Favourite Bit Of A Legend N ($3.80) and driver Jordan Stratton swept to the lead at the quarter pole and never looked back en route to winning the $150,000 Molson Pace, the final race of the meet at The Raceway at Western Fair District on Friday night (May 26).
Defending champion Evenin Of Pleasure (Sylvain Filion) fired to the lead off the gate from post five, but Stratton moved inside starter Bit Of A Legend N to the front by the :26.3 quarter mark and carved out middle splits of :55.3 and 1:23.3. Nitro Pro (Bob McClure) advanced first-over while Clear Vision (Brett Miller) and Fool Me Once (Doug McNair) rallied wide from the outer flow down the backstretch, but 4-5 favourite Bit Of A Legend N was untouchable winning in 1:51.3 by one and three-quarter lengths. Evenin Of Pleasure followed in second-place while Sunfire Blue Chip (Mark MacDonald) finished third off a ground-saving trip.
In his first Molson Pace start, Stratton drove the eight-year-old Down Under son of Bettors Delight and Sokys Legend for trainer Peter Tritton and owner Harry Von Knoblauch of Tucson, Arizona. He has been the regular reinsman for the half-mile specialist who competes primarily at Yonkers Raceway.
“The rail’s a great spot here,” said Stratton after the race. “The turns come so quick, you know, so you can hold your position to there. The front end’s been holding up all night and I was just lucky to have the rail.
“Sylvain had a real class act horse. Year in and year out, he’s here at the Molson and he’s always near the front, but I was lucky to get back to the front and control the fractions.
“I was happy I didn’t have Clear Vision first-over on me,” said Stratton of his thoughts at the three-quarter pole. “At that point, I was a little confident.”
Bit Of A Legend N earned his third win of the year following a pair of victories in the Levy Series. He now boasts 36 career wins and earnings over $1.6 million.
The Ontario Sires Stakes’ glamour boys faced off in their first Gold Series test of the season, with Walter Mitty and Happy Trio winning their respective $95,600 divisions on Molson Pace Night at The Raceway.
Trained by Richard Moreau for Toronto-based owner Synerco Ventures Inc., three-year-old pacing gelding Walter Mitty ($3.60) and driver Louis-Philippe Roy won an action-packed OSS season opener for the three-year-old male pacers in 1:56.3.
Walter Mitty inherited the lead early on when inside leaver Down On My Luck (Doug McNair) broke stride in the first turn. Big Bad Bill (Trevor Henry) forged on to his outside to take over and as Walter Mitty moved out for the retake at the :28 quarter, outsider Manceiver (Jody Jamieson) swept up three-wide.
They battled three-high turning in front of the grandstand with Walter Mitty eventually clearing and Manceiver left parked out past the half in :57 and racing alongside the leading 4-5 favourite into the backstretch.
North America Cup eligible Mc Mach (Paul MacDonell) then attempted a wide-sweeping move, but he made a miscue. Dreamfair B J (Alfie Carroll) moved up on cover and also went wide approaching the 1:26 third quarter mark with Calvin K (Sylvain Filion), another Cup eligible, fanning even wider in the final turn.
However, no one could catch Walter Mitty, who held off Calvin K down the stretch to win by one and three-quarter lengths. Dreamfair B J finished four and a half lengths back in third ahead of Manceiver and Big Bad Bill.
Unraced as a two-year-old, the Mach Three-Artimittateslife gelding has finished no worse than third in his first six starts this year. The win was his second lifetime and boosted his bankroll to $65,560.
Happy Trio ($21.90) was an impressive 1:53 winner in the second Gold division, with catch-driver Doug McNair guiding the Tony O’Sullivan trainee gate-to-wire. The Mach Three-Village Jovial colt just missed the divisional track record by one-fifth of a second.
With the inside post advantage, Happy Trio established the lead off the gate and carved out fractions of :27.2, :56.3 and 1:24.4 en route to a career-best victory. Fireball (Wayne Henry) followed two and a quarter lengths behind in the pocket while the 6-5 favoured Cup eligible Streakavana (Sylvain Filion) tipped first-over to maintain his position for a third-place finish. Red John (Trevor Henry) finished fourth and Sports Column (Chris Christoforou), another potential Cup contender, earned the final paycheque in fifth.
“I’m so proud of him, because it was the toughest division by far, on paper, and there are horses in here that have paced faster and done better,” said O’Sullivan. “But he was a good horse last year. He made good money…I think he raced bad once, other than that he was always right there.”
A Gold winner at two, Happy Trio earned his second career win in 11 starts and lifted his bankroll over the $200,000 mark for Ontario owners Domenic Chiaravalle of Hamilton, Lorne Keller of Exeter and O’Sullivan Racing Inc. of Puslinch.
The Molson Pace undercard also featured four City Of London Series finals.
Adventure Ahead ($31.30) converted off a pocket trip to pull off the upset in the $23,200 final for male trotters for the husband and wife driving and training team of Anthony and Amy MacDonald. Owned by the Adventure Ahead Stable, the three-year-old Angus Hall-Tagapine gelding was nosed out at the wire in the eliminations by Dontcrampmystyle (Bob McClure), but defeated that foe in the final by half a length, establishing a new lifetime mark of 2:01 and notching his second career win. P C Silent Drive (Curtis Clements) made it a three-across finish rallying late to show.
Pauly Wally ($2.30) delivered as the heavy favourite in the $23,000 final for male pacers, looping the early leader at the half and drawing off to win by more than a dozen lengths in 1:53.1. Bob McClure drove the four-year-old Shadow Play-Armbro Brio gelding for trainer Dean Nixon and owners Tony Basile and Andrew Atlas. Southwind Diesel (Trevor Henry) and Beach Volley Ball (Louis-Philippe Roy) rounded out the top three finish order. The win was Pauly Wally’s fourth in a row and ninth in 12 starts this year after going winless at ages two and three.
Driven by Alfie Carroll for trainer Bob McIntosh, favourite Bustingattheseams ($3.90) completed a sweep of her elimination and final with a 1:59.1 front-end effort in the $22,900 fillies and mares trot division. The three-year-old Kadabra-Tight Pants filly, who took a new mark winning for the second time in her debut season, is owned by Robert McIntosh Stables Inc. and Dave Boyle. Pink Sheep (Tyler Borth) followed one and three-quarter lengths behind the winner while Try To Resist (Travis Henry) finished third.
The final $23,200 final for female pacers was won by series sweeper Casino Classic ($6.60), who looped the favoured Northern Lauren (Sylvain Filion) for the lead during the opening quarter and never looked back. The three-year-old Classic Card Shark-Art Alliance filly was a five-length winner in a career-best time of 1:57.1 in rein to Ryan Holliday for the Manders — trainer Robert, owners Richard and Keith Manders. She scored her fourth career victory. Lotus Seelster (Louis-Philippe Roy) advanced first-over to place, while Funny Three (Anthony Haughan) came on for third.
In Preferred action, Bradley Grant’s four-year-old Somebeachsomewhere mare Heels On The Beach ($6.70) came within a few ticks of the track record for aged pacing mares with a 1:53.2 wire-to-wire score. The Richard Moreau trainee won the $11,000 distaff event by two and three-quarter lengths over Lay Lady Lay (Trevor Henry).
In another $10,000 Preferred for horses and geldings, Beach Terror ($7.20) set a new Canadian record on a half-mile track, winning the added distance 1-1/16 mile event in 2:01.3 with Nick Steward along for the ride. The seven-year-old Western Ideal gelding is owned by Vince Orlando and trainer Gordon McDonnell.
Richard Moreau earned his fourth victory on the program when Ballykeel Racing’s Mach Three homebred Boomboom Ballykeel ($5.10) and Louis-Philippe Roy overtook the pacesetter at the third quarter mark and held off late-closers Champagne Phil (Bob McClure) and Foiled Again (Matt Kakaley) to win a $12,500 Invitational Pace in 1:53.2.
Following what could be his last Western Fair appearance, track officials made a special presentation honouring the accomplishments of 13-year-old Foiled Again, a two-time Molson Pace winner and harness racing’s richest horse.
Total handle for the 12-race card was $571,282.