Grand Circuit week concluded Saturday at Woodbine Mohawk Park with three divisions of the Simcoe Stakes for 3-year-old pacers. A group of 14 sophomore pacing colts and geldings were separated into a pair of $83,342 splits, while a talented field of six pacing fillies battled for a purse of $150,996. Just a week after winning the Messenger, Stay Hungry brought his ‘A Game’ to win a tough battle in the second Simcoe division.
Driven by Doug McNair, Stay Hungry was unhurried in the beginning and got away fourth. Backstreet Shadow and driver Yannick Gingras circled from second to first at the opening-quarter and rolled the field by the half in :55.
McNair gave Stay Hungry his cue to charge first-up going to the three-quarter pole and was almost three lengths from the lead when Backstreet Shadow reached the third station in 1:23.1.
In the stretch, McNair dropped Stay Hungry onto the back of Gingras briefly before coming back out for an exciting stretch duel. Stay Hungry paced home in :25.4 and was able to edge a game Backstreet Shadow by a nose in 1:49.3. Hidden Delight was third.
"The way the draw set up I figured that was the way the race would go," said McNair following the victory. "I would be a late first-over and Yannick’s horse would be sprinting home hard."
Trained by Tony Alagna, Stay Hungry is being pointed towards potential history at the Little Brown Jug on Sept. 20. The son of Somebeachsomewhere has captured the opening-two legs of the Pacing Triple Crown, Cane Pace and Messenger, and is now five for 11 with $683,031 earned this season for owners Brad Grant and Irwin Samelman Estate.
"The Jug is in a couple weeks and that’s what they are aiming at, but it was great to get a win back home," said McNair. "That’s all they are going to be talking about from now until the Jug is the Triple Crown, but he’s won two of the first three legs and that’s special."
Stay Hungry’s career numbers now sit at 11 wins and over $1.2 million earned. He paid $2.90 to win.
Jeff Gillis trainee The Downtown Bus continued his run of stops at the winner’s circle by posting a 1:50.2 victory in the first division for colts and geldings.
Driven by Tim Tetrick, The Downtown Bus shot out to the lead and got to call the shots, posting fractions of :27.3, :56.1 and 1:23.1 to lead into the stretch. Tetrick pulled the plugs on The Downtown Bus at the three-quarter pole and the Gillis trainee was able to last on the lead, finding the line in time to hold off a charge from Torrin Hanover for a length score. Babes Dig Me finished third, while Dragon Time was fourth.
The Simcoe victory extends The Downtown Bus’ current win streak to three.
"He’s turned the corner and Jeff has done a great job with him," said Tetrick, who has driven the gelded son of Mach Three throughout his current win streak. "Last week he trained around there pretty good in (1):49 and today he was up in little more open class and some better-bred horses and he still got the job done. I was pretty proud of him."
A homebred for Gillis and Ellen Ott, The Downtown Bus now has eight wins and $218,354 earned in 19 starts this season. The Grand Circuit victory increases his career earnings to $238,700.
A $2 win ticket on The Downtown Bus returned $4.20.
Shower Play continued her flare for the dramatic by delivering another stunning final-quarter rally to win the Simcoe Filly Stakes in 1:52. Driven by Louis-Philippe Roy, Shower Play got away fifth in the field of six and appeared to have a mountain too big to overcome when Youaremycandygirl got her own way on the front, posting fractions of :26.4, :56.4 and 1:24.1.
Youaremycandygirl opened up a lead of nearly four lengths at three-quarters, while race favorite Kissin In The Sand was second-over and Shower Play third-over with more than seven-lengths to overcome.
Kissin In The Sand and Shower Play both delivered furious stretch rallies to track down Youaremycandygirl in the final-eighth with Shower Play unleashing a :26.3 kicker to reach the line first. Kissin In The Sand finished second, beaten 1-1/4 lengths, while Youaremycandygirl crossed in third.
"It’s always fun to win races on the front, but to go by everybody is a better feeling for sure," said Roy following the race. "I give credit to Rene and Susie because in the middle of the summer we had some steering issues with her, so they worked a lot on her and did some changes and I think she’s come back better than she was at the beginning at the season."
Trained by Rene Dion, Shower Play also defeated Kissin In The Sand in June’s $415,000 Fan Hanover. The daughter of Shadow Play has now earned $415,563 in 10 starts this season for owners Dion, Susie Kerwood and Martin Leveillee.
The Simcoe victory gives Shower Play five wins this season and eight overall. Her career earnings jump to $454,300 with the victory. (WEG)