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Highland Foxytrotr quickest of the Grassroots debutants
Georgian Downs fans were treated to five divisions of two-year-old trotting fillies competing for a total of $115,400 in their Ontario Sires Stakes debut on Sunday evening.
The fastest mile of the five Grassroots divisions was delivered by Highland Foxytrotr who left smartly from Post 1 and never relinquished control. The E L Titan daughter and driver Sylvain Filion fended off Barnum heading for the :29.3 quarter, sailed uncontested past the :59.3 half and repelled a challenge from Yen on the way to the 1:30.2 three-quarters before cruising home one and one-quarter length winners in 2:00. Pocket-sitter Expelliarmus finished second and three-quarter challenger Yen took home the third-place share of the $23,150 purse.
“When she left the gate she was all business. I was trying to let Stevie (Byron with Barnum) go, but I was wrestling too much with mine so I decided to keep going and the rest was history,” said Milton, ON resident Filion. “She felt good the whole way, good and strong. Just at the end there she got a little green and went to dart in a bit, but she got across and she did it pretty handy.”
Filion engineered Highland Foxytrotr’s first lifetime victory for trainer Amanda Fine of Guelph and owner-breeders Highland Thoroughbred Farm of Inglewood, ON. The filly finished fourth in her career debut, a two-year-old race at Woodbine Mohawk Park on July 4.
Driver Trevor Henry won the last two Grassroots divisions with fan favourites Aphrodite Duke and Wine Rack Hanover, steering both fillies to victory from Post 5.
Aphrodite Duke eased off the gate and sat fifth through the early going, watching Emily Antoinette ring up fractions of :30 and :59.4. Heading for the 1:30.1 three-quarters Henry sent the filly up the outer lane behind two other horses, but by the top of the stretch Aphrodite Duke had circled around the other challengers and was advancing on Emily Antoinette. The pacesetter battled, but Aphrodite Duke secured the three-quarter length victory in 2:00.3.
“She wants to chase them down. Trevor has done a great job so far of putting horses in front of her that she can track down and that’s what she seems to like,” said trainer Andrew McCabe. “It’s very easy, for trotters, for that switch to flip and them to go the other way, however with her we seem to have managed her correctly to avoid that.”
McCabe trains Aphrodite Duke for owner-breeder Glenview Livestock Limited of Wallenstein, ON. Also a daughter of E L Titan, the filly finished second by a head in her career debut at Georgian Downs on July 6.
Henry’s second Grassroots win, and third of the program, came in the last division with Richard “Nifty” Norman trainee Wine Rack Hanover. Henry tucked Wine Rack Hanover in third as Credits Celebrity stepped out to a :30 quarter and 1:00.3 half. Heading toward the 1:30.2 three-quarters Henry sent the fan favourite up the outside and as she matched strides with Credits Celebrity, driven by his brother Wayne Henry, the pacesetter made a break and left Wine Rack Hanover with sole control. Wine Rack Hanover cruised home to a two and three-quarter length win in 2:00.1. SOS Playful finished second and Ride To Justice was third.
“I didn’t know a lot about her,” said Henry of Wine Rack Hanover, who had just one July 6 qualifier at The Meadowlands in New Jersey under her belt before Sunday’s start. “She seems to have very high speed, but he (Norman) wants you to teach them how to race and we did that tonight.”
Pinske Stables of Plato, MN and Bridgette Jablonsky of Hanover, PA share ownership of the Kadabra daughter, who was a $45,000 purchase from the 2018 Harrisburg Yearling Sale.
Driver Mario Baillargeon also won three races on Sunday’s program, including the second Grassroots division with Canadian Titan. The fan favourites went gate-to-wire from Post 4, never facing a challenge on their way to a one and one-half length victory in 2:03.1. Craving You and Andover The Halo rounded out the top three.
Baillargeon trains and drives Canadian Titan, another E L Titan daughter, for fractional ownership group TheStable Canadian Titan of Guelph, ON. The filly was a $40,000 purchase from last fall’s London Selected Yearling Sale.
“She’s a nice filly that has matured quite a bit over the last month. She’s really turned out to be smart on the track, and that will go a long way in her racing career,” said TheStable.ca founder and president Anthony MacDonald. “Mario has done a great job with her, both driving and training, and 21 owners were certainly happy with the outcome tonight.”
The other $23,150 Grassroots division went to Th Present, who advanced up the outside on pacesetter Brinys A Flirt, inherited the lead when the pacesetter went off stride and battled hard through the stretch to earn the neck victory over pocket-sitting favourite Bra In The Wind. Ready To Deal finished third.
“She’s a nice-gaited filly, very smart and professional,” said Rockwood, ON resident Bob McClure, who drove Th Present to the win for trainer Marcel Barrieau of Cambridge, ON and his co-owner Gestion Mastel Inc. of Longueil, QC. The partners acquired Th Present from the London Selected Yearling Sale, offering up $24,000 for the daughter of Royalty For Life.
The two-year-old trotting fillies will make their second Grassroots start Woodbine Mohawk Park on July 30.
Ontario Sires Stakes excitement continues at Georgian Downs on Tuesday, July 16 with four Grassroots divisions for the three-year-old trotting fillies, part of a full card dedicated to fillies and mares that gets under way at 7:20 pm.
Complete results for Sunday’s card are available at Georgian Downs Results — Sunday, July 14, 2019.