Driver Doug McNair had the keys to the Grassroots winner’s circle at Woodbine Mohawk Park on Tuesday (Sept. 14), guiding three-year-old pacing geldings Mustang Beach and Stonebridge Rex to victory.
“It’s nice any time you win two races, especially with these types of horses,” said McNair, the 2014 winner of the Lampman Cup as the leading driver in the Ontario Sires Stakes program, who is currently sitting fifth in the 2021 point race.
The Guelph, Ont. resident made his first appearance in front of the track photographer with Mustang Beach, who got away third from post 1 and watched division point leader No Plan Intended power out to a :26.1 quarter and favourite Cantstoplying take over through a :54.3 half and continue to lead to three-quarters in 1:22.2. In the stretch, as Cantstoplying started to drift right, McNair urged Mustang Beach up the pylons and the gelding sprinted under the wire a one-half length winner in a personal best 1:50.4. No Plan Intended finished second and Proline closed well for third, leaving Cantstoplying to settle for fourth.
“He’s one of those horses that I’ve just been getting really lucky trips with, and he’s been firing hard in the stretch,” said McNair, who also piloted the gelding to a late-rushing victory in overnight action at Woodbine Mohawk Park on Aug. 27. “He raced good.”
In his other Grassroots appearances, Mustang Beach finished sixth, ninth and fourth, so he needed Tuesday’s victory to extend his season through the Oct. 1 Grassroots Semi-Finals. With 61 points, the Sunshine Beach gelding will finish eleventh in the standings.
“Oh my god, I am so happy for the owner, he’s just a fantastic guy,” said trainer Duane Marfisi of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. resident Frank Provenzano, whose horses compete under the Busi Racing banner. “He bought into the horse on the discretion that I would continue training him and I said, ‘I don’t think he’s got those 1:51 miles in him.’ And every time the horse bumps up his record he says to me, ‘I told you he could go that fast’.”
The win was Mustang Beach’s third in 10 sophomore starts and boosted his season earnings to $33,688.
“He’s just an overachiever,” said Guelph resident Marfisi. “He really is a tiny little horse, but he tries every time he goes out there. He loves to come off a helmet.”
Starting from post 4 in the second $21,800 division, McNair opted to control the pace with Stonebridge Rex, sending the favourite to the front soon after the :26.2 quarter. Unchallenged through a :55.2 half and 1:23.2 three-quarters, Stonebridge Rex had to shift into battle mode in the stretch to hold off pocket-sitter Century Hannibal, prevailing by a head in 1:50.4. Twin B Fighter was three and three-quarter lengths behind the dueling leaders in third.
“[Jim] Ritchie’s horse [Century Hannibal] made a great race out of it,” said McNair. “Stonebridge Rex has just come right around since starting Lasix [Aug. 14]. I used him up hard the last three starts and he’s been racing really well.”
The win was the Control The Moment son’s second in Grassroots action, with the first coming Aug. 20 at Woodbine Mohawk Park. On Aug. 28 the gelding finished fourth in his Champlain Stakes division at the Campbellville oval after doing all the work up front.
McNair’s father, Gregg McNair of Guelph, ON, trains Stonebridge Rex and shares ownership of the gelding with breeder Angie Stiller of Arva and Gary Colter of Mississauga, ON. With two wins, one second and one third Stonebridge Rex wraps up the regular season ranked third in the standings with 137 points.
The top-20 point earners will return to Woodbine Mohawk Park on Oct. 1 for a pair of Semi-Finals and the top-five finishers from each Semi-Final will earn a berth in the Grassroots Championship on Oct. 9.
Next on Woodbine Mohawk Park’s Ontario Sires Stakes calendar is the Grassroots regular season finale for the two-year-old pacing colts and geldings on Thursday (Sept. 16). The colts will battle in Races 3, 5 and 8 on the 7 p.m. (EDT) card and fans can download a program and watch the live stream on the Campbellville oval’s website or register to attend in person.
(Ontario Sires Stakes)
To view Tuesday's harness racing results, click on the following link: Tuesday Results - Woodbine Mohawk Park.