Million reasons to love Mohawk Million champ Venerable

The 2-year-old trotting filly remained undefeated through eight career starts by holding off a late charge from Duly Resolved in the 2nd edition of the $1 million Mohawk Million.

by Dave Briggs

Trainer Nifty Norman said there are a million reasons to love undefeated 2-year-old trotting filly Venerable — not the least of which is the fact she gamely fought off a late attack from colt Duly Resolved on Saturday night (Sept. 25) at Woodbine Mohawk Park to win the 2nd edition of the $1 million Mohawk Million by a head in 1:54.2.

“It’s unreal. You don’t see that every day, a filly beating the colts like that,” Norman said.

Especially from post nine.

“She had to do a lot of work and it’s a tricky spot, but she survived it,” the trainer said.

Venerable’s driver, David Miller, said he was concerned Duly Resolved might get past in deep stretch, but Venerable dug in.

“Yes, she fought,” Miller said. “(Just like) in the (Jim) Doherty (Memorial), though, in the last turn she felt like she was empty and somehow she finds it to get to the wire.”

Though, the driver disputed Norman’s contention that Venerable pinned her ears at the top of the stretch.

“She didn’t pin her ears. Tell him to be quiet,” Miller said, laughing. “There’s no quit to her. I don’t know what he’s talking about.”

A tarmac cheering section was rooting loudly for the local horse, Ontario-sired Duly Resolved (Resolve—Motown Muscle) to pull off the upset. When he finished a few feet short, his trainer and part-owner John Bax kept it all in perspective.

“You can’t race any better than that,” Bax said of Duly Resolved. “That’s quite a filly and we’re pretty pumped… Paul (MacDonell) gave (Duly Resolved) a great steer and he’s as good as he can be… It’s a big check.”

Venerable, a daughter of Walner out of Jolene Jolene is now a perfect eight-for-eight and has already surpassed $1 million in career earnings (by Standardbred Canada accounting) — which must be some sort of record to seven figures.

Bred by Maumee River Stables, Black Creek Farm, Martin Schmucker and Steve Stewart, Venerable has now exceeded her $210,000 purchase price at the 2020 Lexington Selected Yearling Sale by nearly five-fold.

“She’s an amazing horse. She’s just got some super cardiovascular system or something,” Norman said. “She’s an absolute angel to be around. She’s an absolute pet and she’s smart, like she’s very intelligent. She’s simple. She’s a real pleasure.”

When asked whether Venerable deserves to be in the discussion for Horse of the Year, Miller was unequivocal.

“Heck, yeah,” the driver said, indicating that would be his, admittedly biased, vote.

Venerable’s lucrative season means Norman will now pass on racing her in Lexington to prepare her for her final event of the year — the Breeders Crown at the end of October at The Meadowlands.

“I think I’ll just skip (Lexington) and race her in the Breeders Crown and call it a year. That’ll be nine or 10 starts, which will be great,” Norman said.

Duly Resolved’s camp is pondering the same scheduling question now that the colt has earnings of $592,409 and a never-worse-than-second record of 5-4-0 in nine starts.

“Do we baby him or do we keep on going? That’s the question,” Bax said. After all, Duly Resolved is eligible for the Hambletonian.

As for a stellar battle in a stellar Mohawk Million field, none of it would have been possible without a group of ultra-game slot owners that ponied up $100,000 for each of nine slots (the 10th went to the winner of the William Wellwood Memorial, King Of The North).

The rules of the race allow slot owners to use them at their discretion. Slots are considered an entity that can be sold, traded or leased. Ontario-based owner/trainer Gino Toscani, Montreal’s Determination Stable (Serge Godin) and EquineX each purchased two slots. Single slots were purchased by Crawford Farms of New York (Al and Michelle Crawford) and leading Ontario owners Brad Grant and Steve Heimbecker.

Venerable’s camp made a deal with Grant to use his slot. Grant also dealt the winning slot to last year’s Mohawk Million winner Venerate.

“Brad was great to work with,” Norman said of this year’s deal.

Owner David McDuffee, who shares Venerable with Mel Hartman, Paul Bordogna and Steven Arnold, said the fact there were a few slots available made making a deal fairly smooth.

“There were two or three slots available. When we decided to do it, I made some calls and we had some good negotiations. Actually, I could’ve gotten a couple of slots,” McDuffee said.

Duly Resolved’s connections worked out a deal with Heimbecker to use his slot.

Asked what it feels like to win a million-dollar race with a 2-year-old, McDuffee was completely cognizant it is an extremely rare event.

“It doesn’t happen very often, does it? It’s a great feeling. I’m so excited for everybody involved – the trainer, the driver and my partners,” he said.