Gregg McNair will harness four horses on Saturday’s $1.8 million Super Final night at Woodbine Mohawk Park, capping off his fifth Johnston Cup-winning season as the Ontario Sires Stakes program’s leading trainer.
“I used to follow it quite a few years ago, and geez it was a hard thing to win,” said McNair, who won his first three titles from 2012 to 2014 and his fourth in 2019. “It’s quite a thing to say that you’ve won it a few times. We’re sure happy about that.”
With four more opportunities to pad his lead, McNair currently has 209 points earned through 92 starts, 14 wins, 11 seconds and 14 thirds. His Ontario Sires Stakes starters — 22 pacers and seven trotters, 21 two-year-olds and eight three-year-olds — earned $467,469 competing at the Grassroots and Gold Series levels. Trainer Blake MacIntosh wrapped up his Ontario Sires Stakes season with 199 points and Dr. Ian Moore currently sits third with 192 points and a pair of Super Final starters left to compete.
Leading the way for the McNair Stable in 2021 was two-year-old pacing filly Fade Out, who makes her bid for a Super Final title from Post 4 in Saturday’s second race. The Sportswriter daughter will be joined by two-year-old trotting filly Needa Little Magic, who has Post 1 in the third race, and three-year-old pacing geldings Century Heineken and Bettor Sun, who fire away from Posts 2 and 6, respectively, in the ninth race.
“It was kind of a mixed year we had, I didn’t feel like we had that good a season, but I guess we raced a lot of horses,” said McNair, who lives outside of Guelph, ON. “We had a good bunch of three-year-old pacing colts. They kind of carried us along all year I guess. They were nice colts, that Century Heineken and Stonebridge Rex and Jimmy Connor B and Bettor Sun, they all have records, I think, better than 1:50.”
The trainer’s son, Doug McNair, will steer Sunshine Beach gelding Bettor Sun, and Chris Christoforou will be in the race bike behind Bettors Delight son Century Heineken on Saturday, as they tackle Pepsi North America Cup winner Desperate Man and reigning Super Final champion Bulldog Hanover in the $225,000 season finale. The younger McNair will also steer Fade Out, while Scott Zeron handles Kadabra homebred Needa Little Magic.
McNair has already started teaching this year’s crop of yearlings their early lessons and expects to have about 15 youngsters in the barn when the sale season comes to an end. In addition to Fade Out, Needa Little Magic and Grassroots Semi-Finalist Socks N Crocs, he also has a handful of two-year-olds that showed some ability, but were put away early to grow and mature.
“When they are done for the year, they are done. Especially the two-year-olds, they let you know,” said McNair, who credits his staff for keeping a close eye on each young horse’s health and happiness throughout the four month Ontario Sires Stakes (OSS) season. “When it’s time to shut them down, it’s time to shut them down. You sure hate to see them end on a bad note.”
With the 2021 title, McNair moves into a tie with Ross Henry for the most Johnston Cup victories. Hall of Fame horseman Bob McIntosh is the all-time leader with eight titles. McIntosh and McNair also sit one-two in all-time OSS earning and wins.
The Johnston Cup was established in 1993 in memory of Bruce Johnston, the publisher of The Canadian Sportsman, and is awarded yearly to the leading trainer in the provincial program based on a point system that awards one point for each OSS starts, four additional points for each win, three for each second and two for each third-place result.
Fans can download a program for Saturday’s Super Finals here and watch the live stream on the Woodbine Mohawk Park website. The Campbellville oval sends the first race behind the starting gate at 7 pm and turns the spotlight on the Super Final contenders in Races 2 through 5 and 7 through 10.
Feature Image: Trainer Gregg McNair, his wife Susie McNair and son Doug McNair in the Ontario Sires Stakes winner’s circle in 2020. (New Image Media photo)