Milton, ON — In over 40 years training Standardbreds, John Bax has seen a lot. So, it carries weight when he calls a moment as surreal.
Surreal is how the Campbellville, Ontario resident described winning the 2001 Breeders Crown for 2-year-old trotting colts and geldings with Duke Of York, a feat he’s looking to repeat on the female side Friday evening at Woodbine Mohawk Park with standout 2-year-old trotting filly Righteous Resolve (Resolve-Motown Muscle).
“(In 2001) we were 30-1 because we were in against Andover Hall, and he was 1-9,” said Bax. “Then he ran, so it was a bit of a surreal night. I was standing there with my wife Vicky at Woodbine and we kind of said holy jeeze, is this happening?”
With eight wins from nine starts, and $405,748 on her card, Righteous Resolve received an earnings exemption straight to the final and is unlikely to go off at 30-1.
In fact, the Bet Max Stables and Benenati Inc. homebred has been tipped as the 5-2 second choice by morning line, just behind Ake Svanstedt trained and driven Special Way (2-1) who has compiled a similar mark of six wins from eight starts.
“Are we as good as (Special Way)? I guess we will find out on Friday,” said Bax. “It’s exciting to be there and be competitive. Not only is it hard to win a Breeders Crown, it’s hard to get to a Breeders Crown. We don’t take it for granted and we are going to enjoy the moment and hopefully we have some luck.”
Enjoying the moment is what big nights in racing are all about, and the Breeders Crown is the pinnacle of the sport. For the week leading up, everyone in the field can dream of finding the winner’s circle and experiencing the thrill of succeeding at the highest level.
Sharing that journey and experience with the connections of Righteous Resolve is special for Bax because the owners are a group he has worked with for a long time.
“I’m really happy for the owners,” said Bax. “They put a lot of money into the business and have paid their dues. It’s nice to see their enthusiasm, and they’re still in love with the game. So hopefully we can do some good for them.”
Bax was in the same position a year ago. Righteous Resolve’s full brother Duly Resolved was in the 2-year-old colt and gelding Breeders Crown final at the Meadowlands. He wasn’t able to get in gear that day and finished eighth.
The two siblings had similar schedules during their freshman campaign. Righteous Resolve will enter the final with nine starts, while her older brother had 11 after going through eliminations to reach the Breeders Crown final.
“We never had a set number in mind. You just look at the schedule and you’re hoping for breaks,” said Bax. “We were happy to get the bye. But I don’t know if it’s so important the number of races, but how tough they are. I guess the long and the short of it is, we’re hopeful she’s coming in healthy and happy, but we are also glad we are near the end of the year for her.”
Righteous Resolve has won her last three starts by a combined 12-1/2 lengths, and with a week off thanks to her bye to the final, she is set up to be fresh for the big night.
Another positive for the freshman trotter is that her biggest race of the season comes in her backyard, and at her home track.
“I think it’s a big advantage to not have to truck however many hours,” said Bax. “It’s 20 minutes over to the track and away you go. I think it’s an advantage or at least I hope it is.”
So, when Ken Middleton, the voice of Woodbine Mohawk Park, says they’re off and trotting Friday around 10:18 p.m., Righteous Resolve and Paul MacDonell leaving from post seven figure to be the mix and the veteran trainer will be trackside hoping for another surreal moment.
“We are all going to enjoy it,” said Bax. “And I have to give a shout out to my son Matt. He does all the heavy lifting these days, and I hope it’s a great first Breeders Crown experience for him.”