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Ontario trainers hoping for strength in numbers Saturday
A total of $400,000 is up for grabs in Saturday’s Grassroots Championships at Mohawk Racetrack and in four of the division finals one of Ontario’s leading trainers will take aim at the top prize with a squadron of talent.
John Bax, Jack Darling, Dr. Ian Moore and Mark Steacy will each harness at least three starters in one of the eight division championships. Three Bax trainees are in the hunt for the $50,000 in the two-year-old trotting filly final, three Steacy trainees will compete in the sophomore trotting filly battle, three Moore trainees will square off in the two-year-old pacing colt division and a quartet of hopefuls from the Darling Stable will duel in the three-year-old pacing colt contest.
“It’s interesting. I didn’t realise that; well I saw Mark had a bunch of three-year-olds in one race, but just because I had one that didn’t get in,” said Bax with a chuckle, referring to Hudsons Ya Ya who is the second also eligible in the three-year-old trotting filly final.
None of the four see the size of their entry as an advantage, and both Bax and Moore believe it could prove to be a significant disadvantage. With all three of his colts on the outer half of the gate, Moore is concerned that an early speed duel could derail their chances, and with all three of his novice fillies lining up side-by-side on the starting gate, a mistake by one Bax trainee could mean curtains for all three.
Dalliance Seelster (Holiday Road), Warrawee Trip (Majestic Son) and Gradabra (Kadabra) have Posts 2, 3, and 4, respectively, in the first race. All three fillies head into the final off strong performances in the last regular season event at Flamboro Downs on Sept. 12 where Warrawee Trip and Dalliance Seelster finished first and second in their division and Gradabra defeated point leader Ms Miller in hers. Kadabra daughter Magical Lady was also a winner for Bax at Flamboro, but missed the top 10 by one point and is the first also eligible in the final.
“They’ve all got their ups and downs. All three of them are coming off good showings at Flamboro, so I’m optimistic about them,” said Bax. “A few of them have had bad luck and bad posts, but you can hear that story from every horseman.”
The Campbellville, ON resident will also start a pair of hopefuls in the two-year-old trotting colt and gelding final. Delcrest Holiday gets Post 4 and Chief Justice will start from Post 9 in the second race. The sons of Holiday Road and Justice Hall missed the Sept. 13 Grassroots event at Grand River Raceway due to sickness and Bax is hoping the time off has allowed them to fully recover from the bug that impacted many stables through the second half of the season.
Mark Steacy’s barn is among those that have been dealing with the virus, and the horseman and his staff have been working hard to ensure that their Grassroots Championship contenders are in peak form for Saturday. The Lansdowne, ON resident will send out Majestic Son daughters Stritch, Ticket To Seattle and Delcrest Magicstar in the three-year-old trotting filly final from Posts 2, 5 and 9, respectively.
Delcrest Magicstar, who was undefeated in three Grassroots starts, took one last swing at the Gold Series fillies at Grand River Raceway on Sept. 27 and showed no signs of ill health, delivering an impressive runner-up effort to division leader On A Sunny Day in a track, Ontario Sires Stakes and Canadian record-setting 1:56 mile.
“She should be good and fit for Saturday after that race I hope,” said Steacy. “She goes in the paddock every day, so she’ll just probably spend more time in the paddock the next two days than on the track, and like I said she’ll be fit and everything, so it’s just a matter of freshening her up again.”
Along with his sophomore trotting filly squad in the ninth race Steacy, the reigning Johnston Cup champion and current leader in the trainer standings, will also send out two-year-old trotting gelding Majestic Fire (Majestic Son) from Post 10 in the second race, two-year-old pacing filly Lady Bubbles (Sportswriter) from Post 1 in Race 3 and three-year-old pacing colt Makasi from Post 7 in Race 8.
“I’m really happy that Makasi drew in,” said Steacy of the Shanghai Phil son who finished in a four-way tie for eleventh in the point standings. “He’s battled a lot of sickness and stuff and he’s just starting to get back to where he can race weekly now. He actually raced pretty good the last couple starts, so I think he’s got a chance. It’s nice to see him get in there.”
Makasi will compete against the four horse contingent from the Jack Darling Stable in the sophomore pacing colt final, going up against division point leader Southwind General, third-ranked The Dark Shadow, number five colt Frontier Seelster and number nine Oak Island.
“With all of them, they’ve just got to work out a good trip and they can be close by,” said Cambridge, ON resident Darling. “I think that three horse (Wildriverbumblebee) looks good in there, he’ll be the one to beat, the favourite.”
Wildriverbumblebee made just two starts in the Grassroots this season, winning both, and comes into Saturday’s final on a four-race win streak. The Sportswriter son will be flanked by Darling trainees at the start, with Shadow Play son The Dark Shadow at Post 2 and Vintage Master colt Oak Island at Post 4. Their stablemates Southwind General (Sportswriter) and Frontier Seelster (Artistic Fella) will start at Posts 6 and 10, respectively.
Darling will also send out two-year-old pacing filly division point leader Neon Moon from Post 8 in the third race. The Sportswriter daughter has been a model of consistency this season and Darling is hoping she can overcome her outside post and cap off the season with another strong performance.
“She’s coming into the race as good as she can be. If she can overcome the post she should be fine,” said Darling. “It makes it a little tougher, but at least she hasn’t got the 10.”
Two-year-old pacing colt point leader Atomic Seelster did get Post 10, so trainer Dr. Ian Moore will be looking for a big effort from stablemates Casimir Richie P (Astronomical) and Lucky Michael (Camluck) from Posts 6 and 8 in Saturday’s seventh race.
“We got six, eight and ten out of three starters, none inside the five,” lamented Dr. Moore, who would like to see the division point leaders rewarded with the opportunity to select their post in the final. “But anyways, Atomic Seelster and Richie, they’re my best two, obviously, and Richie got the inside, so that’s kind of good. I mean inside of some them anyway.”
Puslinch, ON resident Moore said all three colts trained in impressive fashion on Monday, Sept. 25 and should be ready to rumble in Saturday’s final, an event he and his partners are looking forward to in spite of their shortage of luck in the post position draw.
“I trained a couple of the colts there Monday, I don’t think I ever trained a two-year-old that fast before at this time of year, but they just went there on their own. They were super,” said Dr. Moore. “So we’re looking forward to it going in, and we always enjoy the night. I’ve only had one Final win, that was Shadows Wonder, I think that was the two-year-old (pacing) fillies a couple years ago (2013), and it was fun. The OSS makes a nice night of it.”
The first $50,000 Grassroots Championship race will raise the curtain on Mohawk Racetrack’s Saturday, Sept. 30 program at 7:30 pm and the division battles will also be fought in Races 2, 3, and 5 through 9.
Fans arriving early for the Grassroots showdown will be entertained by musical duo Even Steven and will receive an Ontario Sires Stakes ball cap with their program. Fans can also purchase additional Ontario Sires Stakes apparel at the booth on the main floor.
For complete entries please visit Grassroots Championship Entries — Mohawk Racetrack, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017