MILTON, September 26, 2020 – Venerate and driver Andrew McCarthy powered off cover at the head of the stretch to win the $1,320,000 Mohawk Million on Saturday night at Woodbine Mohawk Park.
A full field of ten rookie trotters, including three fillies, met in the inaugural Mohawk Million, a “buy-in” race with nine slots available for the purchase of $110,000 each and a final slot awarded to the winner of the William Wellwood Memorial.
Racing in the slot of Brad Grant, Marvin Katz and partners, Venerate overcame a second-tier start with a perfect steer from McCarthy to win in 1:53.2. The Julie Miller trainee got away eighth and was able to follow the favourite Donna Soprano, eventually muscling by the previously undefeated filly to win by three-quarters of a lengh.
“I was hoping I’d get out of there a little closer, but after scoring him down I knew I couldn’t make him accelerate too fast, so I just wanted to get out of there upright,” said McCarthy. “He’s a very strong horse, I’ve seen that, I didn’t really care how far back I got, just figured I’d have to get through that first turn and then worry about where I’m going from there.
“The speed was pretty tough early, so it worked out where I could end up getting a pretty good trip, but when I looked up at the eighth-pole I was a long away back.”
The opening stages of the race saw several horses leaving hard, causing a four-wide push into the first-turn. Altar cut a :27 opening-quarter before handing the lead over to Wellwood winner On A Streak, who was four-wide entering the turn. Race-favourite Donna Soprano got away sixth, while Venerate was eighth.
On A Streak led to the half in 56.1 just as Insta Glam came with a powerful rush to claim the top spot going into the final-turn. Donna Soprano got her cue to go just before the half, as did Venerate and McCarthy seeing an opportunity to follow the favourite.
Insta Glam trotted a strong third-quarter to get the field to that station in 1:24 with a few lengths of separation.
In the stretch, Donna Soprano and Venerate trotted by Insta Glam to set up a battle of their own. The filly Donna Soprano tried to hold on, but the colt Venerate was too much to handle, powering by to victory.
“I’m so thankful for Andy and Julie and Pinske Stable,” said McCarthy. “And to Brad (Grant) for deciding to use me on this horse, I’m so thankful.”
On A Streak finished third, while Insta Glam was fourth.
A son of French stallion Love You, Venerate is owned by Pinske Stables and Andy Miller Stable. The connections negotiated a private deal with slot owner Brad Grant, Marvin Katz and partners to take a shot at the Mohawk Million.
“It makes me look pretty smart I guess,” laughed Grant. “We really believed in this race when we bought our slot. What Woodbine has done is something new and I think it’s great, it had a buzz to it all year long.”
Venerate is now four for seven and adds the winner’s share of the $1,320,000 purse to his previously earned $188,766.
The victory for driver McCarthy gives him a sweep of harness racing’s two richest races in 2020. McCarthy won the $1 million Hambletonian on August 8 at The Meadowlands in New Jersey.
“It feels amazing just to be involved in a race like this,” said McCarthy. “It’s important to hold races like this, it draws a lot of attention and hopefully it hangs around for next year.”
The inaugural Mohawk Million was the richest standardbred race contested in Canada since the 2012 Pepsi North America Cup. The inaugural race headlined a $2.8 million card, which included the $720,000 Metro Pace, $455,000 Shes A Great Lady and $215,000 Milton.
A $2 win ticket on Venerate returned $6.80.