Innisfil, ON — Driver James MacDonald, trainer Nick Gallucci and owner-breeder George Millar teamed up to win two of the three Ontario Sires Stakes Gold Series divisions for 2-year-old pacing fillies at Georgian Downs on Sunday (July 18).
Their first victory came with Silver Label in the first C$69,733 division. Starting from post five, Silver Label left smartly and settled in behind favorite I Love Ongait through a :27 quarter and :55.2 half. Heading for the third marker, MacDonald put Silver Label on the attack, and she and I Love Ongait battled to a 1:25.2 three-quarters before Silver Label pulled away in the stretch and secured the 1:55.3 victory. I Love Ongait settled for second, 3-3/4 lengths behind the winner, and Darby Ogill completed the top three.
The win was Silver Label’s second straight over the Georgian Downs oval. The Bettor’s Delight daughter toured the Innisfil oval in 1:56 in the Grassroots season opener on July 6.
“I thought that I Love Ongait was a pretty nice horse, and if she could just get a nice piece of it in there I’d be happy,” said Millar. “It’s a little surreal how well they’re racing right now, so I am just going to suck it all in and enjoy it while it’s here, because I know how fleeting it can be sometimes.”
Millar barely had time to enjoy Silver Label’s victory before MacDonald and Prohibition Legal were parading for the second C$68,933 division. From post one, Prohibition Legal sat briefly in third as Stonebridge Thalia stepped out to a :29 quarter. Heading for the :57.4 half, first Speaker Nancy, then favorite Prohibition Legal swept to the front, but Stonebridge Thalia was back out and challenging as Prohibition Legal led the way to the 1:26.1 three-quarters. Prohibition Legal had plenty in reserve, however, and sprinted home to a 1:54.1 victory, the Big Jim daughter’s second straight in Gold Series action. Love That Smile closed for second and Stonebridge Thalia was third.
“You dream all winter about racing in the big races, but then, when you get down to July, reality sets in and it doesn’t always seem to work out that way. If you wind up with one decent horse, or maybe two out of 10, you consider yourself lucky, and we seem to have a bunch of them right now,” said Millar. “You know what, it couldn’t happen at a nicer time for me. To see them race so well, and be my homebreds, it’s wonderful. I am getting a little bruised where I am pinching myself.”
Silver Label and Prohibition Legal are not the only repeat Ontario Sires Stakes winners in the Millar Farms barn at present. Two-year-old pacing gelding Betterhavemymoney also has two Gold Series wins on his resume. It is also not the first time the Millar Farms team has celebrated two Ontario Sires Stakes wins in one night, as 3-year-old pacing geldings Powertrain and Cantstoplying won their Grassroots divisions at Woodbine Mohawk Park on July 10.
The success has had special meaning for Millar, who underwent a double lung transplant in February and had to give up driving the young horses around his Stouffville, Ont., farm track during a prolonged recovery.
“I don’t know, ever since I stopped driving the horses so much and I went to the hospital and got my new lungs, they all seem to be racing better, so maybe somebody is trying to tell me something; I shouldn’t be training them so much and leave it up to the guys that know what they’re doing,” quipped Millar. “Nick’s (Gallucci) just doing a wonderful job. I think he’s really enjoying the transition over to racing young horses.
“Every time we win a Sires Stakes race, I buy him and his wife dinner and I said, ‘This is starting to get expensive,’” added Millar, with a chuckle.
In the third C$68,933 division, Fade Out and driver Doug McNair fired out of post seven and took control just past the :27.4 quarter, then carried on to a :57 half and 1:26 three-quarters before battling down the stretch to a half-length win in 1:55.3. Speak Your Mind finished second and Dewitt For Josie was third. Favorite Better Double Flip finished fifth.
“She raced good; she went a big trip there tonight. She was out quite a long ways making front. I thought she went a pretty good trip and she fought them off pretty good,” said trainer Gregg McNair. “She never made a mistake all winter, but I wouldn’t say that we were thinking we’d maybe win a Gold with her.”
McNair shares ownership of Fade Out with Dean Lockhart and McKinlay & Fielding. The partners offered up $20,000 for the daughter of Sportswriter at last fall’s Black Book Yearling Sale.
Fade Out started her career in the Grassroots, finishing second to Silver Label on July 6, and the pair could meet up again in the Battle Of The Belles eliminations at Grand River Raceway on July 26. Prohibition Legal will skip that event and prep for the third Gold Series Leg at Woodbine Mohawk Park on Aug. 17.
Next up on Georgian Downs’ Ontario Sires Stakes schedule is the second Gold Series Leg for 3-year-old pacing colts on Sunday (July 25), which could feature Meadowlands Pace winner Lawless Shadow’s return to Ontario.