Darling's OSS Colts Switch It Up

Jack Darling, a trainer well known for his skill with young horses, has a trio of three-year-old pacing colts competing so far in this year’s Ontario Sires Stakes, but the boys have switched things up a bit.

Cluster Hanover, who last year was the fifth leading money winner in the Gold division, is entered in one of eight $18,000 OSS Grassroots divisions on Friday night, June 13, at Mohawk Racetrack, the first Grassroots test for this division in 2014.

Cluster’s stablemate, Allstar Seelster, raced strictly in the Grassroots last year at two, but competed in this season’s first Gold event, at Western Fair on May 23 where he showed he belonged with a 1:55 front end victory.

“He’s stepped up his game a notch or two,” praised Darling of Cambridge, Ont.

The third colt in Darling’s arsenal in the glamour boy ranks is Shadowbriand, who is the only one not to switch it up, remaining in the Gold where he was a close third in the first event at London.

“Cluster is a borderline Gold horse I think. This race at Mohawk should show us where he fits,” explained Darling. “In fact, I think there are a lot of potential Gold horses in these races. There are a bunch of really good, Ontario-sired three-year-old pacing colts this year and quite a few of them are racing on Friday night [in the Grassroots].”

Although he only won one race last year as a rookie, Cluster Hanover was consistent in his nine starts, six in OSS action, to earn $94,825, which is just a few dollars shy of his purchase price of $95,000 the year before at Harrisburg.

“He was a really nice individual with a decent pedigree and he sold late in the sale when everyone’s still looking for that last good one,” noted Darling, Canada’s Trainer of the Year in 1996.

Bred by Hanover Shoe Farms, the son of Badlands Hanover is a half-brother to Artsy Princess ($253,000) and Clear View Hanover ($154,422).

“He’s a good solid horse who gives his best every time, he just hasn’t stepped it up as much as the others in the barn so far this year.”

To date in his sophomore season, Cluster Hanover has five starts with a win and two seconds, all on the Woodbine Entertainment Circuit. On May 22 he won his first race as a sophomore in a life-best 1:52.4, but came back a week later and finished ninth.

“I’m hoping we can throw that last race out, it was a horror story,” said Darling. “He got stung parked out in a wicked first quarter [of :25.4] and just got tired.”

Cluster Hanover will have his work cut out for him on Friday night. He’s drawn post eight, with Paul MacDonell down to drive, and among his competition is the half-brother to arguably the best pacer to ever compete in the Ontario Sires Stakes, Somebeachsomewhere.

'Beach's baby brother, Some Major Beach, by Major In Art, makes his 2014 debut in the race where he has post four with Chris Christoforou listed to steer. Tony Alagna entrusted trainer Mark Steacy with the colt’s care while in Canada. Last year Some Major Beach took in $138,000 from a dozen starts.

In addition to Cluster Hanover in the OSS, Darling is also starting Alibi Seelster in an overnight race at Mohawk the same night. A winner of $105,000 last year at two, primarily in the OSS, the Shadow Play filly has three wins in five tries this year.

“We’re just waiting for the OSS with her. She’s stepped it up a notch and hopefully will be a major factor this year,” said Darling, who has another nice Shadow Play filly for that division in Nefertiti Blue Chip, a winner of $130,000 last year. The first Gold for that group goes June 23.

The three-year-old pacing colts Grassroots divisions will go postward as races one, four, five, six, eight, nine, 10 and 12 on Friday night’s Mohawk card, which gets underway at 7:25 p.m.

To view Friday's harness racing entries, click on the following link: Friday Entries - Mohawk Racetrack.