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Race Rewind: San Pail, You Da Man!

Published: October 28, 2021 8:29 pm ET

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Ten years ago, San Pail captivated harness racing fans on his way to winning one of the most iconic Breeders Crown races when he defeated the world's best trotters to cement himself as one of Canada's greatest racehorses.

A decade later, memories of that moment in Canadian sports history and their beloved trotter mean the world to the Hughes family — trainer Rod, his wife Emily and young sons.

"The whole year flew by, really, because you're always focused on the next race coming," trainer Rod Hughes recently told Standardbred Canada. "I didn't really get to take a lot of it in. But pressures were high, and you did know that it was all coming down to the Breeders Crown."

On October 29, 2011 at Woodbine Racetrack, a group of seven older trotters lined up to compete in the $602,340 Breeders Crown Open Trot. Every horse entered had achieved or would go on to achieve millionaire status. San Pail entered the 2011 Breeders Crown with a 13-2-0 record in 15 starts, and he'd need to best two of Europe's top trotters — Rapide Lebel and Commander Crowe — in the Breeders Crown to ensure Horse of the Year honours on both sides of the border for Hughes and co-owner / breeder Glenn Van Camp.

"He'd won the Credit Winner, the Allerage and the Nat Ray in the States so we had it in our mind that he had a pretty good shot at Canadian Horse of the Year but to able to pull off the big coup and get American Horse of the Year as well there, he really had to win the Breeders Crown," said driver Randy Waples. "So there was a bit more pressure coming on but there wasn't a whole lot of pressure when you drove him."

SC's Brittney Mayotte and Jeff Porchak revisit the 2011 Breeders Crown in this special in-depth SC video feature that includes a breakdown of the race — a race considered by many to be the greatest Standardbred race in the history of Woodbine Racetrack.

Featuring commentary from trainer Rod Hughes, driver Randy Waples and participant Paul MacDonell — who sat behind Define The World in that Breeders Crown event — the video highlights the effort of San Pail and the drive that clinched victory for the fan favourite, a horse that MacDonell feels reached and connected with the fans in the same way that his champion pacer Somebeachsomewhere connected so strongly three years prior.

"People just love to see a champion," said MacDonell, "and the presence that they showed out on the track...they were both attractive horses and I think that's what set them apart from others."

SC ventured to Rockwood, Ont. to catch up with the Hughes family and get a close-up look at San Pail — now 17 but looking as sharp as ever — in his well-deserved retirement.

To view the special video feature, click the play button below.

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