September Saturdays at Woodbine Mohawk Park typically feature many of harness racing's best in competing in Grand Circuit stakes events. This weekend, the final Friday and Saturday of August, sets the stage for the first big Saturday on Sept. 2.
The top older pacers and trotters in the sport head north of the border for two of their respective divisions' biggest races. The eliminations for the 2023 Maple Leaf Trot were set to be contested on Friday, Aug. 25 but elims weren't needed after the names of eight older trotters were dropped into the entry box. Here are the horses advancing straight to next week's $600,000E final:
Alrajah One IT
Rattle My Cage
Its Academic, Sermon and Venerate will prep for the Maple Leaf Trot in a qualifying race on Thursday, Aug. 24 at The Meadowlands.
In action on Friday's card will be the province's top three-year-old trotting colts in the fourth Ontario Sires Gold leg of the season. A number of those competitors will likely be back on the track for the Simcoe on Saturday, Sept. 2. Sophomore trotting fillies also have the Simcoe on their stakes calendars for Sept. 2, and many of those eligibles will hit the track this Friday in two $71,050 Casual Breeze divisions.
Righteous Resolve (PP3, James MacDonald, 8-5) gets morning line favouritism in the first Casual Breeze split. The Matt Bax trainee was picked off in her last Ontario Sires Stakes test, and she's only won once this year in five outings but she's 1-1-3 in those starts including a hard-fought third in the 2023 Hambletonian Oaks. Baroness Hill (PP6, Doug McNair, 5-2), Tactical Planner (PP4, Tyler Jones, 9-2) and Muscling Vegas (PP5, Paul MacDonell, 10-1) are known entities for Righteous Resolve, with Maryland stakes star Call Me Goo (PP7, Sylvain Filion, 6-1) shipping north to the barn of Dr. Ian Moore on a seven-race win streak.
The horse that boasts two straight wins over Righteous Resolve is Climb The Pole (PP1, Jody Jamieson, 3-1), one of the top contenders in the second Casual Breeze division. She took her mark of 1:54 in her most recent win on Aug. 15, one fifth of a second slower than the filly in the field with the fastest win — 2022 O'Brien Award finalist Silly Me Hanover (PP7, Louis-Philippe Roy, 8-5). Early season OSS Gold winner HP Extra Ice (PP6, Filion, 9-2) also looks to factor.
Saturday's card features the $620,000 William Wellwood Memorial and $425,000 Peaceful Way finals — to read the recap from those elims, click here — but the undercard is stacked with eliminations for the Canadian Pacing Derby and divisions of the Eternal Camnation and Nassagaweya for two-year-old pacers.
The $50,000 elims for the Canadian Pacing Derby are carded as the fourth and ninth races on Saturday, featuring 17 of harness racing's top older competitors. The first elimination features a trio of Hanover-bred speedsters. Abuckabett Hanover (PP1, Dexter Dunn, 3-1) defeated a number of these rivals on Canadian soil earlier this season with his win in the 2023 Mohawk Gold Cup Invitational for trainer Andrew Harris. World champion Ruthless Hanover (PP8, Tim Tetrick, 7-2) is the fastest horse in North America this year by virtue of his 1:46.3 mile at Harrah's Philadelphia, and he makes his Canadian debut on Saturday. Linedrive Hanover (PP7, James MacDonald, 4-1) returns to Canada after two stateside starts. He was a winner in back-to-back efforts against Mohawk's free-for-allers in his most recent local appearances.
Bythemissal (PP4, Yannick Gingras, 6-5) is the highest ranked older pacer in the most recent Hambletonian Society/Breeders Crown harness racing poll, and he's the horse to knock off in the second Canadian Pacing Derby elimination. He's won five of six starts this season for trainer Ron Burke, with back-to-back wins against top older pacers in his McKee Memorial division on Hambletonian Day at The Meadowlands and the Myron Charna Invitational at Northfield Park. The other McKee Memorial division from Hambo Day was won by Allywag Hanover (PP6, Todd McCarthy, 7-5), the winner of this race back in 2021 and not a participant in the 2022 edition. Warrawee Vital (PP2, Trevor Henry, 8-1) is the fastest horse on Canadian soil this year by virtue of his 1:46.4 track record-matching effort on Pepsi North America Cup day. He was a runner-up in his Canadian Pacing Derby elim in 2022.
Two-year-old pacing fillies head postward in two $114,350 Eternal Camnation divisions, slated as the second and sixth races on Saturday night.
Reigning Jade (PP3, Bob McClure, 3-1) hasn't missed the board in three starts for trainer Shawn Steacy. She's also the co-fastest (along with 5-1 choice Odds On Platinum) in the field with her 1:52.2 mark. Two fillies in this split have paced faster, but in losing efforts. Genie Hanover (PP6, Todd McCarthy, 7-2) finished second in her most recent outing on Aug. 4 at The Meadowlands, pacing her mile in 1:51.3. Pass And Stow (PP7, James MacDonald, 4-1) finished third in a PASS event at The Meadows on Aug. 17, individually timed in 1:51.
Caviart Belle (PP8, Gingras, 6-5) was the winner of the aforementioned PASS division, and she looks the best in the second Eternal Camnation division. The Nancy Takter trainee sports a 3-2-0 summary from five starts, and her 1:50.2 mark is the second fastest for her division this year. Elodie Hanover (PP7, David Miller, 7-2) hasn't missed the top three in four starts, and her most outing was her best — a 1:52.1 winning effort in the Whenuwishuponastar Series final. Its A Love Thing (PP2, J. MacDonald, 5-1) is also four-for-four in the top three this year, with her 1:52.2 speed badge taken in a leg of the Whenuwishuponastar on Aug. 3. She didn't race in the final.
A total of 26 freshman pacing colts are split into three Nassagawaeya divisions on Saturday, with two nine-horse dashes competing for $93,700 and a single $92,700 division with eight horses entered.
Legendary Hanover (PP1, McClure, 7-5) has yet to taste defeat in his three-start career, and the sibling to fellow Anthony Beaton trainee Linedrive Hanover goes for four in the first Nassagaweya division. He comes into this race fresh off his 1:50 lifetime best effort in the Dream Maker final on Aug. 12. Remember The Alamo (PP6, McNair, 3-1) was sent off as the betting favourite in the Dream Maker, but suffered broken equipment and finished fifth. Calicojack Hanover (PP5, Louis-Philippe Roy, 6-1) is unbeaten in two overnight events at Mohawk and makes his first stakes start.
Funtime Bayama (PP9, Sylvain Filion, 6-5) and Do Better (PP2, McClure, 7-2) faced off last Saturday in OSS action, with Richard Moreau trainee Funtime Bayama emerging victorious in a 1:51.1 effort. He'll look to best the 2023 Battle of Waterloo champ Do Better once again on Saturday. Captains Quarters (PP8, Jody Jamieson, 5-1) sprinted home in :26.1 in his only appearance on Aug. 11 and looms as the unknown quantity in his first test against this level of competition.
With two favourites and one second choice, Bob McClure has a legitimate shot of sweeping the Nassagaweya splits. On paper, with 4-5 odds, Mirage Hanover appears to be his best chance. He leaves from post seven in the third division for trainer Scott McEneny. On paper, the argument could be made that Total Stranger (PP1, Yannick Gingras, 7-2) has the best chance to win as the full brother to the 2020 U.S. Horse of the Year Tall Dark Stranger. Unlike his ultra-talented sibling, Total Stranger hasn't started and won't start his career with seven straight wins as he's winless in four but the runner-up three times, including to Mirage Hanover last time out in his Canadian debut. Hungry To Win (PP4, Andrew McCarthy, 6-1) is the third choice on the morning line.
The top Ontario-sired entrants in the Eternal Camnation and Nassagaweya also have a schedule that could keep in them in action at Mohawk next week with the fourth leg of the Ontario Sires Stakes Gold Series slated for Sept. 2.
First post time for Mohawk is now set for 7:10 p.m. To view the entries, click one of the following links: