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Champagne Jane Looks To Pop Cork

Published: October 22, 2018 10:30 am ET

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This coming weekend at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, Bob McClure, Verlin Yoder, Simon Allard and George Napolitano Jr. will all be appearing during Breeders Crown championship night for the first time, and the quartet is set to face off in the $600,000 Two-Year-Old Filly Trot.

McClure, Yoder and Allard drove the winners of the juvenile trotting filly elims.

All 12 Breeders Crown championships, with $6.4 million in total purses, will be raced Saturday (Oct. 27) at Pocono. Post time for the first race will be at 5:30 p.m. (EDT).

McClure, a 28-year-old Canadian, piloted Champagne Jane to victory in her elimination. Champaign Jane is owned by Serge Godin’s Determination stable and is trained by Luc Blais.

McClure is third in wins and purses in Canada this year. He led Canada in wins in 2017 and 2016 and was third in 2015.

“For the last four or five years I just drove the small tracks in Ontario,” McClure said. “I moved to [the Woodbine Entertainment circuit] last December and it snowballed from there. A lot of good stables have picked me up. That makes all the difference in the world.”

Champagne Jane, by Holiday Road and out of Dicent No, broke her maiden with her elimination win. She has hit the board a total of seven times and entered the Breeders Crown off of a second-place finish in her Ontario Sires Stakes Super Final.

“She’s been getting better every week,” McClure said. “She’s been battling some health issues, so the colder weather helps and Luc’s got her healthy. She’s always showed ability, she just lacked that last step. She seems to have found it at the right time.”

Champagne Jane, pictured victorious in her Breeders Crown elimination on Oct. 19, 2018 at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono

McClure, who has 2,207 career wins, also won a Breeders Crown elimination with the Paula Wellwood-trained two-year-old male trotter Smart As Hill.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” McClure said. “Hopefully it stays fun.”

Yoder is the owner-trainer-driver of Woodside Charm, who is a perfect six-for-six heading into her Breeders Crown final and won her elimination by 12 and a half lengths over Stella Jane.

“We did what we had to do,” Yoder said. “She’s an absolute professional. We don’t know how or why, but we’re enjoying the moment.

“It’s pretty cool,” he added about appearing in the final. “It probably won’t sink in until we get there. It’s going to be a pretty neat experience.”

Allard drove When Dovescry, by Muscle Hill and out of Cedar Dove, to a win in her elimination. She has won four of six races and has never been worse than third. She is owned by Go Fast Stable, Yves Sarrazin, Kapildeo Singh, and Lawrence Dumain. Rene Allard is the trainer.

When Dovescry won her elimination in gate-to-wire fashion after having come from off the pace in all but one of her previous races.

“We were very patient with her, trying to teach her the right things, to come from the back,” Simon Allard said. “We didn’t really want to teach her to leave because we knew that she would have done that very easily.

“We were very confident she had explosive speed and knew all along she was a great filly.”

George Napolitano Jr. has won more races than any driver in the history of The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, but it was a second-place finish at his home oval that proved to be a winner in terms of punching his ticket to his first Breeders Crown final.

Napolitano guided Stella Jane to a runner-up finish behind undefeated Woodside Charm in their elim to advance to the final.

Napolitano, who has won 11 driving titles at Pocono, drove Stella Jane for owner Crawford Farms Racing and trainer John Butenschoen. Crawford Farms also bred the filly, a daughter of Crazed out of Naughty Nana.

The 52-year-old Napolitano, a New York native who splits his time between Pennsylvania and Florida, has won 9,360 races in his career, which ranks him 21st in North American harness racing history. He was also the North American dash-winning champion in 2010 when he won 748 times.

Napolitano is looking forward to steering his young mount in her Breeders Crown final on Saturday.

“It’s going to be exciting,” Napolitano said. “I thought (Stella Jane’s elimination) was amazing. I was totally satisfied. She’s an awesome little horse to drive and she’s got a great trainer and great owners.”

Stella Jane has won two of 11 races and hit the board in eight of her most recent nine starts. Napolitano has now driven the filly twice (he had previously won a division of the Simpson Stakes with her on September 27 at Harrah’s Philadelphia).

“The Crawfords have had luck with the horses that they own with George,” Butenschoen said. “He won with Stella Jane at (Philly), so I said ‘let’s put him up.’ It’s his home track and maybe we can get some karma going. I guess it worked.”

Napolitano has won more than 500 races in nine consecutive years, including this season. He is on his way to another driving title at Pocono, which would be his seventh in a row, and is battling with Tim Tetrick for his fifth consecutive title at Harrah’s Philadelphia.

“I kind of stayed local,” Napolitano said. “I made an agreement with myself years ago and I’m happy with doing it this way, with this place, (Philly) and Pompano. That’s good enough for me.

“I think it’s a pretty big accomplishment doing the two tracks, here and (Philly). It’s a tough grind, but we’re getting it done. It’s a matter of having great people around you. Trainers that it would take forever to mention keep on consistently putting me back on horses. That is the difference right there. I have a lot of great owners that love me and I love them. It’s an awesome journey.”

So will Napolitano have a home-track advantage in the Breeders Crown?

“I think you’ve got to have a good horse,” he said with a smile. “That’s the biggest advantage.”

The draw for the $600,000 Breeders Crown final for two-year-old filly trotters appears below. Elimination winners drew for posts one through five in an order determined by lot.

1-When Dovescry-Simon Allard-Rene Allard
2-Woodside Charm-Verlin Yoder-Verlin Yoder
3-Champagne Jane-Bob McClure-Luc Blais
4-Cloud Nine Fashion-Tim Tetrick-Jim Campbell
5-Special Honor-Andy Miller-Julie Miller
6-Whispering Oaks-Yannick Gingras-Jimmy Takter
7-Miss You Kelly-Tim Tetrick-Bruce Lauer
8-The Ice Dutchess-Yannick Gingras-Jimmy Takter
9-Stella Jane-George Napolitano Jr.-John Butenschoen

(With files from the Breeders Crown)

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