Canada’s fastest 2-year-old trotter of 2022 will skip Saturday’s $1 million race at Woodbine Mohawk Park.
by Melissa Keith
Bax Stables of Campbellville, ON enjoyed a very successful night last Thursday (Sept. 15) at Woodbine Mohawk Park. In the four Champlain Stakes divisions for freshman trotters, trainer John Bax sent out a total of eight starters. Gelding Oh Look Magic (Lookslikeachpndale–Miami Magic) took a new personal best of 1:54.4s in his $95,353 open division for driver James MacDonald, also establishing a new seasonal best for 2-year-old trotting geldings in Canada. Bax stablemate Snowpiercer finished fifth in that race, from post 11.
Oh Look Magic’s record was set in race 7, in the shadow of Righteous Resolve’s victory in race 6. Coming off a win streak spanning two Ontario Sires stakes Gold legs and the Peaceful Way elimination and final, Righteous Resolve (Resolve–Motown Muscle) easily extended her divisional dominance in one of two $83,098 Champlain Stake filly events last Thursday night at her home track.
Trained by John Bax and out of former Bax trainee Motown Muscle (3, 1:53.4s; $447,945), Righteous Resolve smashed the stake record and became Canada’s fastest 2-year-old trotter of 2022 with her 1:53.1s mile. Her stablemate, Proud To Be Lindy, led to the :27.4 opening quarter and closed for place, getting within six-and-a-half lengths of the long-gone winner. There was simply no catching Righteous Resolve after driver Paul MacDonell sent her third-over from fourth approaching the :57.1 half. Shiny New Penny briefly took command, right before MacDonell’s filly circled with ease and opened up on the final turn. Looking relaxed at three-quarters in 1:24.2, she needed no urging from her driver, who kept glancing over his shoulder down the stretch, vigilant for closers. None came close.
Matt Bax takes Righteous Resolve for most of her training miles. He praised MacDonell’s winning drive: “Paul does a great job managing the young horses, and he knows that there’s a lot more starts to come, so I think he shut her down, down the stretch and just did what was comfortable for her.”
Matt, son of trainer John, drove Quite Fast (Walner—Juanitas Fury) to a place finish in the card’s first Champlain filly event. She left quickly from the outside post to make front and led until strides from the wire, when Milliondollarwall and Yannick Gingras came calling late in the 1:56.1s mile.
“She’s a homebred and she improves a little bit each week,” Matt said. “She’s got a lot of heart, and there’s nothing wrong with having a Walner filly, either.”
Another John Bax trainee, Its Your Choice, finished third behind Quite Fast for driver James MacDonald.
The day after the draw for the Mohawk Million, Matt Bax explained why Righteous Resolve’s name was conspicuously absent from the 10-horse field, though Bax trainees Proud To Be Lindy and Oh Look Magic are both heading to the gate.
“I think it just came down to there were a lot of opportunities. I’m sure anyone would have given up a slot for (Righteous Resolve), to make a deal, but at the end of the day, the owners felt that maybe it wasn’t the best thing to do for the longevity of her [career]. She still has two more OSS races and the Breeders Crown up here.”
The filly is owned by Bet Max Stables Inc. of Casco, MI and Benenati Inc., Clinton Township, MI. Bax said they considered the bigger picture to be the longevity of the filly’s career.
“They looked at that, and racing against the colts, and thought, ‘You know what? Maybe it’s best to sit this one out’… It’s a tough thing to do when money’s on the line like that. But this might be the best course for the horse, in the long run. We support whatever they want to do, and hopefully it works out in the long run.”
Matt knows Righteous Resolve and family well
“She definitely has the pedigree there. To say that she was going to be as good as she is…” He paused, then offered his take on her rapid ascension: “Even week-to-week, training her, it’s a little tough to believe. When you have that grit on the track, and she goes out there and performs the way she does… Yeah, I wouldn’t say I expected that from her training miles.”
He does see parallels to Motown Muscle’s other foals, however.
“We bought the brother the year before, [2021 O’Brien Two-Year-Old Trotting Colt of the Year] Duly Resolved [3, 1:54.1s; $611,755]… We’ve also had the sister out of the mare as well, Bright Eyes M [3, 1:53.0s; $239,589; now owned by Menhammar Stuteri of Sweden].
“I don’t know if it’s a trait of the family, because Duly Resolved was the same way, but they’re all very smart. It’s a very smart family. It’s just 1, 2, 3 —they have the bike on in two days. Very easy to break, very smart. So that goes a long way when you’re racing as a 2-year-old too, to be that smart. They make it easy.”
The Baxes were naturally interested in Motown Muscle’s 2020 foal.
“We heard that [the owners] had a full-sister Resolve yearling, so we talked to them because they’re getting all these breeders’ awards for Duly Resolved in the OSS,” said Matt. “We kept in contact and asked them what they were doing with this filly, whether they were putting her in the sale or if they wanted to sell her privately. Fortunately for us, they kept us in mind and said, ‘Well, we’re going to keep her, but would you guys like to train her?’”
John Bax took Righteous Resolve and a handful of other young horses to train at the Palema Trotting Center in Vero Beach, FL over the colder Canadian months.
“We broke her up here first before she went down to Florida. He doesn’t head down until the first of December, so we break everything here and decide what we want to send down,” said Matt, who worked with the stable’s remaining 14-15 horses in Campbellville, ON last winter. He said caretaker Lianne Head and regular turnout friend, maiden trotting filly Its Your Choice (Muscle Mass–Choice Hall), help keep Righteous Resolve on the right track, mentally and physically.
TIP TOP CAT: PERFECT TIMING FOR THE METRO PACE
Driving back from Kentucky to Ontario, Gregg McNair joked that “we don’t have an income tax problem” after recent results at the Red Mile. Despite that disappointment with Whole Nother and Tall Dark Beauty not hitting the board in Kentucky this week (he did win with freshman colt Whole Nother (Nuncio–Undersong) in a non-stakes start there Sept. 13), the Campbellville, ON-based trainer has something to celebrate. His 31-1 Metro Pace elimination winner Tip Top Cat gets closer to Saturday’s (Sept. 24) final at Woodbine Mohawk Park.
“I thought he’d got in with a really tough bunch there, but it worked,” said McNair. “It was a perfect trip for him, the way it worked out for him. He got used fairly hard leaving the gate too, so he did a little bit of the work.”
Tip Top Cat (Always B Miki–Western Top Cat) left from post #7, ambitiously circling then-undefeated 2-5 favorite Stockade Seelster and 5-2 second-choice Tickertape Hanover to make front before the first turn. Driver Doug McNair opted to let those two rivals battle for the lead, backing down to third as they sparred to the :27 opening quarter.
Tip Top Cat was single-file third, his driver flat in the bike, at the :55 half. The backfield was in motion to his outside at the 1:23 three-quarters, leaving McNair with one best route to success – “McNair Lane,” as some dub the inside path down the Mohawk stretch. The late-blooming colt sprinted past Tickertape Hanover (second) and Stockade Seelster (third) in a :26.3 closing quarter.
“He went up there twice,” said Gregg, Doug’s father. “The first time, there wasn’t any room there, and he kind of had to wait a few more lengths, then it opened up enough for him to get through.”
The one-length victory was his second in six career starts, the 1:50.1s mile a new personal best.
“When we qualified him, he was probably one of the better-looking horses coming out for the 2-year-old [Mohawk] qualifiers, in the spring,” Gregg said. Tip Top Cat won his June 25 qualifier in 1:55.1s, but encountered a setback.
“He looked like he was one of the top colts up here, then he got sick. It seemed like a long time before we got him racing. It was a month before he even started.”
When he made his pari-mutuel debut July 26, the colt closed from post #10 for place. He broke his maiden for regular driver Doug McNair with an off-the-pace 1:54.2s effort on Aug. 11.
Tip Top Cat came into stakes competition late, finishing seventh in the Aug. 27 Nassagaweya at his home track. A week later, Gregg said he was impressed by the colt’s sixth-place trip (despite interference) in the Champlain Stake.
“He raced big,” said the trainer. “He was kind of out of it, but he did finish good, though. That’s more the kind of horse I thought he was. It even surprised Doug a little bit. Not me though.”
Stepping up last Saturday (Sept. 17) on the biggest stage for freshman pacers was a different story.
“As far as winning the Metro elimination, I wasn’t looking for that. It surprised me that he won the Metro elimination… But we really did like that colt, training down.”
Owners Scott Horner of Toronto, ON and Timothy Murray of Shawville, QC share ownership of the Pennsylvania-eligible colt, who was a $50,000 Harrisburg purchase.
“I’ve had a few horses for Clay and Scott [Horner]. We were shopping for yearlings there last year and [Scott] was going after an Always B Miki filly,” said Gregg. “He went really high on her. I think maybe he bid $170,000 on that filly. Didn’t get her. He wasn’t at the sale, so he said to me, ‘Go take a look at that colt and see if you like him.’ I didn’t pick the horse out of the catalog, but I went to look him over and called [Scott] back and said, ‘Yeah, he’s a nice-looking colt.’”
An improbable victory in the $900,000 Metro Pace would be sweet vindication for Tip Top Cat’s connections. Because of illness, “he missed all his stakes, pretty much,” said trainer McNair. “He’s eligible for the Kentucky Sire Stake; he comes from Hunterton Farm [Paris, KY]. The stakes were almost over by the time that he looked like he’d be competitive in them. He’s got some Grand Circuit races in Lexington – I don’t know if he’s going or not – and he’s also eligible to the Breeders Crown.”
Gregg considers his trainee the likely fourth choice among Metro bettors. He expects strong repeat performances from Stockade Seelster, Tickertape Hanover, and first elimination winner Save America. He also expressed cautious optimism for his own colt’s chances.
“There’s a lot between now and Saturday night, so I hope things work out for him this week.”