Ontario 2-year-old pacing crop off to a rocketing start

by Brett Sturman

Just a couple of years removed from that vaunted 2-year-old pacing group of Ontario-sired stars that included Bulldog Hanover, Lawless Shadow and Desperate Man, another crop is emerging that may end up fairly deep as well.

It’s not even August yet and the 2-year-olds are just barely into the Ontario Sires Stakes (OSS) schedule. Yet, Ontario’s group of frosh pacers are right up there with the best from any other program. At the very top of that list is Mirage Hanover, who with a record of 1:50.4 taken last week in his OSS Gold division is currently the fastest 2-year-old in all North America.

By the U.S. and Canadian Hall of Famer Bettor’s Delight who is still going strong in his 21st year at stud, Mirage Hanover was a $175,000 buy from the 2022 Harrisburg Yearling Sale. Out of the classy and multiple OSS winner at 2 and 3, Mayhem Seelster, Mirage Hanover is a half-brother to 1:47.4 pacer Mad Max Hanover.

Last week’s five-plus length 1:50.4 Gold win was Mirage Hanover’s first career win in three starts, but it wasn’t for lack of effort in his first two races. On debut at The Meadowlands at the end of June in a Geers stake, Mirage Hanover challenged first over off a slow half-mile and closed with a final quarter of :25.1 to come up just short against the odds-on favored Newsroom. He was further flattered when Newsroom laid over Kindergarten foes next out on July 7 in 1:51, a mile time that’s still tied for fastest to date in the U.S.

It was just last year when Stockade Seelster set a 2-year-old OSS record with a 1:49.3 win in September, and if Mirage Hanover can continue to progress forward, he’s already well ahead of comparable times from the same period of other recent OSS stars, including Bulldog Hanover.

Another top OSS prospect is Bettor’s Delight gelding Do Better. In going wire-to-wire from the outside post 9 last week in his OSS Gold split in 1:51.3, Do Better ran his young career record to a perfect three-for-three for Hall of Fame trainer Bob McIntosh. That clocking is tied for seventh fastest across Canada and the U.S.

Fortune may have been on the side of Do Better in that recent win as two other potential OSS standouts each broke stride in that race. One of those was T H McMurry (McWicked), who prior to breaking in the first turn of that race, won his Gold division 11 days prior in a time of 1:51.4 in a race where he was used multiple times to make the lead past the half. Though just a $22,000 buy from the 2022 London Classic Yearling Sale, his dam is the 1:49.2 millionaire mare and former OSS Super Final winner Waasmula. The other notable breaker in that race was Best Night Ever (Betterthancheddar), who looked menacing off the cones when he jumped it off around the final turn. A $19,000 Lexington Selected Yearling Sale buy, he was just a length behind T H McMurry in that $103,100 Gold division from June 10. Prior to that, he won on debut when he closed with a final quarter in :25.3.

On the female side, Ontario-sired Pass Line (All Bets Off) is currently tied for the third fastest mark in North America among freshman fillies. That time of 1:51.4 was set two weeks later when she ran her record to three-for-three in an OSS Gold leg before finishing third in last week’s Gold leg. Comparing that fast time to last year, Sylvia Hanover won in a similar 1:51.2 also in late July, before lowering that mark as a 2-year-old twice into August and September.

In that race, both Pass Line and another promising filly Watching You (He’s Watching), were at each other throughout the mile and each paid the price. That race was won by Odds On Platinum in 1:52.2, who is another Bettor’s Delight, this one out of the great American Jewel. Coco Jo Jo (Betterthancheddar) just missed by a neck in that race and has now paced 1:52.2 in consecutive starts.

It’s one thing to compare times, and it’ll be interesting to see how these Ontario 2-year-olds stack up as the open stakes competition heads North in the coming weeks. If recent years are any indication, they should be able to hold their own just fine, and maybe then some.


The sophomore pacers take center stage Saturday (July 29) at The Meadows, highlighted by the $114,770 Adioo Volo, and then a few races later with the 57th edition of the Delvin Miller Adios final for $350,000.

Beginning with the Adioo Volo, an extremely competitive race, I’m presuming favoritism will go with Strong Poison out of the 9 hole. She just recently made her 3-year-old debut at the end of June, and it was a massive 1:48 win in the Nadia Lobell at Hoosier. From there, she was well backed last out in the Mistletoe Shalee against the likes of Sylvia Hanover and Twin B Joe Fresh, and loomed prominently around the final turn before order was restored and the top pair in that race came back on again. Fastest on paper, though the post could make things interesting depending on who wants to mix it up early.

Many others here have mixed it up throughout the year already in Pennsylvania-sired racing. That includes Odds On Hail Mary who was a 1:49 winner over this track three races ago when she crushed Pennsylvania Sire Stakes (PASS) foes by over four lengths. She was second next out to Always B Naughty in another PASS race, though that was a race in which Always B Naughty got first run at a leader she was able to pass and Odds On Hail Mary could only close belatedly for the runner up. Daffled Hanover has overachieved throughout her PASS races this season. Vivian’s Dream was second to Twin B Joe Fresh in New York last out. As trainer of Odds On Hail Mary and C Is For Cookie who is another contender from the rail, combined with her unbeaten in 2023 favorite in the Adios, it could be a big day for Linda Toscano.

Picks: Odds On Hail Mary, Strong Poison, C Is For Cookie

The story in the Adios squarely revolves around It’s My Show. Now seven-for-seven on the year after a powerful 1:47.4 elimination win last week, he’ll be heavily backed once again to keep his winning ways intact. His elimination was his first start in over a month and despite that, he was still able to post the identical 1:47.4 clocking from when he won the North America Cup final in June. He’s passed every test thus far and is well spotted once again.

Fellow elimination winner Cannibal will get a crack at It’s My Show. Aside from that sixth-place finish in the Pace, Cannibal has won all other starts this year. His Adios elimination win was impressive, and the public support was correct in making him easily more favored over Fulton. Ken Hanover is an interesting type. Off a month layoff three back, he just missed in 1:48.2 to Christchurch, and in his elimination last week he wasn’t that far off while tracking It’s My Show all the way home. The post is bad, but the potential is there if Miller can work out a trip. Redwood Hanover flew late onto the scene in his elimination and he’s done so similarly at this track earlier in the year; he can do it either way and we’ll see what strategy is coming from MacDonald. Ervin Hanover blazed the way in his elimination before fading; he took a fairly decent amount of support last week. Palone gave Seven Colors an aggressive try in his elimination and it almost worked out; likely back to closing now. Fulton was just okay in his elimination and now it’s out to post 9.

Picks: It’s My Show, Redwood Hanover, Cannibal


It must be a PA harness thing. In December I wrote about the top two finishers in a race at The Meadows both being disqualified for pylon violations halfway through the race. That was topped Wednesday in what must be an unprecedented happening when the top three finishers were all disqualified in race 10 at Harrah’s Philadelphia.

In the race, Trumpster Blues, driven by William Augustine at odds of 1-9 won the race by two lengths. Bettor’s Ville, driven by Ivan Llopez, was second by another couple of lengths. And third-place finisher Flying Tiger was seven lengths clear of the fourth-place finisher.

After a review, it was determined that all three of those horses went inside pylons into the first turn of the race. Although it had zero bearing on the way the race was run or the outcome of the race whatsoever, rules are rules, and all three horses were disqualified.

As a result, the fourth-place horse at odds of 24-1 who lost by 11 lengths was placed first. Other huge longshots beaten by 11 and 13 lengths respectively were placed second and third, blowing up the toteboard.

The total amount wagered for the race was just over $50,000. In situations like this where violations occur early in the race that have no impact on the final outcome, should the entire race result be turned upside down, or should it be dealt with solely through driver fines and suspensions? Doesn’t it seem silly to have the official result and payouts in zero way reflect how the race was actually run?