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Big Weekend For Team McNair?


Published: May 25, 2012 9:30 am ET

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As stakes season heats up, the Ontario harness racing circuit hosts two major events this weekend and one trainer has a solid chance at a sweep of those two races.

Four years ago trainer Gregg McNair watched his horse Eagle Luck capture the Molson Pace in stakes record time from post eight with Trevor Henry at the lines. On Friday, he’s hoping history will repeat itself in the $300,000 Molson Pace final at The Raceway at Western Fair District.

Stonebridge Tonic, one of two starters for McNair in the track’s signature race, will leave from the trailing post eight and he’ll have the track’s leading driver, Trevor Henry at the lines. “That’s why we put him there,” joked McNair referring to Eagle Luck’s 1:51.1 victory from the same post with the same driver.

McNair’s other starter is millionaire Aracache Hanover who was an impressive winner in his elimination last week, holding of defending champion Foiled Again to win in 1:51. He had the rail for that performance and will find the going tougher tomorrow as he’s drawn the outside post seven.

“I think the best horses drew six (Foiled Again) and seven (Aracache), and those are the toughest spots to leave from at London,” he noted. “But you’ve got to start from somewhere and you never know what’s going to happen in a race, that’s why we race them. We also have a three horse entry (Ron Burke’s three starters Foiled Again, Clear Vision and Atochia) to contend with.”

“Foiled Again is probably one of the best horses in the world," added Doug McNair, Gregg's son. "I don’t know how the race is going to unfold. That’s what makes for a good race and a better betting race. It’s kind of wide open. I’d have loved to have the rail, but that’s the way it goes.”

Doug, one of the country’s top young drivers, will be in the sulky behind Aracache Hanover. “He went a monster mile last week and he’s a half-mile specialist,” Doug noted earlier this week. “The only thing we’re worried about is the post position, but that’s horse racing, I guess. I don’t know how the race is going to shape up; it’s tough to say.”

Both McNairs acknowledge that the race should be a wide open event and Gregg notes the trip to the London half-miler could be as eventful as the one on track.

“Both horses are pretty studdy, you have to be careful working with them and they can be a pain to truck. We have five in tomorrow so we may have to take two loads.”

Aracache Hanover comes into tomorrow’s event with three wins and three thirds in nine starts this year. The winner of $1,143,537 lifetime is owned by William Switala and James Martin of New York who purchased him as a yearling for $37,000. The Dragon Again five-year-old has been trained by McNair since the start of his career.

“He’s got high-end speed and he can pace the turns just as fast as the straightaways,” said Doug. “Foiled Again is another horse, like Aracache, that’s great on a half. He’s one of the toughest racehorses I’ve ever watched in my time. It’s a big thrill to line up against one like him and to have one that’s competitive enough to take him on.”

Stonebridge Tonic has also had the benefit of McNair’s expert care from the start of his two-year-old season. The now five-year-old Camluck son who has $576,000 earned to date is owned by McNair and Len Gamble. He came into the Molson eliminations off three straight wins at Yonkers’ half-mile oval.

“We had him in the Levy Series and he was slower to come back then I’d hoped but he also had some bad post positions there,” said Gregg.

To win a second Molson Pace final would be special for McNair. “It’s a great race to be in, and at London I am racing against so many of the people I grew up with. But to win another one from those posts, it will be tough.”

Secretsoftheknight heads into Saturday's Upper Canada Cup at Georgian Downs off a 1:51.1 win in his elimination race last weekend at Georgian Downs. He won by four lengths over Rebel Jet, pacing the final quarter-mile in :26.4 seconds.

“He won under wraps,” McNair said. “I think he could have won in (1):50 or better; he could’ve won by as much as he needed to go. We drew the nine hole with him, but he’s a handy horse and we’ll hope for the best. I think he’s one of the best in there. I think there are four or five competitive colts in there, if not nine. It’s a good field.”

Also trained by Gregg McNair, Secretsoftheknight won four of 14 races and $124,365 last year. His Upper Canada Cup elim victory was his first triumph in four starts this season, but he finished second twice.

He closed last year by winning three of his final four races, including the Ontario Sires Stakes Grassroots Series title. The son of Mach Three-Docs Reward is owned by Tony Lawrence, Leonard Gamble, John Newell and Graham Hopkins.

“Last year, Dad liked him at the start of the year,” McNair said. “I don’t know if he wasn’t trying; he’d throw one good race in and then go two bad ones. They definitely did a good job with him. It’s unbelievable how much he’s changed from last year to this year. They’ve got him staked heavy.”

McNair's fourth contender is pacing colt Hard To Mach, who finished second in his elim to Michaels Power. Jody Jamieson picks up the drive on this consistent colt, winless in 2012 but yet to miss the board.

"He hasn't put in a bad trip for us yet since he started back," noted McNair to Trot Radio's Norm Borg. "He's a fast colt; He just missed a :51 mark his first start back."

To listen to Gregg McNair thought's on all four of his major stakes contenders, click the play button below.

Episode 263 – trainer Gregg McNair
Audio Format: MP3 audio
Host: Norm Borg

Please note that the opinions expressed in the featured interview are those of the participants and do not necessarily reflect Rideau Carleton Raceway and/or Standardbred Canada.

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