CAMPBELLVILLE, Ont. — Canadian driver Yannick Gingras and trainer Nancy Johansson finally have their first $750,000 Metro Pace title.
Gingras, of Sorel, Que., took Tall Dark Stranger past 3/5 favourite Capt Midnight and Australian driver Andrew McCarthy in deep stretch into the lead, then held off 6/1 pick Papi Rob Hanover to capture harness racing's richest two-year-old race this year by a half-length. Tall Dark Stranger improved to 6-0 with a time of 1:49.1 at Woodbine Mohawk Park, a stakes record that also tied the track mark.
Papi Rob Hanover, with American driver Dave Miller, finished second with Capt Midnight taking third in the 10-horse field.
The victory was sweet redemption for Gingras and Johansson, who were second in the 2013 running with Western Vintage.
"We actually talked about that earlier this summer ," Johansson said. "Obviously when you're second in a big race like that, at some point you want to win it so I'm happy we could get it done.
"(Tall Dark Stranger) looked strong the whole way. He's just a great, great colt."
Gingras took Tall Dark Stranger to the lead from the start before settling behind Capt Midnight by the half-mile mark. But unlike last weekend's elimination when Tall Dark Stranger had to rally to nip Papi Rob Hanover at the line, the tables were turned in the final with Papi Rob Hanover coming on late.
"I think (Tall Dark Stranger) figured it out," Gingras said. "He's got some learning to do but he's got the tools to be a great one.
"The first time I sat behind him I thought he was the best one I had. Great manners, obviously he's got the speed but it's more than speed . . . definitely I had high hopes for him."
Mohawk Park has certainly been good this year to Johansson, who also won the $1-million Pepsi North America Cup here with Captain Crunch. The North America Cup and Metro Pace are the two richest races at this track.
"Not bad for a girl born in Sweden," said Johansson, the daughter of Hall of Fame conditioner Jimmy Takter. "I'm very lucky to have owners that support me with great horses.
"It makes my job a lot easier to have the material to be able to perform at the highest level."
Earlier on Saturday's card, American Tim Tetrick drove 3/5 favourite Lyons Sentinel to an emphatic victory in the $540,000 She's A Great Lady final for two-year-old pacing fillies. Standing third through three-quarters of a mile, Lyons Sentinel overtook Alicorn for the lead, then fended off the 2/1 second choice and driver Louis Philippe Roy of Mont-Joli, Que., for a fifth straight victory in a Canadian, stakes and track record time of 1:49.3.
"She just gets the job done," Tetrick said. "She's good to drive, she's got speed on the front off the pace.
"She just gives me so many audibles. She's a pleasure."
Roy took Alicorn to the lead from the start and held it until deep stretch. Tetrick had Lyons Sentinel right behind in second before dropping to third behind Somebeachsometime with a quarter-mile to go.
"I just didn't want to give Roy too much space," Tetrick said. "I didn't want to give him three or four lengths and let him get the half cheap and then just take off from me.
"I put her on the back and took a chance of getting locked in but it all worked out."
Alicorn finished second ahead of Reflect With Me, a 7/1 selection driven by McCarthy, in the 10-horse field.
Lyons Sentinel's performance Saturday came after cruising to victory in last weekend's elimination race in a track and Canadian record-tying time of 1:50.1. The half-length victory was the sixth in nine starts this year for the daughter of Captaintreacherous, who has finished no worse than second and earned $562,330 overall.
That's a heady accomplishment, indeed, considering Lyons Sentinel was purchased for $55,000. But trainer Jim King Jr. said he knew early the horse had definite potential.
"Well, about the time she walked into my barn I could tell she was pretty special," he said. "She has done things that we didn't think could be done.
"I'm quite impressed."
McCarthy and Caviart Ally went wire-to-wire for a second straight $250,000 Milton Stakes crown, doing so in a stakes record time of 1:48.4. The five-year-old pacing mare, a 4/1 pick, earned a sixth victory in 15 career starts.
Kissin In The Sand, driven by Gingras, was second ahead of Seaswift Joy N, and Tetrick.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 21, 2019.
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press