Anyone who knows me is aware that this time of year they will hear me talking incessantly about The ‘Hawk. The also know that this particular “’Hawk” is no bird - only it’s the greatest racetrack on the planet, at least for me anyway.
I’m speaking, of course, about Mohawk Raceway, a modern 7/8 oval harness racing track located in Campbellville, Ontario which is about 35 minutes west of where I currently reside. As summer approaches there are two main things that I get very excited about: harness racing at The ‘Hawk (which starts first) and “show season” for my family’s miniature show horses. Seeing as this is the Horse RACING Nation website, though, the theme of this blog post will be restricted to my love of “The ‘Hawk”.
My love of Mohawk is well documented for many reasons. First and foremost is the atmosphere and sightlines. At Mohawk, unlike it’s sister track Woodbine, there is only ONE track and you are right on top of the action. Our favorite spot (which is always available if we get there early enough) is a picnic table which sits just past the wire and next to the winner’s circle. From our table, we get the best of all worlds. First we have a great view of the track, the horses, the finish, the post parade and the horse’s final “score” prior to going to the post. This close-up look offers fans a good look at the competitors, which can also offer valuable insight to astute handicappers who know a bit about horses’ body language relating to their physical condition. At Woodbine, there is the turf course and the polytrack closer to the stands and the harness track is the THIRD track away making it difficult to see the horses and the action. The main difference between the two is that when you sit on the apron close to the action @ Mohawk it FEELS like you are at a racetrack. The same can’t be said for Woodbine. You feel like you’re watching harness racing at a thoroughbred racing plant. The clientele is a bit, well, different @ Mohawk as well because you do need a vehicle to get there - transit won’t do it - so it is more family oriented. Sitting this close also offers fans a chance to interact with winning connections and most drivers that return to the winners circle aren’t shy about tossing their whip to a fan (if asked politely).
The summer racing @ ‘The Hawk offers some of the very best racing anywhere, starting with the North America Cup for the continent’s best 3YO. One of the more surreal memories I have from Mohawk was cheering on the great pacer Somebeachsomewhere in the NA Cup. The place was SO loud virtually the entire trip, you could barely hear track announcer Ken Middleton’s call down the stretch. The $1.5 million Metro Stakes for 2YO is also staged at “The Hawk as well as The Maple Leaf Trot which brings North America’s best aged trotters together to battle for supremacy. The great 8YO local trotter San Pail, winner of the past 3 editions of the MLT is expected to defend his crown later this summer. There are several other top quality stakes races that brings the continent’s best horses trainers and drivers to the Campbellville oval.
That’s not all, though. The ‘Hawk has several other attractions my family and I enjoy immensely, not the least of which is the trackside BBQ pit which serves up the best BBQ’ed cheeseburgers around. Frequently you will find the Ontario Standardbred Adoption Society displaying a horse or two at the front entrance to the track. There is the Victoria Day fireworks evening (this Sunday). There is the elimination of the Woodbine “speed bias” which makes for more interesting racing as stalkers/closers aren’t as strung out in the middle stages and have a much better chance of winning.
I guess I could go on and on…and this isn’t meant to be an ad for Mohawk Raceway - but really, if you live anywhere close to The ‘Hawk and have never been, you really should try to get there on a warm summer evening. Mohawk is my first love when it comes to harness racing or racing of any kind. Do you have a favorite?
This filly looks like one to keep an eye on:
I am certainly no expert on conformation, but when this filly scored past us last night prior to the 11th race, I turned to my wife and said “LOOK at that machine! They are not going to beat that filly”. Indeed, UNRED HANOVER, a 3YO Western Ideal filly looked tremendous on the track. She had won her debut and was moving into the next class. Despite her impressive debut win she was a slight second-choice to the #4 horse, Bound To Rock from the powerful Tony 'O Sullivan barn Here’s how things went:
Clearly this filly is one that is going to be heard from this summer. Trainer Travis Umphrey, who had the 3YO Breeders’ Crown Filly Pace champ Monkey On My Wheel in his barn last summer has another right here that could do some major damage. 153.4 2nd time out in a jog is quite impressive.
Tonight is the night the stars come out to shine, starting with 2YO Breeders Crown Champion (and World Record holder) Sweet Lou. Last seen on the racetrack dominating his foes in the record time of 149 in the Crown @ Woodbine, Sweet Lou embarks on his 3YO campaign at Pocono tonight in a Pennsylvania Sires stake. Judging by his 29-length qualifier win in 150.4 it lookes like all-world trainer ron Burk has “Lou” ready to go. Burke has said that Sweet Lou will have one more Penn Sires stake start after tonight then head up to Mohawk for the North America Cup eliminations. The 2nd place finisher from Sweet Lou’s Breeders Crown, A RockNRoll Dance also begins his sophomore campaign tonight at The Meadowlands in a New Jersey Sire Stake and in a separate heat, 2011 Metro Pace winner Simply Business kicks off his 3YO campaign 3 races after A RockNRoll Dance goes behind the gate. The Meadowlands card also includes an appearance by top aged pacer We Will See who will face off against the ultra-tough Special T Rocks, a winner of 9 races already in 2012. The 3YO American Ideal filly American Jewel returns to the races at Vernon Downs after suffering not only her only loss last October at The Red Mile, but also a broken sesamoid that ended her season and required surgical repair. It looks like a great night of harness racing across the continent!
Starting this week I am launching a new mythical wagering section of the blog called “Driveon Bets” which will concentrate mostly on Pick 4s, but will include any and all wagers from any north American track. Let’s kick it off at Mohawk tonight. The mythical bankroll starts at $1,000 and we will keep track each week of how things are progressing.
DRIVEON BETS for May 19/2012
Mohawk Race 4: $1 PICK 4 3,7,8/3,5,6/5,6,7,8,9/6 = $45 (20-cent option = $9)
#6 Lost In Panslation in race 7 has returned to terrific form since coming back to the big circuit. He got too far back in a race where wild early fractions were cut last time yet still mounted a late charge for 2nd. This is an ideal starting spot for him to get a spot in mid-pack leaving the gate and he should be able to nab a cozy 2nd or 3rd over spot chasing honest fractions.
Mohawk Race 9: $1 PICK 4 - 1,2,5,9/4,6,7/4,5,6,9/6 = $48 (20-cent option = $9.60); $1 PICK 4 -9/4,6,7/4,5,6,9/4,6,8,10 = $48 (20-cent option = $9.60)
#6 Campasser in race 12 shows a win on his card 6 back that was taken a class higher than this one. He is still sharp as he has been “roughing it” parked every race since and finishing decently, except when he was mired in the post 9 starting slot twice. He gets some much-needed class relief tonight. If you can only afford one ticket, I suggest you go with the first one singling Campasser. There is always the 20-cent option to consider also.
Total DRIVEON BETS for 5/19/12 = $141.