Dr. Ian Moore is looking for an Ontario-bred to break through in Ohio on Thursday, and an Ohio-bred to knock off the Grand Circuit's best in Ontario two days later.
On Thursday (Sept. 21), three-year-old Stockade Seelster will make his third racing appearance on U.S. soil, having been stateside previously this year for a start in the Meadowlands Pace at The Meadowlands in July and in the Hempt at Pocono Downs in August.
The Ontario-bred son of State Treasurer and the Big Jim mare Soiree Seelster is an Ontario stalwart and a Woodbine Mohawk Park regular, but will take on a chance at the $850,000 Little Brown Jug on Thursday.
"It was always in my mind," trainer Dr. Ian Moore told Trot Insider on Tuesday night. "There was a bit of discussion amongst the owners here, but [The Jug] is the only other million dollar purse on the card for this year, so we're bringing him and he's here.
"He's had a couple of those this year," Moore said in reference to the most recent outing, a third-place finish in the Simcoe on Sept. 9. "But he seems to bounce back. He seems very content and happy. He came down [Monday] for their 11 o'clock detention / publicity barn."
A winner of the 2022 Dan Patch and O'Brien Awards, Stockade Seelster has $1,354,947 earned in his career with 14 wins. This season, he has earned $437,477 from a record of 6-2-2 in 12 starts. He has a career mark of 1:48.4 set in the Ontario Sires Stakes Gold at Woodbine on Sept. 1.
Sally and Paul MacDonald co-own Stockade Seelster, who was bred by Seelster Farms Inc. of Lucan, Ont. He was a $45,000 purchase out of the London Selected Yearling Sale.
He sets up as post four in the third elimination on the betting card in race 21 with The Little Brown Jug final slated for race 24. With morning line odds of 7-2, he is picked third among his class of six pacers. Its My Show (Scott Zeron) is the 9-5 favourite from post two and rail starter Cannibal (Yannick Gingras) is picked second with 2-1 morning line odds.
"The top four colts are right there in that one division. It's interesting. It'll be tough. Someone will go home with their head down. Even the ones that are second and third won't draw well.
David Miller will be in the bike for Dr. Ian Moore. Miller has driven the colt on one other occasion, in the Hempt at Pocono for a second-place finish to harness racing's top ranked horse, Confederate, in 1:49.1.
"Last time we had Dave here, we won," noted Moore. Fifteen years ago, Miller drove 2022 Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame inductee Shadow Play to a Little Brown Jug elimination victory for Moore in 1:50 and then, a gate-to-wire triumph in 1:50.1 in the 2008 Little Brown Jug final.
In addition to his hefty elimination class, Stockade Seelster will face one new challenge for his resume - a pari-mutuel start on a half-mile track. In 23 starts, the colt has not raced on a half-mile.
"He should be fine," Moore said. "He trains on a half. I trained him over the farm track in 51 flat before he went to Ottawa. It should not be a problem. Especially with this track here. It's one of the best halfs you want to be on with the banking and the conditions of the track."
After the races end in Delaware, Ohio, Moore will be on the road again — or in his case, back in the air and on the road again. He'll fly home Thursday night and prepare for a busy weekend at Woodbine Mohawk Park with a number of contenders competing on Canada's richest night of racing on Saturday, Sept. 23.
Elimination winner Clever Cody and stablemate Storm Shadow provide Moore with a solid 1-2 punch in the 2023 Metro Pace, facing eight other rivals in the $970,000 event.
Ohio Sire Stakes champion Clever Cody boasts a record of 6-1-1 in nine starts with $311,050 earned. The freshman son of The Panderosa and the Real Artist mare Cams Van Go has never missed the board with his remaining start as a fourth place finish in his very first track appearance.
He was bought out of the Ohio Selected Jug Yearling Sale for a bid of $24,000 by the Clever Cody Stable. Things nearly took a tragic turn for the worse not long after the yearling sale purchase, about a year ago this time.
"He got hurt two days after we got him when I was at the Jug down here. They sent me a picture of a big hole in his chest. Very big. There's a ligament there, if he had have severed that, he would have had difficulty extending his leg, but fortunately it didn't sever. I never saw one with that extent of an injury heal as quickly as he did," Moore said.
The speedy rookie clearly recovered well. He has a mark of 1:50.4, set in the $40,000 Metro Pace elimination on Sept. 16.
"I was very pleased," Moore said, on the elimination finish. "He's just been an amazing animal that I'm thrilled to be around and how he has developed into what he is. I've had a lot of babies along the way and never had one quite like this.
"Training down he was a nice colt and that was about it. All spring long, he was a nice colt, but he was in my second set of colts," he continued. "I always train them by their abilities as I don't want one winning the training mile five lengths ahead, I want them all together. He was always in the second set. Around the middle of April, I decided to open him up, then put a closed [bridle] with holes in it for a Friday morning training session. And I went the first mile with him, sat third, finished third. So, it didn't make any difference. But we left it on and then, Tuesday, I went the first mile and boom, he went right around them, just for fun. I went the last trip with him, too, and he did the exact same thing."
After driving the colt to victory in the elimination, Sylvain Filion handles the lines once again as they leave from the center of the gate in the field of 10 freshman pacers. He's the third choice on the morning line at 4-1. The undefeated Legendary Hanover (PP2, James MacDonald) is favoured at 8-5. Moore noted that the Metro will be Clever Cody will be shut down after the Metro, his 10th start as a two-year-old.
"He's training Thursday, shipping Friday, racing Saturday, and come back Sunday. That's a grind on any horse level and that's a two-year-old. There were three weeks in a row with that, from Northfield to Scioto. But this morning jogging, he still seems good as ever. And he's grown an awful lot during that period of time. High behind now and has a lot of filling out and catching up to do, so we're going to make sure he has ample time to do that for next year."
Storm Shadow (PP5, David Miller, 20-1) provides Moore with two chances for a Metro repeat. A $165,000 yearling purchase of R G McGroup Ltd. of Bathurst, N.B., NHL Hall of Famer Serge Savard of St-Bruno, Que., Mac Nichol of Burlington, Ont. and Bolton Farms LLC of Clermont, Fl., the son of Bettors Delight - Fade also had an auspicious start to his racehorse career.
After a severe bout of colic, the yearling required surgery. There, it was revealed that his spleen got displaced and hung up over a piece of his bowel. With successful surgery in the books, Storm Shadow had two months off and didn't start back in training until the third week of January.
"And he caught up in a real hurry," added Moore. "So we're very pleased. He's a very young and immature colt still. Won his first start and right there, second, third, and raced a nice fourth the other night, coming from the back to do it. We were very pleased with him."
In addition to his Metro Pace starters, Moore will send out Call Me Goo from post nine in the $381,000 Elegantimage Final, Odds On Platinum in post two in the $540,000 Shes A Great Lady Final, and 2023 Canadian Pacing Derby winner Tattoo Artist in post nine in the $75,000 Free For All Pace.
Call Me Goo (PP9, Sylvain Filion, 8-1) won her Casual Breeze division in a lifetime best 1:52.2 when she debuted for the Moore barn on Aug. 25, and finished a solid third to Bond in her Elegantimage elimination.
"She trotted right to the record that she took, which was three weeks in between races," noted Moore. "This time of year when you have that gap, it's kind of tough to keep them sharp and up on the rigging, especially with a trotter — and I'm training her alone. It's difficult but she raced well and she's obviously going to be a little tighter this week. With the nine hole that'll change the dynamic a little bit, too.
"Hopefully we'll give Bond and some of the other ones a run there Saturday night. A classy filly very, very classy, filly. One of the nicest trotters I've ever sat behind."
Bond (PP5, Ake Svanstedt) is the 9-5 favourite. She's followed by Rose Run Yolanda (PP4, Gingras, 5-2) and elim winner Righteous Resolve (PP6, MacDonald, 7-2).
Odds On Platinum (PP2, Filion, 6-1) was never better than her runner-up performance to Caviart Belle in the second Shes A Great Lady elimination from last Saturday, and she draws just inside of that rival — the 9-5 favourite — in this Saturday's Shes A Great Lady Final.
"She's a really nice filly. The last couple of weeks I have not been training her. Lots of jogging. She's been racing quite regularly for a two-year-old, more than I like on a weekly basis...and she raced great. Now, you know, the last couple of times issues she's got up beside one and then just kind of hung. So I think I need to open her up a bit. But it's very difficult to do that when you're racing for $540,000."
Sold as Amethyst Hanover, Odds On Platinum (Bettors Delight - American Jewel) is owned by Dana Parham's Odds On Racing.
She sports 2-3-1 summary from eight starts with a mark of 1:52.2 and $153,609 in earnings. She's the fourth choice on the morning line behind Caviart Belle, Its A Love Thing (PP5, MacDonald, 3-1) and My Girl EJ (PP7, David Miller, 7-2).
Last but certainly not least, the popular Tattoo Artist returns to the site of his Canadian Pacing Derby victory in a $75,000 Free For All Pace. Tattoo Artist drew the outermost post in a field of nine solid open class performers, but the six-year-old garners respect and the oddsmakers have tabbed him as the 6-5 favourite with Louis-Philippe Roy back at the lines. Roy and Tattoo Artist have yet to taste defeat as a tandem.
"It's amazing how versatile he's become, and it's amazing to me how versatile Louis has become driving him. People think of Louis as an off-the-gate and down-the-road kind of a guy, which at times is really good for a lot of horses. It's really surprising the way he drives this horse AND the way the horse responds to him."
A win on Saturday night would put the son of Hes Watching - Stylish Artist just shy of $3 million in lifetime earnings for Let It Ride Stables Inc. of Boca Raton, Fl., Frank Cannon of Sanford, Fl., Diamond Creek Racing of Wellsville, Pa. and Bottom Line Racing LLC of Boca Raton.
"We had a choice to go to the Hoosier Pacing Derby. It's $175,000 but it's obviously a long ship and I could have gotten it done but the discussion was Frank [Cannon] and Eric [Cherry] to keep him in Ontario for the $75,000 race and then head to Dayton, Ohio next week for the Dayton Pacing Derby.
"He's winding down his career now, so we're trying to baby him along and do the best we can for him."
The veteran trainer credits his ability to handle his many starters in many different places to a great team of help behind him on both sides of the border.
"We're looking forward to it now. We know they're all set up and it is what it is, so hopefully we'll enjoy it and get everything done to everybody's satisfaction."