Harness racing fans will be treated to the Ontario Sires Stakes version of shock and awe on Thursday evening when the gifted two-year-old pacing colts return to Mohawk Racetrack for their first $130,000 Gold Final.
In last week’s elimination round the young pacers rocketed around the Campbellville oval to times of 1:52.3, 1:53 and 1:53.4, setting a new standard for early season speed. Over the last four years fans have watched the freshman pacers start their Ontario Sires Stakes season off at Mohawk in mid-July, and none of the victors had ever delivered a clocking faster than 1:53.1. In fact, more than half of the contestants from the 2007, 2008 and 2009 Gold Finals would have been sent packing in the elimination had they been part of this year’s crop.
“Last year they went in 1:55 and that was great, this year it was 1:53,” comments long time owner Mac Nichol, who owns a share of finalist Mystician.
Mystician finished second in the first elimination, caught at the wire by Mach It Big after carving most of the fractions in the 1:53 mile. The son of Camluck and prolific producer Mystic Mistress will start from Post 6 in Thursday’s $130,000 Gold Final, and Nichol expects a strong performance from the youngster.
“At that age they are still green and you don’t want to push them,” notes the Burlington, ON resident. “He was on the front end and the other horse got a nice trip behind him and nailed him at the wire.”
Nichol, trainer Jeffrey Gillis of Hillsburgh, ON, Ken Henwood of Mississauga, ON and Gerald Stay of Buffalo, NY share ownership on Mystician, who was a $45,000 purchase at last fall’s Canadian Open Yearling Sale. The full brother to $779,728 winner Camystic and $616,605 winner Lucks Mistress made his first appearance at Mohawk in a June 19 qualifier, circling the seven-eighths mile oval in 1:58.1. In a July 1 overnight the colt was a four and three-quarter length winner in 1:54.3.
“In his first maiden race he looked so impressive,” says Nichol, who operates the Ideal Training Centre in Acton, ON. “He broke his maiden in 1:54.3, with a last quarter in :26.4. That’s pretty big for a two-year-old.”
While impressive, Mystician’s early season exploits did not come as a complete surprise to his connections. The colt had been showing signs of precocious talent since late winter.
“He started showing back in March that he looked like he was going to be a pretty nice colt; the way he was doing everything perfect, and liked his job,” explains the owner. “Training down Jeff could come from behind or take him on the front end, or whatever. He’s one of those that like their job, and that’s very important.”
Nichol notes that the colt has a very laidback personality and spends much of his time away from the track napping, behaving like a seasoned old racehorse rather than a novice.
If Mystician continues to perform as expected, he is eligible for the $300,000 Battle of Waterloo at Grand River Raceway and the $1 million Metro Pace at Mohawk Racetrack in addition to the Ontario Sires Stakes program.
“It’s still early in the year, it can all change overnight, but so far so good,” says Nichol.
“He’s just a very nice two-year-old. He looks the part and he plays the part,” adds the owner. “We’re hoping for a big year with him this year.”
Regular reinsman Jody Jamieson will steer Mystician in Thursday’s contest, lining up alongside elimination winners Lyons Elite from Post 1, Bullet Speed from Post 3 and Mach It Big from Post 5.
The $130,000 Gold Final is slated as Race 5 on Mohawk Racetrack’s Thursday evening program, which gets under way at 7:30 p.m.
(courtesy Standardbred Canada & OSS)