The Red Mile's weekend of Grand Circuit stakes wrapped up on Sunday with the final set of Bluegrass Series divisions and eliminations for the Allerage Farms Open events.
Ma Chere Hall won a stretch duel with slight favourite Shared Past in Sunday's Bluegrass Series opener, an $86,600 division for three-year-old trotting fillies.
Driver Corey Callahan floated Ma Chere Hall off the gate from post seven and the daughter of Deweycheatumnhowe worked her way to the lead through the :27.1 opening quarter over early leaver Shared Past (Yannick Gingras).
Ma Chere Hall led the field to the half in :55.1 and stole a third quarter breather, reaching the next marker in 1:25.1. Meanwhile, Shared Past edged out of the pocket around the final turn and engaged in a stretch battle with the leader.
Ma Chere Hall maintained a slight lead as the fillies sprinted down the lane with Shared Past drifting out slightly. Ma Chere Hall prevailed by a neck in 1:52.3, equalling her lifetime mark. Shared Past settled for second with Royal Assets (Ray Schnittker) following back in third.
"It's kind of robbery getting a :30-second quarter there," noted Callahan, referring to the third panel time, "but the only horse I thought I had to beat was the one on my back so I took advantage of it."
The Jonas Czernyson trainee continued her win streak, which includes a sweep of the Kentucky Sires Stakes. She now has six wins in 10 starts on her sophomore record with earnings climbing to $232,344 for owners Walnut Hall Limited, Aldebaran Park Inc. and Joe Sbrocco.
Next up, older trotters and pacers faced off in eliminations for next weekend's Allerage Farms Open events.
Arch Madness equalled his own 1:50.2 world record for older trotting geldings in the $10,000 Open Trot elimination for trainer/driver Trond Smedshammer.
Also advancing to the final in second through seventh place are Quick Deal (Yannick Gingras), Market Share (Tim Tetrick), Sevruga (Andy Miller), Mister Herbie (Jody Jamieson), Appomattox (Scott Zeron), and Lindys Jersey Boy (Corey Callahan). They will be joined by Wishing Stone, Southwind Pepino and Guccio, who all accepted byes.
Sevruga rolled to the lead over Quick Deal into the opening turn and carved out early fractions of :28 and :54.3. As the field raced down the backstretch to the 1:23 third quarter mark, Arch Madness was flushed first over from third and moved up to challenge Sevruga with Appomattox and Market Share on his back. Arch Madness wore down Sevruga in the stretch and then held off the quick-closing Quick Deal and Market Share for the 18-1 upset.
Arch Madness matched his own world record and lifetime mark, which was set in 2011 Titan Cup at The Meadowlands.
"He's an amazing horse. To me he's acted like himself all year. He didn't act like he lost a step, but it's been an awfully tough group of horses," noted Smedshammer. "A lot of times he ended up in the two-hole and I talked to the owners about it and when you go back and look at his career he's never really raced any good with a trip. He's either good if he comes first up or is on the front end. This was probably his last chance against these kind of horses so we said to give him a shot from first over and he delivered. He felt strong all the way to the wire."
The Balanced Image gelding, who competed overseas earlier this year, earned the second win of his nine-year-old campaign for trainer Jim Mulinix and owners Marc Goldberg, and Willow Pond LLC. He's banked over $200,000 in purses this year while inching closer to the $4 million earnings mark.
"He's an iron tough horse," added Smedshammer. "They just don't make horses like this anymore."
A Rocknroll Dance and Tim Tetrick held off a late-charging Bolt The Duer (Mark MacDonald) and Our Lucky Chip (Trace Tetrick) to win the $10,000 elimination for the Open Pace in 1:48.4.
The top nine finishers will join Pet Rock, who received a bye, in the final. Rounding out the field in order of finish are Sweet Lou (Yannick Gingras), Golden Receiver (Corey Callahan), Clear Vision (Brett Miller), Up The Credit (Jody Jamieson), Escape The News (Ron Pierce), and Aracache Hanover (Matt Kakaley). Foreclosure N (Andy Miller) was eliminated.
Bolt The Duer and Sweet Lou traded turns on the lead through a :27.1 first quarter, but an oncoming A Rocknroll Dance cleared to command down the backstretch. The 3-5 favourite then carved out middle splits of :53.4 and 1:22.1 and held off the closers down the lane to deliver on his pari-mutuel promise.
"All of these horses are very talented and they can all sprint fast. When you turn it into a sprint like that, it's anybody's race," said Tetrick. "My horse raced really well, he fought game. They made a little bridle change where he can see a little bit more, and when he saw them coming, he was racing everybody he could see."
A Rocknroll Dance has won six of his 15 races this year while adding over $500,000 to his $2.4 million bankroll. The four-year-old son of Rocknroll Hanover is owned by A Rocknroll Dance Stable.
The spotlight shifted back to the Bluegrass for the remainder of the card with the second set of three-year-old trotting fillies competing in another $86,600 event. Handover Belle pulled off a 9-1 upset with a career-best 1:52.2 effort for trainer Tony Alagna.
Heavy 1-5 favourite Frau Blucher (Ron Pierce) established the early lead from post three, but the parked out Mistery Woman (David Miller) pressed on to take over past the :27.3 first quarter mark.
Mistery Woman raced to the half in :55.4 and three-quarters while Frau Blucher was flushed back out nearing the 1:24.3 third quarter mark.
Mistery Woman held on to the lead as they entered the stretch, but Tim Tetrick had a third over Handover Belle three-wide and firing on all cylinders. She powered past the front-runners down the lane and held off the oncoming To Dream On (Jimmy Taker) to win by half a length. Mistery Woman settled for third.
"She's always been a filly that's really good tracking horses and always showed a big late kick early at The Meadowlands," said Alagna. "Last year we were very high on her and she finished up the year well. It looked like she was going to give To Dream On a run for her money one day here at Lexington, but stepped on a flip-flop and made a break. She's always showed the ability and she got an opportunity to get a nice mark today."
John Carver and Howard Taylor's Andover Hall filly is now four-for-12 this year with seasonal earnings soaring to $133,366.
Creatine cruised wire-to-wire to win the first $86,900 division of the Bluegrass for three-year-old trotting colts and geldings in 1:52.3, giving trainer Bob Stewart at hometown victory.
Driver Mike Lachance sent the favoured son of Andover Hall to the lead from post five and rated fractions of :28.2, :56.2 and 1:25 before holding off attackers on both sides in deep stretch. First over Punxsutawney (Corey Callahan) finished second on the outside while Deadliest Catch (Ron Pierce) found room late along the pylons to finish third.
"I didn't really want to race him in front today, but that's the way the race set up," said Lachance. "I tried to cut even fractions and he dug in at the end there. I didn't ask him anything in the last turn, I just waited until the top of the stretch and he was good enough that he held on."
Creatine heads into next weekend's Kentucky Futurity with a seasonal record reading 6-2-0 in 11 starts and sophomore earnings totalling $276,977 for owner Diamond Creek Racing.
"A race like that [the Kentucky Futurity] is very competitive," said Lachance, who won last year's Futurity with My MVP. "Post position means a lot and the kind of trip that I'm going to get the first heat. I know one thing, he's going to race good because he's super sharp right now."
Another Kentucky Futurity hopeful, Your So Vain staged a big stretch rally from the backfield to carry Tim Tetrick back to victory lane in the second $86,900 division for three-year-old trotting colts and geldings.
Bluto (Andy Miller) turned back an early challenge from Vibe Blue Chip (Yannick Gingras), who retreated back into the three-hole, past the :29.2 opening quarter mark.
He then led the field through middle fractions of :57.1 and 1:25.3 with Wheeling N Dealin (Sylvain Filion) moving underway from sixth.
At the top of the stretch, Lindys Tru Grit (Scott Zeron) pulled the pocket and wore down the leader, but 1-9 favourite Your So Vain circled the field to prevailed over Lindys Tru Grit in 1:53.3. Vibe Blue Chip finished third with Wheeling N Dealin coming on for fourth.
"He was a long way back there," said Tetrick after the race. "At the quarter pole I was really cussing myself for getting back as far as I did with the slow fractions, but I have a lot of trust in the horse. He shows he loves to race home and he loves to pass horses.
"He just wants to put his nose out and he proved that today. I drove him a couple of times last year and he's just a nice horse, nothing flashy, but he really likes to get to the halves. Today he proved that he can make up six, seven lengths in the lane, which is pretty awesome."
Brad Maxwell trains the Donato Hanover colt for the P G Van Camp Stables of Port Perry, Ont. The Canadian Trotting Classic runner-up now has four wins in nine starts this year with seasonal earnings of $313,068.
Spider Blue Chip wrapped up The Red Mile's weekend of Grand Circuit racing with a track record performance in the last $87,900 division for the sophomore trotters.
All Laid Out (Yannick Gingras) were the first to the front with a challenging Master Of Law (Scott Zeron) breaking stride. That cleared the way for Spider Blue as Ron Pierce rolled him up alongside the leader past the :28-second opening quarter mark.
Spider Blue Chip took his time clearing to command down the backstretch and hit the half in :55.1. He proceeded to three-quarters in 1:24.2 with Pine Credit (Corey Callahan) flushed from third to offer up a first over challenge into the stretch. However, Spider Blue Chip fought him off to win by a length in 1:51.3. All Laid Out finished third.
The time of the mile was new track record for three-year-old trotting geldings and was just one-fifth of a second off Vivid Photo's world record set in 2005 at Duquoin State Fair.
When asked about Spider Blue Chip's distraction down the backstretch, trainer Chuck Sylvester pointed to an equipment change.
"He broke at Delaware [in his last start on Sept. 19]. I put a bridle on him that made him a bit too hot and he couldn't make it on the turns," explained Sylvester. "That's the first time this year with an open bridle so I expected he might do that."
The multiple stakes-winning Andover Hall gelding is owned by Melvin Hartman of Ottawa, Ont. and Florida partner David McDuffee. He's won eight of his 14 races while banking $686,063.
"He's made a lot of money and he battles with the best of them all year," said Sylvester. "He's got the Futurity next week, and let's hope we can get through that, and then onto the Breeder Crown."