Day At The Track

Alagna hopes byes pay off in Breeders Crown

05:42 AM 24 Oct 2019 NZDT
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Tony Alanga, harness racing
Trainer Tony Alanga

Capt Midnight trainer Tony Alagna and Catch The Fire owner Charles Taylor were both happy their horses got byes into Friday's $600,000 Breeders Crown final for 2-year-old harness racing male pacers, but it was Alagna who kept smiling after Tuesday's draw came out.

Capt Midnight drew post five while Catch The Fire will start out of the nine hole. Ironically, Alagna's second horse in the final - Put To Right - drew the only spot outside Catch The Fire.

"With Capt Midnight, we wanted to take the bye," Alagna said. "I've had bad luck; one time I (didn't take) a bye, had to beat one horse, and she made a break going to the gate. I said I'll never do that again and we'll just have to wait and see what the draw does. We got lucky enough to get the five hole."

By the time the gate folds at Woodbine Mohawk Park, it will be 20 days between starts for the Captaintreacherous-It Was Fascination colt, but Alagna feels he will be ready.

"On Saturday I brought Treacherous Reign, American History and Capt Midnight (to Mohawk) to train to the bike; it was a beautiful day and a great day to be able to do it," Alagna said, adding with grin, "The hardest part was getting (drivers) Dexter Dunn and Andy McCarthy out of bed to do it.

"Once we got here, we trained them a pretty good mile and were very happy with all of them. I think it sets him up good for the final."

Capt Midnight, who has earned C$328,194 this year, owns five wins at Woodbine Mohawk Park, including the Dream Maker Series final, Champlain, and Nassagaweya. He heads to the Breeders Crown final off a win in a division of the International Stallion Stakes at Red Mile and is 3-1 on the morning line.

Elimination winner Papi Rob Hanover is the 8-5 favorite followed by Tall Dark Stranger, who suffered his first defeat in the elim, at 2-1.

"I thought he was a little flat the last eighth (of a mile)," Tall Dark Stranger's trainer, Nancy Johansson, said. "His blood work didn't come back perfectly, unfortunately; he's battling a little bit of sickness. Hopefully we can get that squared away. I changed his front shoes for the final, so hopefully we get a little more speed out of him. I think that he will be fine. He's a good horse. The way his blood work looked after the race, he actually put in a pretty good performance.

"He trained a little bit (Tuesday) morning and he was just fine with the new shoes and everything. Hopefully he's going to have his best performance on Friday."

Catch The Fire, a Captaintreacherous-Dream Outloud colt, was purchased for $15,000 as a yearling at Lexington and "showed talent right from the start," according to Taylor. Although the draw is not great, Taylor feels his horse is right in the mix.

"I think we have a good shot," he said. "I think the top five or six in the class are so close with talent. I think it's going to come down to who gets the best trip. And if we can work out a good trip we've got just as good a shot as anybody in the race.

"He's been a little tired the last couple starts so this extra week off getting the bye is going to help us quite a bit. It gives him a few extra days off."

Catch The Fire has four firsts, three seconds and two thirds in 11 starts, good for C$252,547 in earnings. He won the Kentucky Sire Stakes final at Red Mile in 1:49.4. He also won a Kentucky Sire Stakes leg and a Pennsylvania All-Stars division. Trainer John Ackley is making his Breeders Crown debut.

"Very rarely would you want to start a 2-year-old 12 times, but he (will have) 12 starts," said Taylor, who is seeking his first Breeders Crown win. "We said all year if he shows that he doesn't want to do it any more we'd shut him down. He's had a tough season and he just hasn't shown any signs. He hasn't lost any weight, his appetite is great.

"There's very little training for him. He kind of maintains himself, he's easy on himself so we don't have to train him hard. He's just been all-around great. No ailments. He's a little smaller than the rest of them, I think that's actually worked to his advantage, that's why we were able to get 12 starts out of him, because he's a little smaller and not carrying as much weight as the rest of them."

And while Taylor feels it's anybody's race, if he had to pick a favorite, it would be Papi Rob Hanover out of the three hole.

"I just think he's raced tough throughout the year and he's raced against every single one of us and he's been first or second against every single one of us," Taylor said. "Whereas the rest of us have tended to race sporadically against each other, he's taken on all of us and the worst he's finished is second. He's just a tough horse."

Breeders Crown finals for 2-year-olds are Friday at Mohawk. The finals for 3-year-olds and older horses are Saturday. Racing begins at 7 p.m. (EDT) both nights. The Libfeld-Katz Breeding Partnership is the presenting sponsor of this year's Breeders Crown.

Following is the field for the Breeders Crown for 2-year-old male pacers.

PP-Horse-Driver-Trainer-Line
1-Mayhem Hanover-Doug McNair-Gregg McNair-20/1
2-Allywag Hanover-Tim Tetrick-Casie Coleman-15/1
3-Papi Rob Hanover-David Miller-Brett Pelling-8/5
4-Cattlewash-Louis Roy-Ron Burke-8/1
5-Capt Midnight-Andy McCarthy-Tony Alagna-3/1
6-Major Betts-Dexter Dunn-Mark Harder-15/1
7-Tall Dark Stranger-Yannick Gingras-Nancy Johansson-2/1
8-Freedom Warrior-Brian Sears-Kevin Lare-15/1
9-Catch The Fire-Mike Wilder-John Ackley-15/1
10-Put To Right-Bob McClure-Tony Alagna-20/1

By Rich Fisher, for the Breeders Crown

 

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