CAMPBELLVILLE, Ont. — Home-track advantage paid off nicely for Canadian drivers Louis-Philippe Roy and Bob McClure on Friday night.
Roy and McClure won the first two races of the US$6.7-million ($9.06 million Canadian) Breeders Crown at Woodbine Mohawk Park. Roy began the night driving Gaines Hanover to the win in the $810,000 two-year-old colt trot before McClure guided 1/2 favourite Sylvia Hanover to victory in the $810,000 two-year-old filly pace.
Richard Moreau (Gaines Hanover) and Shawn Steacy (Sylvia Hanover) are also both trainers at Mohawk Park.
The win was Roy's first in a Breeders Crown event while McClure claimed his second. The Breeders Crown is harness racing’s richest and most prestigious year-end divisional championship series.
Roy and Gaines Hanover overtook 7/5 favourite Celebrity Bambino, driven by Yannick Gingras, of Sorel, Que., for a stirring victory. Gingras took Celebrity Bambino to the lead with roughly a quarter-mile to go but Roy and Gaines Hanover, a 7/2 pick, passed the leaders just before the finish line, taking the win in 1:53.2.
"It was great, the feeling," Roy said. "Down the lane I just had in my mind, 'Please, we didn't do all that just for second.'
"It was just a great moment."
Kilmister, driven by American Brian Sears, was third.
Gaines Hanover, starting on the rail, secured a fourth win in eight starts. Roy said he sensed coming down the stretch he had enough horse to capture the victory.
"Middle of the lane I would say," he said. "When we got into the lane, Yannick's horse started sprinting a little bit and mine kept going with him.
"He wasn't really gaining ground but later on, I would say at the half of the stretch, I was like, 'That is happening.' I feel like (Gingras) drove him perfectly but mine just showed up. He was a little bit better."
Gaines Hanover paid $9.60, $4.20 and $3.20 while Celebrity Bambino returned $2.80 and $2.40. Kilmister paid $4.70.
"The only thing that was bothering me was the rail, it's a tough spot here," Roy said. "I didn't know how it would turn out but it actually worked pretty good."
McClure, of Rockwood, Ont., drove Sylvia Hanover to a seventh straight victory in 1:51.1. Overall, Sylvia Hanover has won eight-of-nine starts (the other being a second-place finish).
But it wasn't easy as McClure had to jockey with Charleston and Strong Poison for the lead before taking control of the race.
"From the three-quarter pole on there's no driving her, she gives you everything she's got," McClure said. "She's great leaving the gate, it's just that middle half.
"But you know what, you can sit there and knock her down for that trait. She is finicky, she is lazy, but she definitely knows how to get her nose to the wire first. She has proven that."
Charleston and New Zealand's Dexter Dunn were second ahead of Strong Poison, driven by Gingras.
Sylvia Hanover returned $3, $2.20 and $2.10, while Charleston paid $3.30. Strong Poison returned $2.70.
Swedish driver/trainer Ake Svanstedt and 1/2 favourite Special Way set a track and Canadian record in capturing the $810,000 two-year-filly trot in 1:52.0. Svanstedt had Special Way, co-owned by Marvin Katz and Al Libfeld — both of Toronto — sitting third with a quarter mile to go before the overwhelming favourite kicked into another gear over the final eighth-of-a-mile for a seventh victory in nine starts.
Walner Payton, at 9/2 odds, and Dunn were second ahead of Righteous Resolve, a 4/1 pick driven by Paul MacDonell of Oshawa, Ont.
Special Way paid $3, $2.20 and $2.20 while Walner Payton returned $3.50 and $2.30. Righteous Resolve paid $2.50.
American driver Dave Miller and Ammo, a 52/1 long-shot, recorded a stunning upset in the $810,000 two-year-old colt pace. Ammo held off a late charge from 1/2 favourite Confederate, and driver Tim Tetrick of the U.S., to register a surprising win in 1:50.4.
Confederate was second while Combustion, a 10/1 pick driven by Australian Todd McCarthy, was third.
The win was just the second in five starts for Ammo (2-1-1), which paid a whopping $106, $17.70 and $12.30. Confederate returned $2.30 and $2.10 while Combustion paid $4.30.
Ammo's victory was the biggest upset in the two-year-old colt pace division in Breeders Crown history. Ammo was third behind Confederate and Ervin Hanover in last weekend's elimination race.
The remaining eight championship races in the three-year-old and Open divisions will be run Saturday night. This marks the first time Woodbine has hosted all 12 events since 2019.
Woodbine Entertainment has staged more Breeders Crown events (152 before this weekend) than any other venue at their tracks of Woodbine, Mohawk and Greenwood.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 28, 2022.
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press