08/28/2013 6:30PM

Mohawk: Toscano has an upset chance with Winds Of Change in Metro Pace

Fred Brown
Winds Of Change winning his career debut at Tioga Downs with Tim Tetrick in the bike.

Trainer Linda Toscano is coming off a storybook year in which she trained the top 3-year-old pacer and trotter in the sport (Heston Blue Chip & Market Share) as well as Horse of the Year Chapter Seven. While her 2013 stats pale in comparison, the clouds could be clearing for a strong second half as she sends out Metro starter Winds Of Change in the C $683,000 final on Saturday at Mohawk.

After watching her horses earn over $6.7 million last year, almost $3 million more than her previous best season, Toscano knew a repeat performance was a longshot.

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“I knew it would be almost impossible to match,” said Toscano, who also sends out Market Share for a tightener in a Winners Over Handicap at Harrah’s Philadelphia on Thursday afternoon. “We are working for it this year and have faced some obstacles.”

In Winds Of Change she has a longshot, but one with strong breeding that is still working his way to peak form. The son of American Ideal ($786,055, 1:47 4/5) out of Art’s Temptress ($384,445, 1:51 3/5) was bred by co-owners Val D’Or Farms and Brittany Farms. The latter is amazingly the listed breeder of five of the 10 starters in the rich final.

“He was cataloged to sell in the Lexington Selected sale,” said Myron Bell, Racing Manager for Brittany Farms. “He was a nice colt, but he had a screw in his leg from a previous surgery. In September before the sale, he was lame and we had to pull him out. We found out later that the screw was never surgically removed and that caused the problem. I think he probably would have brought about $50,000 or $60,000 at the sale.”

Toscano took possession of the horse at the end of 2012. Things started slowly as immaturity hampered Winds Of Change’s progress in becoming a serious race horse. He finally made it to the races in July and went down the road in a division of the Tompkin-Geers at Tioga Downs in 1:53 3/5. Then a string of bad posts and poor racing luck sidetracked his development.

After a promising effort in the Nassagewaya at Mohawk, where driver Scott Zeron got him to close from eighth to third in the stretch, Toscano elected to take a shot in the Metro and see what her colt had to offer.

“You have to keep elevating the bar and hope they clear it. Then you have to hope they stay healthy and sound,” said Toscano.

Winds Of Change responded with a strong Metro elimination effort. He was trapped along the cones and had to veer sharply to the outside in the stretch. Once he was given daylight the colt charged home in 26 2/5 to finish second behind Western Vintage.

“He is getting better all the time,” said Toscano. “I have liked him for a long time and was glad he elevated his game.”

A Metro victory would be the first of Toscano’s career. The veteran trainer has been collecting major trophies over the last few years but hasn’t done much in the Metro, perhaps due to lack of trying.

“I think I hit the board once a while back,” recalled Toscano. “It has been a while since I’ve raced in the Metro. Canada is off the radar for most of my owners. They want to race in New York and locally. But without the (Woodrow) Wilson, I had to find a new road for some of the 2-year-olds.”

Winds Of Change starts from post six with Zeron once again in the bike.

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The path to the winner’s circle on Saturday seems likely to go through Western Vintage. Also trained by a female conditioner in Nancy Johansson, the colt only has one blemish in five lifetime starts. He was well in-hand while winning his elimination and will start from post three with Yannick Gingras in the bike.

Western Vintage will be flanked on the gate by fellow elimination winners Lets Drink On It (post 2) and Arthur Blue Chip (post 4). Lets Drink On It has won four of six starts and will be driven by Jim Morrill, Jr. Arthur Blue Chip is looking for his third consecutive score in the final. Randy Waples will drive the colt.

The Metro final is race seven on a stakes-filled 12-race program that also features the C$651k Canadian Pacing Derby for older pacers and C$451k Shes A Great Lady for rookie pacing fillies. First race post time is 7:25 pm.