Off two rebounding efforts Courtly Choice swept the field and past race-leader Lather Up to pull a 34-1 shocker in the $525,000 Canadian Pacing Derby final on Saturday, Aug. 31 at Woodbine Mohawk Park.
Driver James MacDonald placed Courtly Choice eighth as This Is The Plan protected position from the pylons heading to a :25.4 opening quarter. Lather Up angled outside from third and brushed to the lead entering the backside while decelerating to a :54.1 half.
Done Well flushed first over as the tempo slowed to the far turn. Western Fame rode cover second over with McWicked placed third over and Courtly Choice still towards the rear of the field. Done Well stuck a neck in front of Lather Up past three-quarters in 1:22.1 as the pacesetter struggled around the final turn and This Is The Plan raced tightly from the pocket. Though Lather Up reclaimed command straightening for the finish and turned away all challengers but Courtly Choice, who was uncorked at the eighth pole and rushed widest of all towards the leader to stop the clock in 1:48.4. Lather Up settled for second with Western Fame third and This Is The Plan fourth.
“We were an underdog coming in,” trainer Blake MacIntosh said after the race. “Everybody forgot about him because he hadn’t been racing that great, but last week James [MacDonald] just took care of him and didn’t rush him too hard and people were thinking he wasn’t that good but he was really good last week. I just knew we finally had his blood where we wanted it and he looked like he’s back to his old self. I’m just ecstatic about this.”
A four-year-old stallion by Art Major, Courtly Choice won his fourth race from 12 starts this season and his 16th from 40 overall, earning $1,370,503 for owners Hutt Racing Stable, Mac And Heim Stables, Daniel Plouffe and Touchstone Farms Inc. He paid $71.30 to win.
“It was amazing,” James MacDonald said after the race. “I can’t even put it into words I’m so happy. I’ve been trying to get a crack at one of these big ones in Canada and I just haven’t had a lot of luck. [But] then tonight the race set up great and the horse was just unbelievable. I knew if I could find him a good helmet he would give me the kick I needed.
“I knew I had a lot of pace—he was just getting into gear and everyone was kind of fanning out. I didn’t know what Lather Up would do because he always comes back on—he’s just such a great horse; he’s hard to get all the way by. But when I tipped ‘Courtly’ over he was just—I can’t even explain the feeling; he was just pacing so hard. He was airborne tonight.”