Top Grassroots Fillies Sharp In Elora

Published: July 17, 2020 11:34 pm EDT

CL Sportsextreme, Cyclone Sister and Sportsfire solidified their standing at the top of the two-year-old pacing filly Grassroots division with convincing victories at Grand River Raceway on Friday, July 17.

CL Sportsextreme kicked off the second leg of the freshman fillies’ Grassroots season with a 1:57 victory from post nine that impressed driver Bob McClure. The Sportswriter daughter sat third through the :28.3 opening quarter, but was aiming for the front by the :58.4 half. After cruising through a 1:27.3 three-quarters, CL Sportsextreme pulled away from her peers to hit the wire three lengths ahead of Shiatzu Seelster and Spittin Chicklets.

“I was surprised how slick-gaited she was, but I was pretty happy with the way the trip worked out too,” said McClure of the fan favourite. “She’s a real handy, little filly and she was nice, because the nine-hole is not an easy spot to get a baby away from, and she snapped out of there and then made a move to the front, and from there it was kind of an armchair ride.”

McClure drove CL Sportsextreme to her second Grassroots victory for trainer Dany Fontaine and owner/breeder Ecuries C. LeBlanc Inc. of Saint-Eustache, Que.

In the second $23,150 division, McClure employed a near identical strategy with Cyclone Sister, who was fourth at the :29 quarter, moving to the lead past the :58.3 half, comfortably in front by the 1:27 three-quarters and well ahead at the 1:55.4 finish. Barefootnpregnant finished seven lengths back in second and Feisty Betty was another length and three-quarters back in third.

“Obviously, the trip, you couldn’t plan that much better for a 1-9 shot,” said McClure. “She’s a little flighty about her head, so I wanted to get her at least three-eighths of a mile on a helmet and teach her, kind of educate her a little bit, but I knew once I moved her, she’s so fast, she hits high gear in a hurry. So I knew I’d make the front, it was just whether I could make it there easily and relax her once she did get settled onto the front end, and she did. She settled down and she came a big last quarter and she still had a lot left. Should be a lot of fun this summer with her.”

Nick Gallucci conditions the homebred daughter of Shadow Play for Millar Farms of Stouffville, Ont., and the trainer said, as long as she bounces back well from Friday’s effort, Cyclone Sister’s next start will come back at Grand River Raceway in the July 27 Battle Of The Belles eliminations.

“That was kind of like a tune-up today, so we’ll see how she comes out of it and hopefully have her entered for next Monday,” said Gallucci. “She’s always showed a lot of speed, just a couple tendencies we’ve had to keep an eye on, but for the most part we never really had any complaints about her. She always showed a lot of ability.”

Like CL Sportsextreme, Friday’s victory was Cyclone Sister’s second in the Grassroots program.

The other filly to repeat as a Grassroots winner on Friday was Sportsfire, who took a tour in the outer lane to secure her 1:57.3 victory. The fan favourite sprinted home to a three-quarter-length victory over French Shaker and Halleyslittlecomet.

Anthony Haughan drove the Sportswriter daughter to the victory for trainer Dan Lagace and owner/breeder Fred Brayford of Alliston, Ont.

“I don’t usually take horses late when I come back from Florida, but I have another horse with Fred so I said, ‘Yeah I’ll take her,’ and now we’re kind of glad we did,” said Lagace. “We picked her up on a Friday and the Saturday Fred and a friend of his came to see her, and I thought I’ll just brush her out free-legged. I came off and I said, ‘Fred, she seems like she’s got some talent, but she was very, very hot and it’s tough to beat good horses when you’re this aggressive.’ But my son Brady’s been going with her a lot and he’s got her settled down and driving really, really nice.”

Sportsfire clocked the fastest mile in the July 10 Grassroots leg, circling Woodbine Mohawk Park in 1:53.2, and while some of her peers made the leap up to the Gold Series for the second leg, Lagace felt it would be better for the filly to stick with the Grassroots.

“After last week, some of the horses that finished second and third, they moved up to the Gold, but I had talked to Fred and I said, ‘You know, I think this filly’s got some good talent, but she’s growing lots.’ I said, ‘I think if we stick to the Grassroots and give her time to grow up and mature, I think she’ll do you really, really good,’ and he did what was right for her and agreed to it.”

The other two divisions saw Annies Legacy and Amini record their first Grassroots victories.

Annies Legacy and driver Paul Mackenzie did most of the work on the front end on the way to a one-half length victory in 1:56. Favourite Miss Shannon Beach was second and Celia Bayama was third. Robert Fellows trains the Control The Moment daughter for Leonard Rosene, of London, Ont., who purchased the filly for $26,000 at last fall’s London Selected Yearling Sale.

Amini went gate-to-wire from post six for driver J.R. Plante in the last $23,150 division. The Sportswriter daughter stopped the teletimer at 1:56.4, one and three-quarter lengths ahead of The Kings Queen. Drinks All Round was well back in third. Isaac Waxman trains the $8,000 purchase from the London Yearling Sale for Tessa Waxman of Ridgeville, Ont., and David Morgan of Hamilton, Ont.

Casino Classic ($11.70) closed out Friday's 10-race card winning the $8,500 Preferred 3 Pace for fillies and mares. With consistent urging from the gate, Ryan Holliday sent the six-year-old daughter of Classic Card Shark first-over from third to prevail ahead of the wide-rallying Westbeach in a photo finish in 1:55.1. Robert Manders trains the 24-time career winner while Richard Manders and Keith Manders share ownership.

The Ontario-sired two-year-old pacing fillies make their third Grassroots start at Woodbine Mohawk Park on August 14. Next on Grand River Raceway’s Ontario Sires Stakes schedule is the second Grassroots leg for the two-year-old trotting fillies, on Wednesday, July 29.

To view Friday's harness racing results, click on the following link: Friday Results - Grand River Raceway.

(With files from OSS)