Day At The Track

Run Director's win a tribute to community leader

07:59 PM 27 Jun 2018 NZST
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Run Director, harness racing
Run Director and driver Sylvain Filion
New Image Media photo

Milton, ON - JUNE 26, 2018 - When the harness racing trotter Run Director crossed the finish line at Woodbine Mohawk Park on Tuesday evening, the three-year-old colt did more than just collect an Ontario Sires Stakes blanket and a share of the $97,200 Gold division purse.

"I named him after this lady, Mary Ann Edwards, she is our run director. We have a run for cancer and we've made $8.5 million in the last 13 years - we made $1.05 million this year - and she's the dynamic person behind it," explained owner-breeder Tom Rankin. "So I'm very happy for her, I named the horse after her."

The Rankin Cancer Run, which was founded by Edwards and supported from the start by Rankin Construction, is held annually in St. Catharines and is unique in that all of the money raised remains in the community. With his first stakes win Run Director paid a fitting tribute to Edwards and the impact that the run has had on cancer care in the Niagara Region.

Run Director's victory was also meaningful for the Rankins because he is a fourth generation product of their breeding program. Tom and his wife Elizabeth acquired the colt's great-grandmother Armbro Mink in 1992 and the mare and her offspring have given the St. Catharine's residents nine $100,000-plus winners over the last 26 years.

"We've had some good horses out of the family, but this guy might be the best," stated Rankin, adding that he was a little nervous before the race after watching his US-bred colt Alarm Detector make a costly break in a stake race in Pennsylvania on Saturday. "Tonight I'm on pins and needles after one horse makes a break - and he went off as the second favourite. You never know in horse racing."

Fortunately heavy favourite Run Director was easy on Rankin's nerves as he took command of the race before the halfway marker and never faced a challenge, cruising home a four and one-quarter length winner in a personal best 1:55. May 28 Gold Leg winner Tinas Majesty finished second and early pacesetter Henderson Seelster was third.

Milton resident Sylvain Filion drives Run Director and Ben Baillargeon of Guelph conditions the son of Kadabra and Keep The Spirit. The win was the second lifetime for the colt and boosted his career earnings to $86,160.

Run Director's next start will come in the third Gold Leg at Grand River Raceway on July 18, but after finishing third in his elimination and sixth in the final of the Goodtimes Stakes in just his sixth and seventh lifetime starts the colt will have a few more opportunities to pit his skills against North America's best.

"I didn't stake him to the Hambletonian. Ben said, 'Do you want to race against Alarm Detector?' and I said, 'No'," recalled Rankin with a chuckle. "But I've got him in the Canadian Trotting Classic and I think he's in the Breeders Crown, so I do have him staked, because I had (Super Final winner) R First Class last year and I didn't have him staked to anything, and I said I'm not making the same mistake."

Unlike Run Director, Stormont Ventnor will have to settle for competing against his Ontario Sires Stakes peers for the remainder of the season. Coming off a fifth in his elimination and a second in the final of the $266,000 Goodtimes, last year's two-year-old Grassroots champion laid down a sharp 1:54.2 effort in the second Gold division on Tuesday, but does not have any other open stakes engagements on his schedule this summer.

"He just has pretty much the Sires Stakes now. We paid him into the Goodtimes just in case he stepped up to be a Goodtimes horse, which he did," said trainer Kevin Benn with a chuckle. "But we didn't pay him into anything else."

Caught in the outer lane after starting from Post 7, Stormont Ventnor powered to the lead heading for the :57.3 half and never relinquished control on his way to the 1:54.2 victory. Perfetto closed hard to be second, one and one-half lengths behind the fan favourite, and early pacesetter Mister Magic was third.

Guelph resident Phil Hudon drives Stormont Ventnor for Napanee-based Benn and owner-breeder Eric Baker of Long Sault, Ontario. Tuesday's win was a satisfying result for the son of Justice Hall and Lady Grenville, who made an early and uncharacteristic break in the Gold Series season opener and finished eighth.

"He got too hot on the gate. He was on it too long and he just got mad," said Benn of the May 28 miscue. "So we just brought him in a little bit later, he should be no problem, I hope."

Never worse than second in six Grassroots starts at two, Stormont Ventnor will be looking to replicate that record in the three remaining Gold Series events and the season-ending Super Final.

Ontario Sires Stakes action continues at Woodbine Mohawk Park on Friday, June 29 with four Grassroots divisions for the three-year-old pacing colts, slated as Races 3, 5, 7, and 10 on the 7:30 pm program.

From the Ontario Sire Stakes

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