O Canada! A Huge Saturday Of Racing at Woodbine Mohawk Park

The Maple Leaf Trot and Canadian Pacing Derby highlight impressive card

by John Furgele, Harness Racing 228

The Kentucky Derby is the biggest race on the calendar tomorrow—and rightly so—but you will not find a better race than Saturday night’s Maple Leaf Trot at Woodbine Mohawk Park. In short, it’s a who’s who of trotting greatness and that deserves the attention of all sports fans. 

Okay, I might have gotten carried away with the last sentence, but this is a spectacular race that highlights an impressive card at the track. You can say what you want about harness racing, but the way racing has been handled during a pandemic has been remarkable.

The Maple Leaf is Gimpanzee’s race to lose.  Simply stated, he is the best trotter in training right now and though he hiccupped in his last start that actually helps here.  In harness racing, because the horses race so often, it is impossible to get through a season undefeated, so a loss here and there is not always a bad thing.  In comparison, if Tiz the Law loses tomorrow, there will be complete panic that the colt has passed his peak. 

With Standardbreds, a loss can fire them up and set them up for another winning streak. Gimpanzee is certainly good enough to get another streak going. He will be challenged by stellar horses. The defending champion is Guardian Angel As at 4-1. He hasn’t been as good this year as last, but nobody would be surprised to see him defend the title, and drawing the 3 post only helps. 

Atlanta is the filly, the 2018 Hambletonian champion. She too, hasn’t been as sharp this year, but she seems to run her best when there are boys in the race. I’m not sure what that means, but I like her more here than if she ran in a filly and mare race. She is 9-2 and will come out of the 4 post which can only help. 

The other filly is Manchego. She has been better than Atlanta, hence the 3-1 line, but she is starting from the 11.  At WMP that’s not bad, though.  The track is 7/8 miles long, meaning the horses get a nice run-up before making a turn and we’ve seen Manchego leave before.  I could see her getting out, ripping off a 25.4 or 26 and then trying to dial it down to the half.

Marion Marauder is 10-1. All he did in 2016 was win the Trotting Triple Crown and I fully expect to him to cash a check here with a top five finish.  I’m not sure he can win, but he’ll compete. They have tried the breeding shed with him and he hasn’t taken to it yet, so the connections have decided to keep racing him and he continues to make money.

The field:

1-Soul Strong 15-1

2-Marion Marauder 10-1

3-Guardian Angel As 4-1

4-Atlanta 9-2

5-Lindy The Great 8-1

6-Run Director 10-1

7-Marseille 20-1

8-Crystal Fashion 12-1

9-Gimpanzee 5-2

10-Manchego 3-1

The co-feature is the $540,000 Canadian Pacing Derby and like the MLT, the field is excellent.  The oddsmaker is telling us that Bettor’s Wish at 5-2 is the one to beat with Backstreet Shadow (3-1), Dancin Lou (7-2) and Century Farroh (4-1) your second, third and fourth choices. 

There is nothing better than older pacers.  They race all year, they beat each other up and they take turns visiting the Winner’s Circle. Unlike trotters, there are many better than average pacers racing today and races like the CPD will prove this. Who would be surprised if American History, at 8-1, trips the wire first? He’s won enough big races, he knows the feeling, and it will be interesting to see what the bettors do with him. Will he end up 4-1, or will he be dismissed and go off at 12, 15 or even 20-1?

The field: 

1-Bettor’s Wish 5-2                              

2-Dancin Lou 7-2

3-Backstreet Shadow 3-1

4-Sintra 9-2

5-American History 8-1

6-Shake That House 15-1

7-Century Farroh 4-1

8-Dorsoduro Hanover 12-1

9-Filibuster Hanover 15-1

10-This Is The Plan 15-1

Harness racing always caters to the trotters. Trotting was the original gait (pacing developed over time) and trotters are regaled more than pacers are. It’s like comparing a violin to a guitar. The violin is the classier instrument; it  sounds better, needs to handled with care and has a high level or performance. The guitar can be played daily. It’s a little rougher, it’s more utilitarian, but it too, when played right, gives off a fine sound of its own. The great thing about harness racing——you can love both. 

The 12-horse card is a Canadian Blockbuster. In addition to those two biggies, there are…..

-4 divisions of the Ontario Sire Stakes for 2-year old colt/gelding pacers

-2 divisions of the Simcoe, at $113 and $114k each

-The $215,000 Good Times Trot, featuring two Hambletonian runners in Ready for Moni and Hollywood Story. 

Even though the Maple Leaf Trot is the most important race of the day, the organizers at Woodbine Mohawk Park have acknowledged the greatness of the Kentucky Derby. They moved their post time back to 7:20 pm ET so we can all watch the Run for Roses at 7:02 pm ET.

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