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McNair Bids For Haughton Berth; OK Commander To Return

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Published: August 12, 2011 8:28 pm ET

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Young Canadian driving dynamo Doug McNair will aim for a starting spot in the $523,000 William R. Haughton Memorial with Aracache Hanover in the first of two $50,000 elimination races on Saturday night at the Meadowlands Racetrack.

The Haughton elims share the spotlight with a quartet of $175,000 New Jersey Sire Stakes Championships for three-year-olds. A doo wop concert, classic car show and benefit for announcer Larry Lederman are also on tap.

McNair and Aracache Hanover will start from Post 6 in the first Haughton elim, Race 8. The first five finishers in each elim will advance to the Haughton final on Saturday, August 20, the 2011 harness meet finale. Elim winners may select their post position for the final.

Aracache Hanover carved all the fractions only to be bested at the end by We Will See in a brilliant 1:47.3 mile in the U.S. Pacing Championship on Hambletonian Day. The four-year-old son of Dragon Again has hit the board in eight of 12 starts toward earnings of $192,452 this season. McNair's father, Gregg, trains Aracache Hanover for William Switala and James Martin of Clarence Center, New York.

"Aracache Hanover has made the adjustment to the older ranks because he always gives you 110 per cent," said the 21-year-old McNair. "There are some good four-year-olds out there right now like We Will See, but he's a very consistent horse. He set a fast pace on Hambletonian Day, and I really didn't know if We Will See was going to get to him after a perfect trip. He can leave and sit behind Bettor Sweet [Post 1 in the Haughton elim] if I have to. His gate speed is a big asset, yet he's won coming out of the two or three-hole a couple of times.

"He wasn't as sound last year as he is now," McNair noted. "My dad has done a great job with him. He's come right around, and I can't believe how good he was last week. He just keeps going in the right direction and gets better and better every week."

At three, Aracache Hanover won the $547,000 Confederation Cup at Flamboro Downs and the $200,000 Windy City Pace at Maywood Park.

"Aracache Hanover won last year's Confederation Cup, and that was my biggest win so far," McNair said. "He's always been a front-end type of horse, and that's the way I raced him that day. There was an inquiry on him in his elimination and the final. In the final, he put in a few steps around the first turn. At the wire, I put the reins in one hand to raise my whip and you're not supposed to do that. I was far in front and celebrating a big win."

McNair will also pilot Stonebridge Tonic (Post 2, Race 7) and OK Commander (Post 10, Race 9) in a pair of conditioned events for pacers.

"Stonebridge Tonic has been off a while [32 days], so I don't know how sharp he's going to be," he said. "They've been having trouble getting him in at the smaller tracks, so he's been all over. We've been kind of just taking him along with us on the trailer and he's been winning on the smaller, five-eighths tracks. He got around Georgian Downs and Tioga Downs quite well to win recently. But then again, I think the big track at the Meadowlands could step him up.

"OK Commander won a Meadowlands Pace elimination last year in 1:47.4, then he cracked his knee," he continued. "So, he's been off over a year, but he's good and tight. His latest qualifier in 1:53.1 at Mohawk was over an off track, and it was really a mile in 1:51 and change. He drew the 10-hole in a pretty tough race."

McNair began his driving career in 2008 and became the youngest to reach 1,000 wins, at age 20, in 2010. On June 21, he became the youngest driver to reach $10 million (U.S.) in career purses. He has won driving titles at Western Fair, Grand River and Woodstock.

"I'm very comfortable driving at the Meadowlands," said the Guelph, Ont. resident. "The guys are very professional and they race horses, not drivers. If you've got a good horse you get a lot of respect out there, and it's a lot of fun to race there. They've also often driven several horses in a race, so they really know the competition."

In the Meadowlands' latest video feature below, Bob Heyden talks with the eliminiation contenders, who will vie Saturday for a starting spot in the $523,000 William R. Haughton Memorial on August 20, 2011 at Meadowlands Racetrack.

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

(With files from Meadowlands Racetrack)


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