In the evening's first of three stakes finals, worth $125,000 in purse money, early leaver Windsong Geant and driver Rick Zeron fired off a :26.3 opening quarter before coming under attack by the defending series champion and heavy 1-9 favourite San Pail and driver Randy Waples. Looking for his 10th win in a row, San Pail advanced from third down the backstretch and poked a head in front at the :55.1 half-mile mark before clearing to command.
As San Pail led the way to the next marker in 1:23.3, 6-1 second choice Mister Herbie launched a first over attack from fourth for the O'Brien Award winning driver-trainer duo of Jody Jamieson and Jeff Gillis.
San Pail led the field into the stretch with Mister Herbie looming to his outside. However, Mister Herbie continued to apply pressure to the trotting titan in a heated battled down the homestretch and nailed him right at the wire for the career-best victory. Windsong Geant finished third while Gillis trainee Frenchfrysnvinegar, the reigning Older Trotting Mare of the Year, finished fourth in rein to Keith Oliver.
The 1:51.3 winning time was just two-fifths of a second off the track and Canadian record, held by Mr Muscleman, Enough Talk and San Pail.
Mister Herbie paid $14.80 to win for the third time in four seasonal starts. He was a runner-up in the first round of the series and missed the second leg due to a quarter crack on his back right hoof.
“He was obviously much better tonight,” said Gillis following the win. “He was about 75 to 80 per cent healthy during the first leg because of his quarter crack, but we also discovered that he had an ulcer on his pallet, which we were able to treat. Coming into tonight, I knew he’d be better, but I didn’t know by how much. Judging by his performance, it’s safe to say he’s 100 per cent.
“I thought if we were at our best, we would be able to beat San Pail," he continued. "Whether that day was tonight or later in the year, I wasn’t sure.”
George Peters, trainer and owner of the great Glorys Comet, was on hand to present the trophy to Mister Herbie's winning connections. The Here Comes Herbie-Independent Lassie gelding, last year's Ontario Sires Stakes Super Final champion, is owned by the Ontario partnership group of J Gillis G Stay of Hillsburgh and Mac Nichol of Burlington.
The career winner of 13 races now boasts earnings totalling $454,403.
“San Pail raced a huge race in my opinion and he got stung hard to get to the front," said Gillis of his main competition. "I have nothing but absolute tremendous respect for the horse. We just got the better of him today and I’m sure he’ll get the better of us in the future. This race just went our way."
“We can’t be disappointed by his performance,” commented Rod Hughes, trainer and co-owner of San Pail. “He got beat twice last year and bounced back. We have a long year to look forward to and I’m confident we’ll have a successful one.”
Golden Receiver Sweeps Spring Pacing Championship
Golden Receiver pulled off his second series sweep of the season after scoring a wide open record-setting victory in the $125,000 Spring Pacing Championship at Woodbine Racetrack on Saturday evening.
Waples was denied a series sweep of the Glorys Comet earlier in the evening aboard trotter San Pail in a close call against Winning Mister, but there was no one near him to snatch the victory here.
Firing to command from post five, Waples and Golden Receiver reeled off a sizzling :25.1 opening quarter with the Doug McNair-driven Aracache Hanover parked out and St Elmo Hero and Scott Zeron in the pocket while the rest of the field trailed multiple lengths behind. Aracache Hanover eventually settled into third while Golden Receiver forged on through a :53.4 half.
Down the backstretch, Classic Rock Nroll and Jamieson launched a first over attack from fourth, but Golden Receiver paced by three-quarters in 1:22.1 and extended his lead to two lengths entering the stretch. The even-money favourite then drew off for the six length tally in a Canadian season's mark of 1:49.2. The time of the mile shaved one-fifth of a second off the stakes record. The second over 7-2 second choice Melvyn and Luc Ouellette rallied home for runner-up honours while 177-1 longshot Bettors Reward and Stephane Bouchard came through for third.
“There aren’t too many horses out there that can beat [Golden Receiver] off the gate, so it was the obvious choice to leave,” said Waples of his racing strategy. “It made my job that much easier, but the great thing about him is that he’ll come right back to you. You can drive him with two fingers. At the top of the stretch I didn’t want to take any chances so I kicked the ear plu