CAMPBELLVILLE, August 24 – Drawing post one, locally-trained speedster Nirvana Seelster approaches seven rivals in the first of two $40,000 Canadian Pacing Derby eliminations at Mohawk Racetrack on Saturday evening.
“He seems like the older he gets, the better he gets,” shared trainer William Budd.
Nirvana Seelster, a six-year-old gelding by Camluck out of the Western Hanover mare No Strikes Against, has won eight races in 23 starts this season, holding a lifetime mark of 1:48.1 taken on July 15 in the $34,000 Preferred Pace. In nearly all of his starts this season, Nirvana Seelster has asserted himself on or near the lead.
“He will race in a hole, but he’s better up front,” Budd said. “He used to race from behind—he won from behind two or three times, but he wasn’t good gaited. Then he got into the game [of being on the lead] real good and that was his style; he wants to leave.”
Leading into this season, Budd did not make any equipment adjustments on Nirvana Seelster. The conditioner attributes Nirvana Seelster’s improvement this season to “growth and development” with age and his breeding.
“As soon as you change things around on him, he doesn’t want that,” Budd said. “He wants his own style.”
Over the last two years, Nirvana Seelster’s main stakes appearances have come in the $100,000 Mohawk Gold Cup Invitational and in the Canadian Pacing Derby.
Trying his on-the-front style in last year’s Gold Cup, Nirvana Seelster finished sixth and then made the only break in his career in the Canadian Pacing Derby elimination after hitting the gate. Finishing second in this year’s edition of the Gold Cup, Nirvana Seelster enters the Canadian Pacing Derby off five starts in the Mohawk Preferred, winning twice and finishing second in the rest.
“We’ve gotten invited to the [Gold Cup] just through a little bit of luck,” Budd said. “He beat some good horses there, but they’ll know he’s a threat [in the Pacing Derby].”
Nirvana Seelster has only been staked to the Canadian Pacing Derby over the last two seasons, as it is a race Budd and owner Bruce Davy have wanted to win. Trevor Henry, who picked up the drive on Nirvana Seelster in late May, will sit behind the 4-1 morning line choice competing against morning-line favourite and Ben Franklin champion Keystone Velocity. The third choice in the opening ‘Pacing Derby’ elimination is Dealt A Winner, who comes in off a 1:47.4 victory at Tioga Downs in last Sunday’s Roll With Joe.
“Rick [Zeron] had Shamballa coming into the [Gold Cup] and I needed a driver, so I got Trevor,” Budd said. “Trevor and I go back a long way and he was the man for him. But it’s still between Trevor and Rick."
When the wings of the gate fold in Saturday’s third-race, it’ll be no secret where the rail starter will be heading with hopes of qualifying for the $615,000 big dance on September 2.
“It’s a little tougher getting off the rail, but he’ll give what he’s got,” Budd noted. “We just need a little bit of luck. He should be okay.”
Post time for Saturday’s card at Mohawk Racetrack is 7:30 p.m. The Canadian Pacing Derby eliminations are carded as Races 3 and 6. The 12-race program also features two divisions of the Nassagaweya Stakes and a division of the Eternal Camnation Stakes.
By Ray Cotolo for woodbine.com