by Garnet Barnsdale
With only three cards left in the Mohawk summer meet, drivers Doug McNair and Trevor Henry are creating a buzz with their battle for the dash title. Last night they were prominent early and often.
McNair entered the night with a two-win lead over Henry with 148 wins to his rival’s 146. The fun began in race two (see video replay) when Henry blasted off from the innermost post with two-year-old Mach Three gelding Dismissal Slip and he put anyone else who had designs on the early lead in a hole. After cutting a sharp opening quarter of :26.3, Henry got Dismissal Slip to come back to him and the leading duo stole a 30-second quarter, which put them at the half in :56.3. Not content with this slowing pace, McNair pulled his charge, D M Oreilly, out of third before the half and attacked the leader. That battle continued to the wire, with Henry prevailing with Dismissal Slip by a neck to cut the lead to one.
Race 4 featured Henry and McNair racing 1-2 throughout and turning for home well clear of the rest, but this time it was McNair capitalizing off a perfect pocket trip to drive by leading favorite Nips Beach Girl with 6-1 shot Docs Sausalito.
McNair — who also leads the overall WEG standings for the year with 233 wins to Louis Phillipe Roy’s 216 wins has to be considered a strong contender for the Driver of the Year O’Brien Award at this point. He said winning the Mohawk meet would be a feather in his cap. “It would be pretty cool to win it,” he said. “It’s always nice to be up close in the standings, but to lead is even better.”
McNair says there is no rivalry with Henry and he showed him respect with his comments. “Trevor shows up every day and races tough,” he said. “So to be so close to him in standings is pretty neat.”
McNair said driving good horses all summer is what put him in position to win. “I’ve been very fortunate to drive for a lot of top trainers all year so when your winning it really helps your confidence going into any race even with a long shot,” he said. “There are so many good horses I’ve been lucky enough to sit behind, so if I win the meet or finish second, it’s still been a really good summer.”
Certainly it has been a great meet for both drivers with one highlight for McNair steering Dr J Hanover to a Canadian record mile of 1:46.4 and Henry coming close to stealing the Mohawk Gold Cup — only to fall a half-length short — with Nirvana Seelster, a six-year-old gelding that he steered to five wins at the meet, including a life’s best score of 1:48 in September.
With only three cards left and McNair holding that two-win lead, it is going to be fun to watch how it plays out as these two aggressive teamsters settle the dash title on the track at Mohawk.