Day At The Track

McClure-McNair rivalry at Grand River Wednesday

08:24 PM 19 Jul 2018 NZST
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Joey Bats, harness racing
Elora resident Bob McClure drove three-year-old trotting gelding Joey Bats to a 1:58 Gold Series victory at Grand River Raceway on Wednesday
NCJ Photo

JULY 18, 2018 - Grand River Raceway hosted its first Ontario Sires Stakes event of the season on Wednesday evening and local drivers Bob McClure and Doug McNair swept six of the nine Gold and Grassroots divisions.

McClure teamed up with trainer Keith Jones of Barrie and owner Douglas McCarthy of Holland Landing, Ontario to sweep both of the three-year-old trotting colt and gelding Gold divisions.

In the first $94,800 split McClure left strongly from Post 3 with Henderson Seelster and settled the colt in second as Sicario sprinted out to a :28 quarter, :58.3 half and 1:28.1 three-quarters. In the stretch McClure sent Henderson Seelster around the tiring pacesetter and the colt powered home to a one and one-quarter length victory in 1:57.2. Heavy favourite Run Director was second and Barney Mac rounded out the top three.

"Both of Keith's are really good on a half, he has them set up and good gaited, so half-miles are an advantage to those two for sure," noted McClure. "Henderson can get a bit hot, so the pace didn't slow down very much and when he got out, he really exploded out of the hole, I didn't expect it, but he raced super. I was really happy with him."

Henderson Seelster did not race in the Ontario Sires Stakes as a two-year-old, but in three sophomore starts at the Gold Series level the son of Holiday Road has now tallied one seventh, one third and one win. Wednesday's triumph boosted the trotter's lifetime earnings to $102,454.

The second $95,600 Gold division saw McClure fire Joey Bats out of Post 6 and control the tempo, laying down fractions of :28.3, 1:00 and 1:29.2 on the way to a two length victory in 1:58. Fan favourite Stormont Ventnor was second and Winning American finished third.

"He's a really nice horse to drive," said McClure. "At Woodbine Mohawk (Park), the stretch sometimes gets a little long for him, but he's really good gaited and he's really manageable and, like I say, he gets around a half like a hoop on a barrel, so I expected him to race good today and he did, we were really moving going into that last turn.

"He got cheap fractions, which didn't hurt, but he did race really well," the Elora resident added. "Once he got the half in a minute I figured they'd have to do some racing to catch him."

Like his stablemate, Holiday Road gelding Joey Bats did not race in the Ontario Sires Stakes last season, but he now has one win, one third and one seventh to his credit through three Gold Series appearances this season, boosting his earnings to $107,140.

McClure completed the Ontario Sires Stakes hat trick in the fifth $18,450 two-year-old pacing filly Grassroots division, guiding Royalty Again to her first lifetime win in a 1:59.2 clocking. Favourite Rella Tivity was one-half length back in second and Sugar Shadow, driven by Doug McNair, was third.

"She had a lot of racing luck which never hurts," admitted McClure. "It couldn't have worked out any better for her, but when she did get room she paced forward, so you can't knock her, she won."

McClure crafted the victory for trainer Leon Mansfield and Antonia Smith of Strathroy, Ontario, who offered up $6,000 for the Royal Mattjesty daughter at last fall's London Selected Yearling Sale.

McNair collected his three Ontario Sires Stakes wins in the Grassroots divisions, guiding Bens Jenna, Kylie Seelster and Sports Flix to victory in the first, sixth and seventh splits.

Bens Jenna recorded the quickest mile of the seven divisions, hitting the wire in 1:57.1, one and one-quarter lengths ahead of Ideation Hanover and Paris Rose. Ron Adams of LaSalle conditions the Mach Three daughter for David Kryway of Amherstburg and 1362313 Ontario Ltd. of Windsor, Ontario, who acquired the filly for $16,000 from the 2017 Lexington Selected Yearling Sale.

Kylie Seelster paced home in the second fastest time, fighting off a top-of-the-stretch challenge from Whitehaven Beach to reach the wire two lengths the best in 1:57.4. Favourite Whitehaven Beach settled for second and Karans Choice was third. Gregg McNair of Guelph trains Kylie Seelster for his partner Keith Waples of Puslinch and Dr. Chris Robson of London, Ontario. The trio purchased the filly from the London Selected Yearling Sale last fall for $44,000.

"The first filly is a handy little filly and she raced good, that was a good trip," said Doug McNair about Bens Jenna. "The second filly (Kylie Seelster) raced tough. She's been off a couple of weeks, so it was another impressive mile tonight."

One race later the McNairs returned to the winner's circle with Sports Flix, who paced home one and one-half lengths ahead of favourite Lady Maya and Southwind Thundra, driven by McClure, in 2:00.3. James Fraleigh of Dresden, Ontario owns the daughter of Sportswriter and $1.3 million winner Moving Pictures, offering up $13,000 for her at the London Selected Yearling Sale.

"She's been getting better since her first qualifier (June 29) and she got a good trip tonight," said McNair. "They didn't go as much as the rest, but she got the job done."

The other three Grassroots divisions went to Better Now in 1:59.1, Jessicas Legacy in 1:58 and Twin B Friendly in 1:58.3.

Heading into the evening's final race, a preferred trot, tied with three wins each, McNair and McClure put on a show for Grand River fans. First and second turning for home, McClure urged favourite Katch Kanna home to a one length victory in 1:59, leaving McNair to settle for second with pacesetter Spartan Victory.

"Me and Dougie both had three going into the last. He cut the mile and I got by him late, and I was doing some chirping, I think," said McClure with a chuckle.

The two-year-old pacing fillies make their third Grassroots start on August 20 at Woodbine Mohawk Park, while the three-year-old trotting colts will make their fourth Gold Series appearance on August 26 at Rideau Carleton Raceway.

Grand River Raceway's second Ontario Sires Stakes event is on Monday, August 6, when the third three-year-old pacing filly Grassroots event will be part of the Elora oval's annual Industry Day celebration.

From the Ontario Sire Stakes

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