MILTON, June 9, 2023 – A pair of undercard stakes events for next Saturday’s cavalcade card – headlined by the $1-million Pepsi North America Cup – now have their finalists determined.
The Roses Are Red, for aged pacing mares, and the Goodtimes, for trotting sophomores, each had two eliminations contested at Woodbine Mohawk Park on Friday night (June 9).
Grace Hill glided over the track as the 1-2 favourite to take the first $35,000 elimination for the Roses Are Red in 1:50.1.
Settling into second through a :27.2 first quarter set by Amazing Dream N, driver Doug McNair promptly swung Grace Hill to the front up the backstretch to cut the pace into a :55.2 half. Dabarndawgswatchin floated off the pegs from fourth try to flush So Much More onto the rim, and So Much More soon took the bait and plugged forward after Grace Hill towards three-quarters in 1:23.2. So Much More started to level off in the sprint for home while Grace Hill gunned clear under wraps in the lane to win by 2-3/4 lengths. Amazing Dream N reclaimed second while Dabarndawgswatchin darted off cover to take third. So Much More held fourth and Dougs Babe A rounded the finalists.
“She probably is the best aged mare I[‘ve driven],” Doug McNair said after the race. “Hopefully she just keeps getting stronger this year. She’s only had a few starts. She was real solid [tonight], I was real happy with her.
A five-year-old daughter of Always B Miki, Grace Hill moved from Richard “Nifty” Norman to the barn of Virgil Morgan Jr. in August of 2022. Since then, she has raced 13 times and won 10 of those starts, including a near gate-to-wire performance in the $540,000 Breeders Crown Final last fall at Woodbine Mohawk Park.
“She’s always been a good mare,” Virgil Morgan Jr. said after the race. “She was a really good two-year-old. She came to me in good form, so I’m just blessed to have the opportunity to train her. The Hills are great to work with. They’ve let me manage her and give her weeks off and spot her. We’re trying to do it the right way and they’re just great to work with.”
The victory now gives Grace Hill 23 wins from 50 starts and adds to a bankroll now worth $1,312,630 for owner Tom Hill. She paid $3 to win.
Treacherous Dragon reigned over her competition as the even-money favourite in the other Roses Are Red elimination to uncork a 1:48.3 sizzler.
Driver Dexter Dunn floated the four-year-old daughter of Captaintreacherous into third as Mikala and Kobes Gigi sparred to a :26 first quarter. Mikala coasted up the backside, giving Dunn an opportunity to spring Treacherous Dragon to the lead through a slight breather of a second quarter into a :54.2 half.
Treacherous Dragon carried her momentum around the final turn to click three-quarters in 1:21.2 and scurried clear through the lane under minimal encouragement. She finished 1-3/4 lengths in front of Silver Label, who burst off a pylon trip to grab second from Kobes Gigi. Mikala kept a charge from Im Offngone N at bay to hold fourth.
“I’m happy [Dexter Dunn] took back,” trainer Nancy Takter said after the race. “They were going pretty good to the quarter and there was really no reason to make something of that when there was a hole. She’s generally better off the pace – that’s more of her style of racing. So for her to pace in [1:]48.3 on the front after the half was great.”
From 30 starts, Treacherous Dragon has won 14 times and now earned $1,231,162 for owner Hot Lead Farm. From four starts at Woodbine Mohawk Park, Treacherous Dragon has won all four. Those wins include a 1:50.1 victory in the $401,000 Fan Hanover and a 1:49.1 score in the $810,000 Breeders Crown Three-Year-Old Filly Pace.
“Obviously, she really likes this track,” Takter also said. “She gets around it really good [and] she likes the long stretch. I don’t think she’s ever lost here, so I hope that continues.”
Another Breeders Crown winner from last year came back to defend his turf in the first $30,000 elimination for the Goodtimes. Gaines Hanover, winner of the $810,000 Breeders Crown Two-Year-Old Colt and Gelding Trot last fall, staved off a furious bid from Southwind Coors to claim victory in 1:52.1.
Tuscan Prince powered to the front with Challenger protecting position from the pylons to race second into a :27.1 first quarter. Driver Louis-Philippe Roy rolled Gaines Hanover from post 7 and managed to find a seat for the 1-5 favourite in third as the field moseyed along through a :55.4 half.
With no challengers looming, Tuscan Prince began peeling from the field, which forced Roy to move Gaines Hanover off the pylons to take his shot passing three-quarters in 1:23.4. Gaines Hanover overhauled Tuscan Prince in the lane, but Southwind Coors came calling from third over and motored to nearly match terms for the lead. Gaines Hanover held his ground and held a neck in front to the finish with Tuscan Prince settling for third. Challenger and Dahlquist Hanover completed those advancing to the final.
“I thought going in the last turn my main rival would be Tuscan Prince on the lead there,” Louis-Philippe Roy said after the race. “I was pretty confident in my horse – he does whatever you want from anywhere. That’s why when I saw Yannick [Gingras on Tuscan Prince] going good fractions on the front, I thought I would just wait and move him later. He made me look good. [Southwind Coors], I mean he went some good races the last couple of races, but I think tonight was one of his most impressive efforts. But [Southwind Coors] impressed me and I had to push my horse a little bit; he had to dig in.”
Gaines Hanover has now won five times from 10 tries and amassed $514,101 for owner Gestion J. Y. Blais Inc. Richard Moreau conditions the three-year-old gelding by Cantab Hall who paid $2.70 to win.
Warrawee Yang blew out of the pocket to be the only non-favourite to win in elimination action on Friday night when he pulled a 6-1 mild upset in downing even-money favourite Hasty Bid.
Hasty Bid hustled for the lead from post 8 while Warrawee Yang landed in the pocket to a :27.2 first quarter. The field stacked up the backside with Djimon tipping first over from fourth and waiting for cover to follow, though no one pulled and that left Hasty Bid strolling through a :57.2 half.
Djimon got rolling around the final turn but spun evenly off three-quarters in 1:26 to create a seam for Warrawee Yang in the lane. And with confusion from hooked wheels between Passarino and Djimon, Warrawee Yang and Hasty Bid were left to duel through the lane clear of pylon-sitter What An Angel in third. Warrawee Yang breezed by Hasty Bid in the last eighth to slide to a two-length victory in 1:53.3 with What An Angel third, Ghostly Casper closing for fourth and Djimon holding fifth.
“[We got] a perfect trip behind the best horse in the race… it was awesome,” winning trainer Mark Etsell said after the race. “This colt showed a lot of speed last year, but he’s big and growthy, his knees were bugging him. We wore flip flops on him training down this year and in this last start took them off because I figured we’d get more speed out of him, and he’s shown us just that.”
Warrawee Yang added a fourth win to his 11-race card and padded his earnings now worth $51,530 for owners Mark Etsell, Robert Newton, Peter Porter and Denise Turner. The colt by Trixton paid $15.70 to win.
Winners from each of the eliminations contested earned a protected post draw for their respective finals, set to go on the undercard of the $1-million Pepsi North America Cup next Saturday (June 17). Each elimination winner has earned the privilege to draw between posts 2 and 6.
Here are the post positions for next Saturday’s finals:
$305,000 Roses Are Red
1 – Im Offngone N
2 – Treacherous Dragon
3 – Amazing Dream N
4 – Grace Hill
5 – So Much More
6 – Silver Label
7 – Dougs Babe A
8 – Mikala
9 – Dabarndawgswatchin
10 – Kobes Gigi
AE: - Gias Surreal
1 – Southwind Coors
2 – Gaines Hanover
3 – Djimon
4 – Warrawee Yang
5 – Hasty Bid
6 – Tuscan Prince
7 – What An Angel
8 – Ghostly Casper
9 – Challenger
10 – Dahlquist Hanover
AE – Captain Chesley
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