Day At The Track

Grand Circuit season comes to a close

03:46 AM 03 Dec 2020 NZDT
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The Grand Circuit.jpg

Harness Racing This Week: The 2020 Grand Circuit season has come to a close. The 2021 schedule will be released in January.

Last time: Nancy Takter trainee Fortify ($22.40) took the second-over route to a 10-1 upset over stablemate No Lou Zing in the 2020 season's final Grand Circuit stop for 3-year-old pacing colts and geldings, the $325,000 Progress Pace, on Wednesday night (Nov. 25) at Dover Downs.

Favorite No Lou Zing and driver Dexter Dunn were embroiled in a :25.2 first-quarter battle with Tattoo Artist (Yannick Gingras) and Captain Kirk (Andy McCarthy), prompting Tim Tetrick to ease Fortify into midfield to stalk comfortably.

No Lou Zing worked hard to clear for control with a circuit to go, and Tetrick angled Fortify into second-over cover behind the advancing Cattlewash (David Miller) nearing a :53 half. Fortify rode that live outer flow into striking range up the far side, watching Cattlewash push No Lou Zing to three-quarters in 1:20.2 before swinging three-wide on the final turn.

While No Lou Zing was able to shrug off the challenge of Cattlewash and open up a three-length lead in upper stretch, the punishing pace ultimately took its toll. Fortify charged down the center of the track to collar his stablemate by a half-length in 1:48.2, equaling Wiggle It Jiggleit's stakes record set in 2015. Catch The Fire (Mike Wilder) split rivals in deep stretch to finish third, another 2-3/4 lengths behind.

"I think he has proven that he belongs," said trainer Nancy Takter. "He raced really well in the Kentucky Sire Stakes. He got a little bit sick during the Grand Circuit; he wasn't 100 percent perfect at The Red Mile, but still performed OK. He's definitely a nice colt and he does belong, and I think he'll show that next year, too.

"Both colts raced really well. No Lou Zing obviously got stung from the seven-hole, but he raced super well. Fortify had to go three-wide but still finished really well - it's not easy to do on that track. I couldn't be happier with both horses tonight."

"It worked out just like I thought it would," said winning driver Tim Tetrick. "The blueprint worked out perfectly for me; everything went to plan.

"The horse was sharp and they had the speed up front for me to follow. I don't think I could have gotten a better trip. When I came off David's back - he didn't get me as close as I thought - (Fortify) was going forward. I knew it was going to be close, but once I got to (No Lou Zing), I felt like I had him."

Fortify charged down the center of the track to collar his stablemate by a half-length in 1:48.2

Tetrick, who wore the colors of Fortify's owner, Diamond Creek Racing, has now won the last three renewals of the Progress after capturing the 2018 edition with This Is The Plan and the 2019 edition with Shake That House. It was Takter's first victory in Dover Downs' signature event.

Fortify, a son of Sweet Lou-Can't Stop Me Now, has now won five of his 23 career races and has amassed $372,447 in purses.

Complete recaps of all the races are available at the Grand Circuit website.

Grand Circuit Standings: In 2020, the Grand Circuit leaders in three categories (driver, trainer and owner) were once again tracked on a points system (20-10-5 for the top three finishers in divisions/finals and 10-5-2 for the top three finishers in eliminations/legs). Winbak Farms is the sponsor for the 2020 Grand Circuit awards.

Here are the final standings:

Drivers: 1. Yannick Gingras - 1,271; 2. Dexter Dunn - 1,172; 3. David Miller - 815; 4. Tim Tetrick - 765.5; 5. Andrew McCarthy - 606.

Trainers: 1. Nancy Takter - 1,325.5; 2. Ron Burke - 1,303; 3. Ake Svanstedt - 734; 4. Tony Alagna - 682; 5. Marcus Melander - 492.

Owners: 1. Burke Racing Stable - 273.9; 2. Caviart Farms - 243.8; 3. Determination - 230; 4. Brad Grant - 217.3; 5. Weaver Bruscemi - 209.8.

Looking ahead: The 2021 Grand Circuit schedule will be released in January.

Paul Ramlow

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