Lexington, KY — Rockyroad Hanover overcame a rocky trip to win his Charles Juravinski Memorial Cup elimination last weekend at Flamboro Downs, and now he’ll start from post four in Sunday night’s (May 22) C$273,500 final for 4-year-old pacers over the Canadian half-mile oval.
In the first of three C$25,000 eliminations contested, Rockyroad Hanover was sitting fourth as the 1-9 betting favorite heading down the backstretch the second time when driver Dexter Dunn had to act fast to avoid a breaking horse in front of him. After angling wide, Rockyroad Hanover settled back in behind the leaders but around the final turn was looped by a horse behind him. Heading into the stretch Dunn moved his charge wide and the son of Captaintreacherous unleashed a furious late charge that resulted in a three-quarter length victory over runner-up Century Heineken in 1:51.
“I was pretty lucky as I had just moved (Rockyroad Hanover) over about two strides before that happened,” said Dunn. “He was ready for his run after that.”
Rockyroad Hanover is trained by Tony Alagna, who was extremely impressed with the final eighth of the :27.3 final quarter down Flamboro’s 600-foot homestretch.
“Flamboro is a very short stretch and for him to do what he did and to make up all that the last little bit, it was very impressive,” said Alagna, who watched the race from home while his mother Donna Lee was at Flamboro Downs.
“He coasted up the stretch,” said Dunn. “He’s a big horse but got around there good too and I was really happy with him.”
Rockyroad Hanover won five of 22 starts last year including the Cane Pace and Progress Pace. Raced last year by Riverview Racing, Brad Grant, Ken Jacobs and Plouffe Head and VJ Stable, Rockyroad Hanover was sold privately to Ohioan Dean Miller’s M3 Racing Stable, with the horse remaining in Alagna’s barn.
Rockyroad Hanover earned $589,524 his sophomore season and upon his return to the races as a 4-year-old in 2022, he finished third and first in a pair of late-April qualifiers at The Meadowlands.
Entered to make his pari-mutuel debut in the first leg of the Graduate Series on May 7 at The Big M, Rockyroad Hanover drew the outside post 10. Dunn was parked the mile with Rockyroad Hanover but still he was able to take a short mid-stretch lead before settling for third. That effort paved the way for Alagna to decide to send Rockyroad Hanover to Flamboro for the Juravinski (formerly the Confederation Cup).
“I’m extremely happy with him,” said Alagna. “His qualifiers were good and he showed everybody what was to come in his first start in the Graduate — being parked the whole mile first-over — how good he raced. That was enough to make the decision to go to Canada.”
Alagna said having Rockyroad Hanover draw the outside post in the Graduate leg wasn’t ideal but Dunn was able to overcome it with his drive to a third-place finish after being parked the entire mile. Ironically, that race was won by the Alagna-trained Abuckabett Hanover, who had been following his stablemate.
“It makes it a little bit more difficult to try and prep the horses when they have rules in place to prevent holes, of which I have no problem with at all, it just makes it a little tougher to plan your racing in what you’re going to do,” said Alagna. “When you have the 10 hole do you just duck to last and ride around there as one of the favorites or do you put the horse in play?
“Dexter floated out of there (in the Juravinski) and made the decision to sit there and ride it out. He didn’t catch any cover so he kept coming. They went a big half (:54.4) and they didn’t go much the third quarter (:28, 1:22.4) so that kept us involved and he sprinted home very well.
“He really, really put in a super effort. He could have still finished second or third and raced a heck of a race after getting interfered with.”
The Juravinski final was an open draw and Rockyroad Hanover landed post four. Bulldog Hanover, who won his elimination in a track-record 1:49.3 for driver Jody Jamieson, trainer Jack Darling and owners Jack Darling Stables and Brad Grant, drew post two. Desperate Man, who scored in his elim in 1:50.2 for driver Trevor Henry and trainer Kathy Cecchin, who co-owns with John Cecchin and Nicole and Paul Davies, drew post eight.
As for Rockyroad Hanover, Alagna said the pacer will remain in Canada for the second leg of the Graduate Series on June 4 at Woodbine Mohawk Park before returning to the U.S.
“He’s fully staked,” said Alagna. “All the open events as well, so at some point he’ll step up against the big boys.”