CAMPBELLVILLE, ON — Last season Gregg McNair clinched his first Johnston Cup title with three Grassroots Championship victories. This year the Guelph resident could watch Saturday’s festivities from the Mohawk Racetrack grandstand and still take home the Ontario Sires Stakes program’s leading trainer award.
After jumping out to an early lead in June McNair has been unstoppable and currently sits 129 points ahead of his nearest rival, Puslinch resident Richard Moreau. The horseman has raced 24 different pacers and nine trotters this season, making winner’s circle appearances in every division except the two-year-old trotting colt.
The trainer will only harness entries in two Grassroots Championships this season, but his starters make up almost one-third of the two-year-old pacing filly field and are headlined by division point leader Momara.
“She’s had a surprisingly good year,” says McNair of the Lis Mara filly, who will start from Post 7. “She always had a lot of potential, but she wasn’t just the greatest gaited thing all winter, so she’s been a nice surprise.”
McNair shares ownership of Momara with Leonard Gamble of Etobicoke and Don MacDonald and David Kryway of Amherstburg. The partners also bred the winner of $65,634, who has not been bested in Grassroots action since the July 2 season opener at Georgian Downs.
McNair’s son Doug will steer Momara in Saturday’s $50,000 test, which is slated for Race 8.
Momara’s stablemate Can Art finished third in the point standings and will attempt to capture the division title from Post 4. A daughter of Artistic Fella and former McNair trainee Canadette, who won $449,634 in her racing career, Can Art has always ranked near the top of the trainer’s freshman pacing filly group, which also includes the American-bred star Precocious Beauty ($376,062).
“She trained down real big last winter,” says the horseman. “She’s a little like her grand dam, Legacy of Fame ($861,061). You get floating along with her and you really don’t realize how fast you’re going.”
Chatham resident Rob Chapple bred and owns Can Art, who comes into the Championship off a three and one-quarter length win in the Sept. 11 Grassroots event at Grand River Raceway.
The final member of McNair’s potent two-year-old pacing filly trio is Regally Ready, who also reeled off a win in the last regular season event, posting a 1:56.4 personal best over the Grand River oval.
The Royal Mattjesty daughter, owned by Hutt Racing Stable of Paoli, PA, finished sixth in the point standings and will start from Post 2 on Saturday.
“She’s got a lot better that mare. She’s stronger now than she was at the start of the year,” says McNair. “She’s got gate speed and she’ll race from out of it too.”
The trainer’s fourth starter is three-year-old pacing colt Southwind Amazon, who gets Post 4 in the tenth race. The Camluck colt found the winner’s circle for the first time this season in the Sept. 8 Grassroots event at Clinton Raceway where he stopped the teletimer at 1:56.4.
“I don’t think he got beat in the Grassroots as a two-year-old,” notes McNair. “But we tried to switch him over to the Gold at the end of last year and it ended up he had a cracked P1 bone or something. He had to have surgery on it.
“He’s come back, but he’s not as dominant as he was,” the trainer continues. “The rest caught up to him I guess.”
After going four-for-four in the Grassroots last season Southwind Amazon posted one win, two seconds and three thirds in six regular season starts, putting him fourth in the sophomore pacing colt point standings. Jarold Hawks of Jeddo, MI owns the winner of $94,184 and Doug McNair will be in the race bike for Saturday’s test.
Mohawk Racetrack raises the curtain on its Saturday, Sept. 21 program at 7:25 pm, and turns the spotlight on the province’s best Grassroots competitors in Races 2 through 6 and 8 through 10. Race 7 features the $284,000 Milton Final for aged pacing mares, highlighted by former Ontario Sires Stakes stars Monkey On My Wheel and Voelz Hanover.
For complete entries please go to http://www.standardbredcanada.