Harness racing’s Glamour Boys had their turn in the Simcoe Stakes spotlight on Saturday night at Mohawk Racetrack while the sport’s young up-and-coming pacing stars faced off in a quartet of Champlain divisions.
Vegas Vacation set a new record of 1:48.3 in the final Grand Circuit event of the night, lowering the mark Blissed Out established back in 2004 by one-fifth of a second.
Sunshine Beach (Chris Christoforou) insisted on the leading role and carved out fractions of :26.4, :55 and 1:22.2 before Vegas Vacation powered home from the pocket in :25.4 to prevail by one and three-quarter lengths. Sunfire Blue Chip (Yannick Gingras) finished back in third.
"Really every start this year he's raced awesome," said Casie Coleman, who trains and co-owns the Bettors Delight-Dont You Smile gelding. "He always comes to call and does everything you ask of him.
"Last week if you watch that race [the Cane Pace at Tioga Downs] he was locked in along the rail [finishing fourth by three-quarters of a length] and just didn't have the luck to get out for racing room, but today he had lots of clear daylight and away he went."
After earning just one win from 10 starts at two, Vegas Vacation has put together a sophomore record reading 7-3-1 in 13 starts while adding over $550,000 to his bankroll. He is owned by the Ontario-based West Wins Stable of Cambridge, Adriano Sorella of Milton, Anthony Beaton of Waterdown and Phyllis Saunders of Hamilton.
Vegas Vacation and stablemate Lucan Hanover will be heading to the upcoming Little Brown Jug.
In the earlier division, Fool Me Once leap-frogged around early leader Captive Audience (Randy Waples) past the opening quarter mark and kept the popular first over challenger, Coleman trainee Lucan Hanover (David Miller), at bay en route to a 1:49.4 victory. Captive Audience finished second over Lucan Hanover two lengths behind.
“He kind of likes the front end and he likes the big track,” noted Dan Smith, who is among partners on the Art Major-Fool That I Am colt with trainer Mark and Julie Austin. “He was really good tonight."
Fool Me Once is now nine-for-12 this year with a perfect four-for-four record in the New York Sires Stakes. He banked over $370,000 in purses in his sophomore season.
“Last year he was maybe one step behind the real good ones and we didn’t want to get caught in the same situation where you race against the big ones and get fourth or fifth all year so we put him in New York Sires Stakes where we thought he’d be more than competitive," said Smith of the colt's sophomore racing schedule. "Hindsight is 20-20, we missed a few, but it’s a long year and we got a lot of races left to go.
“When you get a good one -- and they are very rare to get -- you appreciate the great ones and he’s a damn good horse, this horse," added the London, Ont. owner. "You appreciate the real good ones because you have to go through a lot to get one like this.”
After getting away mid-pack from the 10-hole, the Tim Tetrick-driven Winds Of Change stormed home off cover to score in a three-across finish with fellow late-closers Jet Airway (Corey Callahan) up the inside and Crafty Master (Doug McNair) to his outside.
The 1:51.4 winning time was a new mark for the homebred American Ideal-Arts Temptress colt, who is owned by Brittany Farms of Versailles, Kentucky and Val Dor Farms of Millstone, New Jersey.
After requiring surgery as a youngster, the Linda Toscano trainee now sports a 2-1-2 record in seven starts and will take aim at more Grand Circuit stakes action in Lexington in the coming weeks.
“He was injured as a yearling and they had an operation on him as a yearling,” explained co-owner Myron Bell. “There was screw left in his leg and he was dead lame on it and we had to withdraw him from the sale. We gave him to Linda around the beginning or middle of December and he’s come a long way in a short time.
“She liked him from the get-go and we staked him accordingly. He’s out of a great mare, Arts Temptress. This is the fourth colt out of that mare and he looks like a player.”
Rebounding from a break in stride in the Metro Pace with Yannick Gingras catch-driving, Luck Be Withyou made a quarter-pole move sweeping from third to first and fought off first over Fort Knox (Scott Zeron) to win by three-quarters of a length in 1:52 flat. Some Major Beach (Brian Sears) finished third.
The Western Ideal-Trim Hanover colt was purchased for $77,000 as a yearling at the Lexington Select Sale by John Craig of North York, Ont. and is trained by Bill Cass.
“We were all surprised to get him for $77,000,” said Cass of the brother to world champion American Jewel. “Yannick Gingras drove America Jewel and made all the money with her so we thought this would be a good match tonight to get him on the brother.”
Breeders Crown hopeful Luck Be Withyou earned his first stakes win in the Champlain and third in eight career starts.
Driver Jody Jamieson sent Shes Da Bomb into the outer flow down the backstretch and the favourite rallied home off cover around the final turn en route to a two and three-quarter length victory in 1:52.3. Longshot Porsche Seelster (Doug McNair) and Impatience (Sylvain Filion) finished second and third after making appearances on the lead throughout the mile. First over I Need Hotstuff (Tim Tetrick) was fourth.
The Art Major-Armbro Bombay filly, whose only blemish in five career starts was in the Shes A Great Lady Stakes eliminations, is trained by Tony O’Sullivan and was a $100,000 Lexington Selected Yearling Sale purchase for owner Frank Bellino of Bronxville, New York.
“In this life it’s good to get second chances and that exactly what Tony and this ownership group did was give me a second chance on her," said Jamieson. "I got her obviously in the worst position possible [in her elimination] and I take full responsibility for not making the Shes A Great Lady final.
"This is a really nice filly," he continued. "Talking to Tony, she comes in off of not a lot of work and put in a pretty good effort there down the stretch to get there first, but down by the wire was wrapped up. It was just good to get to get a chance to drive her again and she just showed her true class."
Shes Da Bomb is being pointed to the Breeders Crown and may make an appearance in Lexington.
Driver Doug McNair sent Precocious Beauty from third to first at the half-mile mark in their division and cruised home to win in 1:52 with early leader Beach Gal (Scott Zeron) and Bahama Blue (Jody Jamieson) chasing her to the wire.
“Speed wasn’t a big factor tonight,” said McNair. “Once Scotty crossed over I figured he be waiting on me and when I called on my filly at the top of the stretch she exploded again so it just goes to show you how great she is.”
McNair’s father Gregg trains the Art Major-Precious Beauty filly, who has won four consecutive stakes including a division of the Eternal Camnation and last weekend’s Shes A Great Lady for owner/breeder James Avritt of Lebanon, Kentucky.
“You always dream of having one as good as her and she’s really shown how good she is the last three or four starts so it’s just great to drive her,” added McNair.
Precocious Beauty’s dream season could continue with stakes assignments in Lexington and the Breeders Crown on her radar later this season.
For full coverage of tonight's Canadian Trotting Classic eliminations, click here.
To view Saturday's harness racing results, click on the following link: Saturday Results - Mohawk Racetrack.