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Colts show off strength and speed in OSS opener
A few raindrops did not put a damper on the 2019 Ontario Sires Stakes season opener Sunday, as the province’s top three-year-old colts impressed fans gathered at Flamboro Downs for the Dundas oval’s signature Confederation Cup program.
Both the trotting and pacing colts opened their sophomore season Sunday, with the trotters competing in a trio of Gold Series divisions and the pacers duelling in five Grassroots races. Only For Justice set the tempo for the evening in the first race, cruising along on the front end to a 1:56.3 Gold Series victory. Fan favourite, and last year’s division champion, Forbidden Trade was three lengths back in second and Archway was well back in third.
“That’s a big mile here tonight, a real fast back half,” said driver Chris Christoforou. “He’s very good gaited and good on the turns, he’s a nice horse.”
Campbellville, ON resident Christoforou piloted Only For Justice to the win for trainer Dany Fontaine and owner-breeder Ecurie Gaetan Bono Inc. of Montreal, QC. The win came in the Justice Hall son’s first start of the season and was his second lifetime victory in Gold Series action. The gelding also captured a Gold event on the half-mile track at Grand River Raceway as a two-year-old.
“Last year, I’m not sure, but I think he might have had the season record on a half-mile track for a two-year-old gelding,” said Christoforou, referring to Only For Justice’s 1:57.3 score at Grand River Raceway. “I’d like to see him progress through the year, see what happens. He’s got a good gait and he’s very easy to manoeuver, he does what you want… so far, so good.”
The second $72,267 Gold division went to Magical Journey and driver Stephen Byron, who hit the wire one-half length ahead of Northern Cavalier and driver Michiel Vanderkemp, matching Only For Justice’s 1:56.3 clocking. Jumpshot and driver Daniel Dube rounded out the top three, all of whom took advantage of an early break by favourite Dream Nation.
“He raced great,” said Matt Bax, who shares ownership of Magical Journey with his father, trainer John Bax, Gaelic Stable of Sharon, ON and Gordon Wright of Charlotte, MI. “We knew that he was really good in the turns, and he’s good off the wings, so Steve was going to probably try to get him closer to the front — half-mile racing, if you have that ability you’re going to go for it — and Steve gave him a great drive.”
The win was the second of the season and the first in Ontario Sires Stakes action for Kadabra son Magical Journey, who made three Gold Series starts and three Grassroots starts at two.
“At the end of the year he was really starting to figure it out, when we put him away he was strong, so that’s translated into this year,” said Campbellville resident Bax. “He’s a little taller, a little stronger, a little smarter, a little bit of everything.”
The third Gold division went to Southwind Avenger, who battled to a one length victory over pacesetter Cool Clifford, hitting the wire in 1:55.4. JMR Pinarello was well behind the leaders in third.
Trevor Henry crafted the win, from the outside Post 8, for trainer Richard “Nifty” Norman and owners Melvin Hartman of Ottawa, ON, David McDuffee of Delray Beach, FL and Little E LLC of New York, NY. The E L Titan son also won a division of the season opener at two and never finished worse than third in six Gold Series starts during his freshman campaign.
Henry also captured the first $22,800 Grassroots division, guiding sophomore pacing colt Sportsline to his fourth straight victory for trainer Jim Watt of Clinton and Harry Parrott of Goderich, ON. The fan favourites cruised along on the front end to a 1:51.4 victory, four lengths ahead of Moonshine Kisses. Gambling Terror was third.
The other Grassroots divisions went to Priceless Beach in 1:54.3, Sugartown in 1:52.2, Missile Seelster in 1:55.4 and Better Than Cash in 1:55.2.
The Ontario Sires Stakes colts served as the opening act for the $188,500 Confederation Cup Final, featuring nine of the best four-year-old pacers in North America. In the main event, Done Well and driver Dexter Dunn reprised their successful front-end trip from the elimination and claimed the historic Cup with a 1:50.2 clocking for trainer Ron Burke of Fredericktown, PA, Weaver Bruscemi LLC of Canonsburg, PA, Jandt Silva Purnel and Libb of Delray Beach, FL and Wingfield Brothers LLC of Kenton, OH. Last season’s OSS champion Jimmy Freight finished second and the other elimination winner, and Done Well’s stablemate, Dorsoduro Hanover was third.
The sophomore trotting colts will continue their Ontario Sires Stakes Gold season on June 24 and the pacing colts will compete in their second Grassroots event on June 27, both at Woodbine Mohawk Park. The provincial program makes two more stops at Flamboro Downs in the fall, with the three-year-old pacing fillies and the two-year-old trotting fillies wrapping up their Gold season on Sept. 22 and Oct. 2, respectively.
Complete results for Flamboro Downs’ May 19 Confederation Cup program are available at Flamboro Downs Results — May 19, 2019.