Night Watchman ($14.20) drilled a 1:54.2 mile in Wednesday's (Jan. 19) $13,000 Preferred 2 Handicap Pace at The Raceway at the Western Fair District, establishing a Canadian seasonal speed mark over four turns despite chilly conditions.
Brett MacDonald gunned Night Watchman to a clear lead over 2-1 favourite Ideal Perception (Anthony Haughan) through a taxing :26.4 first quarter, but the five-year-old Hes Watching entire was uncatchable from that point. Following a :29.4 second-quarter breather, Night Watchman kept the first-over Icy Blue Scooter (Nathan Sobey) at bay past three-quarters in 1:25 before pulling away to win by 3-3/4 lengths. Ideal Perception protected second from the pocket; Icy Blue Scooter finished third after levelling off.
Richard Moreau trains nine-time winner Night Watchman for Nurko Sokolovic and Craig Barss.
The sub-featured $10,000 Preferred 3 for male pacers went to former Alberta standout Outlawgrabbingears ($5.80), who vaulted from the pocket to eclipse pacesetter Cheddar Bay by 1-1/4 lengths in 1:56.3. Trainer-driver Paul Davies co-owns the six-year-old Smart Shark gelding with Nicole Davies.
On the distaff side of the ledger, So Frisky ($7.00) took top honours in the $12,000 Fillies and Mares Preferred 2 Handicap, stalking a mid-race duel before sweeping three-wide to a decisive 1:58.1 score, the 23rd of her career.
Scott Young landed the six-year-old Dali mare in midfield before angling second-over behind Buttermilk Hanover in pursuit of even-money pacesetter Saulsbrook Jessie (MacDonald) through a :58.1 half. As Saulsbrook Jessie faced sustained pressure from Buttermilk Hanover, Young switched So Frisky off cover approaching the far turn. She found another gear cornering for home, pulling away to win by 4-3/4 lengths. Custard Lite (Scott Coulter) lifted from astern to just nab a tiring Saulsbrook Jessie for second.
Anita Ouellette trains So Frisky for Luc Ouellette Inc.
Wednesday's card was the curtain call for Western Fair commentator Shannon "Sugar" Doyle, who served as the "eye in the London sky" since 2013. The veteran racecaller returns to Alberta, where he will serve as the Racing and Wagering Development Manager at Century Mile.
The final race, dubbed the "So Long Sugar Pace," saw Rough Trade ($6.00) circle three-wide up the backstretch to just nose out 4-5 pacesetter Shootinforthestars, covering the 1-1/16-mile journey in 2:07.1. Scott Wray drove the 10-year-old Badlands Hanover gelding to victory in the $7,000 claiming event.
Doyle's final London race call and emotional sign-off can be heard below:
"I've enjoyed my time in London," Doyle told Trot Insider. "I was very lucky to get called up to the big leagues (Woodbine and Mohawk) as a fill-in, and those are career highlights that only came to be from working in Ontario."
While Doyle will forever treasure his nine seasons in the Forest City, he looks forward to returning to the province where he cut his teeth.
"I'll begin my drive west tomorrow and start my work at Century Mile on Feb. 1," he continued. "I believe it's a good time to go back to where it all started for me in 2006. I'm really excited about this new opportunity."
To view Wednesday's complete results, click the following link: Wednesday Results – The Raceway at the Western Fair District.