With the reality of her Breeders Crown victory still replaying through owner Mac Nichol’s dreams, sophomore pacing filly Monkey On My Wheel returns to Woodbine Racetrack this Saturday hoping to seal her outstanding season with a Ontario Sires Stakes Super Final trophy.
“To win the Breeders Crown; I’m still on top of the world from winning that,” said Nichol. “And it was a double whammy because I had the mare and bred her.”
When Nichol mated broodmare Legislation to Mach Three in 2007 he was not thinking about producing a Breeders Crown champion. The former resident of Alberta was simply hoping the resulting offspring would compete in the Ontario Sires Stakes program.
“When I moved here four years ago, that’s what I had my eye on, was to get in on those Ontario-breds,” recalled the current resident of Burlington, Ont. “It’s the best sires stakes program in the world as far as I’m concerned.”
When Monkey On My Wheel was ready for serious training Nichol approached fellow Albertan Travis Umphrey about taking her on, and the rest, as Umphrey says, is history.
Once the filly arrived in his barn, Umphrey approached Nichol about a partnership and the Guelph, Ont. resident purchased 25 per cent of the young pacer.
In an eight race freshman campaign, Monkey On My Wheel captured three races, finished second four times and banked $215,000 for her delighted owners. Through 16 starts this season, Monkey On My Wheel has only finished out of the top three on two occasions, and has not been worse than second since July 9. Last weekend’s Breeders Crown triumph pushed her sophomore earnings to $741,034, putting her $44,000 shy of the one million dollar mark lifetime.
“Knock wood, she’s been sound and she seems to be getting stronger as the year goes through,” said Nichol. “That’s unusual; usually it goes the other way.”
Moffat, Ont. resident Jody Jamieson will steer Monkey On My Wheel from Post 1 in Saturday’s $300,000 Super Final, looking to prevent Modern Connection from a repeat of both her freshman Super Final win and the half-length victory she scored in the last Gold Final event. Umphrey feels the three-week break in Monkey On My Wheel’s schedule was the difference in that Oct. 13 contest at Woodbine, and is confident his filly will be right on her toes Saturday.
In addition to Monkey On My Wheel, Nichol is also hoping for strong performances from three-year-old pacing colt Mystician and three-year-old trotting colts Sim Brown and Mister Herbie.
Mystician heads into his Super Final test off an impressive performance in the Breeders Crown that saw him sprint from 10th to sixth in the stretch, just missing a paycheque after starting from the outside Post 10.
“He was sitting 10th at the head of the lane and still only loses by less than two lengths,” said Nichol. “He was the one with all the go in the last eighth of a mile.”
Mystician and Jamieson will start from Post 7 in Saturday’s test, which will wrap up the evening of Super Final performances in Race 10, and Nichol is expecting good things from the son of Camluck and Mystic Mistress, who was a Gold Final winner at Mohawk Racetrack in early August.
“He loves the cooler weather because of his allergies,” said Nichol, who shares ownership of Mystician with trainer Jeff Gillis of Hillsburgh, Ont., Ken Henwood of Mississauga, Ont., and Gerald Stay of Buffalo, New York.
“The seven-hole is not a bad post for him, it’s a pretty good spot,” added the owner. “He can leave pretty fast if he has too, and it will be a little easier for him to leave in against these horses.”
Only nine colts will line up behind the gate in the three-year-old pacing colt event, with the other Gold Final winners — Watermelonwine, Prodigal Seelster and Camaes Fellow — starting from Posts 1, 2 and 8.
Jamieson will also steer Mister Herbie for Nichol, Gillis and Stay from Post 8 in the sophomore trotting colt final, while Randy Waples sends Sim Brown after his share of the $300,000 purse from Post 2 for the same ownership group.
Sim Brown heads into the contest off a 1:54.2 personal best in an Oct. 28 overnight event at Woodbine, giving his owners cause for cautious optimism. The son of Angus Hall and Trophy Bass has earned $349,230 in his career, but has not seen the inside of an Ontario Sires Stakes winner’s circle since the May 22 season opener at Mohawk.
“He’s always had foot problems and everything, but he’s starting to come around more,” noted Nichol. “We’re excited.”
The gelding’s best performance of the season may have come in his Canadian Trotting Classic elimination where he sprinted home in :26.4 to finish third by half a length to eventual Trotting Classic winner, and OSS rival, Daylon Magician. Daylon Magician will be looking to repeat as Super Final champion from Post 3 in the fifth race.
Mister Herbie is a new addition to the Gillis barn, purchased out of the Carl Jamieson stable at the beginning of October. Since the move Mister Herbie has scored a pair of wins in overnight action at Woodbine, including a personal best 1:53.3 on Oct. 20, and Nichol is hoping the Here Comes Herbie gelding’s newfound confidence will stand him in good stead Saturday.
“He’s coming along really good. He was always a nice horse anyway, but he’s coming around at the right time,” said the new owner. “He can leave, and he can come at the end too. He’s got the speed — he’s shown that — so we are quite excited about him too.”
If all goes well, fans will have an opportunity to see all four of Nichol’s Super Final starters compete in their four-year-old season. With all four competing at the top of their game at this stage in their sophomore careers, the owner is hoping for continued success for his first crop of Ontario Sires Stakes starters, but he is also hoping some of the yearlings he purchased this fall step up to replace them in the provincial program.
“We picked up some in Kentucky and another half-dozen in Harrisburg, and we picked up a few from the sales here,” said Nichol of his yearling acquisitions. “Now all we have to do is wait another six or eight months to see what we’ve got.”
Fortunately, Nichol does not have long to wait to see how his contenders fare on Super Final night. Woodbine Racetrack sends its first race behind the starting gate at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday night and turns the spotlight on Ontario’s finest in Races 2 through 5 and 7 through 10.