MILTON, October 18, 2019 – Woodbine Mohawk Park-based trainer Blake MacIntosh sends a four-pronged contingent into the Breeders Crown eliminations as he attempts to get his first shot to compete in the year-end championship.
MacIntosh, whose stable has strengthened into a Grand Circuit force, rides a career-best season entering the Breeders Crown eliminations. Though he has started many in the Breeders Crown eliminations, MacIntosh has yet to send one in a final.
“It’d just be a cherry on top of the sundae for the year,” MacIntosh said on potentially winning a Breeders Crown. “We’re close to a hundred wins and $2.6 million so winning a Breeders Crown would just be something special, especially at Mohawk—it’s our home track. Winning the [Canadian Pacing] Derby this year was my biggest thrill but winning a Breeders Crown at Mohawk would probably be a little bit bigger of a thrill. They’re all big wins but it’d be very special.”
Team Best opens MacIntosh’s ‘Crown’ contingent on Friday (October 17) in the lone elimination for the Two-Year-Old Colt Pace. The son of Somebeachsomewhere—racing for owners Hutt Racing Stable, Mac And Heim Stables, Touchstone Farms Inc. and Daniel Plouffe—debuted a winner at Mohawk in late June but missed some of the summer due to sickness, with which MacIntosh had to deal most of the summer.
“It wasn’t just the Canadian barn or the American barn—both barns seemed to get [sick] at the same time,” MacIntosh said. “It was an obstacle, we worked around it [and] the horses all seem to be coming around right now. The last six weeks everything’s seemed to have just gone the right way and we’re pretty happy with it.”
Finishing seventh in the $750,000 Metro Pace final, Team Best shipped to Lexington where he finished second in a division of the Bluegrass but tried racing first over the next week in the International Stallion Stakes and folded in the final quarter. He moves into the Crown off a 1:52.1 runner-up mile in a preliminary for the Kindergarten at the Meadowlands.
“We were trying to decide if we were going to go to the Breeders Crown or stay in the Kindergarten with him,” MacIntosh said. “But after he raced last week, I decided to give him a shot against the top colts this week.
“He doesn’t like a lot of air—like if you can keep him on a helmet he will follow all day long,” MacIntosh also said. “If you give him a little too much air he gets a little sulky [but] he’s learning more and more every start. If he gets the right trip, there’s no doubt in my mind he’ll be right there at the end of the mile.
James MacDonald will drive Team Best—who’s 15-1 on the morning line—from post 2 against Metro Pace winner and the 7-5 morning line favourite Tall Dark Stranger. Metro Pace runner-up Papi Rob Hanover is also in the field.
Sweet Chapter starts MacIntosh’s Saturday-night duties as she competes against the top four competitors in the Three-Year-Old Filly Trot. Her regular pilot Matt Kakaley stays in the bike as the daughter of Chapter Seven starts from post 1 against Hambletonian Oaks winner When Dovescry, runner-up Millies Possesion, third-place finisher Asiago and Kentucky Filly Futurity winner Beautiful Sin.
“She can trot with them,” MacIntosh said of Sweet Chapter, “and she’s always right there; always gets you a cheque. I just thought that she deserved a shot to prove it again. Like in the Hambo Oaks—she was going to get a cheque but then Dave [Miller and Evident Beauty] broke and took her out and that cost her fourth or fifth. We’ll hope she [can] draw well and if she can get away the way she can then she’ll be right there.”
Earning over $200,000 from 24 starts for owners Hutt Racing Stable, Blake MacIntosh and Mortgage Boys Stable, Sweet Chapter has one other Grand Circuit mile this season: a wire-to-wire 1:54.2 victory in a $30,000 division of the Simpson Memorial.
“I always thought she was a nice filly—that’s why she got paid into so much because I had faith in her,” MacIntosh said. “She’s right on track where I think she should be and [I’m] very, very happy with her.”
Covered Bridge completes MacIntosh’s Crown-elim starters as he competes in the second elimination for the Three-Year-Old Colt Pace. The American Ideal colt—owned by David B. Smith and James Giannuzzi—makes his second start in the MacIntosh barn after racing his other 28 starts for the Okuskos.
“They just called me—they wanted him to come up to Canada and see if he’s good enough for the Breeders Crown,” MacIntosh said on acquiring the colt. “I trained for Jim and Dave for the last couple years. I was the underbidder on this colt as a yearling. I trained him down at Lexington before I brought him home—I made a shoeing change on him. He’s a nice colt—Howie and Jessica [Okusko] did a great job with him training down and racing him for the last two years. It’s made my job easier.
While MacIntosh did not tinker much with equipment on Covered Bridge, the colt rebounded in his first start for the barn last week against conditioned horses at Mohawk. He popped pocket to pull a 19-1 upset in 1:50.4 under wraps and convinced MacIntosh to try the colt in the Breeders Crown.
“It’s a $7,500 (CAD) stake payment so it’s not something cheap,” MacIntosh said on deciding to try the colt in the Crown. “So I was very happy with him and I called the owners after the race and said ‘I think we can go—it’s up to you guys but I think at this point this group looks a little tired. At this point right now there’s no standout other than Ryder’s horse [Bettors Wish] and I think he can go with the rest of them so let’s give it a shot.’”
Covered Bridge will race against 7-5 morning line favourite Bettors Wish from post 5 with James MacDonald in the sulky. Crown supplement and Little Brown Jug winner Southwind Ozzi also competes in the second elimination from post 3 as the 9-5 second choice on the morning line.
Though not entered in an elimination, Courtly Choice will prep for the Open Pace on Saturday when he starts from post 8 in the $34,000 Preferred. The four-year-old son of Art Major also battled sickness during the summer but returned to form with a 34-1 upset in the Canadian Pacing Derby. Yet he comes into Saturday making his second start after scratching sick from the Dayton Pacing Derby.
“When he shipped into Lexington [for the Dayton Pacing Derby] I don’t know what happened—he caught a fever of 102.5 so we scratched him,” MacIntosh said. “He probably could’ve raced at Dayton but we wanted to race him the following week for sure. He just wasn’t right that week—it’s totally separate from [his earlier sickness]. His blood’s back to normal now—at least back to where we want it. I don’t know if he just caught something shipping from Harrington to home to Lexington—these aged horses do a lot of travelling, so they’re bound to pick something up every now and then.
Prior to Saturday’s start Courtly Choice returned to the track in the $186,000 Allerage but faltered through the stretch in a 1:47.2 mile to finish eighth.
“We wanted to make sure we had him tight for next week,” MacIntosh said. “He seems to race better when he’s at least had a little prep before the races like for the Canadian Pacing Derby—he raced two weeks before that.”
Woodbine Mohawk Park hosts two nights of eliminations for the Breeders Crown with the freshmen racing on Friday (October 18) and the sophomores and aged horses competing on Saturday (October 19). Friday’s 12-race card starts at 7:50 p.m. (EDT) while Saturday’s 13-race card gets underway at the regular post time of 7:10 p.m. (EDT).
– Ray Cotolo for Woodbine.com