CAMPBELLVILLE, Ont. — Once again, it came down to the wire and once again Guardian Angel AS and American driver Tim Tetrick fended off Atlanta and Canadian Yannick Gingras to capture the $600,000 Maple Leaf Trot on Saturday night.
Last weekend, Guardian Angel AS nipped Atlanta, the '18 Hambletonian winner, by three-quarters of a length to win their elimination race. On Saturday night, Guardian Angel led Crystal Fashion, the race co-favourites at 2-1, coming off the final turn with Atlanta, the 4-1 pick, standing fourth.
Atlanta caught fire down the stretch, coming up on the outside to challenge Guardian Angel AS. But Gingras, of Sorel, Que., couldn't get Atlanta past Guardian Angel AS, which took the half-length win in a stakes, track and Canadian record-tying time of 1:50.4 on a fast track at Woodbine Mohawk Park.
However there was a huge upset in the $525,000 Canadian Pacing Derby as 34-1 longshot Courtly Choice stunned 1/5 favourite Lather Up.
Tetrick said he heard Atlanta coming hard but knew his horse was more than up to the challenge.
"My horse when he's on the front, he relaxes a lot," Tetrick said. "Then when he sees one coming he keeps going.
"That's always a good thing for me, I can really relax up there and when he sees one he fights off and wants to go. I was very confident."
Marion Marauder, driven by Scott Zeron, of Oakville, Ont., was third in the 10-horse field.
Earlier this year, Atlanta trotted the fastest mile in Canadian history when she won the Armbro Flight Stakes in 1:50.2 at Mohawk. Guardian Angel AS became the fastest male trotter in a race on a half-mile track when he won the Cleveland Trotting Classic in 1:52 at Northfield Park
"I got away in a really good spot there early and had to make a decision by the quarter pole," said Tetrick, who stood third at a quarter mile before taking the lead at the halfway mark. "I thought my horse was the best tonight, I really did, off last week's performance and he proved that he was."
Guardian Angel AS paid $5.80, $3 and $2.60 while Atlanta returned $5.40 and $3.50. Marion Marauder paid $3.70.
The win was Guardian Angel AS's seventh in 10 starts for $699,434 in earnings this year. And the victory was Tetrick's second in this event, winning in 2013 with Market Share for trainer Linda Toscano.
And given the five-year-old Guardian Angel AS is trained by Anette Lorentzon, both of Tetrick's Trot wins have come for female conditioners. Toscano and Lorentzon are the lone female trainers to capture this race.
"I guess I'm just good with the ladies right," Tetrick said with a smile. "I had great success with Market Share, he's one of my favourites.
"I won a Hambletonian with him. I've driven this horse (Guardian Angel AS), off and on, for the last three years and I'm a believer in him."
Courtly Choice and driver James MacDonald of Guelph, Ont., certainly made believers of many in the Pacing Derby. Courtly Choice came from well off the pace for the stunning upset win over Lather Up, which had won five straight starts and eight-of-11 this year.
Courtly Choice, a former Little Brown Jug winner, claimed the victory in 1:48.4.
"I can't put it into words I'm so happy," MacDonald said. "I've been trying to get a crack at one of these big ones in Canada and just haven't had a lot of luck.
"I knew I had a lot of pace, he was just getting into gear. I didn't know what Lather Up would do because he always comes back on . . . he's hard to get all the way by but when I took Courtly over, I can't explain the feeling he was pacing so hard."
Lather Up finished second ahead of Western Fame, a 42-1 longshot driven by Louis Philippe Roy of Mont-Joli, Que., in the nine-horse field.
Courtly Choice paid $71.30, $9.20 and $4.60 while Lather Cup returned $2.30 and $2.10. Western Fame paid $9.10.
The win was the fourth in 12 starts this season for the four-year-old Courtly Choice and 14th in 28 career races.
MacDonald also had praise for Lather Up.
"It's not really David versus Goliath because Courtly has been so good," MacDonald said. "Lather Up has just been unbelievable, just special to watch.
"Just to be on the same track with him is an honour and to get to beat him in front of my home crowd was amazing."
The Canadian Press