $50,000 through this past Dec. 1.

Welcome Ohare Hanover, a 4-year-old Russell Hanover gelding who drew post 6 in the first, $20,000 division…conveniently carded as the first of a dozen races (first post 7:05 p.m.).

The $8,000 Goshen (N.Y.) yearling purchase left a good impression up north, breaking his maiden in his 16th career start at Mohawk (1:55) late last month while taking a whole lot of back-half air. 

For the 42-year-old escort, who is set to make his local driving debut, there’s some promise with his charge.

“The last few starts, it’s clicked for (Ohare Hanover),” Mike Whelan said. “I mean, he was never bad, just mentally immature.

“We tried him in the Snowshoe Series (Mohawk) in January, but he drew badly both times and the races had no pace."

Undaunted, father, son and the rest of the Whelans (“It’s a family operation, to be sure,” Mike Whelan said) had scoped out a trip stateside.

“(Ohare Hanover) had no problem getting around the half (-mile track) at Flamboro. He’s quick-gaited and we think the small ovals may suit him better, though we weren’t disappointed how he raced in Toronto.”

Unfortunately for Team Whelan, their four-legged friend has a big bully right next door.

Semi Tough (Matt Kakaley, post 7) makes his 2020 purse debut off a $205,000 season in ’19, which ended with handy overnights wins (at odds of 1-10 and 1-20) here. The open stakes-placed 4-year-old Somebeachsomewhere gelding has earned just under a half-million-dollars.

“Ideally, I would have preferred to draw better, have the option to sit with him and hopefully make a few dollars, but this is good test for him,” Mike Whelan said. 

Tuesday’s other ‘Gent’ divisions are races 3,4 and 5. The series offer three preliminary legs leading to a $50,000 (added) finale Tuesday night, March 24. (Yonkers)

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