TORONTO, ON – Colebrook Farms and Bear Stables’ Johnny Bear roared home much the best in the final yards in Saturday’s Grade 1, $300,000 Northern Dancer Turf at Woodbine Race Track.
Stalking the heavily-favored pacesetter Hawkbill through splits of :26.09, :50.94, 1:15.74, and 1:39.81. Coming two-wide through the far turn under jockey Luis Contreras, Johnny Bear launched a determined stretch drive, drawing even with the leader in the final yards before crossing first by a head in a final time of 2:27.30 for the 1 1/2-mile turf showcase.
“I was just thinking just stay behind the eight horse (Hawkbill) and follow him as much as I can and wait for the end to make my move,” Contreras said. “It worked perfect.”
Messi had a troubled trip, getting bumped at the start and then finding himself blocked in the upper stretch before moving to the rail and finishing gamely for third. Seeking Albert, English Illusion, Noble Thought, Pumpkin Rumble, and Camp Creek completed the order of finish.
The win was Johnny Bear’s first graded stakes victory. The 6-year-old gelding improved his career record to 33-7-7-5 with earnings of $487,214.
“We fought hard for this horse, because when we got him he was a nice horse, but he was the equivalent of a marshmallow,” said trainer Ashlee Brnjas. “It took a long time for him to develop, and we stuck it out, and it was the right decision.”
Johnny Bear returned $20.20 to win and $5.60 to place, while Hawkbill paid $2.60 to place. There was no show betting.