Flamboro Downs will be the first testing grounds for 33 of Ontario's most talented two-year-old trotting fillies as they gather this Sunday, July 13 for their Gold Series debut.
It will be the second opportunity for Flamboro Downs' fans to see the freshmen trotting fillies in action; the youngsters opened their stakes season at the Dundas oval with three Bud Light divisions on July 6.
With four $40,000 Gold Eliminations on the docket for this weekend's contest, a top two finish will be necessary to advance on to the Gold Final, and trainer Mark Etsell is hoping Oaklea Rae can replicate the second-place effort she delivered in her Bud Light split.
"She raced really good, she just got beat by a better filly," says Etsell, who shares ownership on Oaklea Rae with Chuan Tan of Cambridge and Robert Newton of Walkerton. "We were happy with the way she raced and normally, that would have done it."
Daylon Mystique posted a smart 1:59.4 mile to best Oaklea Rae, who hit the wire six lengths behind the winner in 2:01. The other two division winners, Keep In Dutch and Raising Rachel, were clocked in 2:04 and 2:05.2.
This weekend, Etsell will steer Oaklea Rae from Post 7 in the second race, and the Hanover resident is hoping the Angus Hall daughter's brains and ability will help her overcome the outside post position.
"She's a very intelligent horse," explains the Hanover resident. "And she has enough talent to get off the gate quick."
In addition to her runner-up finish in the Bud Light, Oaklea Rae has a pair of qualifiers under her belt, a 2:09 win at Hanover Raceway on June 28 and a 2:04 win at Grand River Raceway on June 30.
Etsell will also harness a starter in the last Gold Elimination, sending Mystical Vision off the wings from Post 1. With just one qualifier to her credit, a runner-up finish in 2:04.2 at Hanover Raceway last weekend, Mystical Vision has less experience than her stablemate, and Etsell says the homebred daughter of Striking Sahbra and Vision Of Gold is a little more complex to drive.
"She qualified good, she was well in hand. She probably could have gone a bit more, but we were just happy to get around two times and get qualified," he says. "She has a tendency to out trot herself; her brain goes faster than her feet."
Etsell and his partners Neil Spahr of Wellesley, Robert Newton of Walkerton and Bruce Newton of Waterloo bred the filly's dam, Vision Of Gold, and campaigned her through a seven year racing career that saw her bank a total of $359,834. A runner-up in the Grassroots Championship at three, Vision Of Gold enjoyed most of her success as an aged mare, a trait Etsell hopes Mystical Vision did not inherit.
"She's got a lot of Vision's traits, but she's got a little more desire than Vision. Vision never had much desire until she was older," explains the veteran horseman. "She's quite similar in gait, and size, and attitude around the barn.
"The better fillies always have their own little flaws," he adds with a wry chuckle.
While Etsell hopes to make a return trip to Flamboro Downs for the July 20 Gold Final, the philosophical horseman knows anything can happen when a field of young trotters heads in behind the starting gate.
"There last Sunday, we watched the first division and five of the six ran. With baby trotters it can happen," he notes. "Hopefully we can get something into the Final there, but if not we'll turn to the next page."
The freshmen trotting fillies will make their Gold Series debut in Races 2, 4, 6, and 8 this Sunday, with the top two from each elimination earning a return ticket to the Dundas oval for the $120,000 Gold Final. Post time for Flamboro Downs's first race this Sunday is 6 p.m.
To view Sunday's entries, click here.