Milton, ON – Tall Dark Stranger made his debut in the Ontario Sires Stakes at Woodbine Mohawk Park on Friday evening (Aug. 16) and padded his growing resume with a seemingly effortless three length victory in 1:51.2.
Lining up at Post eight in the second $108,000 Gold Series division, driver Yannick Gingras eased Tall Dark Stranger away from the starting gate and settled in fifth as Bettor At Hightide rolled out to a :26.3 opening quarter. Heavy favorites Gingras and Tall Dark Stranger started their advance up the outer lane heading for the :56 half and at the 1:24 three-quarters they matched strides briefly with Bettor At Hightide before taking command and sailing home to a comfortable victory. Pocket-sitter Sports Obsession finished second and YS Mathis closed well to claim third-place honors.
“He’s been pretty easy to train and he’s always kind of done what he’s supposed to do, for the most part, so it makes my job a little bit easier for sure,” said trainer Nancy Johansson of the colt, who is now perfect through two qualifiers and three races, with all three races clocked in 1:51.3 or faster.
The son of Bettors Delight and C$869,920 winner Precocious Beauty was a $330,000 purchase from last fall’s Lexington Selected Yearling Sale and Friday’s win boosted his early career earnings to C$68,000 for owners Marvin Katz of Toronto, ON, Crawford Farms Racing of Syracuse, NY, Caviart Farms of Vienna, VA and Howard Taylor of Philadelphia, PA. Tall Dark Stranger started his career at The Meadowlands, near Johansson’s Allentown, NJ base, but he has taken up residence at Classy Lane Training Centre in Puslinch in preparation for the next Gold event and the Sept. 14 Metro Pace eliminations at Woodbine Mohawk Park.
“I have nine horses at Classy Lane, so I have a few up here and some of my staff stays up here with them. And I’ve been spending essentially Tuesday through Saturday in Canada,” said Johansson. “I think we might race him in the Gold on the 31st, we’ll race him that Gold and then he’ll go to the Metro from there, most likely. Obviously he needs to stay healthy and sound and everything.”
Gingras, who also calls Allentown, NJ home, has been in the race bike for all of Tall Dark Stranger’s appearances and Johansson does not expect the reinsman to miss any of the colt’s starts, which she expects will number 12 or 13 by the end of the season.
“We got lucky there were no conflicts tonight, so that he was able to come up, but I do really like to keep the same driver on a 2-year-old, so that they get comfortable with each other and confidence in each other,” said Johansson. “And obviously Yannick is one of the top drivers in our sport, so if he wants to come and drive him, I’m not going to fight him not to do it.
“I think it will probably be in his best interest too, to keep showing up,” she added with a chuckle.
While Tall Dark Stranger has been straightforward to train and a gentleman to work with, that was not the case for the winner of the other Gold Series division.
In the weeks after Examiner Hanover arrived at Casie Coleman’s winter base in Florida last November, the trainer was so unimpressed with the $80,000 yearling she suggested owners Brad Grant of Milton and Steve Heimbecker of Conestogo, ON should either send him back to breeder Hanover Shoe Farms or give him to another trainer. The son of Hes Watching was extremely difficult to work with and seemed physically unable to learn his early lessons.
“He was so bad that I actually tried to give him back to Hanover Shoe Farms, saying this horse can’t even, like I can’t do anything with him, he can’t function. I even told Brad Grant, ‘If they won’t take him back just try him with one of your other trainers or something, because I can’t figure this horse out’,” Coleman recalled. “He ended up having a lot of chiropractic issues basically, so I don’t know if something happened on the ship or what, but they got fixed up and then he was training down like a beast. He couldn’t have trained any better all winter once we figured that part out.”
Examiner Hanover continued to train well when Coleman returned to Ontario in the spring and delivered two sharp qualifiers at Woodbine Mohawk Park on June 14 and 22, but things went off the rails for a second time in July 6 Gold Series opener when the gelding’s knee boots slid down his legs.
“He went the entire mile with two knee boots down, and he got all hot and rattled up because of that,” said Cambridge resident Coleman. “He qualified great, I was thrilled with him, then his first few starts weren’t so good at all.”
After a fourth-place result in the second Gold Leg, Examiner Hanover rebounded with an overnight win at Woodbine Mohawk Park on July 26 and then finished fourth to Tall Dark Stranger in the Dream Maker Series on Aug. 5.
In Friday’s Gold Series test, driver Bob McClure settled Examiner Hanover in fifth through the :28.1 opening quarter and then sent the gelding up the outside heading for the :57 half. The pair was able to follow Wind Blown to the 1:24.4 three-quarters and then sprint home for a neck victory over Rhythm In Motion and Aneto in 1:52.3.
“He went from a disaster, to awesome, to a little bit of a disaster again, to good again now,” said Coleman with a chuckle. “Hopefully he’s on the track right now.”
Complete results from Friday’s program are available at https://standardbredcanada.ca/racing/results/data/r0816wbsbsn.dat. Next up on Woodbine Mohawk Park’s Ontario Sires Stakes schedule are four Grassroots divisions for the 3-year-old pacing colts on Saturday (Aug. 17). Post time for Saturday’s program is 7:10 p.m. and the colts will compete in Races three, five, seven and eight.