Champagne Phil managed to avoid a backstretch spill en route to posting a last-to-first sweep in Monday’s $11,000 Preferred 2 & 3 Handicap for horse and gelding pacers at The Raceway at Western Fair District.
Champagne Phil, who was assigned Post 7 in the eight-horse affair, sat last through the first half for driver Bob McClure. Reasonable Force was allowed to chop out panels of :27.4 and :58.1 before coming under pressure from a first-over Bestofthebunch.
While those two continued their battle across the backstretch, a nasty spill occurred in the backfield. Lyons Levi Lewis (Vincent Langdon), who sat a pocket trip, made a break after being hard held and fell. Leafs And Wings (Scott Wray) couldn’t avoid the fallen horse and fell as a result. Mister X (Paul MacKenzie) was interfered with, as well, but managed to finish the mile.
In the meantime, race favourite Reasonable Force was still the leader at the three-quarter pole in 1:27 and Champagne Phil was charging three-wide as the field headed into the final quarter of the contest. Champagne Phil summoned up a :28.2 closing quarter, and that was good enough to earn him the half-length score over Reasonable Force in 1:56.2. Third prize was earned by Bestofthebunch.
Dean Nixon trains the six-year-old son of Shanghai Phil-Champagne Gal for ICR Racing of Pefferlaw, Ont. The victory was the second of the season for the 24-time winner who now boasts a bankroll that stands at $334,968.
As for those involved in the accident, drivers Scott Wray and Vincent Langdon both got to their feet quickly. Langdon booked off a drive in the fourth race while Wray continued to drive throughout the remainder of the card.
Leafs And Wings and Lyons Levi Lewis, who were both checked by the ORC Veterinarian, came away from the accident with just minor scrapes.