VFTRG contributor Joe F. has provided a recap on the New York and Ontario Sires Stakes Finals. I apologize for the delay but family emergencies has kept me from posting this earlier. While it may be a couple of days late, I always find Joe's comments worth reading and once again he did not fail.
Yonkers distributed $1,800,000 in their eight sire stakes finals Saturday night. The handle was less than a million dollars. There were five 8-horse fields and three with seven. The onerous NYRC coupling rules haunted the card. Three of the eight were won by favorites and two by the second choice. No driver won more than one and eight different trainers sent forth winners. American Ideal was the only stallion with multiple winners, with his progeny taking the two-year-old colt (He’s Watching) and three-year-old filly (Social Scene) stakes.
He’s Watching stole the show, thumping his class by five lengths in a track record :52.2 at 1/9 for Jim Morrill. Casie Coleman’s Design Guru, who got close last time, went wide on the first turn and that was it for him. And the If I Can Dream colt, Big Boy Dreams, put up an admirable second. Forty-four years ago next month Columbia George knocked a second off the world record for a two-year-old pacer on a half in the Sheppard at Yonkers. He beat Truluck in :58.4 that night, 6.2 seconds slower than He’s Watching went Saturday night. Yes, it’s impossible to compare performances from different eras, but we’re talking about more than 30 lengths.
The two-year-old colt pacers are an ordinary lot; none resided in the top ten as of last week. He’s Watching fell a couple of slots out of the top group but may step up this week. His problem is that he isn’t staked to the Red Mile races and therefore can’t start in a split of the ISS this week. He’s not eligible to the BC either. Will he race in the Governor’s Cup at M1 at the end of November? The money leader in that freshman colt division, Boomboom Ballykeel, is also a sire stakes colt. He isn’t staked to the BC either. Which GC colt will capitalize on this situation?
He’s Watching’s paternal sister, Social Scene, was also very impressive in crushing the competition by five in :53 for Brennan at a generous 4/1. The 4/5 favorite, Summertime Lea, the archetypal sire stakes filly, who was interfered with on the first turn and used early, wound up seventh. Social Scene is staked to the BC, but then again, so is Nitelife. If the Bettor’s Delight filly, Shebestingin, had put her mind to accumulating SS points she would have been a handful for Social Scene.
Mark Austin’s lightly staked Art Major colt, Fool Me Once, was another who dominated his divisional final. Sears steered him home in :51.3. As was the case with Summertime Lea, Last year’s kingpin, Doctor Butch, was near the back at 33/1.
The trotter that impressed on this Night of Champions was the Credit Winner filly, Bouncing Bax, a sister to Bax Of Life and Baximum. She drew off from her 3 YO foes to win in :56.2 at 2/5 for Jason Bartlett.
The OSS Super Final Night allocated $1,600,000 for eight stakes at Mohawk, a little less than Yonkers. However, those races featured ten horse fields and as a result the handle (entire card) was 42% higher than Yonkers’ handle. Paul MacDonnell was the only driver to win more than one, while Muscle Mass and Kadabra each sired two winners. Four of the eight races were won by favorites.
A blanket of fog left viewers in the dark and Ken Middleton speechless from the last turn to deep
stretch in the ninth and tenth races. The teletimer and sound of the field were the only clues available.
The toughest winner of the night was surely, Bruger Bruiser, a son of the Mach Three stallion Believeinbruiser. Contrary to the non-confrontational style of driving that prevails at the WEG tracks, Anthony MacDonald and the Bruiser carried Doug McNair and Three Of Clubs past the quarter in :25.4. The favored Bruiser then withstood last half pressure from third choice Crafty Master to beat that one a neck in :50.3. Believeinbruiser is the sort of marginal stallion the breeding program finds to be more of a nuisance than anything else, but good for him.
Another winner by an off-brand stallion was Duc Dorleans, who hails from Shanghai Phil, a son of 1999 Canadian Pacer of the Year, Blissful Hall. Duc isn’t a one-off like the Bruiser; he’s the richest son or daughter of his daddy—not that there are very many. Duc emerged from the fog as the winner of the three-year-old colt pace for Sylvain Filion. He went off at 5/1. The 1/2 favorite, Mach It So, finished last.
Kadabra, the premier stallion in the province, had two winners in Bee A Magician and Flanagan Memory, both sporting short prices and high expectations. But it was new kid on the block, Muscle Mass, who stole the show. His freshman daughter, Riveting Rosie, buried the opposition in :56 (27.2) at 1/5 while paternal brother, Muscle Matters, did the same to the boys. Ironically, the public made a son of Dewey, another Muscles Yankee protégé, the favorite over Muscle Matters. Dewey skipped town after a relatively brief stay in Ontario, and his exit came none too soon, because Muscle Mass is better than he is, and a lot cheaper.
Muscle Mass’s celebrated brother, Muscle Massive, is being heavily promoted by Hanover this year: there will be 41 available at the Harness Breeders Sale. He is expected to succeed as a Grand Circuit stallion while also taking advantage of the PASS pot of gold. Muscle Mass has been presented as a regional stallion but like Shadow Play that may change over the next couple of years. There will be seven Muscle Mass fillies for sale at Lexington and two colts and two fillies selling at Harrisburg, where he’d be viewed as competition for his brother.
The Badlands Hanover filly, Love Canal, was expected to assume a hybrid role this year, with two feet in the OSS and the other two in the open realm. That hasn’t happened; she met with no success in her open starts and finished second to the Mach Three filly, Regil Elektra, on Saturday.
There were some predictable results at Yonkers and Mohawk that are the natural outgrowth of sire stakes racing, which is inherently unbalanced and beyond correction by cleverly written conditions. However, seeing the likes of He’s Watching, Bouncing Bax, Fool Me Once, Riveting Rosie and Muscle Matters dominate the way they did infused a sector of the sport that can be rather ho hum with a shot of energy.