11/28/2016 8:25PM

Dover Downs: Easy Lover Hanover's Progress Pace triumph a cherished one for trainer Ben Wallace

Easy Lover Hanover wrapped up the 2016 Grand Circuit schedule with an emotional victory in the Hap Hansen Progress Pace

On January 4 of this year, trainer Ben Wallace lost all 17 of his horses, his equipment, everything that he used in his livelihood in the tragic barn fire at Classy Lane Training Centre in Ontario, but the long-time conditioner regrouped, and one of the first purchases he made was Easy Lover Hanover out of the January Select Mixed Sale at the Meadowlands.  On Monday night, Easy Lover Hanover brought Wallace's year full-circle, winning the $314,600 Hap Hansen Progress Pace for 3-year-old colt pacers at Dover Downs in 1:49.

Driven by Doug McNair, Easy Lover Hanover was pocketed behind Check Six (Yannick Gingras) as he rolled through fractions of 25 4/5, 54, and 1:20 3/5.  Lyons Snyder (David Miller) had tried things first-over out of third at the half, but he backed up past three-quarters, sending 6-5 choice Boston Red Rocks (Tim Tetrick) three-wide on the final bend to get around him.

Check Six had separation on Easy Lover Hanover and Boston Red Rocks turning for home, but then began to come back to them in the stretch, with Easy Lover Hanover attacking in the passing lane, and Boston Red Rocks surging to the outside.  At the wire it was Easy Lover Hanover getting up, winning by half a length over Check Six, with Boston Red Rocks three-parts of a length back in third.  Western Fame (Mark MacDonald) finished fourth, and Katies Rocker (Andrew McCarthy) came in fifth.

"I wanted to be forward," explained McNair.  "I knew there would be a few of them coming out of there; I wasn't sure exactly which ones.  That was the right one to follow.  Check Six will take where you need to go, and he did.

"There were smoking still pretty good in the last turn, and I was kind of off Yannick's back a little bit.  In the stretch I moved him down to the inside, and he knew what to do from there."

Easy Lover Hanover, a gelded son of Somebeachsomewhere, is owned by Brad Grant.  This was his 16th win from 33 career tries, and he has now earned $320,424.  Sent off at 6-1, Easy Lover Hanover paid $14.20 to win.

"(Grant) was one of the first phone calls I made at three in the morning (after the fire), and he said 'we'll regroup and take another run at them.'  To end up the year like this is special, this is fairy tale stuff.  I'll think about this for a long time," said Wallace.  "I didn't want training horses; I needed something to get my name on the back of the program again, and this guy showed that he could do that.  He was real good right off the bat, and he's just been a great horse to be around.  He'll be a very nice and useful racehorse.  He'll suit up great for some of those 4-year-old events, and I'm not too sure if he won't develop into an open pacer."

Not originally eligible to the event, Easy Lover Hanover's connections had to pay $25,000 to supplement him, a decision Wallace said they did not take lightly.

"Brad and I had talked about it two or three times to be honest," stated Wallace.  "It wasn't something that we just did on spur of the moment.  When we did the math, we felt as though it was the thing to do.  We'd actually said if he throws a good race in at Woodbine we'll think about it; well, he won.  Then the next week I said well if he throws another good race in maybe we should do it; well, then he won again.  So, he told us what we should be doing, not so much that we told him."