Woodbine Mohawk Park turned the spotlight onto the top three-year-olds in the Ontario Sires Stakes Grassroots program on Friday, Oct. 1, with the trotters and pacers battling for a top five finish in eight $20,000 Semi-Finals.
Three-year-old filly trot
Midnight Miracle kicked things off in the first three-year-old trotting filly Semi-Final, doing most of the work up front and then battling down the stretch to hold off Tealicious by a neck in 1:56.2. Division point leader Tipsy In Dixie was 1-1/4 lengths back in third, and Hope So and A Blue Blood also moved on to next Saturday’s Grassroots Championship.
“She’s been racing okay. She had a good go in a couple Grand Circuit races there. We were happy,” said trainer Mark Etsell. “She just seems to get stalled at 1:55. She doesn’t seem to go 1:54.4, whether it’s a half-mile or a five-eighths or a big track. Hopefully that will change, but she’s been feeling good and racing good.”
The Rockwood, Ont. resident trains the Muscle Mass filly for his co-owner/breeders Robert Newton of Walkerton, Ont., and Chuan Tan of Cambridge, Ont. Bob McClure piloted fan favourite Midnight Miracle to her third win of the season.
Favourite P L Opportunity and driver Trevor Henry used come-from-behind tactics to claim the lion’s share of the $20,000 prize in the second trotting filly Semi-Final. The Kadabra daughter stopped the teletimer at 1:54.4, reeling in pacesetter I Da Princess in the final strides. Stonebridge Strong closed for third and P L Olivia and Rubys Are Nice completed the field for the $60,000 Grassroots Championship.
Matt Dupuis owns and trains the Kadabra daughter and had high praise for Henry, who kept the filly steady when she threatened to go off stride in the stretch.
“The mare is 50 per cent credit and he gets 50 per cent credit. I get zero. If it wasn’t for Trevor (Henry), I wouldn’t even be talking to you, because she almost ran a couple of times there,” said the Rockwood, Ont. resident. “He does an amazing job, he doesn’t get excited or nothing, whether it’s a $1 race or $1 million race, it doesn’t matter to him.”
Three-year-old filly pace
Saulsbrook Olympia and driver Brett MacDonald got their favourite following trip in the first three-year-old pacing filly Semi-Final and converted it into a half-length victory in 1:52.3. Shes Got It All provided the windbreak for Saulsbrook Olympia and battled into second spot, with favourite Voluptuous also closing hard for third. Reigning division champion Cyclone Sister finished fourth and Carsons Gouda rounded out the Championship qualifiers.
“It was great. It worked out perfect again,” said trainer Brian Lee of Orangeville, Ont, noting that the Ontario Sires Stakes post season win was a milestone for MacDonald. “I was pretty happy for Brett too. He drove her great all year, and if it wasn’t for the drive he gave her in the final of the Kin Pace (July 4), she probably wouldn’t have won that day. He gets along with her real well.
“We’ve just got to keep her healthy for one more week and see what happens. Hopefully we draw good, and she stays healthy and races well next week.”
Lee trains the Big Jim daughter for Saulsbrook Stables Inc. of Windsor, N.S., and Edward Gorc of Sudbury, Ont.
Favourite Game Of Shadows also got a second-over trip in the other pacing filly contest and sprinted away from the field to a 3-3/4-length victory in 1:52.2. Village Jade finished second and Andra Day was two more lengths back in third. Alumni Seelster and Beach Moment were the final qualifiers for the $60,000 Grassroots Championship.
Driver Louis-Philippe Roy shares ownership of Game Of Shadows with 1876472 Ontario Inc. of Guelph, Ont., Michel Letarte of Boucherville, Que., and Jean Allaire of Montreal, Que.. Puslinch, Ont. resident Richard Moreau trains the Shadow Play daughter.
Three-year-old colt trot
Division point leaders Sweet Soul David and Louis-Philippe Roy made winning look easy in the first three-year-old trotting colt Semi-Final. The fan favourites took command before the half and cruised home two lengths the best in 1:55.3. Aworldly Goodtimes and Arlanda closed hard to be second and third, while Urntrouble Hanover made a quick recovery from a break at the top of the stretch to be fourth. Stonebridge Armour also advanced to the championship round.
Roy steers the Kadabra gelding for trainer Patrick Lang of Ancaster, Ont., Simon Swindells of Little Britain, Ont., Garth Bechtel of Meaford, Ont., and Paul Kleinpaste of Orangeville, Ont.
The Prince and driver Paul MacDonell extended their Grassroots record to three wins in three starts with a 1:54.3 victory in the second trotting colt Semi-Final. Pacesetter Mystic settled for second behind the favourite, and reigning champ Four Wheelin was third. Tokyo Seelster and Walkonthemoon will also line up behind the gate in the October 9 Grassroots Championship.
“He’s just a fun horse to have in the barn and even more fun to take to the track. You just know that every time he goes out there, he’s going to give you 100 per cent,” said trainer Chantal Mitchell of Waterdown, Ont. “Win, lose or draw next week, I can’t be any more proud of what he’s accomplished on the track this season, and I’m especially thankful for everyone involved in getting him there.”
Mitchell shares ownership of the Archangel son with her partners in Party Don’t Stop Racing of Waterdown, Ont., and Imagine Stable of L'ange-Gardien, Que.
Three-year-old colt pace
Driver Doug McNair put fan favourite Jimmy Connor B on the front before the half and never had to look over his shoulder, sailing home a 2-3/4-length winner in 1:50.4. Division point leader No Plan Intended travelled first-up into second and Lord Anthony closed for third. Century Hannibal and Saltwater Savage also paced into the Grassroots Championship.
“He went a good trip tonight. It was a good mile he went since he’s been off a couple weeks,” said Doug McNair, adding that the Big Jim gelding was under the weather in the September 11 Pepsi North America Cup final. “I think he’s got a good shot next week, if everything works out.”
“He raced good. That horse of Carl’s (Jamieson, No Plan Intended), he’s a pretty nice horse too, but we had the better trip and that really helped us at the end,” added trainer Gregg McNair, of Guelph, Ont., who shares ownership of Jimmy Connor B with Grand Slam Stable of Walkerton, Ont. “There were some nice horses raced last night, and again tonight. There’s no slouches, the top horses in any of the Grassroots could get some kind of money in the Gold level, I think.”
Armor Seelster wrapped up the evening with a 1:50.3 personal best in the last pacing colt showdown. Proline and favourite Stonebridge Rex closed well for second and third, and Cantstoplying and Bettors Donttell rounded out the Grassroots Championship field in fourth and fifth.
“He finally put it all together tonight,” said driver Jody Jamieson. “He’s been a slow learner, but he’s definitely smartened up as of late.”
Jamieson engineered the Bettors Delight son’s victory for trainer Gabriella Sasso and owners Jeffrey Courchesne of Cambridge, Ont., and Martwest Racing Stable of Mississauga, Ont.
The top five finishers from each Semi-Final will now begin preparations for their respective $60,000 Grassroots Championship at Woodbine Mohawk Park on Saturday, Oct. 9.
Woodbine Mohawk Park shifts back to Gold Series action on Saturday night as the two-year-old pacing fillies wrap up their regular season with a $157,200 showdown in the sixth race. Post time is 7 p.m. for the Saturday evening program and free programs and a live stream are available on the Woodbine Mohawk Park website.
To view Friday's harness racing results, click on the following link: Friday Results - Woodbine Mohawk Park.
(With files from OSS)