Day At The Track

Clear Idea to face older rivals

07:24 AM 11 Nov 2017 NZDT
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Clear Idea, harness racing
Clear Idea
Mike Lizzi Photo

YONKERS, N.Y. – After a breakout season in New York Sire Stakes, 3-year-old filly Clear Idea will test the waters in Yonkers Raceway’s $50,000 Filly and Mare Open Handicap Pace tonight (Nov. 10). The sophomore will face seven harness racing aged rivals, including last week’s winner Mackenzie A and Breeders’ Crown finalist Blue Moon Stride.

Trained by Blake Macintosh, Clear Idea entered the $225,000 New York Sire Stakes Final Oct. 14 with 9 wins and another nine placings in 2017. Five of her wins came against her New York bred rivals at tracks across the state, including a 1:55.1 score from post seven at Buffalo Raceway. Although she drew post seven in the final, regular reinsman Mark MacDonald was determined to put the filly in the race.

“She was at the top of her division. She had the seven hole, so we had to take a shot,” MacDonald said. “There was never a chance I was going to take back to last or second-last. Especially when guys were ducking, I was going to try and go to the front.”

While much of the field came away in post-position order, MacDonald gunned Clear Idea to the lead in the opening furlong before allowing Obvious Blue Chip to clear the front. After a pocket trip, Clear Idea couldn’t catch her favored rival, but stayed for a second-place finish at odds of 12-1. MacDonald was happy with the effort and happier for his friend Macintosh, who also co-owns Clear Idea with Hutt Racing Stable.

“She’s had her aches and pains throughout the season, maybe getting a little tired, I think if she had been on top of her game, I think she would have won, but second was good,” MacDonald said. “Blake Macintosh, one of my best friends, owns half of her and it was a nice little payday for him. Anytime you can win when a friend owns the horse, it’s always rewarding to win, but it’s extra rewarding when it’s for a family member or a friend.”

MacDonald met Macintosh in the late 1990s when the pair raced at Windsor Raceway. Stabled across from one another, MacDonald soon began driving for Macintosh and the pair became close friends.

“We were about the same age and we just got to hanging out. I was driving and I ended up driving all of his stable. One year, Blake was the leading trainer and I was the leading driver at Dresden Raceway. I remember we got gold Timexes,” MacDonald remembered with a laugh. “We’ve been really good friends forever, so that’s how long I’ve been driving for Blake. Pretty near my whole life.”

Although driving for a close friend can make the wins more rewarding, it can also make the losses more agonizing. Although MacDonald jokes that Macintosh gives him a hard time after the races, “all the time,” the trainer never stays down on the losses for very long.

“He’s very loyal. It doesn’t matter what happens, he’s a very, very loyal person,” MacDonald said. “Win, lose, or draw, you might hear about it a little bit, but he’s very loyal.”

MacDonald first drove Clear Idea in her freshman season. After winning her first start in an overnight at Grand River in July 2016, MacDonald was aboard for several placings in Excelsior A stakes across New York. Her progression from a check-getter to a stakes winner impressed her driver.

“She’s really come. She’s turned into a really nice racehorse. She’s a little lazy, kind of a late-bloomer, but she progressed throughout the year and she turned into a really nice filly and I think she’s going to be a really nice racehorse,” he said. “She was so good on a half, I was like, ‘you didn’t pay her into the Jugette? Are you crazy?’ She’s obviously an overachiever and clearly the way he staked her he didn’t think she was this good, but she is really good and I think she’ll be an open mare as an aged mare, I really do.”

One of Clear Idea’s standout features is her versatility. She can handle any trip, which gives her driver options and makes his job easier.

“She’s really lazy, really laid back, somewhat like myself,” MacDonald joked. “She’s easy to drive. She kind of drives herself, just depending on the post position and whatnot. She’s always in a good spot because she can go first-over, she can go to the front, and when she gets a trip, she loves it.”

Clear Idea will face aged mares in tonight’s Filly and Mare Open Handicap carded as the seventh race on a 12-race card. She will start from post five at a 7-1 morning line chance in her first start since the Sire Stakes Final.

“Obviously, that’s a step up, maybe two steps up, maybe even three,” MacDonald said. “We’ll just see what happens. I think if she’s close and has the right trip, she won’t embarrass herself. It’s really hard for 3-year-olds to go against aged horses.

“I know he’s trained her up good, I know he has her conditioned well. That’s one thing about Blake, when he has them out, they’re conditioned well. He doesn’t miss a day,” MacDonald continued. “She hasn’t raced, but I’m sure she’ll put in a good effort, I’m sure she will. She needed to be freshened up anyway, in fact, she might even be better. We’ll see how she steps up, but she won’t embarrass herself, I guarantee you that.”

First post time tonight at Yonkers Raceway is 7:10 p.m. For entries for the races, click here.

By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

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