MILTON, September 21, 2019 – Undefeated rookie Tall Dark Stranger established a new stakes record with a 1:49.1 victory in Saturday’s $750,000 Metro Pace.
The son of Bettors Delight angled from the two-hole and cruised home in :27, giving his driver Yannick Gingras and trainer Nancy Johansson each their first victory in harness racing’s richest race for two-year-olds.
“He’s just a great colt,” said Johansson. “He looked strong the whole way and still had his plugs in at the wire. If they were coming harder at him I think he still had some left in the tank.”
Tall Dark Stranger left from post-four and circled around Easi Hanover, who blasted from the outside, to lead at the opening-quarter in :27. Race-favourite Capt Midnight moved out from third and went after the lead racing up the backstretch, getting stretched out by Tall Dark Stranger before clearing after a :54.1 half.
Capt Midnight carried the lead around the far turn with Tall Dark Stranger and Gingras angling from the two-hole ahead of the three-quarter pole. Ys Mathis was first-up, three-lengths from the lead, with Papi Rob Hanover on his back. The three-quarter time was 1:22.
In the stretch, Tall Dark Stranger powered by Capt Midnight to a clear lead with an eighth of a mile to go. Papi Rob Hanover made things interesting late, ultimately coming up half a length short to a steady Tall Dark Stranger. Capt Midnight finished third, while Seeyou At Thebeach was fourth.
Tall Dark Stranger grinded away to narrowly defeated Papi Rob Hanover in last week’s elimination. Gingras felt that performance made a big impact on the colt.
“(Last week) it took him a long time in the stretch, but today I stretched the other colt and in the last turn he knew what it was about this time,” said Gingras. “When I came out of the two-hole he went right by Capt Midnight and that was without even me asking him at that point.
“He’s got some learning to do, but he’s got all the tools to be a great one.”
Tall Dark Stranger is owned by Crawford Farms Racing, Marvin Katz, Caviart Farms and Howard Taylor. The son of Bettors Delight is now six for six with $499,533 earned after being purchased for $330,000 at last October’s Lexington Selected Yearling Sale.
The clocking of 1:49.1 shaved a fifth of a second off the previous stakes record set by Sportswriter in 2009. It also matches the track record set by A Rocknroll Dance in 2011.
Gingras and Johansson can now scratch the Metro Pace off their bucket list, as the duo teamed up in the 2011 edition to finish second with Western Vintage.
Johansson’s victory with Tall Dark Stranger gives her a sweep of Mohawk Park’s two richest races of the season, as she captured the $1 million Pepsi North America Cup in June with Captain Crunch.
“Not bad for a girl born in Sweden,” laughed Johansson. “I’m very lucky that I have owners that support me with great horses and makes my job a lot easier having the material to perform at the highest level.”
Tall Dark Stranger paid $5.40 to win.