by Ken Weingartner
Trainer Ron Burke will try to win the William Wellwood Memorial for the third consecutive year, and while this season’s contender What The Hill might not enter Saturday’s race with the same buildup as 2015 champion Southwind Frank, the colt has shown he possesses one extremely coveted talent — the desire to get to the finish line first.
“He just seems to be a winner,” Burke said about What The Hill, who heads to the C$350,000 Wellwood final for 2-year-old male trotters at Mohawk Racetrack off a 1:55.3 victory in his elimination last weekend.
“I’d like for him to show me a little more pure speed, but right now it just seems like all he wants to do is win. As long as he keeps doing that I’ll be happy. He’s first or second every week. I like the colt.”
Later on Saturday’s card, Southwind Frank will try to join Father Patrick as the only horses to win the Wellwood and Canadian Trotting Classic since the Wellwood (which was raced as the Campbellville Stakes prior to 2005) went from divisions to a single-race final in 2001.
Mohawk also on Saturday hosts the Maple Leaf Trot for older trotters, Peaceful Way Stakes for 2-year-old female trotters, Elegantimage Stakes for 3-year-old female trotters, and two eliminations for the Milton Stakes for older female pacers. Post time is 7:30 for the night’s first race.
What The Hill, who defeated Signal Hill by a neck in his Wellwood elimination, has won three of seven starts and finished second on three occasions, good for a division-leading $233,718 in purses. His other victories were in the Peter Haughton Memorial and New Jersey Sire Stakes championship.
David Miller will drive What The Hill in the Wellwood final, starting from post three.
Purchased for $65,000 at last fall’s Lexington Selected Sale, What The Hill is a son of stallion Muscle Hill, who won the 2009 Canadian Trotting Classic on his way to Horse of the Year honors. What The Hill’s dam, K T Cha Cha, is a full sister to Majestic Son, who won the 2006 Canadian Trotting Classic and was Canada’s Horse of the Year. The family also includes O’Brien Award-winning mare Ramerizi and stakes-winner Misterizi.
What The Hill is owned by the Burke Racing Stable, Our Horse Cents Stables, J&T Silva Stables, and Deo Volente Farms.
“It seems like every year we have at least one very good Muscle Hill since the first crop,” said Burke, who has trained Muscle Hill’s top-earning offspring Southwind Frank ($1.70 million) and Mission Brief ($1.59 million). Other trotters sired by Muscle Hill include Hambletonian winners Marion Marauder and Trixton as well as Hambletonian Oaks winner All The Time, Maple Leaf Trot contender Resolve, and undefeated Peaceful Way favorite Ariana G.
“When (Muscle Hill) came out I thought he would dominate, and he’s even more than dominated,” Burke said.
Southwind Frank, last year’s Dan Patch Award winner for best 2-year-old male trotter, goes into the Canadian Trotting Classic off a second-place elimination finish to Bar Hopping. It was Southwind Frank’s first start since winning the Colonial on Aug. 20 at Pocono. He will start the C$687,000 CTC final from post one with Yannick Gingras at the lines.
“I wasn’t as upset as everybody else was with the race,” Burke said. “Maybe he wasn’t as tight, so I think he’ll rebound great. Thankfully he
got a great draw; we didn’t pay the price for not winning our elimination. I think it puts him in a great spot to race him aggressively. I believe he’ll be good. I think he’ll be ready.”
Southwind Frank has won six of 10 races this year and finished second in his remaining four starts. For his career, he has won 17 of 22 races. He is owned by the Southwind Frank Partners.
Marion Marauder, who won the first of the two Canadian Trotting Classic eliminations, enters the final with a three-race win streak. He has won eight of his last nine starts, including the Hambletonian and Yonkers Trot, with his only setback being a second-place finish in the Colonial. Trained by Paula Wellwood and Mike Keeling, the colt has earned a division-best $1.14 million for owners Marion Jean Wellwood and Devin Keeling.
Bar Hopping will try to give trainer Jimmy Takter his third consecutive victory in the Canadian Trotting Classic.
Following is the field for the Wellwood Memorial. Seven And Seven and What The Hill were elimination winners.
C$350,000 William Wellwood Memorial
2-year-old male trotters
Race 5 – Post time 8:50 p.m. (EDT)
1. Real Lucky Day–Yves Filion–Richard Moreau
2. Seven And Seven–John Campbell–Thomas Durand
3. What The Hill–David Miller–Ron Burke
4. King On The Hill–Tim Tetrick–Jimmy Takter
5. Victor Gio IT–Yannick Gingras–Jimmy Takter
6. Mountain Of Love–TBA–Tony Alagna
7. International Moni–Scott Zeron–Frank Antonacci
8. Signal Hill–Randy Waples–Tony Alagna
9. Jake–Sylvain Filion–Luc Blais
10. Soho Hanover–Doug McNair–Gregg McNair
Follow is the field for the Canadian Trotting Classic. Bar Hopping and Marion Marauder were elimination winners.
C$687,000 Canadian Trotting Classic
3-year-old male trotters
Race 10 – Post time 10:30 p.m. (EDT)
1. Southwind Frank–Yannick Gingras–Ron Burke
2. Waitlifter K–Brian Sears–Andrew Harris
3. Bar Hopping–Tim Tetrick–Jimmy Takter
4. Marion Marauder–Scott Zeron–Mike Keeling
5. Tony Soprano–John Campbell–Bob McIntosh
6. Dia Monde–Randy Waples–Thomas Durand
7. Winter Harbor–Jody Jamieson–Tony Alagna
8. Brooklyn Hill–Corey Callahan–Jonas Czernyson
9. Bee In Charge–Chris Christoforou–Per Henriksen
10. Warrawee Roo–Sylvain Filion–Luc Blais