McIntosh trotter Convoy Hall catches the eye at Woodbine Mohawk Park

by Brett Sturman 

In the span of two races over the past 10 days, a 3-year-old gelded trotter named Convoy Hall (Muscle Mass—Constance Hall) has burst onto the racing scene in a big-time way at Woodbine Mohawk Park.

Trained and co-owned by Hall of Fame conditioner Bob McIntosh, it took just his debut race for Convoy Hall to become Canada’s fastest 3-year-old trotter this winter and is co-fastest in the division across all North America in pari-mutuel racing.

In sweeping through the bottom non-winners 1 or $7,000 (Ontario-sired $10,500) condition at Woodbine Mohawk Park, Convoy Hall has been untested and more impressively, apparently un-asked for anything yet close to his best.

Following an easy 2:01.3 win in his lone qualifier, Convoy Hall debuted six days later on Feb. 22. He was well supported in that race as an even-money proposition and the early word out on him proved correct. After getting away second from post 3, driven by Sylvain Filion, Convoy Hall was put on the point in between calls to the half-mile and never looked back from there. In an amazingly professional performance, considering it being just his first race, he was trotting on his own through fractions of :57.4 and 1:27.4 and was entirely under wraps when coming home in :27.4 to post the national best time of 1:55.3.

On Thursday (Feb. 29), Convoy Hall followed up that debut with another sparkler. This time sent off at can’t lose odds of 1-9, Filion put Convoy Hall on the front immediately and scorched similar rivals as the week prior, winning by a half-dozen lengths. After opening up daylight nearing the three-quarter marker and over seven lengths into the stretch, the Muscle Mass gelding raced through the lane with no Filion urging whatsoever and still trotted a final quarter of :27.2 while geared down to win as he pleased in 1:56.2.

A $52,000 yearling from the 2022 Lexington Selected Yearling Sale, Convoy Hall carries a pedigree that McIntosh has great familiarity with. McIntosh trained Convoy Hall’s dam, Constance Hall, during her racing career of 2006-07; a formidable player in the Ontario Sire Stakes Gold circuit at that time and winner of over $250,000. Out of the Canland Hall, Constance Hall is a half-sister to the great race trotter and even more prolific sire, the recently passed Cantab Hall. The same family includes $838,335 winner Chin Chin Hall.

Interestingly, for her own success on the track and shared bloodlines with Cantab Hall, Constance Hall had yet to produce anything truly exceptional. From 12 previous foals to Convoy Hall, including eight winners, only a single one of those (Criquette Hall) was able to best the 1:55 mark. Convoy Hall on the other hand, looks poised to go well faster than that at any future time that he pleases.

As Convoy Hall moves up in class and some of the better sophomore trotters begin to re-emerge it’s inevitable that whatever win streak he has at those times will be tested. But Convoy Hall certainly has the look of a trotter with serious staying power.

For all the attention to Convoy Hall, he’s not the only new McIntosh pupil to keep tabs on. Tracking a near identical path from the same barn, the 3-year-old pacing filly named Catch My Breath (Thinking Out Load—Breathtacular) qualified the same morning as did Convoy Hall.

Like Convoy Hall, Catch My Breath has a right to be decent from her pedigree. A homebred out of the mare Breathtacular, she’s a half-sister to last year’s Ontario Sire Stakes 3-year-old champion, Moment Is Here.

And like her stablemate, she too won her lone prep. But while Convoy Hall trotted that morning in 2:01.3, Catch My Breath paced in just 2:03. It’s easy to say now in retrospect but it’s hard to believe considering the connections, pedigree and starting from rail at Flamboro Downs, Catch My Breath was dismissed as an overlooked 12-1 longshot. In that race, she raced along in fourth, came first over shortly after the half-mile and sustained a powerful first-over push to breeze past the race leader on the backstretch and ended up winning by over seven lengths in a time of 1:58.3, relatively fast for the track.

The secret was out from there, and when she came over to race the big track at Woodbine Mohawk Park just two days ago, she was sent off at odds of 1-5. Catch My Breath won that race coming first-over from fifth in a time of 1:54.2 in a closer than expected stretch drive against her longshot stablemate, Think Ahead. The winning race time was the fourth-fastest mile by a 3-year-old pacer in Canada this year.