CAMPBELLVILLE, ONTARIO — Venerable made yet another emphatic case Saturday night that she should be considered North America's top two-year-old trotter.
American Dave Miller drove the talented filly to an impressive victory in the second running of the $1-mllion Mohawk Million at Woodbine Mohawk Park. Venerable remains unbeaten with eight consecutive wins and career earnings surpassing $1 million.
A nice return, indeed, considering Venerable was a $210,000 yearling purchase last year.
"I can't really explain how game, how tough she is," said Miller, who has driven Venerable in all of her starts. "Her performance on the track is what shows it.
"My gameplan was to try and get some cover (which didn’t work). She got a pretty soft middle half and her heart and guts got her to the wire. It's tremendous, a great, great feeling."
Miller took Venerable, the 4/5 favourite, to the lead shortly after the quarter-mile mark. He kept her there although Venerable had to fend off a determined challenge from Ontario-sired Duly Resolved, a 24/1 longshot driven Paul MacDonell of Oshawa, Ont., to win in one minute 54.2 seconds.
Duly Resolved finished second. Valentina Blu, a filly driven by Australian Andrew McCarthy, was third in the 10-horse field that included four fillies, three geldings and three colts.
"We have to give up a couple of nice races (to run in Mohawk Million)," said David McDuffee, one of Venerable's owners. "But there's not many for $1 million so this was the right place to go for her.
"And going against the boys, it's the frosting on the cake. It really puts her right up there."
Nine slots for the race were purchased for $100,000 apiece. King Of The Victory secured the last one by winning the $640,000 William Wellwood Memorial on Sept. 11 at Woodbine Mohawk Park.
Race rules gave the slot owners the option of keeping their spots for their own horses or selling, trading or leasing the positions. Venerable got into the Mohawk Million after the horse's connections made a deal with Brad Grant, a prominent owner from Milton, Ont., to use his slot.
Grant purchased a slot in last year's race with Toronto real-estate mogul Marvin Katz, then negotiated a deal with the owners of eventual champion Venerate.
Ironically, Duly Resolved competed in the race with a slot purchased by Steve Heimbecker, another prominent Ontario owner.
Steve Stewart earned the distinction of being a breeder of the first two Mohawk Million champions. He also bred Venerate, along with the Kemppi Stable.
Also on Saturday's card, Scott Zeron of Oakville, Ont., drove 15/1 longshot Monte Miki to a stunning victory in the $824,000 Metro Pace final for two-year-old colts.
Zeron rallied the undefeated Monte Miki from the far outside down the stretch to catch Wearinmysixshooter and Australian driver Dexter Dunn for a fourth straight win in 1:52.2. Wearinmysixshooter was second with Fourever Boy taking third.
Zeron captured his third career Metro Pace title despite Monte Miki starting from the second tier in the 12-horse field.
"It did work out but we should never have 12 horses in a final like that with two-year-olds," Zeron said. "There was a lot of banging and clanging going on.
"I was very fortunate to avoid all that stuff but it's very hard to have a tactical edge in those races. You just have to go with the flow."
Zeron said he knew coming down the stretch he had enough horse to finish second but wasn't sure if Monte Miki could catch leader Wearinmysixshooter for the win.
"I knew he'd carry speed all the way up to second but Dexter had a cushion up front," Zeron said. "Probably just with the last eighth of a mile to go I thought I was going to catch him."
And Niki Hill remained unbeaten in winning the $500,500 She's A Great Lady final for two-year-old filly pacers.
Dunn drove Niki Hill to a fifth straight victory as the 1/9 favourite, took the lead after a quarter-mile, lost it briefly to Prohibition Legal down the stretch but came on to secure the victory in 1:50.2
Prohibition Legal, driven by James Macdonald of Cornwall, P.E.I., suffered its first loss in seven races while Joyride Hannover took third.
"James and his filly really threw down there coming three-quarters into the stretch," Dunn said. "I didn't ask my filly too much but I thought she had more in the tank and she kicked away at the end of it."
Owner Tom Hill, of Hamilton, had a simple description of his horse.
"She's a Ferrari with hair," said Hill, who bought Niki Hill for $155,000 as a yearling in Lexington, Ky.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 25, 2021
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press