July 1 2023 – Standardbred Canada
The first Triple Crown jewels went to Yonkers Trot champion Up Your Deo and Messenger Stakes winner Captain Batboy during Friday night stakes action at MGM Yonkers Raceway. Captain Batboy and driver Jordan Stratton made every call a winning one, capturing the $250,000 MGM Grand Messenger Stakes, the first jewel of Pacing’s Triple Crown, in a sparkling 1:57.4 clocking for the mile and one-sixteenth distance.
A son of CAPTAINTREACHEROUS, Captain Batboy, a winner of just $107,078 entering the race, more than doubled his earnings for owner Joseph Smith and trainer Tom Fanning. With ten horses in the field, the Messenger was turned into an added-distance affair, in an attempt to balance out the odds for the trailers. The action was hot and heavy with the longer run into the first turn as Strengthfromabove (Yannick Gingras) jetted to the front followed by American Fling (Jason Bartlett). American Fling had the lead early, but Captain Batboy and Stratton used most of the quarter before clearing in a wicked opening fraction of 26 seconds.
The 7-5 favoured Seven Colors pulled early on the second turn for Tim Tetrick, hoping to fish out cover and he was followed by Its A Me Mario (Brian Sears) and Bamboozler (Dexter Dunn), with the latter two racing parked out from the outset. Annapolis Hanover and driver Hunter Myers saw Tetrick coming and pulled late on the second turn to challenge for the front. With all the jostling for position behind him, Stratton was able to stall the second quarter to get to the half in just :54.3, and that was too slow for some, including Strengthfromabove and Gingras, who was parallel to the ground while trying to keep his horse safely in the three-hole. Tyler Buter had even more trouble following fourth along the pylons with Thunder Hunter Joe and briefly veered off following the half but did not interfere with Its A Me Mario, with Sears steering around the potential incident and losing no ground.
The outer flow stalled as Stratton kept the motor running on Captain Batboy as he passed three-quarters in 1:22.4 and fought off pressure from Annapolis Hanover. Seven Colors came wide, as did Bamboozler, but neither was able to fire, leaving the top three along the pylons with freedom to pace as hard as necessary. Gingras angled Strengthfromabove to the outside late on the final turn and made a race of it, but after passing the mile marker in 1:50.4, Captain Batboy still had a final sixteenth of seven seconds to his credit and held his rival at bay for the biggest win of his young career. Strengthfromabove was a clear second, with Thunder Hunter Joe pacing home well for third. American Fling, the early leader, faded to fourth, with Joemikiyoursofine (Scott Zeron) never leaving the pylons and gaining the fifth cheque.
“He races best on the front-end,” said Stratton following the victory. “He was really sharp qualifying last week at the Meadowlands and was as good tonight. As the 2-1 second choice, Captain Batboy returned $6 to win. The exacta was worth $40.60 and the trifecta paid $377.50. A 10-cent superfecta returned a healthy $113.65 with the favourite out of the money.