Co-owner Grant has enjoyed stellar ride with Bulldog Hanover

It's been quite the ride for Brad Grant.

Since buying into heralded pacer Bulldog Hanover in 2021, the trucking magnate from Milton, Ont., has had plenty to celebrate. There've been countless trips to the winner's circle, a stunning world record and Saturday night a resounding victory in the $810,000 Open Pace to conclude the US$6.7-million Breeders Crown at Woodbine Mohawk Park.

And not even Grant, one of harness racing's most prominent and influential owners, could've predicted such a whirlwind.

"He's a special athlete and it's not just with his races," Grant said Monday. "It's the buzz around him wherever he goes.

"We saw it at Hoosier Park (in Indiana), we saw it at (Hollywood Gaming at Dayton Raceway), we saw it at Lexington, Ky. (The Red Mile) and we saw it again Saturday night at Mohawk. He's just who he is. He's very low-keyed for a stallion, he's easy to manage, he loves what he does and I think he thrives on people being around him."

Bulldog Hanover, driven by New Zealand's Dexter Dunn, posted a stakes-record time of 1:46.4 that also tied the Canadian and track marks. It came after Bulldog Hanover was upset by Allywag Hanover in the Allerage Farms Open Pace at The Red Mile on Oct. 29, snapping an 11-race win streak.

The rivals wasted little time making Saturday's race a two-horse affair. Bulldog Hanover, the 1/5 favourite, surged ahead at the halfway point with Allywag Hanover, driven by Australian Todd McCarthy, in second.

But the anticipated stretch duel never materialized. After coming off the final turn, the Ontario-bred Bulldog Hanover pulled away from the field for a 13th win in 15 starts this year and 27th overall.

Tattoo Artist, driven James Macdonald of Guelph, Ont., was second ahead of Allywag Hanover.

The victory was Dunn's fourth Saturday but he secured trainer/co-owner Jack Darling his first Breeders Crown title. Darling, of Cambridge, Ont., will be inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame next summer.

"Listen, I wanted it (Crown victory) for ourselves and for the horse," Grant said. "But for Jack and Johnny (caretaker Johnny Mallia), it's a topper.

"Jack has the fastest horse in the industry and he's going into the Hall of Fame so it was the third point on the crown, I guess."

On July 16, Bulldog Hanover captured the US$500,000 William R. Haughton Memorial in a world-record time of 1:45.4 at the Meadowlands. The four-year-old added the C$650,000 Canadian Pacing Derby at Mohawk Park on Sept. 3.

Heady stuff, considering Darling purchased Bulldog Hanover for $28,000 at the 2019 Harrisburg yearling sale. In the spring of 2021, Grant contacted Darling to say if he ever thought about selling the horse that Grant would be interested in throwing his hat into the ring.

Darling didn't want to sell but all it took was one phone call to work out the details of Grant becoming a co-owner. That wasn't surprising as the two have collaborated on other horses in the past.

"I liked Bulldog Hanover as a two-year-old," Grant said. "I just reached out to Jack to kind of throw my hat into the ring if (Bulldog Hanover) ever was for sale and, boom, we did the deal.

"I asked him about the soundness of the horse and there wasn't an issue. I trust him emphatically and that was it. You never have to question Jack's integrity."

Over 36 career starts, Bulldog Hanover has earned over $2.6 million.

Saturday's race was Bulldog Hanover's last in Canada. He'll run in the Potomac Pace at Rosecroft Raceway on Nov. 10 then the TVG Final on Nov. 26 at The Meadowlands before retiring to stud.

"He really has nothing else to prove," Grant said. "He was well received for the breedings he did last year and there's tremendous interest in him obviously going forward.

"I guess as a fan I'd love to see him race but as a businessman I think it's the right move. But I understand because Saturday night at the track, people upstairs and other owners were cheering for him and when you looked out at the crowd and everyone was out of the paddock and watching the race. As much as attracting the interest of the general public, he's become a fan favourite .. I think people recognize he's special and love to watch him race."

Bulldog Hanover's win Saturday earned Grant his fourth Breeders Cup title. He claimed his first in 2017 with Stay Hungry (two-year-old colt pace), then added two more in 2019 at Mohawk Park with Ramona Hill (two-year-old filly trot) and Reflect With Me (two-year-old filly pace).

Grant narrowly missed adding another Saturday when Dunn and 4/5 favourite Bella Bellini overtook Atlanta and Yannick Gingras of Sorel, Que., down the stretch to win the $472,500 Open Mare Trot. The seven-year-old Atlanta settled for second in her final Canadian start, having earned over $3.6 million.

"They're all special," Grant said. "I would've really liked to see Atlanta get one to but it's not going to change her status.

"She got beat by a tremendous mare in Bella Bellini. She raced as well as she could."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 31, 2022.

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press