Day At The Track

McNairs hope Solar Sister sparkles in Breeders Crown

04:00 AM 24 Oct 2015 NZDT
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Solar Sister
Doug McNair drove royally-bred Ontario Sired three-year-old pacing filly Solar Sister to victory last Saturday in her Breeders Crown elimination at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto. Solar Sister, trained by Doug’s father, Gregg McNair, is the 7-2 morning lin
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There are 27 Ontario Sired Breeders Crown finalists racing at Woodbine Saturday night, including homebred elimination winner Solar Sister trained by Gregg McNair and driven by his son, Doug, who are both looking for their first harness racing Breeders Crown victory.

Veteran Ontario trainer Gregg McNair of Guelph said he would love nothing more than to win the Breeders Crown with his son, Doug, in the sulky and ultra-talented Ontario Sired three-year-old pacing filly Solar Sister leading them to the winner’s circle Saturday at Woodbine. It would be the first Crown victory for either McNair.

“I’ve had a few Breeders Crown starts and it’s awfully good to just have them race well and get money, but with that horse and with Doug driving her, it would be a great thrill to win it,” Gregg said.

Solar Sister is one of 27 Ontario Sired horses racing in the 12-race, $7.6 million Breeders Crown at Woodbine and one of the best. No horse, regardless of gait or gender, earned more money in the Ontario Sires Stakes (OSS) program in 2015 than Solar Sister, which is only fitting since she’s the product of a royal Ontario family going back to her Ontario Sired graddam Cathedra, one of the greatest mares in the history of harness racing.

“You don’t have to be up on the horses too much to know the family,” Gregg said.

Solar Sister, a homebred owned by David Willmot of King City, ON and Clay Horner of Toronto, earned $317,150 of her seasonal total of $507,494 in the OSS competition, where she won three Gold Series legs and the $250,000 Super Final on Oct. 10 at Woodbine Racetrack. But after a lacklustre fourth-place finish on Oct. 1 in a Gold Series leg at Flamboro Down, Gregg said he knew something was wrong. At first he thought it was the fact the daughter of Mach Three out of the millionaire Cabrini Hanover had not raced in almost a month. Then he discovered a foot injury.

“It was quite a mess,” Gregg said. “Either some gravel or maybe she hit it one time in the field or something. I don’t know what it was, but she was really sore on it. You wouldn’t have been able to race her. She wasn’t just a little off, she was a lot off.”

Gregg said the injury healed the week before the Super Finals. “Touch wood, she’s been good ever since,” he said.

Last Saturday, Solar Sister posted a one-length victory over Frost Damage Blue in 1:52.1 in their Crown elimination.

“We didn’t have a lot of work in her before the Super Finals,” Gregg said. “We didn’t have her quite as tight as she should have been, so I’m expecting a pretty good effort Saturday.”

Solar Sister will start from post three in the fourth race, going for a Breeders Crown purse of $648,700. She’s the second choice in the morning line at 7-2 behind Joe Holloway’s trainee Divine Caroline (2-1). Solar Sister will not only be trying to win a first Crown for the McNairs, she will also be trying to avenge her mother’s two Breeders Crown defeats.

In 2005, Cabrini Hanover, finished second by a neck to Belovedangel in the Breeders Crown three-year-old filly pace at the Meadowlands. The year before, she was leading at the top of the stretch in the Crown final for two-year-old pacing fillies and finished fifth.

Cabrini Hanover was originally purchased for $350,000 as a yearling at the 2003 Standardbred Horse Sales Company sale in Harrisburg, PA by Willmot and his close friend Bob Anderson of St. Thomas, ON. When Anderson died in 2010, Horner bought into Cabrini Hanover. Shortly after that, the decision was made to breed Cabrini Hanover to Mach Three. The resulting foal was Solar Sister, named after a clean energy movement for women in Africa. Willmot also has an advanced solar energy project at his Kinghaven Farm.

“We were coming off a pretty good season and she was bred in Ontario, so we got the opportunity to train her. It’s sure something to train something out of that family,” said Gregg, who hadn’t trained for Willmot or Horner prior to Solar Sister.

“I would say we raced her a few times early as a two-year-old probably thinking she was fairly average. We really didn’t know she was having a tie-up issue. We were part way through her two-year-old season when we figured it out. She finished off really good last year as a two-year-old… She was fairly close to (U.S. and Canadian Horse of the Year) JK Shesalday at the end of the year.”

Solar Sister did indeed finish second, one-and-a-half lengths behind JK Shesalady in the $424,000 final of the Three Diamonds on Oct. 25, 2014 at Woodbine. She ended the year with a record of 2-3-4 in 13 starts, earnings of $214,828 and a mark of 1:54. This year, she is 8-2-1 in 15 starts and a mark of 1:50.3 earned at Mohawk on July 2 in a Gold leg.

“Obviously David and I are very pleased with her season and in particular her last two starts,” Horner wrote in an email. “She loves Woodbine (two wins this year and her two seconds to JK Shesalady in Three Diamonds last year) and has a great post.”

If she does win the Breeders Crown, Solar Sister would enhance her chance to win an O’Brien Award as Canada’s top sophomore pacing filly of 2015.

“If she is fortunate enough to win the O'Brien, she would be the third straight generation on the female side to win, which would be very special,” wrote Horner, adding it would be the sixth O’Brien Award in Solar Sister’s talented clan, counting the male side.

Dave Briggs

Ontario Horse Racing

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