By Ken Weingartner, USTA
Confederate stepped up to the Grand Circuit for the first time in his Breeders Crown elimination for 2-year-old male pacers last week and handled the assignment like each of his previous four races — by winning.
The Brian Brown trainee captured the faster of the event’s two $25,000 elims, stopping the clock in 1:50.2 as he defeated Ervin Hanover by 2-1/4 lengths with a gate-to-wire performance at Woodbine Mohawk Park. He is the 7-5 morning-line favorite in Friday’s $600,000 final, when he will start from post three with Tim Tetrick in the sulky.
Confederate’s previous four victories came in the Kentucky Sire Stakes Series, including a 1:49.2 score in the $400,000 Championship Series final at Lexington’s Red Mile on Sept. 18. The time is the fastest of the season by a 2-year-old male pacer.
“We thought he was a good horse,” said Brown, who has won two Breeders Crowns in his career. “We thought he would do well. But until you make that step, sure, you think about it. That was the first time he was on the front, too. He’s done everything you could ask a horse to do. We’re very happy with him.”
Confederate is a homebred son of Sweet Lou-Geothermal owned by Diamond Creek Racing and Crossover Racing. His mom is a half-sister to Pure Country, who was a three-time Dan Patch Award winner and two-time Breeders Crown champion.
The colt was brought along slowly and pointed toward the Kentucky Series. After a third-place finish in his debut in a conditioned race at Harrah’s Hoosier Park, where he was more than 18 lengths back at the half and closed with a :25.2 last quarter, he has been unbeaten and unthreatened. The margin of victory in his Breeders Crown elim equaled his closest win of the campaign.
“He’s just a good little horse,” Brown said. “He’s gone above anything we could have asked. We brought him along slowly; we didn’t push him. We got him qualified early, decided to wait for Lexington and took a little break again. From then on, he’s just been really, really good.”
Handlelikeaporsche, who won the other Crown elimination by a length over Huntinthelastdolar in 1:51.4, is the 5-2 second choice in Friday’s final. He will start from post two with Dexter Dunn driving for trainer Chris Ryder, who has taken home five Breeders Crown trophies lifetime.
The son of Lazarus N-The Signature has finished no worse than second in all seven of his races this season, winning four. He was a two-time winner on the Grand Circuit at the Red Mile prior to his elimination.
“I thought he was terrific, honestly, and not just because he is my horse,” Ryder said about his colt, who was fifth heading into the final turn and came first-over to pass pacesetter Stockade Seelster in the stretch. “He looked a little average out of the gate, he got a hole, and then came first over against good horses. He had the plugs in, and Dexter said he wasn’t tired.
“He’s an easy keeper, has got good speed and his racing manners are pretty good. He always gets himself in the race. There is nothing not to like about him.”
Stockade Seelster, who won the Metro Pace and Ontario Sire Stakes championship, is the 5-1 third choice in the Breeders Crown final after finishing third in his elimination. It was only his second loss in 10 races this year.
“He might be getting a little tired,” trainer Ian Moore said about the son of State Treasurer-Soiree Seelster, who will start from post seven with Jody Jamieson at the lines as Moore looks for a second-career Crown. “That’s 10 starts now, and not easy ones, either. The slowest one of those starts was (1):52. He’s come a couple of :28 quarters his last two starts, which is not him. It’s hard. We’ll see what we can do.
“We’re hoping for a bit of luck. Most of the colts in the top three (in the eliminations) have only had four or five or six starts, so they’re all fresh. It will be interesting to see, for sure, but he’ll give his best. I’m sure he will. There’s nothing to complain about, he’s been a great horse.”
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Eyes might be focused on elimination winners Sylvia Hanover and Charleston when they meet in Friday’s $600,000 Breeders Crown final for 2-year-old female pacers after those two finished 1-2 in the She’s A Great Lady Stakes a month ago at Mohawk. But two well-regarded Ron Burke-trained fillies are among those looking to crash the party.
Strong Poison missed by a neck against Charleston in their elim last week while McSeaside finished second, a length behind Sylvia Hanover, in their division. Strong Poison will start Friday from post two and is 5-1 on the morning line with Yannick Gingras in the sulky. McSeaside, who is 8-1, leaves from post four with Tim Tetrick.
Sylvia Hanover is the 8-5 favorite from post five with Bob McClure driving for Shawn Steacy and Charleston is the 5-2 second choice from post one with Dexter Dunn driving for Brett Pelling. No other horse is less than 10-1.
In her elimination, Strong Poison led at the opening quarter for only the second time in 11 races this season. She held off all but one of her seven rivals, Charleston, who came home in :26.3 and hit the wire in 1:50.4.
Strong Poison, a daughter of Always B Miki-Fiyonce, has finished no worse than second in nine of 11 races, winning five.
“She’s a very good horse, does everything you ask of her,” said Burke, who ranks No. 2 all time in Breeders Crown victories with 18. “She drew in a great spot. She probably doesn’t want to end up having to cut it, but she fought gamely (in her elimination).
“We’ll see how she is. She’s ready.”
McSeaside has three wins, including the Ohio Sire Stakes championship, and three seconds among nine starts this year. The daughter of Downbytheseaside-McGibson led her elim at three-quarters after being sixth at the half and was timed in 1:52.
“She’s another one that went a tough trip,” Burke said. “She’s been really good.”
All four Breeders Crown finals for 2-year-olds will be contested Friday at Mohawk. Racing begins at 7 p.m. (EDT) with the Crown fields going behind the gate in races six through nine. The finals for horses 3-and-up are Saturday, also starting at 7.