Milton, ON — Courtly Choice and driver James MacDonald stormed by rivals in the stretch for a 30-1 upset victory in Saturday’s (Aug. 31) C$525,000 Canadian Pacing Derby at Woodbine Mohawk Park.
The Blake MacIntosh trained 4-year-old rallied from sixth with a :25.3 final quarter to nail heavy favorite Lather Up at the wire for a 1:48.4 victory.
“It was amazing, I can’t even put it into words I’m so happy,” said MacDonald. “I’ve been trying to get a crack at one of these big ones in Canada and I just haven’t had a lot of luck and tonight the race set up great and the horse was just unbelievable.”
Lather Up and driver Montrell Teague brushed from fourth to first entering the backstretch to overtake This Is The Plan, who cut a :25.4 opening quarter. Courtly Choice and MacDonald got away seventh in the field and were following defending champion McWicked.
After a :54.1 half, Lather Up was confronted by first-up challenger Done Well heading to three-quarters. The racing action got tight going to three-quarters, as This Is The Plan was climbing over the back of Teague with Lather Up. The 1-5 favorite has previously had issues with turns and gave up a short advantage to Done Well at three-quarters in 1:22.1.
Courtly Choice and MacDonald were set up to follow McWicked around the final turn, but the defending champion moved back down to the rail. Courtly Choice ultimately was placed a couple lengths behind the second-over challenger Western Fame turning for home.
In the stretch, Lather Up embraced the straightaway and tried to pull away from rivals. Victory appeared to be within reach for Lather Up, until all eyes focused on Courtly Choice flying on the far outside, powering by rivals to reach up for a half-length victory. Lather Up settled for second, while Western Fame was third and This Is The Plan finished fourth.
“I can’t even explain the feeling he was pacing so hard,” said MacDonald of Courtly Choice. “I knew I had a lot of pace, but he was just trying to get into gear, and then everyone was kind of just fanning out and I didn’t know what Lather Up would do because he always comes back on and he’s just such a great horse.
“Lather Up has just been unbeatable, and just special to watch. Even just to be on the track is an honor and then to get to beat him in front of my home crowd, it was amazing.”
A 4-year-old son of Art Major, Courtly Choice picks up his fourth win in 12 outings this season and 16th of his career. Last year’s Little Brown Jug champion has now earned more than C$1.3 million for owners Hutt Racing Stable, Mac And Heim Stables, Daniel Plouffe and Touchstone Farms Inc.
The Canadian Pacing Derby victory is the first for driver MacDonald and trainer MacIntosh, who noted the victory ranks near the top for him personally.
“Right up there because winning at your home track and we were an underdog coming in,” said MacIntosh, noting that Courtly Choice was starting to return to top form in recent weeks. “I knew that James was taking care of him there the last couple weeks, and he looked like he was back to his old self. (I’m) just ecstatic about this.”
Courtly Choice paid $71.30, $9.20, $4.60. The $2 exacta with Lather Up returned $205.90, while the $2 trifecta with Western Fame paid $1,946.20. The superfecta completed by This Is The Plan paid $6,524.75 for a $1 ticket.