For both Night Watchman and Mayhem Hanover, Monday night’s Grassroots event at Woodbine Mohawk Park was a must win situation.
Both two-year-old pacing colts sat below the cut off for a berth in the post season and to ensure their Ontario Sires Stakes campaign lasted another week they needed to grab the lion’s share of the points in their respective divisions.
Night Watchman kicked things off in the first $23,500 division and got away sixth from Post 3 as Delightful Terror led the field to a :27.3 opening quarter. Heading for the :56.1 half driver Trevor Henry tipped Night Watchman into the outer lane behind fan favourite National Sport and Wilsons Vinner. By the 1:24.2 three-quarters National Sport was leading the way and Night Watchman was circling out three-wide and shifting into high gear. One-half length ahead turning for home, Night Watchman opened up a two and one-half length lead on his peers by the 1:52 finish. Early leader Delightful Terror closed hard to be second, leaving National Sport to settle for third.
“We had high hopes for him, but he qualified really well and then he got sick on me so I missed the first two Sires Stakes,” said trainer Craig Barss. “And then he had a couple little gait issues, he was putting in steps and we couldn’t figure it out, but now he’s finally put it all together.”
Monday’s win was the Hes Watching son’s first in six lifetime starts. Combined with a second and third from his other two Grassroots starts Night Watchman finished the season with 87 points, boosting him from twenty-fourth in the standings into a tie for sixth.
Cobourg resident Barss and his partner Nurko Sokolovic of Waterloo, ON bred and own Night Watchman. The colt is the first foal from their former race mare Midnight Jet, whose siblings include $778,474 winner Stolen Car and $502,290 winner Ideal Jet.
“His mother we raced and raised her, his grandmother I raced and she’s been very good to me, so we decided to breed one of the daughters that wasn’t that successful as a racehorse and got him,” said Barss. “He’s a very good size. He’s very relaxed, super easy to get along with, he really doesn’t do anything wrong.”
All four of Monday’s winners made at least one start in the Gold Series this summer, but Mayhem Hanover spent an extended stretch battling the top colts in the province. After a runner-up effort in the Grassroots season opener the Sportswriter colt made three appearances in the Gold Series, finishing sixth twice and fifth once. Facing the prospect of not advancing to the Gold Series post season, trainer Gregg McNair opted to return the Sportswriter son to the Grassroots level for the regular season finale.
Lining up at Post 2 in the last division Mayhem Hanover tucked into third as Better B Swift and Day Delight battled to a :27.1 opening quarter, but was soon aiming at the lead. On top by one and three-quarter lengths at the :55.1 half, Mayhem Hanover and driver Doug McNair maintained a comfortable advantage through the 1:24.2 three-quarters and then shifted into a bigger gear as Day Delight revved up on the outside. Mayhem Hanover refused to yield, pacing under the wire one-half length ahead of Day Delight in a personal best 1:52. Better B Swift was two lengths back in third.
“He’s been a nice colt all along. I just didn’t want to beat him up too much when I raced him in the Golds,” said Guelph, ON resident Doug McNair of the fan favourite. “He keeps getting better every start. I hope he continues it next year.”
Scott and Clay Horner of Toronto, ON own Mayhem Hanover, who moved from thirty-second in the standings into a tie for ninth with 75 points. The colt has tallied three wins and one second in seven lifetime starts for earnings of $36,905.
The other two divisions saw point leaders Quick Tour and My Land cruise to their third Grassroots victories.
In spite of starting from the outside Post 10, Quick Tour and driver Louis-Philippe Roy carved all the fractions in the second division, ringing up a :26.4 quarter, :56 half and 1:25.2 three-quarter on their way to a one and one-quarter length win in 1:53.3. Mission Bay finished second and Better Take It rounded out the top three.
“He’s super gaited, just wears a pair of shin boots, and he’s real smart, and mental maturity for a two-year-old is a big thing,” said trainer Mark Horner. “To go race he’s like an old racehorse. Some two-year-olds, it holds a lot of them back, they’re not mentally mature enough to handle it.”
St. Mary’s resident Horner conditions the homebred son of Mach Three for his partner R A W Equine Inc. of Burlington, ON. In four Grassroots starts the gelding delivered three wins and one second for a division leading 175 points.
My Land took command of the $23,850 third division from the start and led the field through fractions of :27, :55.1 and 1:23.4 on his way to a 1:52.3 victory. Tabloid Writer finished three lengths back in second, just ahead of Bettorbuckleup.
Phil Hudon piloted the fan favourite to the win for trainer Gerard Demers and owner La Ferme Tag Inc. of Papineauville, QC. With three wins and one fourth in Grassroots action, Badlands Hanover son My Land finished second in the standings with 158 points.
The top 20 point earners will now battle in Semi-Final action at Woodbine Mohawk Park on Sept. 27, with the top five finishers from each Semi-Final returning to the Campbellville oval for the Oct. 5 Grassroots Championship.
The three-year-old trotting fillies will wrap up their Grassroots regular season at Woodbine Mohawk Park on Tuesday evening, competing in Races 2, 6 and 8 on the 7:10 pm program.
Complete results from Monday’s program are available at Woodbine Mohawk Park Results.
(Photo courtesy New Image Media)