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Canadians Click In American Nationals

Sunday, November 13, 2011  By: Standardbred Canada

Canadians Click In American Nationals

Balmoral Park played host to one of its biggest nights of the year on Saturday as six American National Stake finals were contested over the Crete oval. With almost $900,000 in purse money up for grabs and a large crowd on hand there were plenty of thrills and great performances despite gusting winds that at times exceeded 35 miles per hour.

Freshman pacing fillies started the action as a full field of 10 was sent postward for a purse of $86,800. This event wound up producing a mild upset as Millers Stables' Princess Cruiser kicked off a big night for driver Yannick Gingras as she paced to a two-length victory in 1:56.1.

Sent to the front after getting away third through an opening quarter in :28.3, Gingras put the daughter of Yankee Cruiser-Princess Justice on the front end as the field raced by the half-mile mark in :56.4.

“My only instructions tonight were to not put her on the lead so I guess I didn’t listen very well,” laughed Gingras. “They weren’t going that much though and things were starting to stack up so I figured I better get her out of there.”

Rolling by the three-quarters in 1:26, Princess Cruiser still had plenty in reserve as she held off Starlana (Robert Taylor) and Podges Lady (Travis Seekman) to win for the third time in 10 starts for trainer Jim Mulinix.

Despite making it look easy, Gingras was quite relieved when his filly finally hit the wire on top.

“Man, this stretch is long especially when you’re facing it straight into a wind that was blowing as hard as it was tonight,” he said. “I looked up for the photo finish light thinking we had to be getting close but I think we were still an eighth of a mile away!”

Next up were two-year-old pacing colts as a field of 10 gathered for a purse of $121,100.

This race provided a boost for the “home team” as Ervin Miller Stable, Omer Miller and Leland Mathias’ Crime Of Passion proved that he can handle open company as he overcame the speed bias caused by the winds, rallying for a half-length triumph in 1:54.3 for driver Marcus Miller.

After getting away near the back of the pack as Peck Blue Chip (Yannick Gingras), Fridaynightflight (Josh Sutton) and Star Recruit (Tyler Smith) waged a war up front through splits of :28.1, :56.3 and 1:25.1, Miller worked his way into a third over position as the field turned for home.

“With everything going on up front like it was I think it really helped us to get away where we did,” said Miller. “Things kept moving pretty well on the outside so once we got into that flow I thought we might have a chance to be a big factor at the finish.”

Sitting in fifth as the field turned for home, Miller continued to follow his cover before finally tipping widest of all in mid-stretch. Gamely wearing down his tiring rivals, the roan son of Armbro Mackintosh rallied in final strides to win for the sixth time in 15 starts. Star Recruit turned in an unbelievable effort to hold on for second while Caviart Key (Dan Noble) was third.

In the winner’s circle, Miller was singing the praises of the gelding, who is conditioned by his father Erv.

“When he’s right he loves to run down horses and tonight he really felt great out there,” said Miller. “He went through a little rough stretch around Super Night, but he’s been getting better again he proved what kind of horse he is out there tonight.”

The $135,000 Three-Year-Old Filly Pace went as expected as William Switala and James Martin’s Swinging Beauty, the 4-5 favourite in the race, rallied in the final strides to win by a head in 1:54.1 for driver Peter Wrenn.

After getting away in mid-pack as Ronettica (Brett Miller) and Ole Miss (Yannick Yingras) battled their way through splits of :28., :55.1 and 1:24, the cagey Wrenn was able to pick up live cover from Ole Miss, who after relinquishing the early lead was out moving again on the final turn.

In perfect striking position through the lane, the winner of one of this year’s Jugette eliminations determinedly worked her way by one rival after another despite pacing into the teeth of a wicked headwind. Finally sticking a head in front nearing the finish line, the Gregg McNair-trained miss showed the type of grit that has propelled her to nearly $370,000 in seasonal earnings as she scored for the fourth time in 20 starts this year. Ole Miss, a 27-1 outsider, turned in a sparkling two-move performance to finish as the bridesmaid while Illinois bred Mystical MJ (Marcus Miller) rallied from far back to finish third.

After the victory, both Wrenn and McNair were more than willing to extol the virtues of their winning filly.

“The easy part was coming here to drive such a nice filly like this after I got the call on Wednesday,” said Wrenn. “She just never stopped digging even though she was going right into the teeth of that wind tonight and she was not going to be denied.”

“It was a long ship down here from Canada for her so I’m ecstatic about the way she performed tonight,” said McNair. “She’s been taking on the best in the country all season long and now she’ll stay up here for another week and go over to Maywood and try to take the Cinderella Stake next week.”

Trotters took center stage in the next event as a compact but very classy and evenly matched field of six diagonally gaited specialists slugged it out for a purse of $143,000.

The big night continued for Gingras in this event and this time it really hit closer to home as Looking Hanover, a six-year-old son of Muscles Yankee who he shares ownership in with Dawn Gannon, found racing room deep in the stretch while rallying for a thrilling nose decision in 1:56.

Given a perfect steer by his co-owner, the high strung gelding grabbed command from post position four as the field trotted through a pedestrian opening quarter in :30.2.

With the action heating up on the backstretch, Gingras confidently elected to let a hard charging Lucky Jim (Marcus Miller) take control of the proceedings as the field trotted by the half-mile mark in :58.1.

“I knew the place to be on this night was up near the front, but I didn’t want to be cutting the mile out because that’s not how he races his best,” explained Gingras. “Lucky Jim seemed to be good and sound tonight even on the turns so I was pretty happy to be sitting in there right behind him.”

Content to save ground while sitting in the pocket, Gingras managed to get the Ed Gannon Jr. trainee to relax while Lucky Jim continued to show the way through middle splits of :58.1 and 1:26.2.

With the 2009 Dan Patch winner continuing to show the way through the lane Gingras began searching for racing room with Looking Hanover. Hot Shot Blue Chip (John Campbell) was also gaining ground in a hurry on the outside of horses leaving Looking Hanover to seek a seam to get through.

“At that point I was starting to get a little worried, but that wind was blowing horses every which way so I figured in the back of my mind that we would be able to find some room when we needed it,” said a relieved Gin