It was the first ever pari-mutuel 'hook' race to be held at the track.
AJAX DOWNS, SUNDAY, JULY 17, 2022 - Ontario bred HAD TO BE RELENTLESS etched his name in the Ajax Downs record books on Sunday, July 17 when the 4-year-old Quarter Horse gelding swooped to the lead to win the first 'hook race' in the track's history.
Ridden by Josh Scott for owners and breeders Carol and Jaime Robertson and trainer Bryn Robertson of Hillsburgh, ON, Had to Be Relentless tracked three rivals early in the 870-yard race before moving four-wide off the turn on his way to victory to the roar of a huge crowd. It was the first-ever pari-mutuel race around a turn at Ajax Downs and was a successful end to the popular Craft Brewery Day at Ajax Downs.
The first 'hook race' had been a long time coming in Ajax Downs history and according to Ralph Pearson, a founder of Quarter Horse racing in Ontario some 54 years ago, it was worth the wait.
"Listening to the roar of the crowd as the horses came around the turn, into the stretch," said Pearson. "It was like when the (Toronto) Blue Jays hit a home run."
Had to Be Relentless, a large, long-striding, half brother to Ajax Downs Horse of the Year Had to Be Ivory, came into the unique race on Sunday with a record of three wins in 17 races but the longer distance was key to the son of He's Relentless - Had to Be Fandango's success. "He's been asking for more distance every race," said Scott. "You never really know what they are going to do in a new race like this. On the backside he was a little timid, so I let him go back to sleep and wait for our time to run."
Into the stretch, Had to Be Relentless surged to the lead and staved off a challenge from SW Artemisia to win by half a length at 9 to 5 odds. he paid $5.80 to win.
"It was loud in the stretch," said Scott. "I think outer space heard the crowd in the stretch."
*Earlier on the big Ajax Downs card, SUGARMANS DELIGHT, a 9-year-old Ontario-bred and sired gelding owned and bred by Christine Tavares, won the $38,580 Ontario Sires Stakes Maturity with a strong, late burst under jockey Ed Walton. Sugarmans Delight, trained by Joe Tavares, was winning his first stakes race in his 58th career outing which now includes 13 wins and earnings of over $218,000.
*The next racing day at Ajax Downs is Wednesday, July 27, 2022. Follow Ajax Downs on social media @AjaxDowns and keep up to date on events at www.ajaxdowns.com.
1/ Had to Be Relentless (far left) moved four-wide to win the 870-yard allowance race at Ajax Downs on July 17, the first-ever pari-mutuel, 'hook race' in the track's history (New Image Media/Clive Cohen photo).
2/ Jockey Josh Scott gives Ontario-bred Had to Be Relentless some love. Laurie Overton Photo
3/ Bryn and Carol Robertson. Laurie Overton Photo