This week: The 2022 Grand Circuit season has ended. The 2023 program will be launched in February.
Last time: Appearing for the last time in his storied career, “The Bulldog” was once again the best show.
Bulldog Hanover, who has electrified the sport this season with his speed and personality, won Saturday’s (Nov. 26) $345,000 TVG Series Open Pace by 2-1/4 lengths over Tattoo Artist in a stakes-record 1:47.3 at Meadowlands. Abuckabett Hanover finished third.
The winning time shaved the previous stakes record of 1:48, first set by Sweet Lou in 2014 and tied by McWicked in 2018, by two-fifths of a second.
It took the Hanover Bulldog three-eighths of a mile to get the lead from This Is The Plan, who brought the field into the first quarter in :26.1. But once he reached the top, there was no looking back. Hanover Bulldog and rider Dexter Dunn hit the half in :54.2 and three-quarters in 1:21.3 on their way to their career-ending triumph.
“Week after week, he makes runs like that,” said Dunn, who did a few fist pumps as he crossed the finish line. “He doesn’t make it easy. He was working the first shift; he was (out) in hot gear and I continued with him. He has all the power. It was an amazing performance tonight and a great way for him to go out.”
The victory was Bulldog Hanover’s 14th in 16 races this year and pushed his season earnings to $1.64 million for Canadian trainer Jack Darling, who owns the 4-year-old stallion with Brad Grant. For his career, the Hanover Shoe Farms-bred son of Shadow Play-BJ’s Squall has won 28 of 37 starts and earned $2.41 million.
In July, also at the Meadowlands, Bulldog Hanover became the fastest horse in harness racing history when he won the William R. Haughton Memorial in 1:45.4.
He retires with four of the fastest nine mile races in history and a record six total wins in under 1:47. Those included two record-tying Canadian wins in 1:46.4 at Woodbine Mohawk Park, most recently in the Breeders Crown last month.
“I’ll remember this season with him for the rest of my life,” Dunn said. “It’s hard to come up with horses like that and it’s an amazing ride once you do. Thanks to Brad and Jack and (caretaker) Johnny (Mallia) for letting me sit behind him. It was great.”
After the victory celebration, Bulldog Hanover was given a retirement ceremony in the Meadowlands winner’s circle.
“He was outstanding as a racehorse,” Darling said during the ceremony. “He has a way of pulling at your heartstrings. Warming up tonight, walking the track, was very exciting. He’s just that kind of horse. It is so stylish, it has personality; he’s just a special horse.”
He will go to work full-time as a stallion at Seelster Farms in 2023. He has bred 79 mares this year before racing.
“He’s going to have a good life and he’s close, so we can see him whenever we want,” Darling said.
Grant said the Bulldog Hanover ride was “an amazing ride.” Grant was also among the owners of the mare Atlanta, who also had a retirement ceremony Saturday night at the Meadowlands following her performance on the TVG Mares Trot.
“They both seem to have huge fan bases,” Grant said of the two outgoing stars. “They’ll be missed on the track, but they’ll be in the breeding barn, so in years to come, they’ll be remembered.”
Full recaps of all races are available on the Grand Circuit website. For a list of 2022 race winners on the Grand Circuit, click here.
Grand Circuit standings: In 2022, Grand Circuit leaders in three categories (driver, trainer and owner) were tracked on a points system (20-10-5 for top three finishers in divisions/final and 10-5-2 for top three finishers in eliminations /feet). Winbak Farms is the sponsor of the 2022 Grand Circuit Awards.
Here are the final leaders (through races from 11-26-22):
Drivers: 1. Dexter Dunn – 1,627; 2. Tim Tetrick – 1,078; 3. Yannick Gingras – 1,069; 4. Todd McCarthy – 1,003; 5. David Miller – 936.
Trainers: 1. Ron Burke – 1,057; 2. Ake Svanstedt – 915; 3. Tony Alagna – 822; 4. Brett Pelling – 564; 5t. Noel Daley – 463; 5t. Nifty Norman – 463.
Owners: 1. David McDuffee – 251; 2. Brad Grant – 218.3; 3. Burke Racing Stable – 203; 4. Crawford Farms Racing – 185.6; 5. Caviart Farms – 180.3.
Looking ahead: The Grand Circuit 2023 program will be launched in February.