MILTON, September 7, 2018 – Rookie pacers were in the spotlight Friday for five divisions of the Champlain Stakes at Woodbine Mohawk Park.
A trio of $70,107 eight-horse divisions for colts and geldings were contested, while a pair of $95,738 nine-horse splits for pacing fillies also took place.
The undefeated Captain Ahab sent another message to the rookie pacing colt division with an impressive 1:52.3 victory in Friday’s second Champlain division.
A son of Captaintreacherous, Captain Ahab and driver Andrew McCarthy took their time at the beginning and settled in fifth, while Captain Crunch, who was undefeated entering the Champlain, was sent to the top and posted a :27.2 opener.
Driver Scott Zeron was able to steal a :29.4 second-quarter with Captain Crunch, which forced McCarthy to get underway with Captain Ahab ahead of the half. The Captaintreacherous colts ‘Crunch’ and ‘Ahab’ would battle on the far turn, reaching three-quarters in 1:25.2.
In the stretch, Captain Ahab powered by Captain Crunch and cruised home effortlessly in :27 for the victory. Better Up, who got a two-hole trip, finished second, while Captain Crunch was third.
“They got out of there that first-quarter pretty good, so I was happy just to sit back and wait and I got to ride up there very slow first-over,” said McCarthy following the victory.
“That’s what great about this horse, he’ll sit out there and just grind on up there and does his thing. I chirped at him a little bit at the head of the stretch and away he goes.”
Trained by Tony Alagna, Captain Ahab was prepping Friday for next weekend’s Metro Pace eliminations and is the headliner heading into this season’s richest race for two-year-olds.
“We brought the colts and fillies in here (to Mohawk Park) on Tuesday and trained them and he trained great,” said Alagna. “I was really happy with how he trained Tuesday and he’s been very sharp all week. The week off last week really helped him.”
Captain Ahab is from the first-crop of Captaintreacherous and Alagna noted there are many similarities between the two.
“I see a lot of (Captaintreacherous) in him,” said Alagna. “His characteristics, the way he is so easy on himself, the way he lets you drive him…his work ethic. He reminds me a lot of ‘Captain’ and hopefully he can keep reminding me of ‘Captain’”.
Captain Ahab improved to six for six with his Champlain score and has now earned $117,616 for owners Brittany Farms, Brad Grant, Vince Barbera and Captain Ahab Racing. He was a $100,000 Lexington Selected Yearling Sale purchase.
A $2 win ticket on Captain Ahab returned $2.90.
Bronx Seelster was Friday’s fastest winner, making a statement with a 1:51.2 score in the evening’s first division for colts and geldings.
A son of Big Jim, Bronx Seelster and driver Trevor Henry angled out from fifth to start a first-over bid approaching the half. Blank Canvas shot to the lead and posted a :27 opening-quarter before slamming the brakes to lead by the half in :56.3.
The tempo ramped up on the far turn, as Blank Canvas paced a :27.1 third-quarter with Bronx Seelster pressing at his side.
In the stretch, Bronx Seelster immediately powered by Blank Canvas and pulled away impressively to win by five-lengths for the career-best 1:51.2 score. Blank Canvas held second, while Lyons Night Hawk was third.
Trained by Wayne McGean, Bronx Seelster improved his record to six wins and $292,810 earned in nine starts for owners Capers 3 Stable.
“Nobody wanted to move and he come first-up kind of early I thought tonight, but he’s a tough little horse,” said McGean, who showed some emotion when talking about the season he’s enjoyed with Bronx Seelster.
“It’s unreal. It’s hard to put into words. You look for this once in your lifetime and we have it now.”
Bronx Seelster’s trophy case now consists of the Battle of Waterloo, Champlain Stakes and a pair of Ontario Sires Stakes Gold divisions. The $22,000 London Selected Yearling Sale purchase paid $2.70 to win.
The final division for colts and geldings saw Cruise Captain upset the 1/9 favourite Stag Party in 1:52.2.
Driven by Sylvain Filion, Cruise Captain left from post-six and dropped down to the pylons in third, holding onto his rail spot throughout. Casie Coleman trainee Stag Party, who entered off a blowout win in the Nassagaweya, got away one spot back in fourth and sat there until the half.
Do Ya Think cut out fractions of :26.4 and :55.4 before taking on Stag Party, who came first-up on the far turn. Unlike the Nassagaweya, Stag Party didn’t fire by the leader in the third-quarter and was at the leader’s saddle pad when they hit three-quarters in 1:24.3.
In the stretch, Stag Party overtook the lead from Do Ya Think, but couldn’t create much separation. Meanwhile, Cruise Captain found his best stride, shooting up the rail to overtake the lead in deep stretch and score the victory.
Stag Party finished second, beat three-quarters of a length, while Do Ya Think was third.
Cruise Captain had to survive an inquiry for a possible first-turn pylon violation before getting his photo taken.
The second son of Captaintreacherous to win a Champlain, Cruise Captain was winless in six starts entering Friday and picked the perfect moment to break his maiden for trainer Victor Puddy and owners Bill Manes, James Ruhl, Lloyd Stone and 10462217 Canada Inc.
“We’ve raced this guy in Pennsylvania all summer and he’s had many trips like he had tonight and he never got out,” said co-owner Manes. “He’s one of them Captaintreacherous’ and they try.
“He’s had a good summer chasing them good colts and now we’ll have to sit down and we’ve talked about entering him in the Metro and he deserves it now.”
Cruise Captain, who was a $25,000 Lexington Selected Yearling Sale purchase, increased his earnings to $68,414 with Friday’s victory. He paid $15 to win.
Dave Menary trainee Quebec Blue Chip captured the first division for pacing fillies in a career-best 1:52.2.
Driven by Jody Jamieson, Quebec Blue Chip hustled from post-seven to make the top and post a :27.4 opening-quarter. Longshot Revival Cards and driver David Miller moved out of third in the second-quarter and cleared to the top just after a :56.3 opening-half.
Key West, the 3/5 favourite, came first up from fourth on the far turn and was on even terms with Revival Cards at three-quarters in 1:24.2, while Quebec Blue Chip and Jamieson were locked in behind the leader hoping room would develop in the lane.
In the stretch, Key West poked a head in front, but couldn’t power away, which led to a scene of five fillies across the track all within a length at the eighth pole. Jamieson was able to get around a fading Revival Cards and dip back to the rail with Quebec Blue Chip.
Undefiable and driver Trevor Henry rallied from fourth-over to shoot by their rivals on the extreme outside. Despite the fantastic effort, Undefiable couldn’t best Quebec Blue Chip, who reached the line first for a half length score. Crisp Mane was third.
“I got caught with my pants down in front of the class,” said Jamieson of his less than ideal route to victory with Quebec Blue Chip. “I was looking for a cheap half and Dave (Miller) recognized that…and kind of caught me sleeping and I didn’t want to let him go, but as it turned out it worked out for our filly.”
Trainer Dave Menary has been high on the Sportswriter filly since the winter months.
“This is the pacer that I pegged all winter,” said Menary. “She’s such a handy filly and at Grand River she was doing it so easy, but here I didn’t know how she would be able to translate the speed to the big track.
“She’s just so willing and so quick, so fast.”
Quebec Blue Chip improved her stats to six wins and $256,914 earned in eight starts with her fifth-consecutive score Friday. She was a $40,000 Harrisburg purchase as a yearling and is owned by Menary Racing Inc, Michael Guerriero, Kenneth Ewen and Bruce Norris.
A $2 win ticket on Quebec Blue Chip returned $5.60.
Deb and driver Trevor Henry saw patience pay off, as they pulled off a 17-1 upset in the second division for pacing fillies.
Race-favourite Tall Drink Hanover made a move from fourth to first entering the backstretch and led by the half in :56.2. Prescient Beauty came first-up from fifth entering the far turn and engaged in a gritty third-quarter battle with Tall Drink Hanover, who held a lead of less than a length at three-quarters in 1:24.1.
Deb and Henry got a three-hole trip through the middle-half and were able to slip off the rail to take a shot in the lane. Tall Drink Hanover dug in trying to fight off rivals, as Ideation Hanover, who sat in the two-hole, pressured along with Deb on the outside. Prescient Beauty drifted out in the lane and finished seventh.
At the wire, Deb was able to muscle by for a 1:53.2 victory. Tall Drink Hanover didn’t fold and finished second, beat half a length, while Ideation Hanover was third.
“She’s the type of the filly that’s been roughed up first-up in her last three starts,” said Henry post-race. “I had to keep her in and I had a good hold on her through the last turn and it just worked out we got out and she got up to win.”
A daughter of Sportswriter, Deb picked up her third win in eight starts with Friday’s score. Her three victories have all come in three different levels of stakes events (OSS Gold, OSS Grassroots and Grand Circuit).
A $24,000 London Selected Yearling Sale purchase, Deb has now earned $108,328 for owners Wilma and James MacKenzie. She paid $36.60 to win.
Next up for many of the Champlain competitors is the Metro Pace and Shes A Great Lady eliminations next Saturday (September 15). Bronx Seelster is the only winner from Friday not eligible to next weekend’s stakes.
Live racing continues Saturday night at Woodbine Mohawk Park. The 13-race card is headlined by three divisions of the Simcoe Stakes for three-year-old pacers and the eliminations of the Wellwood Memorial and Peaceful Way. Post time is 7:10 p.m.