DATE, 2015 - Harness racing trainer Dave Menary will arrive at Woodbine Racetrack on Saturday evening with eight Super Final contenders, including two division point leaders, but the Cambridge, ON resident says his starters have their work cut out for them in the Ontario Sires Stakes program's $2 million season finale. "When the sheet came out, you know Free Show drawing the 10-hole, and Nvestment drawing the 10-hole, it was just a heart-breaker," said Menary of the post position results for his top two-year-old pacing filly Free Show and two-year-old pacing colt division leader Nvestment Bluechip. "Nvestment he's just risen to the occasion. He's been my favourite colt since November and he's kind of lived up to it," said the trainer, whose Ontario Sires Stakes starters have earned a program leading $802,700 this season. "His last start -- to take a lifetime mark and beat Betting Line fair and square -- we raced the whole way, we were out there to race, and we're going to be out there to race again Saturday night. We're just going to have to overcome our post." In four regular season Gold Series starts Nvestment Bluechip posted three wins and one fourth to finish with 158 points. The son of Shadow Play and Hazes Zure Bet also won his Champlain Stakes division at Mohawk Racetrack on Sept. 12 and has earned $219,283 for owners Menary Racing Inc. of Rockton, Michael Guerriero of Brampton, Denis Breton of Welland and Thomas Kyron of Toronto, ON. The colt, a $40,000 purchase from the 2014 Harrisburg Yearling Sale, heads into Saturday's fifth race off a 1:51.1 personal best in the last Gold Leg of the season. His rivals in the two-year-old pacing colt division will line up in the order they finished in the point standings with Semi Automatic at Post 3, Voracity at Post 4, and Betting Line at Post 5. "I think the horse is as good right now as he's been all year, but I think it's the worst post he's ever had, so we'll see how those two factors together work out," said Menary, who will entrust the colt to regular reinsman Jody Jamieson of Moffat, ON. "We're going out there to win, so he's going to have to work pretty hard from the 10-hole, and we'll see how that pans out." In addition to Free Show, Menary will harness two other hopefuls in the freshman pacing filly season finale, which will be the first $250,000 Super Final to go postward on Saturday. Heavenly Hill and New Jersey-based driver Tim Tetrick landed Post 4, Maniana and Guelph, ON resident James MacDonald will start from Post 9, while Free Show and Jamieson will be handicapped by the outside Post 10. Bred and owned by Tom Hill of Hamilton, ON, Heavenly Hill was a winner in the Aug. 15 Gold Leg at Georgian Downs and the Art Colony daughter heads into Saturday's test off a runner-up effort at Mohawk on Sept. 28. Unlike her stablemates, Maniana did not win a regular season Gold division, but Menary says the Sportswriter filly has been in the picture in most of her starts. William Donovan of Ft. Lauderdale, FL owns Maniana, who was a $12,000 acquisition from last November's Harrisburg Yearling Sale. Free Show led her stablemates in the division standings, finishing third with one win, one second and three thirds for a total of 137 points, and the Badlands Hanover daughter was also victorious in her elimination and the final of the Battle of the Belles at Grand River Raceway. Hutt Racing Stable of Paoli, PA acquired the winner of $205,773 from the Harrisburg Yearling Sale for $14,000 and Menary says she may be the fastest two-year-old in Ontario in a sprint away from the starting gate. "I don't think there's any two-year-old colt or filly that can out leave her," attested the horseman. "I didn't want to have to try to prove it from the 10-hole, but she can absolutely follow the car, and we've done that all year, she's been so handy. You can follow the car out of there, and leave any kind of quarter you want to leave with her, and she'll just come right back to you." Division heavyweights Thatsoveryverynice, L A Delight and Twin B Thong will make their bid for the Super Final crown from Posts 5, 6, and 8, respectively, in the second race. Two-year-old trotting filly One Too Many makes her first start out of the Menary barn in Saturday's Super Final and the trainer says he and his staff have been tinkering with the young trotter's equipment in an effort to maximize her raw speed. "She's a filly that's made a good impression on me so far. Anthony MacDonald did a very good job with her all year," said the trainer. "The filly is maybe just a step behind the best fillies, but she has a very quick turn of foot. I think I've made changes that have helped her, and hopefully they don't backfire." Guelph, ON resident Anthony MacDonald will steer One Too Many from Post 2 in Saturday's third race on behalf of Rene Allard of Milford, PA, who purchased the Manofmanymissions daughter from the 2014 Canadian Yearling Sale for $14,000. Aside from Devils Advocate, who will start from Post 3, the big names in the freshman trotting filly division will be loaded on the outside of the starting gate. Division leader Caprice Hill gets Post 7, Emoticon Hanover will start from Post 8 and Could It Be Magic has Post 9. Menary's final group of starters will go postward in the seventh race, when the three-year-old pacing colts and geldings will wage the last Ontario Sires Stakes battle of their careers. Last season's Super Final champion Reverend Hanover and North America Cup Consolation winner Physicallyinclined are expected to give fans another epic battle from Posts 7 and 4, respectively, but Menary is hoping his trio can earn their share of the $250,000. "I think every colt in the race is a step behind the best two colts, so the three that I have in there, I would like to see them all get a piece of the pie, and the bigger the better," said the trainer. "This is supposed to be the glamour boy division for Ontario so they're all going to be going, they're all going to be racing, hopefully things happen and my three can all pick up good pieces." Sportsmanship will start from Post 2 for Kenneth Ewen of Georgetown, Denis Breton of Welland, Thomas Kyron of Toronto and Parkinson Farms of Lucan, ON, getting the driving services of Jody Jamieson. The Sportswriter gelding finished the season in ninth spot in the standings and Menary expects an off-the-pace effort from the winner of $109,890. Robert Hill and Tim Tetrick will start from Post 3 and Menary expects another solid effort from the game pacer. Hamilton resident Tom Hill owns the Jeremes Jet gelding, who has banked $172,790. The final member of Menary's three-year-old pacing trio is division point leader J Js Delivery, who posted one win, one second, two thirds and one fifth in the regular season to tally 104 points. The Jeremes Jet gelding battled hard all season and the trainer does not expect things to change in the season finale. "It's just been ultra-tough all year. He's gone a lot of hard trips and he's been going a long time," said Menary, who trains the winner of $222,031 for owner-breeder Robert Hamather of Exeter, ON and will entrust the lines to James MacDonald. "I think from the eight-hole we're going to be going for it. We've given him a lot of hard trips; I don't think we're going to stop now." In addition to being treated to eight outstanding Super Final battles on Saturday evening, Woodbine Racetrack fans will also receive an Ontario Sires Stakes ball cap with their program purchase. The evening's first race goes postward at 7:25 pm, with the eight $250,000 Super Finals featured in Races 2, 3, and 5 through 10. For the full program click here. Ontario Horse Racing
The Breeders Crown, harness racing's 12-race US $5.8 million divisional championship series, rolls into Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto, Canada on Sat., Oct. 24. Even as the final Grand Circuit week at Lexington's Red Mile gets underway, there are still several divisional titles up for grabs among harness racing's elite. It's decision week for foreign invitees to the $500,000 Breeders Crown Trot, supplements and eligible entries for the Crown races. Any invited foreign trotter must enter in advance of supplements and regular entries, on Monday, Oct. 12, by 10:30 a.m. at the Mohawk race office. Supplements are due and payable by noon on the same day, and are only accepted for the 3-Year-Old and Open Events. There is no supplemental provision for two-year-olds. Regular entries for all other horses kept eligible by the required sustaining payments in 2015 are due Tuesday, October 13, by 10:30 a.m. at the WEG race office at Mohawk Raceway. Eliminations, if necessary, will be raced on Friday, Oct. 16 and Saturday, Oct. 17. For supplemental amounts and all conditions and details of the race, please call Moira Fanning at 609-371-2211 or Scott McKelvie at (905) 854-7805, or visit www.Hambletonian.org.
OCT. 2, 2015 - Woodbine Racetrack fans got a preview of next week's Super Final as the three-year-old pacing colts delivered a pair of impressive performances on Friday evening in the last regular season event on the Gold Series calendar. Six of the top 10 point earners lined up on the starting gate in the second $105,000 Gold division and six of the nine starters had their accelerators down early. Physicallyinclined and driver Paul MacDonell won the first battle, reaching the opening quarter in a snappy :25.3. The pair looked under threat from Go Daddy Go and fan favourite Reverend Hanover in the outer lane, but Go Daddy Go made a break that pushed Reverend Hanover into the middle of the racetrack and allowed MacDonell to sneak in a quick breather for his colt. Reverend Hanover caught Physicallyinclined just before the :54.1 half and led the field to a 1:22.3 three-quarters. As the colts squared up for the stretch drive, Guelph, ON resident MacDonell fired Physicallyinclined out of the pocket and the Mach Three son rocketed down the stretch to a one-half length win in 1:50.2. Reverend Hanover settled for second after his interrupted tour of the racetrack and Drachan Hanover was three lengths back in third. "He's a tough horse," said Dr. Ian Moore of Physicallyinclined. "We got him ready in a hurry, we had no choice really, he has nothing left after these two races." After posting a record of four wins and two seconds in his first seven starts this season, Physicallyinclined suffered an injury in mid-July that saw him miss two months of action on the Gold Series circuit. The colt requalified on Sept. 18 at Mohawk Racetrack and made his first start since the injury in a Sept. 25 overnight event at Mohawk, posting a 1:51.2 win. Tied for ninth in the division standings heading into the regular season finale, Physicallyinclined secured a berth in the Oct. 10 Super Final with Friday's win, his first in Gold Series action. "All the owners were up, so they were very pleased," said Dr. Moore, who conditions the North America Cup Consolation winner for Bruce McGean of Stewiacke, NS and Sterling Feener of Sydney, NS. "We're looking forward to next week." The Guelph, ON resident noted that Physicallyinclined had an easier tour around the Woodbine oval than a number of his peers and said he will have to be back at the top of his form for next Saturday's $250,000 Super Final test. "He should be fairly fresh, but Reverend Hanover is going to be fresh too. There are several good colts in that division, it's not going to be a cakewalk for anybody," said the trainer. "It will be a tough race, that's for sure." The sophomore pacing colts also delivered a thrilling finish in the first $105,000 division, with His Boy Elroy prevailing by one-half length over Mr Carrotts and Moonwriter in 1:52. Starting from Post 5, driver Mike Saftic settled His Boy Elroy into the fourth spot and watched as Sportsmanship rang up a :26.3 quarter and :55.3 half. Just after the halfway marker Saftic sent His Boy Elroy up the outside and the Jeremes Jet son was leading the charge up the outer lane at the 1:24.3 three-quarters. Shifting into high gear in the stretch, His Boy Elroy powered by the leaders to claim his first Gold Series trophy, adding it to the Grassroots hardware he won at Mohawk on July 31. Third in the Grassroots Championship at Mohawk on Sept. 26, His Boy Elroy is not eligible to the Super Final, but runner-up Mr Carrotts and pacesetter Sportsmanship both qualified for the lucrative post season. Campbellville, ON resident Saftic engineered His Boy Elroy's fifth win in 23 starts for trainer Jean Guy Belliveau of Cambridge, ON and owner Dan MacRae of Baddeck, NS. His Boy Elroy The top 10 point earners from all eight trotting and pacing divisions will spend the next eight days preparing for the $2 million Super Finals at Woodbine Racetrack on Oct. 10, and if Friday's regular season finale was any indication, fans are in for a night of outstanding racing. Ontario Horse Racing
TORONTO, October 1 - Two-year-old trotter Moonlight Cocktail crossed the wire first in Thursday night's opening race at Woodbine Racetrack to kick off the Fall-Winter harness racing meet. Trained by John Bax, Moonlight Cocktail and driver Steve Byron stopped the timer in 2:00 to capture the $14,000 two-year-old trotting event. The first race Thursday was not only the opening race of the meet, but also the first leg of the brand new Pick-5 wager. A new addition to the Woodbine Standardbred wagering menu, the Pick-5 starts each evening in the first race and requires horseplayers to select the winner of the evening's first five races. The wager features a $0.20 minimum and a 15 per cent takeout. The inaugural Pick-5 Thursday generated a pool of $16,950 and a five out of five ticket returned $125.83 for a $0.20 wager. Live harness racing will take place every Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday during the Woodbine Fall-Winter meet. Post time is 7:25 p.m. Mark McKelvie
The Hambletonian Society, which owns and administrates the Breeders Crown series, will raise the four freshman divisions of the Breeders Crown races to $600,000 each for 2015. The 12 year-end Championship events will be held on Saturday, Oct. 24 at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Given the Society's longstanding mission to support and promote the breeding of Standardbred horses and as a participant in the recent summit to positively address the declining foal crop, an immediate boost to 2-year-old purses will benefit breeders, owners and yearling buyers. "Adding $400,000 to each of the 2-year-old divisions will give owners more of a return on their investment this year and also send them to the yearling sales with more to spend," said Tom Charters, president of the Hambletonian Society. "This is a first step in what we expect to be a series of coordinated measures that will increase the opportunity for yearling buyers and thus support the foal crop and the long-term health of the entire industry." The 12-race US$5.8 million Breeders Crown night at Woodbine will have an early post time of 6:30 p.m. [EDT]. Woodbine Racetrack has hosted more editions of the Breeders Crown than any other venue, having crowned 88 champions at the metropolitan Toronto oval.
CAMPBELLVILLE, August 12 - As the summer months fly by, the Woodbine Entertainment Group would like to inform horsepeople of the details for this year's Ontario Sired Autumn Series. The Autumn Series will once again be offered for each two and three-year-old division this November. Ontario sired two-year-olds that are non-winners of $30,000 lifetime as of midnight September 30, 2015 are eligible to the Autumn Series. As for the sophomores, Ontario sired three-year-olds that are non-winners of $50,000 lifetime or $30,000 in 2015 as of midnight September 30, 2015 are eligible. Each series will be contested at Woodbine with two preliminary legs and a final. The two-year-old filly trotters and pacers will kick off Autumn Series action on Monday, November 2, while the rookie colts and geldings will start their series on Thursday November 5. The Autumn Series for three-year-old fillies begins on Friday, November 20 and the sophomore colts and geldings will start their series the following night on Saturday, November 21. Nominations close on Thursday, October 1 and the fee is $200 for each category. To view the nomination form, click here. To pay the $200 nomination fee online, click here. If sending nominations by mail, envelopes must be clearly post-marked no later than October 1, 2015 or payment will not be accepted. Registered mail is recommended. Mark McKelvie
TORONTO, May 26 - Doors Open Toronto presented by Great Gulf offered free and rare access to more than 155 architecturally, historically, culturally and socially significant buildings across the city, including Woodbine, this past weekend. In honour of this summer's Toronto 2015 Pan American/Parapan American Games, this year's Doors Open theme - Sports, Recreation and Leisure - showcased private and public recreational sites ranging from aquatic centres to athletics stadiums. At Woodbine, guided bus tours of the private stable area, grandstand, the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame as well as other key spots on the racetrack's 680 acres were offered to fans. Nearly 2,000 people signed up for Woodbine tours over the two-day extravaganza. "Woodbine Entertainment Group would like to acknowledge the great outpouring of support by the Rexdale community and those across Toronto who came to visit Woodbine and all the other venues during Doors Open Toronto weekend," said Jim Lawson, CEO of Woodbine Entertainment Group (WEG). "We were overwhelmed by the outpouring of support of all that happens at Woodbine. "I'm extremely proud of our employees and staff at Woodbine who went the extra step to show how great the racetrack really is," Mr. Lawson said. "We also have to commend the efforts of the Doors Open Toronto organizers, who put on a terrific spectacle that displayed the city at its best." WEG is the largest horse racing operator in Canada offering world class horse racing at both Woodbine (Toronto) and Mohawk (Milton) racetracks. WEG also operates off-track wagering through its Champions teletheatre network throughout Ontario, which includes WEGZ Stadium Bar in Vaughan, Turf Lounge in the heart of Toronto's financial district and Greenwood in the Beach area of Toronto. Remote wagering is also available to customers through HPIbet (formerly HorsePlayer Interactive), the company's telephone, internet and mobile account wagering service. WEG operates HPItv, a CRTC licensed digital television channel that broadcasts its racing product into homes across Canada. A "Caring Company" since 1997, Woodbine Entertainment Group is a member of Imagine Canada, a national program that promotes public and corporate giving, volunteerism and support to the community. John Siscos
Looking for something to do this weekend? Visit the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame and Woodbine Racetrack as they take part in Doors Open Toronto presented by Great Gulf. This is your opportunity and to learn about the history and heritage of Canadian horse racing from historians and docents including Hall of Fame Founder/Director Emeritus, Lou Cauz; author and Hall of Fame Member Bill Galvin; and harness racing ambassador, owner and super fan, Sydney Weaver. See rare memorabilia and photos of iconic Canadian horses Northern Dancer and Cam Fella, test your trivia knowledge for the chance to win great CHRHF merchandise, and take your picture as a harness driver or jockey in the photo area. Woodbine activities include backstretch bus tours starting at 10am each day, with behind the scenes tours beginning at noon, and don’t forget there is a full card of Thoroughbred racing action beginning at 1pm both Saturday and Sunday. Hall of Fame driver Ron Waples and Hall of Fame jockey Sandy Hawley are also scheduled to make appearances. Events takes place this Saturday May 23rd & Sunday May 24th from 10am until 5pm. The Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame, founded in 1976, offers visitors a one of a kind look into 250 years of rich history and heritage of both the Thoroughbred and Standardbred horse racing industry in Canada. For further information on the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame visit canadianhorseracinghalloffame.com & join the conversation via Facebook and Twitter! Facebook: Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame Twitter: @cdn_halloffame @woodbineracing @Doors_OpenTO and using the event hashtag #DOT15 Linda Rainey Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame
TORONTO, May 14 - The highly popular Doors Open Toronto presented by Great Gulf, which offers free and rare access to more than 155 architecturally, historically, culturally and socially significant buildings across the city, presents a unique opportunity to see Woodbine Racetrack as never before on May 23 and May 24. In honour of this summer's Toronto 2015 Pan American/Parapan American Games, this year's Doors Open theme - Sports, Recreation and Leisure - showcases private and public recreational sites ranging from aquatic centres to athletics stadiums. "Woodbine is honoured to be part of this great event," said Jim Lawson, CEO of Woodbine Entertainment Group. "Doors Open Toronto offers a tremendous opportunity for people to experience the many diverse and celebrated sites across our great city. We look forward to welcoming visitors to our historic venue." Guided bus tours of Woodbine's private stable area, beginning at 10 am, will be offered. Visitors will have the opportunity to see where more than 2,000 horses live and train, hear from experienced caretakers and racing personnel, tour the paddock, and walk through the Thoroughbred starting gate. Visitors will also have a chance to participate in a guided walking tour of Woodbine's Grandstand, beginning at noon. , including the Hall of Fame, showcasing WEG's rich racing history, the state-of-the-art in-house broadcast studios, press box, the Thoroughbred paddock, and the Winner's Circle. There will also be an opportunity to meet Woodbine's jockeys and drivers. Those attending can take in the sights and sounds of live racing action on both days. Post time for Saturday and Sunday is 1 pm. Parking is available at Gate 10 for easy access to the tour registration area. Accessible drop-off and tour sign up is located at Gate 11. Tours are on a first come, first serve basis and are scheduled once on the site. Accessible tours are available upon request. And, don't forget to bring a camera or video camera. Interior photography and filming is permitted, including tripod. WEG is the largest horse racing operator in Canada offering world class horse racing at both Woodbine (Toronto) and Mohawk (Milton) racetracks. WEG also operates off-track wagering through its Champions teletheatre network throughout Ontario, which includes WEGZ Stadium Bar in Vaughan, Turf Lounge in the heart of Toronto's financial district and Greenwood in the Beach area of Toronto. Remote wagering is also available to customers through HPIbet (formerly HorsePlayer Interactive), the company's telephone, internet and mobile account wagering service. WEG operates HPItv, a CRTC licensed digital television channel that broadcasts its racing product into homes across Canada. A "Caring Company" since 1997, Woodbine Entertainment Group is a member of Imagine Canada, a national program that promotes public and corporate giving, volunteerism and support to the community. â€‹ For more information about WEG's CSR agenda and its performance outcomes, www.wegcares.ca Social Media: Join the conversation by following @woodbineracing @Doors_OpenTO on Twitter and using the event hashtags #DOT15 #WEGcares John Siscos
There are some athletes, who are to their sport — like jam is to peanut butter. They come together like eggs to bacon. They blend. They become one, an osmosis in the world of sweat — like Jordan and basketball; a puck and Gretzky, baseball with The Babe. One without the other is intellectually indigestible. So, it is, that harness racing has always had its Filion and a Waples. Or two. Jody Jamieson is a multiple O’Brien Award winner and John Campbell is regarded with a reverence rarely heard this side of a Gordie Howe conversation. Some, such as Sylvain Filion, who leads the drivers’ standings with Canada’s top harness circuit moving to Mohawk Thursday from Woodbine, continue to hold the standard high for the old world order. But, look close enough, and it is evident that standardbred racing is also coming into a new age. The twitter generation is making its move. A younger, perhaps bolder more aggressive, and evidently a talented wave of young drivers has taken a foothold in the industry. Perhaps never before has so much young blood lined up horses behind a starting gate. “I think it has changed quite a bit,” says Doug McNair, who at age 25, sits second in the driver’s standings behind only Filion. “Even if you go back just a few years, most guys had to be in their 30s before they could race (on the Woodbine/Mohawk circuit) full-time. Me, Jon Drury, and a couple others, all came in about the same time and I think it’s good for the sport. “When you have the younger drivers well, they tend to hang out with a younger crowd and I think it might get more younger people ... a new generation of people coming out to the track.” There is certainly a new generation taking over on the track. With the switch-over to Mohawk, three of the five top drivers have yet to see a 30th candle lit on their birthday cake. Drury, from Rockwood, Ont., is fifth with 37 wins. McNair, has 62 wins in 332 starts, just six behind Filion. James MacDonald, who at age 28 recorded his 1,000th lifetime win last season, sits in third spot with 44 wins. “I think I’ve got a lot of good years ahead. Most of the better, older drivers didn’t get to their best until their mid-30s,” said MacDonald, who grew up in a racing family in Prince Edward Island. “A younger group is starting to break through ... a few of us have gotten noticed.” Noticed is a modest way of putting it. McNair surpassed the 2,000-win mark last year and ranked as the top Ontario Sires Stakes driver. In 2008, at age 18, he became the youngest driver in harness-racing history to win a $300,000 purse in the Battle of Waterloo. Horses, he has always realized, would be his life. His father Gregg, one of Canada’s top conditioners with over $31 million in career earnings, got him started in the sport. “I was only five or six years old maybe when it happened, but there’s a picture in my bedroom of me sitting on a bike in the winner’s circle after (Filion) won a race with one of my dad’s horses. Now I’m 25 and I’m getting a chance to go out there every night with some of these guys. How great is that. Sure, I have my bad days sometimes and I’m not happy when I leave the track — but there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing,” said Doug, “lots of four- and five-year-old kids dream of going to the NHL. I always dreamt of going to the track and racing.” Like McNair, Drury and MacDonald both grew up in racing families. Unlike McNair, Drury and MacDonald had to find, or rediscover, their passion for racing after some alternative adolescent diversions. “I played hockey, I played baseball. You name it, I played it,” said MacDonald, who enjoyed his job at the track canteen in Charlottetown, but rarely hung out at the family or track barns. Both his parents worked at the local track, the family was into the breeding business and his brothers Mark and Anthony were already on track to successful careers as drivers. “My brothers were always obsessed with the horses. I wasn’t,” said MacDonald. After graduating Grade 12, he worked a summer in Campbellville for his brother Anthony but, “I didn’t enjoy it that much to be honest” and he returned to college in P.E.I. Everything changed the following summer when he went back to Campbellville and his brother put him on a bike. “I don’t really know what changed. Maybe I was older. Maybe it was just I knew people and had more friends but I loved it.” And, the game, it turned out, loved him back. Last year, he drove Muscle Babe to a stakes-record performance in the $178,287 Standardbred Breeders of Ontario Association final for three-year-old filly trotters in an impressive 1:54. His purse earnings this season already top $800,000. “I can’t imagine doing anything else. Even if I’m having a bad night and I go to the gate I still believe I’ve got the best job in the world.” Drury could be building racetracks rather than racing on them. While he also grew up in a racing family — his father Barry worked at Mohawk, still trains horses and once worked for the legendary Ron Waples as an assistant trainer at the old Meadowlands — he toyed with the idea of becoming an architect. “I really enjoyed it, and woodworking in high school. I thought about going to university but I ended up finishing high school and ... well, racing kind of took over. I guess it was just in my blood.” He started at a small track in Woodstock, his father gave him a leg up with a few horses. “Mostly it’s about opportunity. You have to get a chance to drive some decent horses ... when people see you winning at the smaller places they start to be more willing to let you go to the big tracks,” said Drury. A move to Kawartha Downs a few years later and teaming up with top trainers Corey Johnson and Carmen Auciello was the birth of his “Made It” moment. “I was a regular driver there (Kawartha Downs) and they started using me and we developed a relationship and it just snowballed from there,” said Drury, who also raced at Pocono for Auciello. “It was a great experience. I think it really helped me to be to where I am at today. It’s a different style of racing (at the Poconos), it taught me a lot and I think its made me a better driver now.” Since then he has become an integral part in the development of O’Brien Award winner Vegas Vacation, guiding the colt to victory in his first lifetime start at Mohawk Racetrack. Ultimate goals: For MacDonald? “You try not to look at the standings but you do ... It would be to win a drivers title at WEG,” he said. “To me the biggest thrill is still to have a full card against the best drivers that I grew up idolizing. We’re young ... at this age you’re eager to prove (yourself). We want to win and be like the guys who’ve been in this sport a long time.” Thursday, McNair has six races on the opening card at Mohawk in a season in which he is off to his best career start, and one he hopes will culminate with his ultimate dream: The O’Brien Trophy (awarded annually to Canadian harness-racing’s best and brightest) and a driving championship. “I picked up some good horses to start the year and it just seems to have snowballed from there,” said McNair. “In 2013 I got nominated, along with Filion, for driver of the year. He was always one of the guys I idolized when I was a kid. When that happened I felt like I belonged.” They have taken different paths to get to where they belong, but standardbred’s young guns are arriving at the finish line together. Said Drury: “When you’re racing at Woodbine and Mohawk you’re obviously doing something right. Just knowing I’m racing with the best is kind of a special feeling ... In the past, owners have always gone with the experienced guys. It’s nice to see some of the younger guys get a shot, with good horses, because I do think it’s good for the sport. By Bill Lankhof for the Toronto Sun Reprinted with the permission of the Toronto Sun
Racetrack magnate Jeff Gural hates dishonesty. Once you know that, it’s easy to understand why the man who spent more than $100 million to build a new grandstand at the Meadowlands Racetrack in New Jersey said he was “really angry” with Standardbred trainer Corey Johnson. Both horses Johnson raced in the Breeders Crown at the Meadowlands in November of 2014 — including Traceur Hanover, the winner of the 2-year-old colt pace — later tested positive for cobalt. The lab in Hong Kong Gural personally employed to do the testing reported each horse had five times the threshold level of cobalt typically found in a horse’s system. Gural, 72, also was irked that the New Jersey Racing Commission had allowed Johnson to race in the Breeders Crown in the first place. The Ontario Racing Commission suspended the trainer on the Monday before the Crown finals after another horse he trained received a positive test for elevated total carbon dioxide (TC02) levels at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto. “The guy embarrassed the sport,” said Gural, who maintains a sizeable list of trainers banned from racing at the Meadowlands as well as the two smaller harness tracks he also owns in upstate New York — Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs. Yet, Gural couldn’t bar Johnson’s Crown entries because the Breeders Crown is operated by the Hambletonian Society, which defers to the sport’s state and provincial regulators to determine a participant’s eligibility. The New Jersey Racing Commission allowed Johnson to race because the trainer had not had a hearing in Ontario prior to the Crown finals. After the cobalt positive, Gural not only banned Johnson from racing at his tracks, he also banned entries from Quebec-based owner Richard Berthiaume, the owner of both of Johnson’s Breeders Crown entries. “We’ve now made changes to our rules so that can never happen again,” Gural said, explaining the language in those rules is so broad that the track will now be able to reject entries for all stakes races at his tracks, even those operated by outside groups. The Breeders Crown will return to the Meadowlands in 2016. Gural is puzzled why people in horse racing call him a polarizing figure. To read the extensive full article written by Dave Briggs click here. Dave Briggs is the co-editor of Canadian Thoroughbred magazine and a freelance horse racing columnist and features writer. For 18 years, he was the editor of the harness racing trade publication The Canadian Sportsman.
On Saturday night, the gambling industry witnessed the perfect storm when the harness racing meet at Woodbine offered a one race wager that captivated the gambling world. A combination of huge carryover, takeout reduced by more than 40 per cent to create the huge carryover, a twenty cent minimum and a mandatory payout gave the players a large advantage statistically resulting in a wager that paid out significantly more money than it took in. The incredible value of the High Five would bring sports bettors, thoroughbred bettors, poker players and gamblers from around the world to invest in the greatest of wagering opportunities, resulting in a Woodbine High Five pool that would break all North American records. The Saturday High Five wagers totaled a record $2,581,505. The carryover of $847,458 brought the total pool to $3,428,963, another North American record for harness racing. After the takeout of $387,225, the net pool was $3,041,738 creating a surplus to the winners of $460,232, a fact that was not lost on those investors that knew their mathematics. The Hugh Five was raced and the result was the second most logical of all from a statistical point of view. The 4-5 favorite Camaes Fellow was victorious followed by the 4-1 second favorite,the7-1 third favorite, the 12-1 fifth favorite and the 11-1 fourth favorite. This fairly predictable finish resulted in 3,522 twenty cent winners. When the results were posted, even the most optimistic players in the game could not believe the payoff they were seeing. The payout was incredibly generous. We will make things easier by converting all race 11 wagers to a one dollar payout. The exacta paid $7.59, the trifecta paid $36.10 and the super paid $211.90. The High Five paid $4,317.55 for a buck. In other words, the High Five paid over twenty times the superfecta by simply adding the next favorite in the betting. The twenty cent price was $863.51. This unbelievable payout rewarded the players handsomely for successfully putting a winning ticket together on a bet that was from a pure numerical standpoint one of the greatest wagering opportunities ever offered. Thank you to all horseplayers for your hugesupport of low takeout wagers, making more of them possible. Handle for the eleven race card was a season high $4,696,209. It was extremely encouraging to see the tracks that were still racing, The Meadowlands, Balmoral and Cal Expo showing the Woodbine High Five race on their signal highlighting the most important race of the night. This is the type of cooperation that I hope we will see later this year for The North America Cup, The Meadowlands Pace, The International Trot, The Breeders Crown and others. Congratulations to Woodbine for an extraordinary job. Best wishes to Mohawk as they open up their expanded meeting with a ten race card on Thursday. Michael Antoniades - Chicago Racing Analyst
TORONTO, April 7 - Woodbine Entertainment Group today announced that per harness racing handle for the 2014-15 Woodbine Standardbred Fall-Winter meet, which concluded on Monday, April 6, was up in comparison to the same period during 2013-14. A total of 94 race cards were held at Woodbine between October 16, 2014 and April 6, 2015, 22 more race dates than the same period over the 2013-14 racing season. The 2014-15 Woodbine Standardbred Fall-Winter meet recorded an "all-sources" betting total of $138,154,596.15. The average per race handle for the meet was $136,922.30, a 7.2% increase over the same period a year prior. A handle of $4,696,209 on Saturday, April 4 was the largest handle of the Fall-Winter meet. The significant handle was powered by a record-setting Jackpot Hi-5 pool of $2,581,505 wagered into a carryover pool of $847,458 for a total of $3,428,963. More than $3 million was paid out to horseplayers who had the winning Jackpot Hi-5 combination. The single-race handle on the Jackpot Hi-5 dash on the April 4 card of $2,966,808 set a new industry record for largest single-race handle, while the Jackpot Hi-5 pool set a record as the largest total for a single-pool. Sylvain Filion finished the Winter-Fall meet as the leading driver with 119 wins. The veteran reinsman finished the meet as the only driver to top $2 million in earnings. On the training side, Richard Moreau led all conditioners with 87 wins and earnings of more than $1.1 million. The 118-date Mohawk Racetrack Spring-Summer meet kicks off Thursday, April 9. Mark McKelvie
TORONTO, April 6 - A pair of harness racing sophomore pacing fillies continued their dominance Monday night in the second leg of the Blossom Series at Woodbine. Two $15,000 second leg divisions of the series event for three-year-old pacing fillies were contested Monday evening. First round winners Cast No Shadow and Maplelea returned to score victories once again and set up a potential showdown in the series final. In the first division, Cast No Shadow improved her record to five for five in 2015 with a sharp 1:52.2 victory. Driven by Mike Saftic, Cast No Shadow, the 1/5 favourite, sat off the pace early on and would get into the outer flow heading towards the final turn. A fading first up challenger would force Cast No Shadow and her cover to go three-wide, but that wouldn't faze the public's choice. Cast No Shadow would explode off her cover in the stretch and charge by leader Moonlit Dance to prevail by a length and three-quarters. High Fashion Mel and Nippy W Hanover finished third and fourth, respectively. A daughter of Shadow Play, Cast No Shadow paced home in :26.4 to remain undefeated in 2015. She is trained by Des Tackoor for owner Millard Adams and now has over $40,000 in career earnings. The clocking of 1:52.2 knocked more than two-seconds off Cast No Shadow's previous career-mark. She paid $2.50 to win. Cast No Shadow Maplelea, the HPI Series winner, scored her fifth consecutive victory with a 1:56 triumph in the second division. Sent off as the 1/2 favourite, Maplelea and driver Rick Zeron got away sixth and last in the early stages of the race. Little pace was offered in the second-quarter and the field got to the half in just 1:00.1. Maplelea started up on the outside down the backstretch and was situated second-over coming off the final turn. In the stretch, Maplelea powered by her rivals to score a length and three-quarters victory. Her individual final-quarter was a dazzling :26.1. Doctor Terror finished second, while Beyonces Rockn took third. A daughter of Sportswriter, Maplelea has now won seven of nine starts this season for owner/trainer Andrew Moore. Her career bankroll now sits at over $82,000. Maplelea returned $3 to win. Maplelea Both Cast No Shadow and Maplelea will now have a chance at the Blossom Series sweep in next Monday's $36,200 final at Mohawk Racetrack. Mark McKelvie WEG Communications
An action-packed second leg of the harness racing Youthful series was the Doug McNair show Saturday night at Woodbine Racetrack. A pair of seven-horse $15,000 divisions took place in the second and final preliminary leg of the Youthful series for three-year-old pacing colts and geldings. The first division of the evening featured a matchup between round one winners Dialamara and Legion Of Boom. The public put their support behind Dialamara, as the Patrick Fletcher trainee was sent off as the 1/2 favourite, while Legion Of Boom was the second-choice at 5/2. Driver Sylvain Filion wasted no time putting Dialamara on the front-end and the pair were able to control the tempo down to the three-quarter pole in 1:25.1. Legion Of Boom and driver Doug McNair were situated second-over around the final turn, but still several lengths off the leader as they turned for home. In the stretch, Legion Of Boom blasted down the centre of the racetrack and would pace by an all-out Dialamara to win by half a length in 1:53.4. Giovanni finished third, while Pantheon Hanover rounded out the Superfecta. A son of Artistic Fella, Legion Of Boom is co-owned by driver Doug McNair and is trained by his father, Gregg. Equus Standardbreds Inc. rounds out the ownership of the gelding pacer. Legion Of Boom now has a record of four wins from seven starts in his first season on the track. The leg two victory pushes his bankroll over $49,000 and his clocking of 1:53.4 knocks a full-second off his previous career-mark. A $2 win ticket on Legion Of Boom returned $7.10 to win. Legion Of Boom The second leg of the Youthful took place five-races later on the card and by that time snowy conditions had taken over the Toronto oval. American Rock and McNair would take the second division at 2/1 to give the reinsman a round two sweep. A son of Rocknroll Hanover, American Rock came first up in the second-quarter and overtook the lead just past the mid-way point from Nobettorplacetobe. After reaching the three-quarter pole in 1:25.1, American Rock and McNair would hold off their rivals in the lane to score the victory by a length over Nobettorplacetobe in 1:54.1. Team Captain came off second-over cover to finish third, while Vegas Rocks took fourth. American Rock is trained by Ben Wallace for owner Brad Grant and now has four wins from seven starts in 2015. The sophomore pacer was purchased by his connections during the Meadowlands Mixed Sale in January. American Rock, who finished second in last week's opening leg, now has earnings of over $38,000. He paid $6.30 to win. American Rock In order to be eligible to the Youthful Series, the three-year-old pacing colts and geldings had to be non-winners of three races or $15,000 in 2014. The $37,000 Youthful final will take place next Saturday (April 11) at Mohawk Racetrack. Mark McKelvie
TORONTO, April 4 - The Woodbine Entertainment Group offered a mandatory payout on the harness racing Jackpot Hi-5 wager Saturday night at Woodbine Racetrack. The Jackpot Hi-5 wager requires a horseplayer to select the top five finishers in order. If there are multiple winning tickets, 50% of the evening's pool is paid out to the winning tickets, while the other half is carried over to the following card. The last single winner to take home the entire 'Jackpot' was on December 8, 2014. As a result, a record carryover of $847,458.26 had accumulated over the past several months and was offered in a mandatory payout on Saturday's card. Scheduled as the last race on the 11-race program, the Jackpot Hi-5 had $2,581,505 (before takeout) of new money wagered Saturday night, bringing the total pool size to $3,041,738. The result was a payout of $4,317.55 on a $1 wager ($863.51 on a $0.20 wager) after the son of Mach Three, Camaes Fellow and driver Jonathan Drury came away with the victory at odds of 4/5. Camaes Fellow The top five finishers are as follows: 1. #4 Camaes Fellow - 4/5 2. #2 Bilbo Hanover - 4/1 3. #8 Cougar Hall - 7/1 4. #12 Regal Son - 12/1 5. #6 The Rev - 11/1 The Jackpot Hi-5 wager, which was added to the WEG betting menu in October 2013, has a $0.20 minimum bet and a takeout rate of 15 per cent. The Jackpot Hi-5 will now start from scratch on Monday evening's card at Woodbine.McNair doubles up in Youthful. Mark McKelvie