The Breeders Crown is harness racing's equivalent to Thoroughbred racing's Breeders' Cup, but the major difference is that the Hambletonian Society schedules the older horse events in late July at one venue, and then the 2 and 3 year old events are held in late October at another venue. This year, Meadowlands Racetrack in New Jersey hosted the older horses on Saturday night, while Woodbine in Toronto will host the 2 and 3 year olds on October 28. The older horses, or "open events", consist of four divisions involving the two genders and the two gaits, pacing and trotting.
4-5 favorite Lis Mara sizzled to victory in the $500,000 Breeders Crown Open Pace, equaling the track and world record 1:47 3/5, matching the record for four-year-olds established on June 22, 1996 by Jenna's Beach Boy. It was a fifth of a second off the fastest mile of all time, 1:47 2/5, set by Primetime Bobcat on May 13, 2006 at Woodbine. The fractions for the mile, a stakes record, were 25 2/5 to the quarter, 52 2/5 to the half and 1:20 2/5 to the three-quarters. Lis Mara, driven by Brian Sears and trained by Erv Miller, scored a 1 1/2 length victory over 7-1 Holborn Hanover. 11-1 outsider Leading X Ample was third by 2 3/4 lengths.
"It wasn't really what I expected," Sears noted, as he recorded his tenth Breeders Crown victory. "When the gate folded, it looked like everybody was taking a shot out of the gate, and I was able to get him out. They were all moving. There was a lot of energy. It was a pretty exciting race. I knew Holborn Hanover was tracking me the whole way, and it was a race right down to the wire as far as I'm concerned. After last week I said they're definitely going to go 47 and change here tonight if the track was good, so it really doesn't surprise me." Miller, the 2005 Trainer of the Year in North America, collected his third Breeders Crown trophy. "We didn't have to change a whole lot," Miller said. "We did some maintenance work on the horse, he was just a super horse from Day One. He'd get a little aggressive here and there and we just kind of made some adjustments according to how he was week to week. Other than that, he's been really good. The race didn't end up the way I thought it might go. I didn't think all those horses would take a pop at him. Brian did a great job and just kept him relaxed. He was a little too keyed up last week. We just kept him quiet and they went big enough fractions to set it up for us."
Lis Mara, owned by the MJG Racing Stables of Annandale, New Jersey and Louis "Andy" Willinger of Louisville, Kentucky, now has 15 wins, nine second and four seconds in 41 career starts and earnings $968,798. This year, he has seven wins, three seconds and one third from 12 starts.