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Harness Highlights: Team Alagna 2-Year-Olds Double Up In ‘Crown’

by Frank Carulli

November 5, 2019

Trainer Tony Alagna and driver Andrew McCarthy stole center stage at this year’s Breeders Crown, teaming for three wins in the two-day, 12-race championship lineup at Woodbine-Mohawk Park.

The dynamic duo was rivaled only by the 2-year-old fillies that got the party started. Ramona Hill trotted to a 14-1 upset and Reflect With Me paced to a 27-1 shocker in back-to-back $600,000 finals.

“It just goes to show that the barn has matured,” said Alagna, who joined Jimmy Takter, Ron Burke and Bob McIntosh as the only trainers in history to win at least three Breeders Crown trophies in the same year. “The owners kept the faith, the drivers had confidence, and everything came together.”

Ramona Hill, the beaten favorite in her Crown elimination the previous weekend, negotiated post 10 at the 7/8-mile oval to earn her crown for co-owners Bradley Grant, Robert Leblanc, Crawford Farms Racing and the The Gym Partners. She blasted off the gate to the lead, yielded to a first-over brush by favorite Hypnotic AM, then pulled from the pocket in early stretch, proving best by ¼-length over late-running Sister Sledge in 1:53.2.

“Ramona Hill, even though she had the 10-hole, I still considered her one of the better shots I had throughout the weekend because I know how talented she is,” McCarthy told Ken Weingartner of the U.S. Trotting Association. “She wasn’t herself the week before, but I knew Tony would get on top of that and have that figured out.”

Reflect With Me took an opposite route to victory. She dropped back from post 8, while even-money favorite Lyons Sentinel worked to clear second choice Priceless for the lead through a sizzling :53.3 opening half mile. Reflect With Me was fourth-over but sustained a 4-wide rally to prevail by a neck over a stubborn Lyons Sentinel in 1:50.3, missing the Crown record by one-fifth of a second for co-owners Bradley Grant and Brittany Farms.

McCarthy was on his way to becoming the eighth driver in Breeders Crown history with four winners in the same year.

The only ones as happy as Team Alagna were the bettors who keyed Ramona Hill and Reflect With Me for $1 superfecta payouts of $4,918 and $6,042, respectively.

Multiple stakes winner Captain Midnight gave Team Alagna a live shot at a third 2-year-old Crown title, but he finished fourth in the $600,000 Colt Pace that featured its own share of drama. Elimination winner Papi Rob Hanover (David Miller) was a head in front at the wire after a stretch-long duel with Tall Dark Stranger, but Tall Dark Stranger avenged the only loss of his career when driver Yannick Gingras’ objection for interference was upheld and the order reversed. Nancy Johansson trains Tall Dark Stranger for Howard Taylor, Marvin Katz, Crawford Farms Racing and Caviart Farms.

There was no such drama in the $600,000 2-Year-Old Colt Trot. Amigo Volo, who broke stride as the odds-on favorite but recovered in time to qualify for the finals, was sent to the lead by driver Dexter Dunn and cruised to a 4-length victory in 1:54.3. Nifty Norman trains Amigo Volo for David J. Miller and Pinske Stables.