MILTON, September 7, 2019 – Trainer Tony Alagna was set up for a successful Saturday night at Woodbine Mohawk Park and walked away with a trio of victories in the Champlain and Simcoe Stakes.
A total of five stakes races were contested on Saturday’s 12-race card. Rookie pacers made up the bulk of the marquee events with four Champlain divisions, while a field of seven sophomore pacing fillies clashed in the $168,557 Simcoe Stakes.
Although the races aren’t contested on paper, the Alagna barn entered Saturday’s stakes with the morning-line favourite in all five races. A new saying of “three out of five ain’t bad” could work following Saturday’s action.
Alagna’s Tall Drink Hanover ran her win streak to five races, taking the Simcoe in stakes-record fashion.
Sent on her way as the 2-5 choice, the three-year-old daughter of Captaintreacherous watched the early proceedings from third spot, but was given her cue from driver Andrew McCarthy just moments after an opening quarter-mile paced in :26.4.
Setting the tone through a half-mile in :54.3, Tall Drink Hanover and McCarthy were still in command after three-quarters in 1:22.3, and then braced for the challenges of Boadicea and Sunny Dee as the field straightened for home.
‘Tall Drink’ dug in gamely to repel a closing Boadicea, who settled for second, crossing the wire a half-length winner in a new Simcoe Stakes standard of 1:49.1. Sunny Dee was third and Better Single was fourth.
“I was looking at the lines on that mare (Boadicea) Jonathan (Drury) was driving, and even Trevor Henry’s filly (Sunny Dee) – they both looked like they’ve been racing terrific,” said McCarthy. “Jonathan’s mare sounded like she had a lot of go behind me, and mid-stretch, I kind of had to call on her and make sure she went right on because I knew she was coming.”
Tall Drink Hanover arrived at the Simcoe off four-consecutive stakes tallies, including wins in a division of the Adioo Volo and the $100,362 Shady Daisy final, for owners Alagna Racing LLC, Marvin Katz and Riverview Racing LLC.
After a tough start to her season, the bay, bred by Hanover Shoe Farms, now has seven wins from 11 starts on the campaign.
“She had an unfortunate start, a couple bad posts, a couple bad trips,” noted McCarthy. “But she’s really making up for lost time now. She’s gotten very sharp.”
She paid $2.90 for the Simcoe score.
The Alagna barn also made trips to the winner’s circle at the start and conclusion of the four Champlain divisions.
Reflect With Me was dominant in her capture of the first $94,299 Champlain division for two-year-old pacing fillies.
The Alagna trainee beat five foes in a stakes record 1:51.1 for her third consecutive stakes victory. Kat finished 2¾ lengths adrift of the odds-on favourite, with Karma Seelster finishing third.
Driver McCarthy sent Reflect With Me to the lead in a backstretch brush after getting away fourth from post four. He would not be required to lift a line again as his Captaintreacherous filly remained in control for the remainder of the mile. Early leader Kat turned away fourth-place-finisher Off the Press in a :27.3 opening quarter, but Reflect With Me would trip the teletimer for the remaining fractions with a half in :56, three quarters in 1:24.1, and a lively :27 final quarter. Kat was unable to make headway down the lane after riding the pocket for the majority of the mile, while Karma Seelster showed late pace to grab the show spot.
“She was very good tonight,” said McCarthy. “She had a couple of weeks off to freshen her up a bit, and she was feeling really good about herself tonight once I got her to the front. Midway through the last turn the engine started revving, and she wanted me to let her pace a little bit, but I was just trying to keep her steady. Then I let her pace in the stretch and she was good.”
She has now visited the winner’s circle four times from six outings and earned more than $130,000 for owners Brittany Farms and Brad Grant. Her trophy cabinet also includes silverware from the Whenyouwishuponastar and the Eternal Camnation, both of which she won in August. A win ticket on her returned $2.50.
Capt Midnight triumphed in the $89,938 second Champlain division for two-year-old rookie pacers, giving trainer Alagna and driver McCarthy both a stakes hat trick on the card.
A $350,000 Harrisburg yearling purchase, Capt Midnight’s victory boosts his win streak to four and improves his record to four victories in six starts for owners Marvin Katz, Kenneth Jacobs, Brad Grant and Captain Kirk Racing.
McCarthy and the bay colt watched an early tussle for the lead unfold, as Allywag Hanover and Aneto duked it out through brisk early fractions of :26 and :54.
After three-quarters reached in 1:22.1, a patient McCarthy roused Capt Midnight, who responded in kind.
Down the lane, the pair widened their advantage at will, crossing the wire in a stakes record-equaling 1:50.2.
“I kind of let him step out of there a little bit,” said McCarthy. “There’s a stampede getting into that first turn, so I just lagged back a little bit and watched it unfold. The trip worked out great for me, really.”
The son of Captaintreacherous lost in his first two starts, racing from off the pace in divisions of the Kindergarten at the Meadowlands. But he got into his winning groove since he took to the racetrack at Woodbine Mohawk Park.
“He pretty much did that under wraps tonight,” noted McCarthy. “The ear plugs were still in. I asked him to pace a little bit coming out of the last turn, and mid-stretch he was just kind of ambling along, doing his own thing. He’s got a lot more in the tank than that.”
Capt Midnight paid $2.20 for the win.
The $90,938 opening division for colts and geldings saw YS Mathis deliver an impressive performance for his second consecutive victory.
YS Mathis circled all but one of five others in a three-wide final-turn move to win going away in 1:51.3. Winning driver Louis Phillipe Roy tucked in fifth from post seven and sat there through the quarter in :26.2 and the half in :55.2; he then got going as they approached the three-quarters in 1:23.4 and flew home in :26.4 for a lifetime best-equaling effort. He went off the 6-5 favourite and returned $4.70 to win.
Second choice Captain Kirk cut the first three quarters of the contest, but could do little to repel YS Mathis and finished second, 2½ lengths back at the line. Day Delight stayed on for third after the winner stepped around him on the turn. Tattoo Artist was forced to take a seat in third after challenging for the early lead and then came back out again as they turned for home, but tired to finish fifth.
“I always think he can race from wherever we want, but even with that short field – six horses – I was kind of scared we would go slow fractions,” said Roy. “So off the gate, I was kind of ready to get him into position – like leave a little bit with him – but then I saw on the inside they were leaving pretty hard. So I said ‘well it’s almost better for me because my horse has proven to everybody that he can race off the pace pretty good like that.’”
The Sportswriter colt took his third win in eight starts to bring his earnings above $170,000 for conditioner Richard Moreau and owner Yves Sarrazin. His other two victories came in the form of Ontario Sires Stakes Gold events, one of which was on the Canadian Pacing Derby undercard on August 31.
The fourth Champlain division on the card saw Rose Run Vantage power by rivals in the lane to win the $95,298 second split for two-year-old pacing fillies.
With Sylvain Filion at the controls, Rose Run Vantage, owned by Wayne Mac Rae and Daniel Ross, got away fourth, as Betalady blasted off the gate and assumed control in taking the field through an opening quarter-mile in :27.3.
Mutuel favourite Lady Lou, with McCarthy in the bike, were on the move soon after, gliding up from third to grab top spot, leading her rivals through a half-mile in :55.4.
Filion took Rose Run Vantage first over and was gaining ground on the pacesetter through three-quarters timed in 1:23.4.
The duo struck front in early stretch and comfortably fended off a late rally from Peaky Sneaky, who grabbed runner-up honours. Betalady was third, with Alex Skye fourth. The winning margin was 1 ½-lengths.
Rose Run Vantage, a $17,000 purchase last year at Harrisburg, stopped the clock in a career-best mark of 1:51.3.
An early break by Temagami Seelster prompted Filion to call an audible, an option that would pay off handsomely for himself and the Anthony Beaton trainee.
“I was planning on the second over trip,” offered the veteran reinsman Filion. “But when the horse made a break, that plan went out the window. We had to go to ‘Plan B.’”
While it wasn’t the preferred choice, the decision paid off with another win for the daughter of Big Jim. The Champlain is the bay’s fourth win from six starts.
“I was anxious… first over, that’s not the ideal trip for a two-year-old. But when I saw that horse in front (Lady Lou) was really tired, and mine still had lots of go, I knew I had a good shot.”
Filion had high praise for the seasoned performance.
“She’s a really, really nice filly. Ever since I sat behind her, I always really liked her. I’m looking forward to the next few weeks, too.”
Sent off at 9-2, Rose Run Vantage paid $11.20 for the win.
Next up for the two-year-old pacers is next weekend’s eliminations for the Metro Pace and Shes A Great Lady. Those eliminations are scheduled for next Saturday’s (September 14) Canadian Trotting Classic card.
Live racing resumes Monday evening at Woodbine Mohawk Park. Post time is 7:10 p.m.
(By Chris Lomon & Nicholas Barnsdale)