Schedule of events: Grand Circuit action kicks off on Friday (Oct. 2) at the Red Mile and the Lexington oval will feature three divisions in the $316,300 Bluegrass for 2-year-old colt trotters and two divisions in the $268,000 Bluegrass for 2-year-old filly pacers. On Saturday (Oct. 3), Red Mile will offer the $350,000 (est.) Bluegrass for 2-year-old colt pacers and the $300,000 (est.) Bluegrass for 2-year-old filly trotters. The first week of racing in Lexington will conclude on Sunday (Oct. 4) with $200,000 (est.) Bluegrass events for 3-year-old male and female trotters and pacers.
Hollywood Dayton Raceway on Saturday night (Oct. 3) will feature a trio of Grand Circuit stakes in the $176,500 Dayton Pacing Derby for open pacers, the $175,000 Dayton Trotting Derby for open trotters and the $175,000 Dayton Distaff Derby for female pacers.
Complete entries for the races are available at this link.
Last time: Venerate and driver Andrew McCarthy powered off cover at the head of the stretch to win the $1 million Mohawk Million on Saturday night (Sept. 26) at Woodbine Mohawk Park.
A full field of ten rookie trotters, including three fillies, met in the inaugural Mohawk Million, a “buy-in” race with nine slots available for the purchase of $110,000 each and a final slot awarded to the winner of the William Wellwood Memorial.
Racing in the slot of Brad Grant, Marvin Katz and partners, Venerate overcame a second-tier start with a perfect steer from McCarthy to win in 1:53.2. The Julie Miller trainee got away eighth and was able to follow the favorite Donna Soprano, eventually muscling by the previously undefeated filly to win by three-quarters of a length.
“I was hoping I’d get out of there a little closer, but after scoring him down I knew I couldn’t make him accelerate too fast, so I just wanted to get out of there upright,” said McCarthy. “He’s a very strong horse, I’ve seen that, I didn’t really care how far back I got, just figured I’d have to get through that first turn and then worry about where I’m going from there.
“The speed was pretty tough early, so it worked out where I could end up getting a pretty good trip, but when I looked up at the eighth-pole I was a long away back.”
The opening stages of the race saw several horses leaving hard, causing a four-wide push into the first turn. Altar cut a :27 opening quarter before handing the lead over to Wellwood winner On A Streak, who was four-wide entering the turn. Race-favorite Donna Soprano got away sixth, while Venerate was eighth.
On A Streak led to the half in :56.1 just as Insta Glam came with a powerful rush to claim the top spot going into the final turn. Donna Soprano got her cue to go just before the half, as did Venerate and McCarthy seeing an opportunity to follow the favorite.
Insta Glam trotted a strong third quarter to get the field to that station in 1:24 with a few lengths of separation.
In the stretch, Donna Soprano and Venerate trotted by Insta Glam to set up a battle of their own. The filly Donna Soprano tried to hold on, but the colt Venerate was too much to handle, powering by to victory. On A Streak finished third, while Insta Glam was fourth.
“I’m so thankful for Andy and Julie and Pinske Stable,” said McCarthy. “And to Brad (Grant) for deciding to use me on this horse, I’m so thankful.”
A son of French stallion Love You, Venerate is owned by Pinske Stables and Andy Miller Stable. The connections negotiated a private deal with slot owner Brad Grant, Marvin Katz and partners to take a shot at the Mohawk Million.
“It makes me look pretty smart I guess,” laughed Grant. “We really believed in this race when we bought our slot. What Woodbine has done is something new and I think it’s great, it had a buzz to it all year long.”
Complete recaps of all the races are available at the Grand Circuit website.
Grand Circuit Standings: In 2020, the Grand Circuit leaders in three categories (driver, trainer and owner) will once again be tracked on a points system (20-10-5 for the top three finishers in divisions/finals and 10-5-2 for the top three finishers in eliminations/legs). Winbak Farms is the sponsor for the 2020 Grand Circuit awards.
Here are the leaders following this past weekend:
Drivers: 1. Yannick Gingras – 645; 2. Andrew McCarthy – 414; 3. Dexter Dunn – 393; 4. Tim Tetrick – 336.5; 5. Bob McClure – 322.
Trainers: 1. Ron Burke – 583; 2. Nancy Takter – 551.5; 3. Tony Alagna – 492; 4. Ake Svanstedt – 309; 5. Marcus Melander – 303.
Owners: 1. Determination – 200; 2. Brad Grant – 160.1; 3. Caviart Farms – 152; 4. Burke Racing Stable – 135.8; 5. S R F Stable – 125.3.
Looking ahead: Grand Circuit action will be taking place next week at Lexington’s historic Red Mile. Featured at Red Mile will be the Kentucky Futurity for 3-year-old trotters, the companion Kentucky Filly Futurity for sophomore fillies, the Tattersalls Pace and the Glen Garnsey Memorial for 3-year-old pacers, four International Stallion Stakes races for 2-year-olds of both sexes and gaits, and four Allerage contests for open pacers and trotters.