Triple threat tops Breeders

ROB LONGLEY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:54 AM ET

When spectacular Somebeachsomewhere finished his career a year ago, it was widely considered that we might have to wait years to mention another pacer in the same breath.

Tonight, at Woodbine Racetrack, there are a pair of them.

Undefeated 2-year-old colt Sportswriter and 3-year-old Well Said are two headliners of the eight-race $5.1-million Breeders Crown championship program at the Etobicoke track.

Throw in another colt with a different gait, Muscle Hill, a trotter riding a 19-race win streak, and you have a trio of dominant superstars bidding to punctuate their respective seasons with major victories.

Between them, they have combined for 28 wins from 31 starts this year and have a collective career bankroll of more than $6.3 million.

"It's very fortunate for this game to have these top colts all performing at the same time," said driver Ron Pierce, who will be behind Muscle Hill, the prohibitive favourite in the 3-year-old colt trot.

The Breeders Crown may lack the widespread recognition of its thoroughbred counterpart, the Breeders' Cup, but through 25 years it has thrived as the definitive season-ending championship it was meant to be.

Here is a closer look at the three standouts on display tonight.

WELL SAID

3-year-old colt pace

When he showed up at Mohawk in June for the $1.5-million North America Cup, he was seen as a contender, not necessarily the next coming of last year's Atlantic Canada sensation, Somebeachsomewhere.

After romping in this country's richest race, Well Said has steadily shown that comparisons to the Beach are legit.

"If those two raced against each other, they would take turns beating each other," said Pierce, who is seeking his 20th Crown victory tonight. "Well Said would give him more than he could handle."

Well Said joins Precious Bunny (1991) as the only colt to win the trio of classic races -- the North America Cup, the Meadowlands Pace and the Little Brown Jug.

Where comparisons between Well Said and the Beach falls short is the former's overall win record, not to mention 2-year-old performance in which he won just four of 12 starts.

Well Said has won 10 of 13 this year with a career best mark of 1:47 3/5, while the Beach ended his career with a record of 20-1-0 in 21 lifetime starts and a race mark of 1:46 4/5.

MUSCLE HILL

3-year-old colt trot

The question to trainer Greg Peck was this: What happened in his first race?

Since a second-place finish in his career debut after getting caught in traffic late in the mile, Muscle Hill has reeled off a 19-race win streak and established himself as one of the all-time greatest of his gait.

"He just seems to have no end to him," said Canada's top driver, Jody Jamieson, who has raced against Muscle Hill often this year.

"Some horses, their chemical makeup allows them to keep on going and going. He just doesn't know the end of the mile."

He may be a trotter, but Muscle Hill can take down one of Somebeachsomewhere's marks tonight. With a win, he would surpass $2.5 million in 2009 earnings, breaking the Beach's single-season record of just over $2.4 million.

As well, he could match the Beach's career total of 20 wins from 21 starts.

"He's done everything we've asked at every point," Peck said. "And he's done it quite easily."

SPORTSWRITER

2-year-old colt pace

Trained and co-owned by one of Canada's top trainers, Casie Coleman, Sportswriter has been flawless in winning all seven of his starts.

Most notable was his world record in the Metro Stakes, breaking the Beach's old mark.

"He's been unbelievable," driver Mark MacDonald said. "When he won in 1:49 2/5 at Mohawk, which is a huge mile, he was just on cruise."

After a recent five-week break to freshen up, the colt has come back filled out and looking like a monster.

"He just looks so impressive," MacDonald said. "Look at all the other 2-year-olds at the end of the year and they're kind of tired-looking. It's like he is just starting."

The measure of a true champion is how he returns as a 3-year-old, which is where the Beach did his best work. But in the early strides of his career, at least, Sportswriter certainly has shown he belongs on the same track.

"I hate to compare, he was such a good horse and accomplished everything he could so impressively," MacDonald said of Somebeachsomewhere.

"Let's see if Sportswriter can step up (tonight) then we will be one step closer to making the comparison."

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IT'S ALL DOWN TO THE CROWN

CAPSULES OF THE EIGHT BREEDERS CROWN RACES TONIGHT AT WOODBINE RACETRACK

- 3-YEAR-OLD FILLY PACE: Purse $731,158. Post time: 7:52 p.m.

Shacked Up and Yellow Diamond, a pair of fillies owned by Bulletproof Enterprises, are the ones to beat after piling up a bunch of major stakes wins between them.

- 3-YEAR-OLD COLT TROT: Purse $617,880. Post time: 8:15 p.m.

Muscle Hill is the standout at 1-5 in the morning line. Even if finished last tonight for driver Brian Sears, he is a lock to be voted U.S. horse of the year as he heads off to a career as a stallion.

- 2-YEAR-OLD FILLY TROT: Purse $617,880. Post time: 8:40 p.m.

Poof She's Gone is favoured after setting a Woodbine track record in her elimination. Top local hope is Christiana Hanover and driver Steve Condren who won her elimination at odds of 32-1.

- 2-YEAR-OLD COLT TROT: Purse $617,880. Post time: 9:05 p.m.

Lucky Chucky was strong in his elimination last week and has won eight of nine starts. Best yet: He will be driven by Mr. Breeders Crown, John Campbell. The Ailsa Craig, Ont. native, who will be inducted into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame next month, has won a record 44 Crown races.

- 2-YEAR-OLD FILLY PACE: Purse $628,178. Post time: 9:30 p.m.

Fancy Filly is favoured but if Canada's top driver, Jody Jamieson, can overcome Post 9, Put On A Show has a big shot. The latter lost for the first time in eight career starts this past Friday.

- 3-YEAR-OLD FILLY TROT: Purse $617,880. Post time: 9:55 p.m.

Elusive Desire, an O'Brien Award winner as Canada's best last year, will have here hooves full with Margarita Momma. Paul MacDonell, a Crown upset specialist in the past, drives Elusive Desire for trainer Mike Keeling and her Ontario owners, Paula Wellwood, Charles Armstrong and Michael Keeling.

- 2-YEAR-OLD COLT PACE: Purse $720,860. Post time: 10:21 p.m.

If Sportswriter hits his latest deadline, we can crown him the next superstar of the sport. A winner of the Metro Pace at Woodbine earlier this year, he has been superbly prepared by Casie Coleman, one of the country's top trainers.

- 3-YEAR-OLD COLT PACE: Purse $617,880. Post time: 10:47 p.m.

North America Cup, Meadowlands Pace and Little Brown Jug winner Well Said is strictly the one to beat for driver Ron Pierce and trainer Steve Elliott. Sue Grange of Caledon is a part owner.


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