Four-year-old Mister Herbie denied reigning Horse of the Year San Pail a series sweep of the Glorys Comet as he edged by the triple millionaire right at the wire in a 1:51.3 stakes record mile early Saturday evening at Woodbine Racetrack.
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.”