Ontario’s talented two-year-old pacing fillies were back in action at Woodbine Mohawk Park on Monday, competing in six $19,500 Grassroots divisions.
All six winners delivered impressive performances, but none of them were more meaningful than the 1:53 effort turned in by third division winner Freya Seelster. Sent off as the fan favourites, the Sunshine Beach daughter and driver James MacDonald went gate-to-wire from Post 6, besting Free Exchange by three lengths. Whitehaven Beach was two more lengths back in third.
“It was a very emotional win. She was purchased by Fred Haskell — a great person who I wish I would have known for a lot longer — along with other partners. Unfortunately, Fred passed away just before Freya qualified,” explained trainer Mark Steacy. “His share has been carried on by his brother Guy. Fred would have been so excited to see her win.”
Freya Seelster won her first qualifier at Woodbine Mohawk Park on July 17 and finished fourth in a second qualifier on July 24. In her race debut she was second by a head in a July 31 overnight event at the Campbellville oval, hitting the wire in 1:55, and then finished third in another overnight test on August 7, touring Woodbine Mohawk Park in 1:53.2.
“Freya trained down very nicely and probably resembles her dad the most of all his offspring,” added Steacy, who trained the filly’s sire Sunshine Beach throughout his $977,438-winning career.
Off Monday’s victory, the fastest of the six divisions, Freya Seelster may be looking at a move up to the Gold Series for the two remaining events, a decision the trainer will contemplate in cooperation with owners Katherine Steacy of Lansdowne, Shawn Steacy and Guy Haskell of Guelph, Ontario and Bertrand Gilhespy Stable of Edmonton, Alberta. The fourth Grassroots event goes postward September 2 at Clinton Raceway and the fourth Gold event takes place at Woodbine Mohawk Park on September 28.
Several of the division’s top fillies opted for Monday’s Grassroots on the seven-eighths mile oval rather than the August 15 Gold Series event over Grand River Raceway’s half-mile, including the first division winner Powerful Chris.
Starting from Post 10 the Betterthancheddar daughter powered to the front and never looked back, cruising through fractions of :27.1, :56.4 and 1:25.4 on her way to a 1:53.3 victory. Aumydarlin was three and one-quarter lengths behind the heavy favourite in second, with Buckingham two more lengths back in third.
“I was really happy with her. She was as good as ever,” said driver Bob McClure. “She really did not get along with the half-mile track, so John (Pentland) thought an easy trip in the Grassroots was best and it worked out great.”
Powerful Chris tested the Grand River half-mile in the Battle of the Belles, finishing second by a neck in her July 30 elimination and a well-beaten fifth from the outside Post 8 in the August 6 final. Prior to that effort she had been undefeated, posting an eight and three-quarter length victory in the Grassroots season opener on July 10 and a personal best 1:52.1 triumph in the July 20 Gold event, both at Woodbine Mohawk Park.
Dorchester resident John Pentland trains Powerful Chris and shares ownership of the filly with Jack Darling Stables Ltd. of Cambridge and McClure’s Syllabus Stable of Elora, Ontario.
The connections of Gold Series winners Springbridge Sassy and Deb also chose Monday’s Grassroots event and went home with a green blanket.
Springbridge Sassy and driver Doug McNair rolled up the outside in the fourth division and then rocketed down the stretch to a one and one-quarter length victory in 1:55.3. Twin B Friendly and Karans Choice finished second and third behind the heavy favourite.
“She has explosive speed, but she’s tricky sometimes on the turns,” said McNair of Springbridge Sassy’s appearance in the Grassroots. “She’s very green still, but I’m excited about the rest of the year for her.”
McNair pilots the Sunshine Beach daughter for trainer Jim Ritchie and owner Paul Ritchie of Orangeville, Ontario. Through three starts she now has two wins and one second, including one Gold and one Grassroots victory.
Like Powerful Chris, Deb went gate-to-wire from Post 10 in the fifth division, pacing under the wire in 1:54.2. Loves Delight finished two and three-quarter lengths behind the favourite in second and Rue Hanover rounded out the top three.
Randy Waples piloted Deb to the win for trainer Dr. Ian Moore and owners Wilma and James MacKenzie of Ennismore, Ontario. In six starts the Sportswriter daughter has tallied two wins, both in Gold Series action, and three thirds.
The other two divisions went to Soft Wind Hanover and Cinderella Delight.
Soft Wind Hanover picked up her second Grassroots victory with a 1:55 front-end effort in the last division. In rein to Doug McNair the fan favourite paced home two and one-half lengths ahead of Erikas Shadow and Waltzing With Tina. Casie Coleman trains the Sportswriter daughter for her partners in the West Wins Stable of Cambridge, Mac Nichol of Burlington, Calhoun Racing Ltd. of Chatham and Brad Grant of Milton, Ontario.
Cinderella Delight posted her first-ever victory in the second division, sailing along on the front end to a 1:54.1 score for driver Jody Jamieson. Saulsbrook Jessie and Sports Flix were one and one-half lengths back in second and third. Dave Menary conditions Bettors Delight daughter Cinderella Delight for Menary Racing Inc. of Rockton, Michael Guerriero of Brampton, Kenneth Ewen of Georgetown and Bruce Norris of Caledon East, Ontario.
Ontario Sires Stakes excitement returns to Woodbine Mohawk Park on Saturday, September 1 with the fifth, and final, regular season Gold Series event for the three-year-old pacing colts. Post time for the Saturday, September 1 program is 7:10 pm.
To view results for Monday's card of harness racing, click the following link: Monday Results – Woodbine Mohawk Park.