by Brett Sturman
After announcing last month that all nine slots had filled as a pre-requisite for the inaugural Mohawk Million to take place Sept. 26 as scheduled, Woodbine revealed Thursday the names of the owners of the slots. As expected, the list of slot holders includes some of the most prominent owners, many with deep and longstanding ties and contributions to the sport.
Among those individuals is Ontario resident Brad Grant. One of the largest owners, Grant won the Hambletonian in 2018 as part of Atlanta’s ownership and also won two legs of the pacing Triple Crown that same year with Stay Hungry. As one of the larger investors in younger horses, Grant now has his eyes on the Mohawk Million.
To have a realistic chance to compete in the race, a combination of both quantity and quality of young horses is required, of which Grant holds both. In making his decision to go all-in for the race, Grant said, “I think one of the things, obviously, is that we think we have some nice colts including Maverick, the one we paid a lot of money for.”
In Maverick, the full brother to champion Greenshoe, a group including Grant paid a harness racing record $1.1 million for Maverick at last year’s Lexington Selected Yearling Sale.
In addition to Maverick, Grant said he is confident that other colts show similar early promise.
“Cash Hudson (a Crawford Farms-bred Chapter Seven) is another good colt that I was able to buy into and own with Al and Michelle Crawford. I’ve also got Roberts Hanover ($45,000 yearling from the family of Muscle Hill) who is going very well. We think we have a few – again, everybody looks great at this time of year – but I’m really just hoping that’s a contender from them at that time that are good enough to be in it. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.”
Even with a million-dollar yearling and an arsenal of other talented young trotters, it’s still a tough call financially to put up $110,000 not knowing fully what you have and not knowing what horses you’ll be competing against months from now. But for Grant and probably all others, the decision to buy into the Mohawk Million was strictly about dollars and cents.
“I think it’s a great race for the industry,” said Grant. I think Jessica Buckley at Woodbine Mohawk have really ramped up and stepped to do something out of the norm. I know that John (Campbell) had tried to do the race in the States and at that time I supported his efforts and I just kind of thought this was a great opportunity to support our industry.”
Grant said there are other reasons the race appealed to him.
“It’s right in my backyard. Woodbine Mohawk is doing so much to promote the business, promote the entertainment, get new people in, and I think that if you look at the people that have bought positions in that race, I mean, they’re all people that want to see this business grow and flourish. Obviously, Mr. (Anders) Strom has had tremendous luck with trotters, Mr. (Serge) Godin has continually, in the last number of years, gotten stronger and stronger on the trotting side. Adam (Bowden) has done a great job, and with Fashion Farms and Mr. (Jules) Siegel, what can you say? He’s a legend. Mr. (Jeffery) Snyder and Jim Bullock, who’s been a long-time horseperson, still believes in (the game) and still thinks he can get there. I think we’re all hoping as well as having horses there that it turns out to be a great event.”
With the Mohawk Million now solidified, all eyes in the harness racing world will turn to Woodbine Mohawk Park in September. In addition to the Mohawk Million, the Metro Pace – the premier Canadian race for 2-year-old pacers – will take place on the same card, as well the She’s A Great Lady for 2-year-old pacing fillies. Prior to Mohawk Million card on Sept. 12 will be the William Wellwood Memorial final, in which the winner of that race will get a free entry into the big race two weeks later.
“The other thing about it, is that the buzz starts now,” said Grant. “Everybody on that list, people are going to be watching all these 2-year-olds from them and ask how your 2-year-olds are doing when they start to race. And every trotter – when you talk about the trotters you’re going to be talking about the million-dollar race all in the same sentence. For the next number of months until September it’s going to be front and center and get buzz for the industry with what’s going to go on up there at that time. You’re going to have the best horses there for the Wellwood and then you’re going to have the night of the million dollars. You’re going to have the best horses at 2-year-old levels and the best drivers in the world there and you keep your fingers crossed that this is the start of something new.”
The idea of a million-dollar race for 2-year-old trotters is something that has been in the making for over a couple years and if successful could help propel further excitement.
“I remember two years ago at the Breeders Crown talking to John (Campbell) about it and I told him at that time that I’m in and think it’s a great idea. I was disappointed it wasn’t able to get off the ground then, but I’m sure with John’s support that Jessica and team Woodbine Mohawk were able to get the interest going and, hopefully, it’s the start of something big. I mean, how many times a year do we get to race for a million bucks?”