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Team McNair Wants To Be Boss


Published: May 19, 2009 1:28 pm ET

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Trail Boss, a strong-willed colt with a huge motor, will carry the hopes of three generations of the McNair family into the $500,000 Upper Canada Cup at Georgian Downs on Saturday evening. However, the talented three-year-old pacer has a reputation for causing his connections more concern after the race than during.

Trail Boss’ victorious 2009 debut Mohawk was not entirely unexpected, but what happened in the winner’s circle surely was.

Well aware of the colt’s impatience, caretaker Susie Fritz acted quickly to remove the hazardous sharp-edged head number, accidentally pulling the bridle over his ears, and leaving a light headhalter his only restraint. Trail Boss promptly pressed his advantage by rearing and trying to shake loose before being brought under control by trainer and co-owner Gregg McNair and a wall of would-be helpers.

”It was just lucky we had the chain on,” said Fritz, who also groomed the sturdy colt’s sire, Apaches Fame, a Canadian Hall of Fame inductee, trained and driven by her father Bud Fritz, himself a Hall of Famer.

Gwen McNair, who co-owns with son Gregg, raised the youngster at her Walkerton farm, and was visibly relieved when the winner’s circle shenanigans ended without serious mishap. “Obviously I didn’t do a very good job teaching him manners,” she said wryly. “That first time he qualified at Grand River last year, I was so embarrassed. He was such a handful. And last year in Ottawa, he took a tour of the paddock on his own.”

But forgiveness is easy to find for a horse with Trail Boss’s staunch will to win.

“He’s got quite an engine," said Doug McNair, the wiry 19-year-old who has piloted the pacer to earnings over $267,000. The pair’s upset win in the $300,000 Battle of Waterloo last summer soon ignited opportunities beyond the limited drives he’d been getting within his father’s powerful 50-horse public stable.

These days the Guelph-based McNair is burning up the roadways between Elora, London, Clinton, Woodstock and Hanover on a regular basis, driving for various trainers. Already he’s won almost $700,000 and notched 103 wins, compared to 110 all last season. Bettors, too, have found they ignore McNair’s maroon and white silks at their own expense, as he’s currently bringing them home with a heady UDR of .315.

The Upper Canada Cup, the richest event ever for Ontario-sired pacers, will prove the ultimate challenge for both the irascible Trail Boss and his cool-headed young reinsman.

Georgian Downs is dressing itself up in a splendid early 1800s theme for the Saturday night card that will also feature the 23rd edition of the Earl Rowe Memorial Trot. Playing an important role in the colourful historic theme will be a spectacularly-decorated winner’s circle.

Trail Boss will have to bully his way past eight iron-tough opponents to wind up in the gussied-up enclosure. Should that happen, let’s hope he likes what they’ve done with the place.

(Georgian Downs)

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