After suffering his first defeat in the $1.1-million (all currency U.S.) Meadowlands Pace on Saturday, Somebeachsomewhere crossed the border back into Canada at about 4:30 p.m. (ET) yesterday, seemingly none the worse for wear for his torrid effort in the New Jersey race.
The three-year-old colt, winner of 10 of 11 standardbred races, is headed next for an Ontario Sires Stakes race in two weeks at Mohawk Raceway west of Toronto. Trainer Brent MacGrath said he came out of the Meadowlands Pace well and was "feeling good."
Somebeachsomewhere paced in a speedy 1 minute 47 seconds, but lost by a neck to Art Official, a colt that was bred in Canada, but that races mostly in the U.S. Midwest. Somebeachsomewhere went off as the heavy 1-to-9 favourite, while the crowd bet Art Official down to almost 12 to 1.
"It's disappointing," said trainer and part-owner Brent MacGrath of the colt's narrow loss after an unusually tough race. "But that's racing. We knew he would get beat some time. They all get beaten. We've been beaten before, although the horse hasn't. But the horse raced great and we'll live with it. That's racing."
All over Eastern Canada, racetracks and off-track betting outlets were packed, celebrating what they called Beach Parties to honour the best horse to come out of the Maritimes. MacGrath took a leave of absence from his auto dealership in Truro, N.S., to train the colt this season. Even little Hanover Raceway in Hanover, Ont., had a pause in its racing program on Saturday night to show the Meadowlands race live to its fans.
MacGrath said it didn't take long for the six Maritime owners to recover from the shocking loss after watching Somebeachsomewhere go three-wide after one of the fastest half miles in history. Somebeachsomewhere grabbed the lead before the three-quarter mark in 1:19 1/5, the fastest in Meadowlands history. But Art Official, which set the pace, came back on again and wore him down in the final strides to win in the same time of 1:47, a world record for three-year-old pacers.
Temperatures were reported at 31.7 during the race and MacGrath said the heat and humidity were unbearable.
Driver Paul MacDonell said he took his shot on the backstretch, coming from fifth early to go three-wide as Art Official and the speedy Bullville Powerful (supplemented to the race for $100,000) fought for the lead.
"I was surprised that the drivers up front didn't conserve a little more than they did," he said. "They went hard to the half in 51 4/5, probably never seen before. And they were still racing."
Somebeachsomewhere wasn't able to clear the duo as easily as MacDonell hoped and he admitted that probably contributed to the Canadian colt's defeat.
"He got caught at the end by a horse that went an unbelievable mile," MacDonell said. "I can't ask my horse to do any more than he did."
The racing style at the Meadowlands Racetrack tends to be much more aggressive than at Toronto's Woodbine Racetrack, where Somebeachsomewhere won the $1.5-million North America Cup a month ago.
"But we expected that," MacGrath said yesterday.
MacGrath said he'll give the colt an easy week, before tuning him up for the Ontario Sires Stake race.
The group of Maritimers had purchased Somebeachsomewhere for $40,000 as a yearling, expecting that he would be competitive in Ontario racing. Instead, they have found themselves the owners of perhaps one of the best standardbred racehorses in history.
Somebeachsomewhere is the only horse in the Schooner Stable. The owners are from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.