Rideau Carleton Raceway hosted a battle of the three-year-old pacing filly heavyweights on Sunday evening and fans were treated to a championship display in the $158,000 Gold Series division on Sunday, Aug. 25.
Division leaders Boadicea, Powerful Chris and Sunny Dee were sent as the top choices in the 10-filly field, with Powerful Chris getting the slight edge over her rivals. Starting from post 5 with regular driver Bob McClure in the race bike, Powerful Chris left sharply and led the field to a :26.1 opening quarter. Boadicea and driver Jonathan Drury took over heading for the :54.1 half and continued to set the tempo through three-quarters in 1:21.4 with Powerful Chris in the pocket and Sunny Dee and driver Trevor Henry looming on the outside.
Boadicea turned for home with a one-and-one-quarter length margin, but McClure hit the accelerator when Powerful Chris reached the passing lane and the fan’s top choice sprinted by the pacesetter to a one-length victory in a track-record 1:50.2. Boadicea finished second and Sunny Dee was another length back in third.
“What can I say? She’s amazing. Such a pleasure to drive,” said McClure, who steers Powerful Chris for trainer John Pentland and his partners Jack Darling Stables Ltd. and Syllabus Stable. “John [Pentland] has done an excellent job and she keeps improving.”
The mile took almost one full second off the former three-year-old pacing filly track record of 1:51.1, set by Michelles Power in an August, 2007 Gold Series event.
“She’s just got so many tricks, this filly. That’s the beauty of her,” said Pentland. “She can race from off the pace, absolutely, but we rarely, rarely leave with her. I don’t think it’s a surprise to anybody that she’s that capable of leaving, it’s just not something we use very often.”
Sunday’s victory was Powerful Chris’s third in Gold action this season and boosted her lifetime earnings to $412,255. The Betterthancheddar daughter was also victorious over the Woodbine Mohawk Park oval on June 22 and July 27.
Heading into the last Gold Series event on Sept. 22 at Flamboro Downs, Powerful Chris and Boadicea are tied for the top spot in the division standings with 175 points. The top 10 point earners from the regular season will compete in the $225,000 Super Final at Woodbine Mohawk Park on Oct. 12 and Pentland said Powerful Chris will make a couple more overnight starts in between the remaining Ontario Sires Stakes events.
“She’ll race once or twice. She won’t be over raced for sure, but she hasn’t raced a lot this year. I just want to make sure I keep her up,” Pentland said. “She loves her work, she loves to race. She’s funny, she loves being in her stall and played with and she’s okay for half an hour out in the paddock, but she gets bored fast, she wants to come in and she knows she can jog, she loves jogging. She’s kind of a hard-working homebody.”
In addition to the Gold Series fillies, Rideau Carleton also hosted four $22,800 Grassroots divisions for the sophomore pacing lasses and they were dominated by the father-and-son team of Gregg and Doug McNair.
The McNair’s kicked off the Ontario Sires Stakes (OSS) action in the first Grassroots division as Doug McNair guided Sports Flix to a 1:54.1 gate-to-wire effort from post 1. Saulsbrook Jessie finished two and one-quarter lengths back in second leaving favourite Springbridgevision to settle for third.
The Grassroots champion at two, Sports Flix did not get off to the start the McNair’s expected as a three-year-old and after her July 25 Grassroots start trainer Gregg McNair decided a complete break was in order for the Sportswriter daughter.
“We were expecting pretty big things out of her this year. We started her off in the Fan Hanover and she raced real big in the elimination and boy she was no good in the consolation and the next Gold,” said the elder McNair, who trains Sports Flix for James Fraleigh. “We ended up giving her three weeks off and put the antibiotics to her. She really didn’t have a lot of work in her for this start, because she’d had such a long time off, but she was real good tonight.”
Two races later the McNair’s were back in the winner’s circle with favourite Kylie Seelster, who floated off the gate from post 5 and watched Freya Seelster post a :27 opening quarter. Doug McNair sent Kylie Seelster to the front before a :56 half and the daughter of Big Jim fended a challenge from Premier Cabernet heading by the 1:24 three-quarters. She then repelled a second challenge in the stretch to grab a head victory in 1:52.2. Premier Cabernet settled for second and Freya Seelster was third.
Guelph resident Gregg McNair shares ownership of Kylie Seelster with Hall of Fame horseman Keith Waples and Dr. Chris Robson and the two-time Grassroots winner has been a pleasant surprise for the partners this season.
“She’s been a bit of a surprise, she’s come back better than we thought she was. I think she has anyways,” said the trainer. “She’s been a nice filly all year. Even in the overnight races she’s raced good.”
The McNairs capped of the night of Ontario Sires Stakes action in the last Grassroots division with heavy-favourite Swift Ally, who took control early from post 1 and never looked back when cruising to a three length victory in 1:53.4. Behavenmyself finished second and Red River Jane was third.
Gregg McNair and Ian Fleming bred and own Swift Ally, who was unraced at two due to an injury and the Big Jim daughter has been another pleasant surprise.
“We had no idea what kind of a filly she was last year, so she’s just been kind of like a pleasant surprise,” said the horseman, a three-time winner of the Johnston Cup as the top trainer in the Ontario Sires Stakes. “She’s been good. She’s a nice big mare and everything.
“She trained in Florida last year, all three of them did. They trained back good all of them, but we had no idea they were going to work out to be decent fillies like this,” he added.
The other Grassroots division went to first-time OSS winner Deb, who stopped the clock at 1:52.3 for driver Trevor Henry, trainer James Dean and owners Wilma and James MacKenzie. Crisp Mane was one and one-quarter lengths behind the Sportswriter daughter in second and favourite Twin B Tipster was another length back in third.
The Grassroots fillies will wrap up their regular season at Woodbine Mohawk Park on Sept. 10 and then the top 20 point earners will return to the Campbellville oval for the Sept. 28 Grassroots Semi-Finals. All four of Sunday’s winners are currently in contention for a post season berth, with Swift Ally leading the division with 150 points.
A pair of $8,600 Preferreds were contested on the undercard. National Debt ripped from off the speed to deliver as the 1-2 favourite in the pace with a 1:53 neck victory over pacesetter Chaleurs Ad. The Yves Tessier-trained eight-year-old son of Allamerican Native, owned by Francois Morin, paid $3.00 to win. Louis-Philippe Roy sat in the sulky.
Capteur De Reve cleared the front past the half and cruised to a 1:55.4 victory in the Preferred Trot. Sylvain Filion steered the five-year-old Muscle Mass gelding for trainer Maxime Velaye and owner-breeder Ecurie Provoquante.
(With files from the Ontario Sires Stakes)
To view Sunday's harness racing results, click on the following link: Sunday Results - Rideau Carleton Raceway.