Even-money favourite Covered Bridge and driver Jordan Stratton launched off cover turning for home and upended the pacesetter's plans to win the 2023 edition of the $150,000 Camluck Classic, presented by Seelster Farms, which closed out an action-packed Friday night (May 26) at The Raceway at Western Fair District.
Coming into Western Fair's signature event off back-to-back Open victories over Yonker Raceway, Covered Bridge defeated This Is The Plan by 1-1/4 lengths in 1:52 flat for trainer Jeff Gillis and owner Mark Ford of Campbell Hall, New York.
"Anything can go wrong in a horse race, but we were confident going in and he's been razor sharp in the [MGM Borgata Series] down in Yonkers and the last two Open wins were really impressive," noted Stratton.
This Is The Plan (Ronnie Wrenn Jr.), the 8-5 second choice in the field of eight, protected his pylon position through the opening turn and sprinted a :26.4 quarter before getting a breather to the half in :56.
Meanwhile, Idealsomemagic A (Doug McNair) was parked out leaving from the outside post and Stratton caught his cover from fifth before sending Covered Bridge three-wide at the 1:23.4 third quarter mark.
"I was following a pretty good horse, the seven horse [Idealsomemagic A] that my brother [Cory] trains, and he's knocking at the door for a big win -- he's a really nice horse, hopefully he has some luck this year -- but I was happy where I was," said Stratton afterwards.
Covered Bridge quickly swooped into second rounding the final turn and went by This Is The Plan down the stretch to win his Raceway debut. This Is The Plan held on for second while Roll With The Flow (Bob McClure) tracked the winner's move and edged out pocket-pursuer Whichwaytothebeach (Travis Cullen) for third.
"He's an honest horse," said Stratton. "He paces right to the wire week in and week out. It's tough to hurt his feelings, he's such a war horse."
Covered Bridge paid $4.30 to win.
The seven-year-old American Ideal-Stonebridge Kisses gelding earned his eighth win of the year from 17 starts. A 33-time career winner, Covered Bridge boosted his earnings over the $900,000 mark.
Stratton celebrated his second victory in this event as he previously won the 2017 edition, when the race was known as the Molson Pace, with Bit Of A Legend N.
"I dont think anybody will replace A Bit Of A Legend, but it does feel good," said the New York-based reinsman of being back in the London, Ont. winner's circle.
Canada's sweetheart So Much More persevered in a hotly contested companion event, the $50,000 Forest City Pace, just missing the track record for aged pacing mares.
Leaving from post two, driver James MacDonald took the popular two-time O'Brien Award winner So Much More to the pylons and watched as three mares tussled on top for early control. So Frisky (Colin Kelly) persisted at the inside leaving Raptors Won (Trevor Henry) parked out and forcing defending Forest City champion Gias Surreal (Bob McClure) to take back after a three-wide battle through a :26.3 opening quarter.
As So Frisky continued to lead the way to the half in :55, MacDonald moved So Much More second-over and then sent her three-wide to pass the tiring Raptors Won down the back straightaway while Gias Surreal slipped out of the pocket keeping her three-deep as a new battled ensued past three-quarters in 1:23.3. Those three raced head-to-head as they turned for home with So Much More ultimately pulling ahead and beating the late-closing longshot Mystifying (Doug McNair), a trailing tier starter who came four-high from the backfield off the final turn, to the wire by three-quarters of a length in 1:53 flat. Gias Surreal settled for third while Parisian Blue Chip (Ronnie Wrenn Jr.) finished fourth over So Frisky.
The time of the mile was just one-fifth of a second off the track record for aged pacing mares that was set by Camille in 2012 and matched by Gias Surreal in last year's Forest City.
So Much More paid $2.60 to win as the 1-5 favourite.
Don Beatson of Granton, Ont. trains and co-owns the millionaire mare with his son Kenn Beatson and grandson Cole England. So Much More has won half of her 14 starts this season competing in the Free-For-All ranks at Woodbine Mohawk Park and now has 64 career wins with nearly $1.4 million banked.
Friday's undercard included a quartet of City Of London finals, with Like Chaos and Troubles A Brewin completing series sweeps in their respective divisions.
After getting away third off the gate in the $25,800 final for male trotters, 1-9 favourite Like Chaos took control at the :28.3 quarter mark for trainer/driver Bruce Richardson and set middle splits of :58.3 and 1:27.3 en route to the 2-3/4-length victory in 1:58.3, with the Keith Jones trainee Oceanview Massey advancing first-up into second and his stablemate Wolinak following in third. Richardson and Joseph Coffey share ownership of the three-year-old Lookslikeachpndale gelding, who is now seven-for-11 after going winless in eight starts last year.
Driven by Anthony Haughan, 9-2 shot Troubles A Brewin led wire-to-wire in the $29,000 final for male pacers. With the inside post advantage, the Betterthancheddar gelding quickly took control and held a loose lead through fractions of :28, :58.1 and 1:27.2 before holding off the late lunge of Max Shadow by a neck in 1:57.3. Unsuccessful in his first eight starts as a two-year-old, Troubles A Brewin is now four-for-six this season for trainer Anthony Beaton and co-owner David Mercer.
In the $23,200 fillies and mares trotting final, 1-5 favourite Cash Deals launched from the three-hole down the backstretch the final time and overtook Savannahs Dream and Champagne Bettina on the front in the stretch as she glided to a three-length victory in a career-best 1:59.2 mile. The three-year-old Wheeling N Dealin filly was just a head shy of a perfect series record for trainer/driver Mario Baillargeon and Thestable Cash Deals Group.
Yoda Queen pulled off a City of London Series shocker in the $29,600 fillies and mares pacing final as the 80-1 longshot blasted across the track to take command by the opening turn and fought off her foes for the massive upset. She battled back when collared by 1-5 favourite Lady Get Lucky at three-quarters and held her at bay through the stretch with pocket-pursuer Pink Monster scooting up the inside lane for third in a close finish. The three-year-old daughter of All Bets Off lowered her lifetime mark by eight seconds to 1:55.4 in rein to Andy Moore for trainer/owner Jamie Doig. Overlooked at the betting windows off back-to-back runner-up finishes in the opening legs of the series, Yoda Queen returned a whopping $162.80 for a $2 win ticket.
The City Of London Series is for Ontario-sired trotters and pacers four years old and younger that were non-winners of $10,000 lifetime, as of midnight Feb. 28, 2023.
Six $21,000+ divisions of the Ontario Sires Stakes Grassroots Series for three-year-old pacing fillies filled the rest of the Friday card.
James MacDonald doubled up in Grassroots action, scoring with fast favourites Century Jamila and Prove Em Wrong in matching 1:55.2 miles. The former filly by Bettors Delight broke her maiden in her debut from the Dave Drew barn while the latter filly, a daughter of Betterthancheddar, picked up her second career win for trainer Anthony Beaton. Drew sent out another popular 1:55.2 winner as Bob McClure drove the Bettors Delight filly Twin Delight to her third Grassroots victory.
Susie Kerwood had two winning trainees with Bruce Richardson driving Uncontrolled to a 1:56 maiden-breaking score and Tyler Borth guiding Sweetest Belle home first in a 1:57.4 photo finish after a first turn miscue. Borth ended the night with a pair of Grassroots winners, also scoring with the John Pentland-trained Ima Doll in 1:56.
More than $850,000 was wagered on the 12-race card, resulting in a record handle for a Camluck Classic/Molson Pace program.
The Raceway will close out its live harness racing meet on Monday night, with post time at 5:50 p.m.
A replay of COSA TV's live coverage from Camluck Classic Night is available below.
To view Friday's harness racing results, click the following link: Friday Results - The Raceway at Western Fair District.