Quality qualifier for Gallucci stablemates

Breeders Crown ahead for Prohibition Legal and Silver Label.

by Melissa Keith

The fastest of six Friday (Oct. 13) morning qualifiers at Woodbine Mohawk Park saw four pacing mares — three eligible to the 2023 Breeders Crown at Harrah’s Hoosier Park — in a 1:51.3 tightener.

Prohibition Legal (p, 4,1:50.0s; $758,490) and driver Louis-Philipe Roy edged out pacesetting Dabarndawgswatchin (p, 5, 1:49.0s; $454,910) by a neck in the fourth Friday qualifier, with stablemate Silver Label (p, 4, 1:47.3m; $1,017,268) one length back in third for driver James MacDonald, well ahead of Need To Breathe (p, 3, 1:49.3s; $361,520).

Nick Gallucci trains both Prohibition Legal and Silver Label, who have already put together impressive resumes. Prohibition Legal, now 4, was voted 2021 O’Brien 2-Year-Old Pacing Filly of the Year, also finishing that season as No. 1 freshman filly in Ontario Sires Stakes Gold competition. No. 2 in the final OSS Gold standings and O’Brien voting was same-age stablemate Silver Label, who had three Gold and a Grassroots win in her first year on the track. She finished second to Prohibition Legal in the 2021 OSS Gold Super Final.

The pair renewed their rivalry last year, with Silver Label taking home the 2022 O’Brien Award for 3-year-old filly pacers. She won two OSS Gold legs at Grand River and Rideau Carleton Raceways before besting Prohibition Legal in their divisional Gold Super Final at Mohawk last Oct. 15.

Silver Label came roaring back at age 4. The daughter of Bettors Delight—Hidden Gem captured two legs of Mohawk’s Graduate Series in April, eventually getting nosed out by Raptors One in the May 6 series final. Silver Label went on to take the Margaret Juravinski Memorial at Flamboro Downs; the Perfect Sting and Lady Liberty at The Meadowlands; plus, two filly and mare preferreds and a distaff free for all at her home track, Woodbine Mohawk Park.

“I think Silver Label’s best race, to me, this year was the Perfect Sting at The Meadowlands,” said Gallucci. “She had the trailing post and we were just hoping to see her be competitive, and she did a heck of a lot more than that, winning in a new lifetime mark, coming first over from seventh at the first quarter” for catch driver Scott Zeron.

Meanwhile, Prohibition Legal (Big Jim—Catch A Wish) made a late return to racing this season. After winning one WMP qualifier per month from June through August 2023 — each successively faster than the last — she was a quick-closing place finisher in an Aug. 19 WMP filly and mare free for all in her 4-year-old pari-mutuel debut. The winner? Silver Label. Prohibition Legal turned the tables in the Sept. 1 edition, beating runner-up Silver Label for a breakthrough 2023 comeback victory.

“At the end of Prohibition Legal’s 3-year-old year, we gave her a very long break in Kentucky,” Gallucci said. “I was hoping the extra time would bring her back to her 2-year-old self. She had a few issues ailing her — stomach ulcers and slight lameness — through her 3-year-old year, and I don’t think we got to see her potential. So, I brought her back real slow and made sure we had her at her best when we started racing this year.”

Second to Grace Hill in both the Milton Stake final and Dayton Distaff Derby last month, Prohibition Legal’s winning WMP qualifier also suggests readiness for the goal ahead: Eliminations for the Breeders Crown Mare Pace, tentatively slated for Oct. 21 at Hoosier Park, if numbers warrant them. She closed in a :26 flat final quarter in the Friday qualifier, the same closing-panel clocking as Silver Label.

Gallucci confirmed late Friday that he was “going to race them both in [the] Breeders Crown,” for the owner/breeder of both mares, Millar Farms of Stouffville, ON.

“I’m not sure if there will be eliminations, but we will play it by ear,” said the 2022 O’Brien Trainer of the Year finalist. “I have had both mares since they were yearlings.”

Still in his 30s, he was an O’Brien Future Star Award finalist in 2014 and began working for George Millar’s farm in 2019. Gallucci said he considers himself fortunate to work with Prohibition Legal and Silver Label.

“Both mares were complete professionals all the way training down and racing,” Gallucci said. “Looking back, I didn’t realize how special they both were until I had had more experience training young horses. Each of them won their first six races of their careers, and they haven’t disappointed us.”

The handicapping value of a qualifier can be difficult to decide: Prohibition Legal won qualifiers over stars Funtime Bayama and Sylvia Hanover this summer, but did not move on to dominate her division the way those younger pacers have dominated theirs. She is currently showing signs of good things to come, at a perfect time for improvement. Silver Label’s third-place result Friday also means more as a forerunner of future races, where big purses are on the line for the top-class mares.

“[Friday’s] qualifier was a good trip for both mares,” said a proud Gallucci. “I asked [drivers] James [MacDonald] and Louis [Philipe Roy] to race them conservative, and both of them had lots of pace finishing. Hopefully it puts us in a good spot, fitness-wise, going into next weekend.”