Six American National Stake finals were contested at Balmoral Park on Saturday, Nov. 12, with nearly $900,000 in purse money offered, and almost $1.3 million wagered on the 14-race program.
Driver Yannick Gingras steered longshot Princess Cruiser to a two-length victory in the $86,800 freshman filly pace in 1:56.1.
“This stretch is long especially when you’re facing it straight into a wind that was blowing as hard as it was tonight,” he said. “I looked up for the photo finish light thinking we had to be getting close but I think we were still an eighth of a mile away!”
Ervin Miller Stable, Omer Miller and Leland Mathias’ Crime Of Passion captured the $121,00 American National for freshman pacing colts in 1:54.3 with Marcus Miller in the sulky.
“With everything going on up front like it was I think it really helped us to get away where we did,” said Miller. “Things kept moving pretty well on the outside so once we got into that flow I thought we might have a chance to be a big factor at the finish.”
In the winner’s circle Miller was singing the praises of the gelding who is conditioned by his father Erv.
“When he’s right he loves to run down horses and tonight he really felt great out there,” said Miller. “He went through a little rough stretch around Super Night but he’s been getting better again he proved what kind of horse he is out there tonight.”
The $135,000 Three-Year-Old Filly Pace went to William Switala & James Martin’s Swinging Beauty, the 4-5 favorite, who rallied in the final strides to win by a head in 1:54.1 for driver Peter Wrenn.
“The easy part was coming here to drive such a nice filly like this,” said Wrenn. “She just never stopped digging even though she was going right into the teeth of that wind and was not going to be denied.”
“It was a long ship down here from Canada for her so I’m ecstatic about the way she performed tonight,” said McNair. “She’s been taking on the best in the country all season long and now she’ll stay up here for another week and go over to Maywood and try to take the Cinderella Stake next week.”
Quebec-native Gingras was in the winner's circle again, this time in the $143,000 American National for aged trotters. Gingras steered Looking Hanover, a 6-year-old son of Muscles Yankee he shares ownership in with Dawn Gannon, to a thrilling nose decision in 1:56 over the hard-trying Lucky Jim.
“I knew the place to be on this night was up near the front but I didn’t want to be cutting the mile out because that’s not how he races his best,” explained Gingras. “Lucky Jim seemed to be good and sound tonight even on the turns so I was pretty happy to be sitting in there right behind him. As it turned out it worked out perfectly because we stayed covered up until the last minute and then my horse just seemed to find another gear and managed to get by Lucky Jim which isn’t an easy thing to do.”
Saturday’s win pushed Looking Hanover’s career earnings over the $775,000 mark.
Foiled Again paced to a winning 1:51.3 in the $175,000 American National Aged Pace, giving Gingras his third winner of the night for owners Burke Racing Stable, JJK Stable and Weaver Bruscemi.
“I really wasn’t planning on sending my horse to the front that early but I knew I wanted to move before Bettor Sweet (John Campbell) could and keep him behind us for as long as I could,” Gingras explained. “With the way things were going and the wind the way it was I thought that was the most important move I could make with him tonight. Having to come first over for a long period of time was like death sentence because of the conditions.”
Foiled Again showed the class, grit and determination that has netted him over $3.4 million in career earnings while winning for the 58th time in his career. Bettor Sweet was a clear cut second while Atochia (George Brennan) rallied for the show dough.
“If he doesn’t win the Dan Patch Award as the older pacer of the year that’s just an injustice,” said Gingras. “He’s the oldest horse in history to win over $1 million in a season which he’s done this year ($1.4 million), he’s as sharp as he’s been all season long and he’s danced all the big dances with the best in country. He’s won on all size race tracks and I’m telling you he’s the toughest race horse I’ve ever driven in my life. He’s just a little guy when you look at him but he’s all heart. I’m telling you he’s one amazing animal!”
Fresh off a thrilling victory in the Breeders Crown, Steve Calhoun and West Wins Stable’s Betterthancheddar lived up to his 3-5 odds as he cruised to his fourth straight victory, scoring by a widening 1 ¾ lengths in 1:50.3 while in hand to driver George Brennan in the $225,000 American National for sophomore pacing colts and geldings.
“Warming up I scored him down pretty hard into the wind so I would have an idea of how he was going to react when we turned for home and it didn’t look or feel like he was having any problems with it so that’s when I decided that I wanted him to be on the front turning for the money,” said Brennan.
In the winner’s circle Brennan announced that he and Betterthancheddar will be back in Chicago on Friday night as they look for a fifth straight victory and the colt’s 10th win of the year in 18 starts, when the pair goes postward in the Windy City Pace.
“He’s so good right now that’s he just an absolute pleasure to drive,” said Brennan. “He’s making his case for divisional honors and I hope I can continue to get him to that goal next week at Maywood in the Windy City Pace.”