TORONTO, ON — In just his second year owning horses in the Ontario Sires Stakes program, Mac Nichol has had a superlative season which will be capped off by watching five contenders in Saturday’s $2.4 million Super Final Championship at Woodbine Racetrack.
“The three-year-olds I’ve got now, that was where it started,” says Nichol, who moved from Alberta to Burlington, ON in 2007. “And so far, so great.
“It’s great to have one qualify for the Super Final,” he adds. “To have five qualify is a really super great day.”
Since May, horses Nichol co-owns have captured six Gold Eliminations and four Gold Finals, and earned $593,520 within the confines of the provincial program. They have also produced impressive results beyond the program’s borders, led by two-year-old pacing colt Mystician who was victorious in the $1 million Metro Pace at Mohawk Racetrack in early September.
Mystician and driver Jody Jamieson will make their bid for a sixth victory from Post 1 in Saturday’s $300,000 Super Final, and Nichol is only slightly tongue in cheek when he hopes for the sort of weather that turned the Mohawk oval sloppy the night of the Metro Final.
“He trained good this week, and he needed to, because he’s in against some really nice two-year-olds,” says the owner. “Maybe if it rains it will help him more.”
Nichol shares ownership of Mystician with trainer Jeff Gillis of Hillsburgh, ON, Ken Henwood of Mississauga, ON and Gerald Stay of Buffalo, NY. Through 11 starts the son of Camluck and prolific broodmare Mystic Mistress has delivered them to the winner’s circle five times, finished second four times and banked $784,670.
Gillis also trains Nichol’s three-year-old pacer Twin B Warrior, who heads into his Super Final off a pair of impressive efforts in overnight action at Woodbine. Since his Oct. 5 Gold Final win at Windsor Raceway, the gelding has laid down a 1:52.1 win on Oct. 23 and a runner-up effort against older horses on Oct. 30.
“He’s living up to his name, that’s for sure,” says Nichol. “Since it cooled off and Jeff put him on Lasix, he seems more relaxed. He used to get so worked up in the paddock, by the time he got onto the track he was all washed out. It looks like that’s in the past now, hopefully.”
Randy Waples will send Twin B Warrior after his fifth sophomore victory from Post 8 in the seventh race Saturday, and the Milton, ON resident will also be aboard two-year-old trotting colt Sim Brown in the fifth race.
Unfortunately Sim Brown will be handicapped by the outside Post 10, and Nichol expects he, Gillis and Stay will have to wait until 2011 to see the Angus Hall son realize his full potential. Although he has threatened on a number of occasions, Sim Brown has just one Gold Elimination victory to his credit this season, a problem shared by Nichol’s other trotter, three-year-old gelding Arriba Amigo.
“He shows that he’s got some talent, but it’s hit and miss with him,” reflects Nichol, who shares ownership of Arriba Amigo with Robert Burgess of Campbellville, ON, Karin Olsson Burgess of Milton, ON and Champagne Stable of Toronto, ON.
“He drew pretty good in there, (Post 2) is a good place for him,” adds the owner. “Hopefully everything works out for him.”
Blair Burgess conditions the Amigo Hall son, and trotting specialist Trevor Ritchie will be at the lines on Saturday.
Nichol’s fifth entry on Super Final Saturday is two-year-old pacing filly Monkey On My Wheel, whose late season success has been doubly satisfying as she is the seventh foal from his broodmare Legislation. The filly missed the Oct. 22 Gold Final due to sickness, but looked back to her old self in a Nov. 4 overnight at Woodbine that saw her sprint home in :26.3 to finish second to reigning Gold Final champ Modern Connection.
“Travis (Umphrey) had to pull her out of the other final there, she was sick. She didn’t have much temperature, but she had �the snots’, they call it,” notes Nichol, who shares title on the filly with trainer Travis Umphrey, another Alberta transplant who now calls Guelph, ON home.
Monkey On My Wheel and regular reinsman Rick Zeron will line up behind the starting gate from Post 4 in the fourth race this weekend.
Oakville, ON resident Zeron will steer a total of six Super Finalists on Saturday, among them freshman pacing colt Watermelonwine, one of two contenders hailing from the barn of trainer Dave Menary.
“We’ve taken some of Rick Zeron’s advice and made a few changes,” says Menary of Watermelonwine, who will line up at Post 6 in the sixth race. “He’s right in the middle of the gate, and if he can work himself out a trip, he can really kick for home.”
Through 11 starts Watermelonwine has tallied two wins and two seconds for owner Brad Gray of Dundas, ON, banking a total of $100,840. The Life Sign youngster has played second fiddle to stablemate Prodigal Seelster this summer, but both Menary and Zeron are very happy with the momentum the colt is carrying into the season finale.
“If everything works as we have planned for Watermelonwine, he’s going to get a big chunk of it on Saturday,” says Zeron.
Prodigal Seelster will be further along the starting gate at Post 8, but Menary is confident that driver Randy Waples will be able to carve out a trip that puts the winner of $329,455 in a position to add to his freshman bank roll. The Camluck son heads into the season finale off a commanding victory in the Oct. 24 Gold Final at Ottawa’s Rideau Carleton Raceway.
“Since Ottawa he’s been really good,” notes Menary, who trains the colt for his father Larry Menary of Cheltenham, ON, Denis Breton of Welland, ON, Kenneth Ewen of Georgetown, ON and Double Or Nothing Stables of Hamilton, ON. “We chose to miss the Governor’s Cup and concentrate on the Super Final.”
Menary and Jeff Gillis are longtime friends whose charges have battled tooth and nail in the two-year-old pacing colt ranks this season — Prodigal Seelster prevailed in the Battle of Waterloo and their Metro Elimination, while Mystician captured the $1 million Metro prize — but Menary figures he has the upper hand in Saturday’s skirmish.
“Jeff and I are very good friends, but Mystician doesn’t worry me one bit. He hasn’t raced for six weeks and in his last start he had a hard time handling Watermelonwine,” notes the trainer. “Mystician is going to have his hands full when Prodigal Seelster comes knocking this week.”
While he hopes to prevail in the freshman battle, Menary is willing to concede that Gillis has the edge in the three-year-old pacing colt ranks. Menary will send Big Bay Point after his second Ontario Sires Stakes win from Post 2, while Gillis packs a one-two punch from Posts 7 and 8 with Code Word and Twin B Warrior.
“I think Gillis’s colts are pretty fresh,” admits Menary. “I think Mach Dreamer (Post 1) and Twin B Warrior are the ones to beat.”
Mario Baillargeon will steer Big Bay Point on Saturday and Menary is hoping the Camluck colt has one more big effort left for owners Burke Racing Stable LLC of Fredericktown, PA and Weaver Bruscemi LLC of Canonsburg, PA.
“I treat them all different, but he is one I train hard,” reflects Menary. “So it’s been a long year, a lot of hard training, a lot of hard racing, and he is maybe a little tired. Hopefully he’s got one more big mile in him.”
Woodbine Racetrack’s Saturday evening program gets under way at 7:30 pm, with Ontario’s most talented two and three-year-old pacers lighting up the Toronto horizon in Races 3 through 10.
To watch all the regular season Gold Series races click: Regular Season Results
For complete entries click: Woodbine Racetrack Entries — Nov. 13, 2010