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The Stars Are Out At Mohawk


Published: September 12, 2009 9:40 pm ET

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A star-studded program on Saturday at Mohawk Racetrack featured two Canadian Trotting Classic eliminations for three-year-old trotters, a pair of Simcoe Stakes for three-year-old pacers and a double dose of Champlain Stakes for two-year-old pacers.

Field Determined For Canadian Trotting Classic

All eyes were on the phenomenal Muscle Hill Saturday at Mohawk Racetrack, as the three-year-old made his Canadian debut in one of two eliminations for next weekend’s $1 million Canadian Trotting Classic.

The son of Muscles Yankee, unbeaten in seven starts this year, didn’t disappoint as the 1-9 favourite, despite having to leave from the nine-hole, with Brian Sears at the controls.

The overwhelming six length winner (in 1:50.1 at The Meadowlands) of the famed Hambletonian in early August and victor in the recent World Trotting Derby (in 1:52.3 at Duquoin) made it look more than easy.

Parked to the opening quarter in 27.3 set by Photoforwin (Richard Beinhauer), Muscle Hill took over from there, coasting to the half in :56.3, reaching the three-quarters in 1:25.4, before Sears geared him down, even as he widened to win by five and one-quarter lengths in 1:53.3.

Howd That Feel (Jack Moiseyev) edged Tom Cango (John Campbell) for third, with Photoforwin fourth and Duded Up (Steve Condren) fifth. The top five in each elim qualified for the final, with the connections of the two winners getting to select post positions, before the balance of the field is drawn.

“He was pretty handy, no question about it,” said Sears. “He’s got an unbelievable gait. He’s got no wasted motion, gets very high speed. He’s like a sprinter. He can go some big numbers. When you ask him to trot, he can amaze you with how much speed he really has.”

Muscle Hill is trained by Maritimer Gregory Peck for owners Jerry Silva, TLP Stable, Southwind Farm and Muscle Hill Racing. The superstar colt has now banked more than $2.2 million in an almost unblemished career to date.

“It worked out well,” said Peck. “He had an easy trip in Balmoral [when winning the American National]. And last week at DuQuoin, it didn’t look like they were going to race [because of the weather]. I was the guy who suggested Sears leave [for his Canadian driving commitments that night]. Luke McCarthy filled in [driving] and did a good job.

“On Breeders’ Crown day last year, I decided then to try to enjoy it [the pressure] from here on in. It’s been a great ride. He’ll [Muscle Hill] do his usual [this week]. He’ll train mid-week and hopefully be at his best for next week’s final.”

Muscle Hill, who has won 16 races in a row, after losing his career debut, will now follow the hoofprints of the last two champions who flashed their greatness in the Canadian Trotting Classic - Donato Hanover in 2007 and Deweycheatumnhowe in 2008. Both were also Hambo and World Trotting Derby winners and both were also once-beaten going into the Canadian Trotting Classic final.

The second elim appeared to be far more competitive on paper, but Southern Rocketop, the 9-2 third choice, proved a handy winner from the get-go, getting some soft fractions of :27.2 for the opening quarter, :57.1 for the half and 1:26 for three-quarters.

After that, Southern Rocketop and driver Dave Magee had plenty in reserve for the stretch drive, posting a two length score over a troubled Judge Joe (John Campbell) in 1:53.4. Neighsay Hanover (Brian Sears) was third while the 4-5 choice, Explosive Matter (Ron Pierce), making his first start in a month, tired to be fourth. Airzoom Lindy and Jody Jamieson wound up fifth.

Southern Rocketop had chased Muscle Hill his last two trips, finishing third in the American National, almost eight lengths in arrears, but was just a length behind the champ in the World Trotting Derby last week.

“I thought he might be challenged a little bit up the back side, but things worked out really well,” said Magee. “The first couple of races I raced him, he wasn’t at his best, I don’t think. But last week, when he raced against Muscle Hill, was one of his best races. He was really strong to the wire. He’s pretty handy, he’s a fast colt and a pleasure to drive.”

Added trainer Robert Taylor, “We were dealing with some sickness issues for a couple of starts, but he’s kind of coming back now, now back to his A game. Last week at DuQuoin, he started feeling well and he was very good tonight. He’s been good all year up until a couple of races ago. But he’s real versatile.

“We’ll stick to the same program [leading up to the final]. He’ll train in the middle of the week and hopefully come back strong next week [for Saturday’s final].”

It was the 17th career win for Southern Rocketop, a gelded son of Psychic Spirit, owned by Powers Farms of Winchester, Tennessee.

Barn Art Pulls Off A Shocker, Well Said As Expected In Simcoe

Barn Art, at 25-1 with Sylvain Filion, scooted through on the rail to edge even-money choice Vertical Horizon in the first division of the $134,153 Simcoe Stakes for three-year-old pacers Saturday at Mohawk Racetrack.

The field was reduced to just five with the judge’s scratch of Shipps Xpectancy, and Barn Art was the longest price on the board.

Lyons Horace (Jody Jamieson) set reasonable fractions of :28 seconds for the first quarter and :57 seconds for the half, as Vertical Horizon and John Campbell enjoyed a pocket trip.

Meanwhile, Barn Art was placed in third on the inside and stayed there when Vertical Horizon came out to challenge the leader turning for home, after the three-quarters was reached in 1:25.1.

When a seam opened on the inside in mid-stretch, as Lyons Horace drifted, Barn Art took advantage, shooting to the front to score by a half-length in 1:52.1. Vertical Horizon was second and Lyons Horace hung on for third.

It was his fourth career win in 22 starts for owner Winbak Farm of Chesapeake City, Maryland and trainer Ben Wallace.

“First of all, we were just kind of hoping to get a flat line, just being careful off the gate,” explained Filion. “He has a tendency to throw his head and put himself off stride. But when he’s pacing, he can go some big trips. Around the last turn, he had a lot of pace and I could see they were kind of struggling on the front end. I knew if I could get room down on the inside, I had a shot.”

Bart Art returned a whopping $58.90 to win.

2009 North America Cup champion Well Said lived up to his 1-9 billing in the second $136,153 Simcoe division tonight, but the margin of victory wasn’t quite as generous as some had predicted.

That was thanks to a sharp and determined Carnivore and Jody Jamieson, who led the field until the final inches of the race. Jamieson sent his colt straight to the front from the inside post position, with Its A Good Thing (Randy Waples) tracking him in the pocket spot and Well Said (Ron Pierce) biding his time in third.

Just past a :55.3 half, Pierce put Well Said into motion on the outside, but Carnivore poured it on, making Well Said work for every inch of racetrack. Steps before the wire, Well Said finally nosed past his rival, stopping the timers in 1:50.2, with Carnivore second by a quarter of a length, and Rescue Plan (Jack Moiseyev) coming on for third.

Well Said, by Western Hanover, is trained by Steve Elliott for Lothlorien Stables of Caledon, Ont., and Jeff Snyder of New York, NY. This was the eighth victory in 10 tries this year for the double millionaire, who was also victorious in the $1 million Meadowlands Pace earlier this summer.

“Carnivore is a nice colt and he had his way up front,” said Pierce. “Steve Elliott told me he didn’t want me to win by any more than I had to, so … what did we win by, about four or five inches?

“This was a nice easy race for him. He’s coming into the [September 24 Little Brown] Jug just right.”

Asked about the possibility that Well Said would be skipping the fabled race, Pierce replied, “I don’t see why he shouldn’t be going to the Jug. I don’t see him having any trouble in the turns at all, and I don’t see any trouble with him going two heats.”

Sportswriter Has It His Way, Epanephrine Hangs Tough In Champlain

Sportswriter once again proved himself much the best of this two-year-old crop as he cruised unchallenged to the wire in 1:51.2, in the first of two $160,000 divisions of the Champlain Stakes for freshman pacing colts.

Jack Moiseyev sent Youkeepmehangingon to the front off the gate, with Western Thorn (John Campbell) riding in his wake, but by the 3/8 pole Steve Condren had energized Rock Me Please to overtake, and Sportswriter, with Mark MacDonald in the bike, took the opportunity to make his move right behind him. Rock Me Please’s lead lasted only seconds before the 1-9 favourite asserted himself, and once on the front end Sportswriter floated to an easy three-length lead. Rock Me Please struggled to find another gear but couldn’t, eventually settling for second with Western Thorn third.

Sportswriter, by Artsplace out of the Jate Lobell mare, Precious Beauty, is now unbeaten in six lifetime starts for trainer Casie Coleman and owners Steve Calhoun and the West Wins Stable. Last week, he set a world record for rookie pacing colts by capturing the $1 million Metro Pace in 1:49.2. His earnings now top $685,000.

“I didn’t expect that much early speed,” noted MacDonald. “I was happy to get Rock Me Please in front of me. I was hoping to maybe map out another second-over trip, [but] Steve [Condren] smelled that and moved hard, so I had to follow him.

“With any good horse, they can do it any way, and he is just awesome. You can leave with him, or race him third, or whatever you want. He’s just a pleasure to drive.

“He’s only two and he’s got a big three-year-old year [ahead] so there’s no sense going any more than we had to. We had them by three or four [lengths]. He just does it so easy.”

In the second, $158,000 Champlain division this evening, Steve Condren hustled Rock Me Please’s stablemate, Epanephrine, to the win in a lifetime best 1:53.1.

Future Million and Simon Allard set the early pace with Keystone Raptor pocket-sitting as the field moved through early panels of :27.2 and :56.0. Epanephrine tipped out from fifth just after the half-mile marker and locked horns with Future Million through a third quarter in 1:25, with the latter finally yielding in the last strides before the wire. A hard rushing Keystone Raptor found some late racing room to come on for third, with S N P Bluechip (Randy Waples) fourth.

Trained by Bob McIntosh, Epanephrine is a homebred son of No Pan Intended, owned by the Peter Pan Stables of Pepper Pike, Ohio. This was his second win in six tries, and by far the biggest payoff of his career so far.

“He’s shown he’s got some speed,” commented Condren. “He’s still basically learning what it’s all about. He had a tough position last time [in the $1 million Metro Pace] coming from the outside against all those good colts. It’s just a tough thing he had to overcome last week.

“I thought he fit in pretty good against that bunch tonight, and he proved me right.

“He’s still learning, with his open bridle he’s still trying to figure things out. He’s very good off cover. He showed some different kind of grit tonight.”

Open Paces Featured On Mohawk Undercard

Amidst of stakes-filled program on Saturday at Mohawk Racetrack, a pair of Open events also produced some thrills as favourite Bigtime Ball powered to a 1:48.4 victory in the $50,000 Open Pace and Four Starzz Meliss pulled off a 12-1 shocker in the $44,000 Fillies & Mares Pace.

In richer of the two events, Bigtime Ball and driver Paul MacDonell got away fifth from a Post 7 start while Bolero Charles (Sylvain Filion) flashed early gate speed and put up a :26 second opening quarter and :54.1 half with Ramegade Bruiser (Jody Jamieson) parked out in second. Bigtime Ball made a three-wide backstretch brush, which landed him the lead before the 1:22.1 third quarter mark. The five-year-old son of Presidential Ball-Keystone Trinidad kicked away by four and half lengths heading into the stretch and then powered home in :26.3 extending his lead to six and a half lengths.

Silent Swing (Steve Condren) and Hyperion Hanover (Rick Zeron) finished second and third.

Owned and trained by Gord Irwin, Bigtime Ball improved his seasonal record to 10-4-0 in 16 starts bringing his earnings to $362,442. The bay gelding’s 23rd lifetime scored lifted his bankroll to $966,923.

In the ladies’ event, Jason Brewer fired Four Starzz Meliss off the gate from Post 7 and the eight-year-old mare carved out panels of :26.2, :54.3 and 1:23 en route to a 1:51 score by a length.

Favourite Dreamfair Eternal (Tony Kerwood) rallied from third-over after starting from the outside Post 10 to finish second while To Helen Back (Mike Saftic) survived a first-over journey to finish third.

The daughter of Cambest-Tappy Belle is trained by Glenn Lalonde for Jennifer Lalonde of Guelph and John Nother of Brampton, Ont. The win was her ninth of the season in 18 outings giving her $193,060 in purse earnings on the year. Four Starzz Meliss, a 42-time career winner, has banked $794,506 to date.

To view Saturday's harness racing results, click here.

(With files from WEG)

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