Killer storm puts Mohawk in the dark for SBOA finals

by Melissa Keith

Editor’s note: This marks the debut of what we hope will be a weekly column exclusively covering Woodbine Mohawk Park as a sister piece to our dedicated weekly coverage of the Meadowlands.

Saturday (May 21), an unusual weather event known as a derecho struck Southern Ontario and Quebec. Many in its path described it as tornado-like. The mass thunderstorms destroyed trees, vehicles, homes and powerlines, resulting in 10 known deaths, so far. Several harness racetracks were affected by the intense winds and rain: Flamboro Downs pre-emptively canceled its 11-race Saturday night card; Rideau Carleton Raceway had to call off their Sunday races because of power outages and a downed pole falling across the racing surface. Saturday afternoon, Ohio’s Scioto Downs had also faced dismal conditions and canceled after two races.

Canada’s biggest harness track was literally powerless leading up to its Saturday night card. Woodbine Mohawk Park lost electrical service across the property during the derecho, notably affecting the track’s lighting. The rest of the facility was temporarily powered by generator, while Milton Power tried to restore service to Mohawk and surrounding areas.

Woodbine Communications issued a precautionary statement: “Racing officials have decided to proceed with tonight’s card of live racing in hopes power will be restored. Should power not return, the card will be canceled once officials determine there is no longer enough daylight to race safely.”

As race 1 assembled behind the starting gate, Ken Middleton announced: “Welcome to Saturday racing at Mohawk Park – we’re good to go.” And they were, for five races.

James MacDonald put 1-9 favourite Adare Castle on the front end just after the opening quarter in race 2, the $151,575 Standardbred Breeders of Ontario Association (SBOA) final for 3-year-old filly trotters. She opened up on pocket-sitting Resolving (Trevor Henry) on the final turn, leaving that rival behind as Saundra (Sylvain Filion) came on for place, still five lengths behind the 1:53.2 winner. Two for two in 2022, Adare Castle (Muscle Mass—Pacific Edge) is owned by trainer Mark Etsell, of Rockwood, ON; Robert Newton, of Walkerton, ON; Graham Hopkins, of Chesley, ON; and Peter Porter, of Port Dover, ON. Saturday’s victory was Canada’s fastest 2022 mile by a sophomore trotter and a new lifetime mark for the former $10,000 (US) Timonium yearling, whose career earnings have now reached $574,324 (Cdn).

In the $147,575 Three-Year-Old Filly Pace (race 4), 67/1 I Love Ongait (Louis-Philippe Roy) led to three-quarters before heavily-favoured 1-9 Silver Label (James MacDonald) reached her sulky wheel. The longshot put up a fight down the stretch, but Silver Label kept gaining, made front, and widened her advantage to a half-length at the wire. The career-best 1:51.1s victory was Canada’s fastest of the year for pacing fillies, so far, and raised Silver Label’s winnings to $415,513 (Canadian). The homebred Bettors Delight—Hidden Gem daughter is owned by Millar Farms of Stouffville, ON and trained by Nick Gallucci.

Skies were darkening by the time race 5 began. Highlandbeachlover (Jonathan Drury) drifted in deep stretch but held on for the 1:51s victory, the last of the abbreviated card, which still handled $1,081,926. At 8:28 p.m., Woodbine Communications notified participants and the betting public that race 6 would be delayed until power came back, with a 9 p.m. cut-off time declared by racing officials. Power did not come back. The remainder of the 11-race card was canceled, with SBOA finals for 3-year-old trotting and pacing colts and geldings postponed. Cancellation fees were paid to connections of all other horses on the program.

The male trotters returned to the Campbellville track before the regular Monday, May 23 card, at 6:30 p.m. (The Monday card had previously been drawn, so the SBOA final was conducted as a special non-wagering event). Twin B Archie (James MacDonald) led by three lengths at the top of the stretch, drawing away as the battle for place was settled by Esplosione (Jody Jamieson). The 1:53.3 win was a new personal best for Twin B Archie (Archangel—Affair Hall) and Canada’s fastest winning mile of 2022 for his division. The gelding is owned by trainer Scott McEneny, of Puslinch, ON; Domenic Chiaravalle, of Hamilton, ON; Floyd J. Marshall of Jarvis, ON; and Martwest Racing Stable, of Mississauga, ON. The winner’s share of the $121,600 purse sent the former $50,000 Timonium yearling’s earnings to $358,316 (Canadian).

The $122,600 SBOA final for sophomore pacing colts and geldings is rescheduled for Saturday (May 28), as it was originally drawn and as a wagering race. #10 Mr Beast (15-1 morning line) provides James MacDonald with an outside chance to complete a driving sweep of the SBOA finals. John Pentland’s #5 Stonebridge Helios (Bob McClure) is the 5-2 morning line favourite, on the basis of his 1:51.2 elimination victory May 13. He previously qualified at Mohawk May 6, easily setting a 1:51.1 Canadian seasonal record for 3-year-old pacing colts. “He probably could have gone :49 that day, but it wasn’t necessary,” said McClure after the colt’s latest win. “I don’t think I’d trade him for anything in North America right now.”

Notes: Tonight’s (May 27) Mohawk leg of the Miss Versatility Series for trotting mares has been canceled due to insufficient entries. Early Tuesday, the race office announced it was “extremely short” on entries for all classes next Friday and Saturday (May 27 and 28). The Mohawk schedule will expand to five days a week beginning the first week of June, with details of an upcoming Pop-Up Series for trotters, male pacers, and pacing mares released by the race office May 25. Each division consists of two preliminary legs (each with a $15,000 purse) and a $25,000 final and a $15,000 consolation. To enter, trotters and female pacers must be non-winners of $20,000 in 2022 or not averaging $1,250 per start in 2022 (minimum 10 starts); male pacers must be non-winners of $15,000 in 2022 or not averaging $1,250 per start in 2022 (minimum 10 starts).