Paul MacDonell qualified two Mike Keeling trained trotting fillies for Thursday night’s $130,000 Gold Final at Mohawk Racetrack, but the reinsman had committed to Sugar Wheeler well before he engineered the results of last week’s eliminations.
The Guelph resident has driven the three-year-old trotting lass in all but two of her 20 career starts and he is, quite simply, a fan.
“Nowadays you don’t see them race this long and be as sharp as she has been,” he explains. “I think that’s quite a quality.
“It shows how durable and tough she really is,” he adds.
Sugar Wheeler did not make her first lifetime start until last December 2011, and the daughter of Angus Hall and $553,113 winner Quick Credit has made at least one start in every month since. In that first start Sugar Wheeler made a break but still managed to finish fifth, and that remains her worst result in a career that has progressed from non-winners of one race to the province’s upper tier.
After that initial bobble over the Woodbine Racetrack oval, trainer Mike Keeling sent the filly to The Raceway at Western Fair District for a gentler education and Sugar Wheeler responded with two straight victories on the half-mile oval. Back at Woodbine in mid-January she posted two more wins and then a pair of seconds before Keeling decided to test her skills against the Celias Counsel Series crowd.
Third in the April 2 opening leg of the Celias Counsel, Sugar Wheeler was second by a neck in the next leg and second by half a length in the final. Another victory at Woodbine in a smart 1:55.4 earned the filly a berth in the Standardbred Breeders of Ontario Association Stake and MacDonell teamed Sugar Wheeler to a second in her elimination and a fourth in the May 25 final.
Sickness kept Sugar Wheeler out of the Casual Breeze stake on June 1, but she has not missed a beat since her return to action, finishing no worse than fourth in seven starts. Second to Miss Paris in the first two Gold Finals, Sugar Wheeler finally earned a Gold Series trophy with a win in last week’s elimination, posting a personal best 1:55.3.
“She’s not a big filly, I would say she’s mid-sized, but she gets over the ground quite nicely,” notes MacDonell. “That’s her biggest asset. She has a long stride to her, that’s probably what keeps her durable.”
MacDonell steers Sugar Wheeler for owners P C Wellwood Enterprises Inc. of Cambridge, Alan Hainsworth of Mount Morris, NY, William B. Weaver III of Freehold, NJ and Kelley Racing Stable LLC of Gansevoort, NY. The group purchased the filly from the 2010 Harrisburg Yearling Sale for $55,000. Through 20 starts she has returned $196,008.
The Guelph resident also qualified One More Ginny for Keeling and owner KOR Stable Limited of Guelph, finishing second to Smarty Pants in the other Gold Elimination, but chose to hand that drive over to Jody Jamieson and maintain his commitment to Sugar Wheeler.
“The other mare, Ginny, she’s just kind of graduated into the Gold,” notes the reinsman.
Sugar Wheeler will make her bid for a second straight win from Post 3, while One More Ginny gets Post 9, reigning Gold Final champ Miss Paris gets Post 2 and the other elimination winner Smarty Pants lines up behind Post 4.
MacDonell says he will wait and see how things play out when the wings fold, noting that Sugar Wheeler has the versatility to handle any type of outing.
“She appreciates a trip, or she can race on the front, she’s quite versatile,” says the reinsman. “Overall she’s a pretty quality filly.”
The three-year-old trotting fillies will compete in the fifth race on Thursday’s program, which gets under way at 7:10 p.m. Mohawk Racetrack fans will also be treated to Champlain Stakes divisions for the two-year-old trotting fillies in Races 3 and 9.
To view entries for Thursday's card of harness racing, click the following link: Thursday Entries – Mohawk Racetrack.