Records were matched and broken in Friday evening’s Armbro Flight eliminations at Woodbine Mohawk Park
A group of 16 star trotting mares clashed in a pair of $35,000 Armbro Flight eliminations with Ron Burke trainees Atlanta and Hannelore Hanover putting on a show.
Superstar Atlanta delivered possibly the easiest-looking Canadian record-equaling performance in recent memory with a dazzling 1:51 victory in the first split. The clocking equaled Hannelore Hanover’s record set in the 2016 Armbro Flight.
Not one to share the spotlight, Hannelore Hanover went out and broke the record in the second elimination by posting a 1:50.3 mile. The clocking was not only a record for trotting mares, but also the fastest trotting mile in Canadian racing history. The previous record of 1:50.4 was set in 2012 by Mister Herbie.
Yannick Gingras steered both mares to the record miles on Friday evening.
“I’m going to talk to Ronnie,” said Gingras when asked which mare he will select for the final. “It’s going to be a team decision, I’ve got to talk to him and see what he thinks and go from there.”
In the first elimination, Atlanta circled around Dream Together entering the backstretch to grab command. The four-year-old daughter of Chapter Seven reached the half in a modest :56.4 before ramping things up for the back-half.
Appearing to never break a sweat, Atlanta trotted a :27.2 third-quarter followed by a :26.4 final-quarter to win by 7 ¼ lengths in 1:51.
“She was unreal tonight,” said Gingras following the victory. “Last week I didn’t think she was a hundred percent, but tonight she was definitely back in form. I had a lot left.”
Gingras felt that Atlanta could’ve broke the record with ease.
“There is no doubt she could’ve gone in (1):50 really easily. I still think there is room for improvement. I wouldn’t be surprised if she goes under (1):50 soon, but we will worry about that when we get there.”
Plunge Blue Chip finished second, while P L Jill was third. The top-five was completed by Highland Top Hill and Royal Witch.
Atlanta is now undefeated in three starts this season with $117,000 earned for owners Crawford Farms Racing, Brad Grant and Howard Taylor. The 2018 Hambletonian champion sports impressive career numbers of 15 wins and nearly $1.3 million earned.
Atlanta paid $2.20 to win.
Hannelore Hanover came into the Armbro Flight elimination as the three-time defending champion.
Gingras hustled Hannelore Hanover out to the top, clearing after a :27.2 opening-quarter. The seven-year-old cruised by the half in :56 and three-quarters in 1:23.4.
In the stretch, Hannelore Hanover trotted home in :26.4, the same final-quarter as Atlanta, to win by 4 ¼ lengths in a historic time of 1:50.3.
Top Expectations finished second, while Emoticon Hanover was third. The top-five was completed by Weslynn Dancer and The Erm.
“She’s back,” said Gingras. “She’s sound as a dollar right now. She was really sharp in the post-parade, but once she hit the last turn she was trotting real strong and felt like her old self.”
A winner of over $3 million, Hannelore Hanover has been dominating the aged trotting ranks for several seasons. The daughter of Swan For All came into the elimination off a seventh-place finish in her lone start this season. Her victory Friday gives her 43 for her career.
A $2 win ticket on Hannelore Hanover returned $6.50.
Sophomore trotters were also in action Friday for the eliminations of the Goodtimes. A group of 18 were split into a pair of $30,000 divisions.
Forbidden Trade angled out of the two-hole late for a 1:53.1 victory in the first elimination.
Driven by Bob McClure, Forbidden Trade showed early speed to grab the lead and post a :27.2 opening-quarter. Favourite Swandre The Giant moved from third to first in the second-quarter and posted middle-half fractions of :56.2 and 1:26.1.
In the stretch, Swandre The Giant put away rivals pressuring on the outside and tried to sprint away. However, McClure angled Forbidden Trade out in the final-eighth and the son of Kadabra responded to clear racetrack by charging up along side and picking off Swandre The Giant to win by a neck.
“I didn’t have him until the wire,” said McClure following the victory. “I figured if I could get to the front he would be coming, and it worked out good.
“He grew up a lot, matured a lot and has always been really fast. He got a nice trip and took advantage of it.”
Smart As Hill, who came first-up in the third-quarter, finished third. The top-five was completed by Super Schissel and Only For Justice.
Forbidden Trade was making his second start of the season Friday after finishing second in his season debut. The Blais trainee won seven of 11 starts and earned $300,436 last season to earn an O’Brien Award for owner Determination.
A $2 win ticket on Forbidden Trade returned $12.80.
Pilot Discretion kept his perfect record alive with a career-best 1:52 mile in the second Goodtimes split.
Driven by Andrew McCarthy, Pilot Discretion was quickly moved out from fourth entering the backstretch but had to spend the next quarter on the outside before finally clearing at a sizzling half of :55.1.
The Tony Alagna trained Pilot Discretion wasn’t bothered and proceeded to hit three-quarters in 1:24 before trotting home in :28 to secure a 3 ½ lengths score.
Southwind Avenger finished second, while Dream Nation was third. Jumpshot and Knight Angel completed the top-five.
A son of Muscle Hill, Pilot Discretion is now five for five in his young career. The Alagna trainee was racing for the third time this season and has now earned $41,000 for owners Robert LeBlanc, David Anderson and John Fodera.
“He’s just been really good this year coming back,” said Alagna. “We were so high on the colt last year, but he just wasn’t ready to go. We raced him twice at Lexington for experience and had hoped to race him in the Valley Victory and he got sick on us, so we put him away for the year.
“He trained back great in Florida this winter. We were high leaving Florida and hoping he would do what he’s doing right now.
Alagna pegged the Goodtimes as a perfect spot for Pilot Discretion’s Grand Circuit debut.
“David Anderson owns the colt with Robert LeBlanc and they’re from Canada originally and of course in partnership with John Fodera. It’s a fun group to have a horse for of this caliber and we thought it would be a great time to try the stakes trail with this horse.”
A $2 win ticket on Pilot Discretion returned $3.20.
The post-position draws for the $256,000 Armbro Flight and $247,000 Goodtimes took place following Friday’s eliminations.
$256,000 Armbro Flight
1. Royal Witch
2. Weslynn Dancer
3. Hannelore Hanover
5. The Erm
6. Top Expectations
7. Highland Top Hill
8. P L Jill
9. Plunge Blue Chip
10. Emoticon Hanover
AE: Dream Together
1. Only For Justice
2. Swandre The Giant
3. Pilot Discretion
4. Forbidden Trade
5. Super Schissel
6. Smart As Hill
7. Dream Nation
8. Southwind Avenger
10. Knight Angel
AE: Trix And Stones
Photos by New Image Media
Replays available at www.YouTube.com/WoodbineReplays