Friday’s $180,000 Windy City Pace, one of Maywood Park’s pinnacle races, is a showcase event on an evening sprinkled with star-studded Standardbreds that have journeyed to Chicago’s in-town, half-miler from throughout North America.
The pacer that will have travelled the farthest to compete is Three Of Clubs. The Ontario Sires Stakes champion will be harnessed by trainer Gregg McNair, who co-owns the son of Mach Three with fellow Canadians Keith Waples and Tony Lawrence.
Three Of Clubs will come in fresh off a career-best 1:51.1 victory in the $250,00 OSS Super Final at Mohawk on October 11.
He has scored four OSS wins the past two seasons and also captured the $12,125 elim and the $138,720 Battle of Waterloo at Grand River Raceway as a freshman.
Three Of Clubs was a $25,000 yearling purchase at the 2011 Forest City Sale and is the first foal out of his dam, the Precious Bunny mare CC Kloe p, 3, 1:57f ($24,076). Lifetime, he’s amassed six wins, three seconds and five thirds from 23 starts, with a bankroll of $432,181.
Doug McNair has more Windy City victories than Hall of Fame co-owner Waples, as McNair guided Aracache Hanover to a win in 2010 for his father Gregg, and came back in 2012 to win with Pet Rock.
Also hailing from Ontario is Kentucky Sire Stakes champion On Golden Ponder . Robert McIntosh, 62, will harness the son of Ponder for just his eighth start this season. The bay three-year-old, who was foaled May 28, 2011 in Lucan, Ont., has a trio of wins this year and $120,664 in seasonal earnings.
On Golden Ponder got a late start this season due to an injury sustained during the winter months, and the tenacious McIntosh gave his youngster plenty of time to recuperate. The colt earned $74,965 as a two-year-old from nine starts with four wins and one second, and holds the record for the fastest two-year-old ever on a half-mile track, having posted a winning 1:52.2 world-record clocking in the 2013 edition of the $52,544 Standardbred at Delaware, where he drew off by six and a half lengths with Hall of Famer John Campbell at the lines.
On Golden Ponder triumphed in a pair of $15,000 legs and the $175,000 final of the Kentucky Sire Stakes at Lexington this year: on August 10 (in 1:57.2); August 24 (in 1:54.3); and August 31 (in 1:59.2).
On Golden Ponder is owned by the McIntosh Stables, Inc., of LaSalle, Ont.; CSX Stables of Liberty Center, Ohio; and Michael Kohler of Grosse Pointe Woods, Michigan. He was bred by McIntosh and CSX Stables and is the third foal out of the Intrepid Seelster mare In Trepid Water p,3,1:51.3s ($410,748), with a pair of half-siblings: Great Waters p,2,1:55.1f ($33,281) and Cool Like That p,3, 1:52h ($106,844)—both by The Panderosa.
McIntosh has conditioned 3,299 winners to $81,854,034 in career earnings and was inducted into the Canadian Harness Racing Hall of Fame in 2010. He also trained both of On Golden Ponder’s parents. In Trepid Water was a top mare on the Ontario Sires Stakes circuit as a three-year-old and Ponder p, 5, 1:48.1m ($1,522, 936), when he retired, was the fastest and richest son of The Panderosa.
The Jimmy Takter-trained Somewhere In LA, who has been a major player on the Pennsylvania Sires Stakes circuit this season, is the richest contender ($516,643) in the field of eight. The son of Somebeachsomewhere finished second in last week’s American National at Balmoral to JK Endofanera, and two weeks prior won the $41,700 Keystone Classic at the Meadows in 1:51.2. The Ontario-bred won a $50,000 Adios elim, the $55,016 Diplomat final (at Woodbine Racetrack) and was second in the $400,000 Adios final this season. He is owned by J&T Silva Stables, NY; Deo Volente Farms and TLP Stable of NJ.
Big Boy Dreams, trained by Ron Burke, has been racing in his home state of New York for most of the season, with wins at Saratoga and Batavia. He also captured the American National consolation at Balmoral last Saturday in a wire-to-wire, career-best 1:50.1 performance for driver Yannick Gingras.
Owned by Dominic Rosato of Utica, NY, Big Boy Dreams won multiple New York Sire Stakes tests at two, and to date has eight wins, three seconds and six thirds in 19 lifetime starts. A $9,000 yearling at the Morrisville, NY Sale, Big Boy Dreams is the third foal out of the unraced Art Major mare Stefani Blue Chip, and is a half-brother to Sebring Blue Chip (by Western Terror) p,3,1:55.3f ($40,891) and to Mo Molly Blue Chip (by Rock N Roll Heaven) p,2,1:58h ($34,569).
Neat is another New York-bred that comes into the Windy City fresh off four victories at Yonkers Raceway. Owned by Illinoisans Paymaq Racing and Tim Towne and trained by Erv Miller, the gelded son of Art Major has amassed $155,366 lifetime competing in the Empire State. He was a $30,000 yearling purchase at the 2012 Standardbred Horse Sale at Harrisburg and is the second foal out of his Island Fantasy dam Stonebridge Luau p, 3, 1:53S ($172,623). Neat is a full brother to Scirocco Billy p,3,1:56.1f ($34,653) and has a half-sibling in the two-year-old gelding Surf Report p,2,Q1:58.4h, by Sportswriter.
Somewhere in L A is the slight morning-line favourite in what figures to be a very competitive Windy City Pace.