The Ontario Sires Stakes two-year-old season got under way on Thursday evening at Woodbine Mohawk Park with a pair of $108,000 Gold Series divisions for the freshman trotting colts, and driver Bob McClure was in the race bike of both winners.
“Those are two nice colts right there,” said McClure of young trotters Threefiftytwo and Port Perry.
Making his first appearance at the helm of Threefiftytwo, McClure moved the colt smartly away from Post 8 in the first division and was on top just after the :29.3 opening quarter. Tuckers Out soon moved to the front, followed by Built Strong, which put Threefiftytwo in third as the field reached the 1:00 half.
Fans who had selected Threefiftytwo had a moment of worry as a parade of rivals rolled up the outer lane heading into the final turn, but McClure was able to slide the colt out before the 1:29.1 three-quarters and once Threefiftytwo had an open look at the wire, the young trotter found a big gear and was able to reel in fan favourite Crossfit Mouse by a head. A pair of sharp last quarters — :27 and :27.1 — saw Threefiftytwo and Crossfit Mouse hit the wire in 1:56.3, four lengths ahead of third-place finisher Built Strong.
“He left out good and cleared to the front and let one go and then let two go, and then all of a sudden he was sitting pretty well fourth over, and that’s a horrible spot to be,” said McClure. “He made up for it, so he was really impressive.”
McClure drove Threefiftytwo to the win for trainer George Ducharme of Norfolk, MA and his co-owner Michelle Larson of Rochester, MA. A homebred out of Royalty For Life and Four Damsals, Threefiftytwo was making his first start in Ontario after doing his qualifying at Vernon Downs in New York, where he was a 1:58.3 winner on June 28.
“I talked to George before we went out just quick. He told me that the colt hadn’t done anything wrong, he was pretty high on him, and looking at him in the paddock, I mean he’s a very impressive looking horse,” said McClure of his introduction to Threefiftytwo. “He’s flashy, got an athletic build, he’s tall, he’s real nice to look at and his qualifiers looked pretty good.
“George told me he was having slight hiccups with the gate, but he’s done a good job because he was over it, he was perfect tonight,” the Elora resident added.
Unlike Threefiftytwo, McClure was very familiar with his mount in the second Gold division. The reinsman had piloted Port Perry in two qualifying starts at Woodbine Mohawk Park and several schooling miles for trainer Luc Blais and was hopeful the lanky youngster could hold his own in top class company.
Starting from Post 2 McClure settled Port Perry into fifth as Hetalkstoangels led the field to a :29 quarter. Fan favourite Magics Wizard took over top spot and reached the half in :59.3, where McClure tipped Port Perry off the rail and started up the outer lane. Heading into the last turn Kenogami Coco and driver Trevor Henry moved off the rail and provided cover for McClure and Port Perry, putting them just three lengths back at the 1:29.1 three-quarters.
Squaring up in the stretch McClure simply pointed Port Perry at the wire and the big colt accelerated away from the field with every stride, reaching the wire four and one-half lengths the best in 1:57.3. Blue Cupertino also closed hard to be second, with Hetalkstoangels completing the top three.
“I always liked him. He was always really professional, but he’s big, he’s very, very big, a big, strong, thick horse. If you looked at him in the stall, you’d say, ‘There’s no way he’s going to be a good two-year-old, he’ll probably be a nice three-year-old,’” said McClure. “And he is built like he’s going to be a better three-year-old, but if he stays sound this year he’s got a wicked engine. The big thing about him is how strong he is. He’s the type that could really overpower a field.”
Campbellville resident Blais conditions the son of Kadabra and former Gold Series winner Danica Hall for Determination of Montreal, QC. Danica Hall’s third foal, Port Perry was an $85,000 acquisition from last fall’s Lexington Selected Yearling Sale.
McClure started driving the Blais-trained, Determination-owned totters last spring and the partnership has proven fruitful; Forbidden Trade was the top two-year-old trotting colt last season and with one freshman event complete they appear to have another strong contender for the role in 2019.
“I really enjoy it,” said McClure. “And Luc — I mean we’ve got really nice horses to work with, Serge Godin, he buys some really nice horses — but he does a good job maintaining them and I just try to do my part.”
Threefiftytwo and Port Perry will make their second Gold Series start on July 23 over the Georgian Downs oval in Innisfil, ON, where McClure will hope they once again draw into different divisions.
Two-year-old Ontario Sires Stakes action continues at Woodbine Mohawk Park this weekend as the Milton oval welcomes the pacing colts for Grassroots action on Friday night and Gold Series action Saturday. The Grassroots colts will compete in Races 2, 4, 5, 7 and 8 on Friday’s program, which gets underway at 7:50 p.m. The Gold colts will battle in Races 5 and 8 on Saturday, with the first race going postward at 7:10 p.m.
To view results for Thursday's card of harness racing, click the following link: Thursday Results – Woodbine Mohawk Park.