Reigning Johnston Cup champion Gregg McNair had a productive night in the Ontario Sires Stakes Monday, sending out six freshman pacing colts in Grassroots action and collecting two wins, two seconds and two thirds.
The trainer made his first trip to the winner’s circle after the fourth $22,800 division, joining 1:54 winner Stonebridge Rex. Sent off as the favourite from Post 5, Stonebridge Rex sat mid-pack through the early fractions of :28 and :56.4 put up by Shazam Blue Chip, tipped out behind Snap Call heading by the 1:25.4 three-quarters and then laid down a :27.2 final fraction to claim the win. Snap Call finished two and three-quarter lengths back in second and Shazam Blue Chip was four more lengths back in third.
“He was a pretty spooky colt to jog and stuff when we first broke him, but he always had a pretty good gait to him,” said McNair, who shares ownership of the gelding with breeder Angie Stiller of Arva and Gary Colter of Mississauga, ON. “He qualified pretty good and we threw him right in the Grassroots, and oh I think Doug thought he would have been a little bit better his first start, but he never got the two qualifiers in, and so he was a lot stronger today.”
Stonebridge Rex finished sixth in the July 6 Grassroots season opener at Woodbine Mohawk Park, four and three-quarter lengths behind the winner. McNair said the Control The Moment son could make his next start in the Battle Of Waterloo eliminations at Grand River Raceway next Monday, July 27.
“We usually pay pretty near everything into that. It’s nice and close to home and we’ve had a little luck there a few times, so I’d like to put a couple in it,” said the rural Guelph resident, who has won the event three times, in 2008, 2013 and 2015. “Two or three in it would be good.”
McNair was back in the winner’s circle one race later with Watch My Beverage, who landed fourth from Post 9 and watched Warrawee Wazzup reel off a :27.1 quarter and a :56.1 half. Heading for the 1:25 three-quarters driver Doug McNair sent the gelding after the leaders and Watch My Beverage powered away to a three length victory in 1:54. Between I N U closed well for second and Counter Offer completed the top three.
“One made a break in front of him leaving the gate last week. He paced home in :26.4, but had no shot,” said Doug McNair, who finished fourth, placed third, with the gelding in the season opener. “Tonight he drew bad again, but I got a lot better trip with him. He’s a handy horse and getting confident in his gait. He was a little nervous qualifying.”
Gregg McNair trains Watch My Beverage for breeders Dean Lockhart of Collingwood and Jeffrey Ruch of Innisfil and their co-owner Paul Hawman of Collingwood, ON, and the trainer said it is the Hes Watching gelding making his staff nervous when it comes time to head to the paddock in the morning.
“He’ll haul you right out to the paddock there when you’re taking him out to the field. He gets in a hurry on the lead shank, but once you get the harness on him he’s nice to drive,” said the trainer. “He was the most consistent all winter; he trained good right from the start. He was kind of a wild little bugger to break and stuff, but on the track he’s pretty manageable.”
Watch My Beverage’s stablemates Admit One and Kyoquot finished third in the first two Grassroots divisions and Big Teddy and Big Idea finished second in the third and sixth splits. Doug McNair drove all six pacers and both he and his dad were pleased with the progress of the youngsters.
“They’re learning fast and going in the right direction,” said the driver.
“I was pretty happy with the whole works of them,” said the elder McNair, who added 24 points to his 2020 Johnston Cup tally. “I was surprised that many of them still raced good, usually there’s a couple of them start to go backwards now, but these guys are still going forward so we’re happy with them all.”
Driver Jody Jamieson also posted a two-win night with Candy Trader and Bulldog Hanover in the third and seventh divisions. Both colts were on top before the half and on cruise control at the wire. Candy Trader was two and three-quarter lengths ahead of Big Teddy and Last Bet, stopping the teletimer in 1:54.3.
Bulldog Hanover powered home five and one-half lengths ahead of Take Control and Southwind Sandor in 1:52.4.
“Candy likely would have won the first Grassroots if I drove him better. I zigged whenever I should have zagged. No mistakes tonight and he won pretty easily,” said Moffat resident Jamieson. “Bulldog is a big, strong colt and doesn’t really know what it’s all about just yet, but wants to go fast at all the right times. When he got the lead tonight he just grabbed the bit and paced away strong.”
Anthony Beaton trains Bettors Delight son Candy Trader for Steve Heimbecker of Conestogo, Larry Menary of Branchton, Michael Guerriero of Brampton and Ben Mudry of Toronto, ON. The gelding finished second in the Grassroots season opener.
Shadow Play son Bulldog Hanover was also second in the season opener for owner-trainer Jack Darling of Cambridge, ON.
The first division went to Sunshine Beach son Cadillac Bayama, who bested Armor Seelster and Admit One in 1:53.4 for driver Sylvain Filion, trainer Dr. Ian Moore and owner-breeder Bayama Farms Inc. of Saint-Andre-D’Argenteuil, QC.
Adrenaline Rush took the second division in 1:54.4. The Royal Mattjesty son and driver Bob McClure hit the wire one length ahead of Gold Train and Kyoquot for trainer Kevin McMaster and fractional ownership group TheStable Adrenaline Rush of Guelph, ON.
Betterthancheddar son All Cheddar took the sixth division with a 1:55.3 effort for driver Mike Saftic, trainer Jay Cochlin and owner James Smith of Hagersville, ON. Big Idea was second and Vino Louie third.
The two-year-old pacing colts will make their third Grassroots start at Hiawatha Horse Park on Aug. 22.
Complete results from Monday’s program are available at Woodbine Mohawk Park Results.
Ontario Sires Stakes action continues Tuesday evening at the Milton oval with the second Gold Series leg for the three-year-old trotting colts. The first race goes behind the starting gate at 7 pm and the trotting colts will square off in Races 2 and 6.
To view results for Monday's card of harness racing, click the following link: Monday Results – Woodbine Mohawk Park.