Drivers James MacDonald and Doug McNair of Guelph, ON split the three-year-old pacing filly Grassroots divisions down the middle at Woodbine Mohawk Park on Thursday, July 22.
MacDonald, who currently sits atop the Ontario Sires Stakes driver standings, won the first two divisions with Good Night Moon and Sweet Pink and McNair, currently sixth in the point race, won the last two with Voluptuous and Andra Day.
Starting from Post 6 with fan favourite Good Night Moon, MacDonald hustled the filly away from the starting gate and settled into second as McNair and Alumni Seelster led the field of eight to a :26.4 opening quarter. Saulsbrook Olympia took command heading for the :55 half and around the final turn MacDonald tipped Good Night Moon into the outer lane and she was matching strides with the leader by the 1:23.3 three-quarters. In the stretch Good Night Moon pulled away to a one and three-quarter length victory in a personal best 1:52.2. Shiatzu Seelster and Shes Got It All closed well to finish second and third.
“She raced great,” said MacDonald. “She’s usually got one really good kick finishing. I had to use her a little bit early just to kind of get her into position, but she still gave me a good kick finishing, so it all worked out. She likes to go by horses.”
Guelph resident Jason Ryan trains Good Night Moon for numbered company 1187422 Ontario Inc. of Ottawa, ON. The win was the Big Jim daughter’s second in Grassroots action and her third straight. In six sophomore starts she boasts a record of three wins and three seconds for earnings of $41,075.
Three races later MacDonald was back in the Grassroots winner’s circle with Sweet Pink, employing a similar strategy from Post 7. Slipping out of third around the final turn Sweet Pink and MacDonald took aim on favourites Docs Delight and McNair and the rivals battled all the way to the wire, with Sweet Pink gaining the advantage in the final strides of the 1:53.2 mile. Countercurrency closed hard for third.
“She was good. She got kind of a tough trip, but she nosed it out at the wire, she knew when to stick her head out, so that was the important thing,” said MacDonald. “She had to earn it today, but she did her job.”
Nick Gallucci trains Sweet Pink for Millar Farms of Stouffville, ON who also bred the Bettors Delight daughter. The win was the first of the sophomore campaign for Sweet Pink, who was a Grassroots winner at two.
McNair took over the starring role in the third $22,150 division, guiding Voluptuous to a 1:53 victory. Floating away from Post 6, the reinsman settled Voluptuous in fourth as Jackieofalltrades paced to a :27 opening quarter. Heading by the :57.2 half McNair sent Voluptuous to the front and the favourites sailed by the three-quarters in 1:25 and then cruised home to a three-quarter length victory. La Petite Grise and Sports Duchess finished second and third.
“She got away decent and was able to go to the lead off easy fractions,” said McNair. “She obviously laid over them again tonight.”
The win was the filly’s second in Grassroots competition and her third straight. In four sophomore starts the Sunshine Beach daughter has been no worse than second for trainer Tony Alagna and owner-breeders M T Pockets Stables of Pompano Beach and Victoria Howard of Boca Raton, FL.
McNair and Andra Day captured the last $22,150 Grassroots division with a gritty effort that saw the fan favourites repel a challenge from Amini and driver Sylvain Filion to keep a neck in front at the wire. Beach Moment closed sharply to finish one and one-quarter lengths behind the battling leaders. The 1:53 clocking was a personal best for Andra Day and marked her first visit to the winner’s circle this season.
“She showed some toughness in the stretch,” said McNair. “I used her pretty good going to the half and Sylvain (Filion) was by her halfway down the lane, but she battled back. Her confidence should get higher off that win.”
Dr. Ian Moore of Cambridge trains Andra Day for Let It Ride Stables Inc. and Bottom Line Racing LLC of Boca Raton, FL. The Shadow Play daughter was a two-time Gold Series winner at two.
The sophomore pacing fillies will make their third Grassroots start on Aug. 2 as part of Grand River Raceway’s annual Industry Day celebrations.
Ontario Sires Stakes excitement continues at the Campbellville oval on Friday, July 23 with the second Gold Series Leg for the three-year-old pacing fillies.
To view results for Thursday's card of harness racing, click the following link: Thursday Results – Woodbine Mohawk Park.