Flashy final quarters told the story of the Milton Stakes eliminations on Saturday evening (Sept. 10) at Woodbine Mohawk Park. Grace Hill paced a :25.1 last quarter to sweep rivals in the first $35,000 elimination, while Test Of Faith rocketed home in :25.4 to edge rivals in the second split.
The first elimination saw Voelz Delight push forward and battle to the lead in a :27.1 opening quarter. The leader snagged a :29.3 second-quarter breather before pacing a :27.2 third quarter. In the stretch, Voelz Delight was swarmed by rivals from all angles, including a flying Grace Hill on the far outside for driver Doug McNair, and that pair reached for a 1:50.1 victory. Amazing Dream N finished second off a two-hole trip, while Gias Surreal was third. Watch Me Now N and Fire Start Hanover completed the top five, with Voelz Delight dropping back and missed the final by finishing sixth.
A four-year-old daughter of Always B Miki, Grace Hill recently was moved to the barn of Virgil Morgan Jr. by owner Tom Hill and came into the Milton elimination off an Open victory at Scioto.
“Tom Hill called me during the week and I’ve drove a lot for him in the past,” said McNair post-race about picking up the drive behind Grace Hill. “[Morgan Jr.] told me she could race either way… I decided not to leave and when I saw the slow half I thought I really didn’t have a shot at winning.
“Halfway around the last turn I was hoping she would be able to pace around one of them to make the final, but I knew she had a big turn of foot, I just didn’t know it was that big, she kind of went by them pretty easy.”
Saturday’s victory improves Grace Hill to four wins in 15 starts this season while boosting her career numbers to 15 wins and over $850,000 earned. She paid $5.80 to win.
Test Of Faith, the reigning U.S. Horse of the Year, shot from second-over to defeat game rivals Mikala and So Much More in 1:48.2.
Local favourite So Much More was forced to work hard in the early stages to grab the lead in a :26.1 opening quarter. After leading by the half in :54.4, So Much More was confronted on the far turn by a chagrining Mikala. The mares went toe-to-toe by three-quarters in 1:22.1. Meanwhile, Brett Pelling trainee Test Of Faith angled out from fifth for driver David Miller and followed Mikala’s path to sit just a couple of lengths from the lead turning for home. In the stretch, the standout mares sprinted home strongly, with Test Of Faith powering by on the outside for a half-length score. Mikala edged So Much More for second. Easy To Please and Dabarndawgswatchin rounded the top five.
A four-year-old daughter of Art Major, Test Of Faith entered Saturday’s contest off a runner-up performance in an overnight at Harrah’s Philadelphia.
“We actually had a tough run last week in Philly,” said Pelling. “I wasn’t 100 per cent sure if we’d have eliminations here and I wanted to give her a run and I actually had a back off week this week, so I’m hoping with a nice trip like that and the way she flashed home, I’m hoping she’ll be even better next week.”
Test Of Faith has now won seven of 13 starts this season, while finishing in the runner-up spot five times. The four-year-old pacing mare now has 29 wins and is nearing $2.1 million in earnings for owners Melvin Segal, Kentuckiana Racing Stable and Eddie Gran.
A $2 win ticket on Test Of Faith returned $2.60.
Elimination winners Grace Hill and Test Of Faith earned their connections the opportunity to select their posts for next week’s $230,000 final.
The Milton Stakes final will take place next Saturday (September 17). Below is the draw for the Milton final:
1 – So Much More
2 – Mikala
3 – Grace Hill
4 – Test Of Faith
5 – Amazing Dream N
6 – Watch Me Now N
7 – Dabarndawgswatchin
8 – Fire Start Hanover
9 – Easy To Please
10 – Gias Surreal
AE – Classicist
To view Saturday's harness racing results, click the following link: Saturday Results - Woodbine Mohawk Park.