Until last week, most racing fans in Quebec never heard of a two-year-old pacing colt by the name of Makasi. Now he’s the talk of the province and rightly so.
After becoming the fastest two-year-old pacing colt in the history of the Hippodrome 3R, Makasi returns to 3R on Sunday to compete in the fourth and final preliminary round of the Future Stars Series.
Once Sunday’s final round is complete, the top eight point earners in the series will return on Sunday, September 4 in the $55,000 finals for each division by gait and gender. Also that day will be the four $65,000 finals of the Breeders Cup Series for three-year-old pacers and trotters.
Makasi, who was winless in the first two starts of his young career, really wowed them at 3R last Sunday. Trained by Helene Fillion for Hudson, Que. owner/breeder Tony Infilise of Hudson Standardbred Stable Inc., Makasi was being driven by none other than Yannick Gingras, who was at 3R for the Prix D’Ete Day.
Gingras sent the son of Shanghai Phil after the early lead, clearing to the front at the opening quarter mile and then they never looked back, opening up by the top of the stretch, and with a :28.2 final quarter mile, winning in a romp by seven open lengths in 1:55.2. That clocking was more than one full second off of the previous track record.
Infilise, no stranger in harness racing as the owner of top pacers including the great three-year-old, Sunshine Beach and Makasi’s sire, Shanghai Phil, may have another champion in Makasi.
“I purchased her dam, Hazel [by The Panderosa] for $25,000 in Lexington,” said Infilise, the former president of the Quebec Jockey Club. “She raced in the Grand Circuit at age two in the Shes A Great Lady, Champlain Stake, Robert Stewart, Bluegrass, getting cheques but no wins other than some Quebec stakes. She did make over $100,000 with a record of 1:53.1.
“Hazel has thrown some very talented foals,” Infilise added, “but some had either bad luck or specific issues, but they did have speed and were great gaited. I thought that Shanghai Phil crossed well with Western Hanover line mares so I bred her back and got Makasi.
“Mark Steacy trained him down early,” Infilise explained, “and he looked decent, but it was only when he qualified that we saw something special in the way he just wanted to go and he came home in that race in :26.2 without any urging in his first and only qualifier.
“I expected [Makasi] to do well [at 3R] based on what he showed in his two Gold [Ontario Sires Stakes] appearances at Mohawk,” Infilise said, “but didn’t expect a track record last Sunday, but nevertheless I was very proud as the breeder and owner."
And where did the name Makasi come from?
“I actually named him after a sailboat belonging to a good friend,” Infilise said. “It is Swahili meaning tough, hard, strong, resilient.”
Now Makasi will be put to the test in the eighth race on Sunday against nine rivals and starts from post five for driver Stephane Brosseau, who has never driven the colt before.
His competition will hope to keep up this time as Wildriverbumblebee (post nine) put in a valiant effort last week for driver Louis-Philippe Roy, coming first-over and gaining within a half-length on the leader at the three-quarters before fading. Other hopefuls in the race are Yogi Bayama (post eight), who won last week at 3R in 1:59.1, C L Sportaction (post three) and Mach Déjà Vu (post six).
“I would prefer him to race from off the pace this week,” Infilise explained, “as he is still very green and we don't want to instill bad habits. The field is both larger and tougher, but that shouldn't be a problem for driver Stéphane Brosseau. Our objective is to give him a chance to win and qualify for the final on September 4th. I'm very pleased to have bred and own him. He looks like his sire and is about the same size as Shanghai Phil at age two.”
The pacing fillies will battle in two divisions on Sunday.
The fourth race, first division is headed by Chaleurs Melodie from post six for trainer Carl Duguay and driver Daniel Dube. The Omar Khayam daughter posted her maiden victory last week at 3R in capturing her division of the Future Stars Series, wiring the field in 2:00.
She takes on Vee Breeze (post five), Shanghai Lady (post four) and HP Celina Shadow (post seven).
The sixth race, second division features the second track record holder this season in Yaris Bayama from post two for trainer/driver Yves Filion. This daughter of Sportswriter has been sensational this season with three wins in just five lifetime starts for the Bayama Farms of Saint-Andre-D’Argenteuil, Que., who bred and own her. Not only did Yaris Bayama take the lead after the opening quarter mile and wired the field, she won with ease by two and one-half lengths in 1:56.4, making her the fastest two-year-old pacing filly in 3R history. Prior to that she won a $105,000 Ontario Sires Stakes at Mohawk Racetrack in a lifetime-best 1:52.4, that combined with last week’s track record mile, makes her the overwhelming favourite on Sunday.
Her rivals include Queen Elsa (post five), who was second last week to Yaris Bayama for owner and breeder Daniel Dube, and Kinnderuntouchable (post one), who was third in that race.
Post time is 1:30 p.m. on Sunday. For a free race program and live video feed of the race program, visit quebecjockeyclub.com.
To view Sunday's harness racing entries, click on the following link: Sunday Entries - Hippodrome 3R.
(With files from QJC)