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Ainsworth looks for major effort from pacer Thursday
SARNIA, ON — Hiawatha Horse Park fans will have a glimpse of the future on Thursday night when the province’s top two-year-olds square off in eight $30,000 Grassroots Semifinals.
The talented trotters and pacers will be looking for a top four finish to advance to next Saturday’s Grassroots Championships and trainer Jim Ainsworth is hoping pacing colt Major Seelster has enough talent to accomplish the task in spite of drawing the outside Post 8.
“Hopefully he can get fourth or better. I think he can, he’s talented enough,” says the Sarnia resident. “Maybe we’ll get a quick half and he can pick up the pieces.”
Ainsworth owns Major Seelster in partnership with Amanda and Norman Walker’s Rocknhorse Stables Canada of Sarnia, Martwest Racing Stable of Mississauga and William Boden of Vancouver, BC. The group acquired the Astreos son for $32,000 as a yearling and a top four finish on Thursday would push their investment into the black.
Through seven starts Major Seelster has posted four wins and one second for earnings of $30,006. His 1:55.4 personal best came over the Hiawatha oval on Sept. 23 and he heads into Thursday’s eighth race off a 2:00 victory at Western Fair Raceway on Oct. 16.
“He raced bad in Toronto (Oct. 4) so we did a little work on him and he raced good in London,” comments Ainsworth. “He seems good right now.”
Like Major Seelster, pacing filly Angelina Seelster heads into her Semifinal off a victory in the last regular season Grassroots contest. Another Astreos offspring, Angelina Seelster posted a 1:59.2 personal best over a soggy Grand River Raceway oval on Oct. 15 and trainer Bob McIntosh feels the filly is peaking at the perfect time.
“So far she’s been a really nice surprise, she’s come along really good,” says the two time winner of the Ontario Sires Stakes trainer of the year award. “I kind of like her chances in there.”
McIntosh trains Angelina Seelster for breeders Seelster Farms of Lucan and since the filly moved into his LaSalle facility in mid-September she has recorded two Grassroots victories to go along with the trio of runner-up finishes she scored in the first half of the season.
Don McElroy will pilot Angelina Seelster in the fifth race on Thursday and will also handle the lines on her stablemate Youronechancefancy from Post 4 in Race 10.
“She’s not a superstar, but she usually gets paid,” says McIntosh of his homebred Island Fantasy daughter. “She’s not in Angelina Seelster’s class, but she’s a very nice filly.”
McIntosh will also send out pacing colt Little Sprout from Post 2 in the eighth race, where he will face Major Seelster for the second straight week. The trainer bred and owns Camluck son Little Sprout with CSX Stables of Liberty Center, OH.
The gifted trotting colts kick off the evening of Grassroots excitement, revving things up in Race 2, and the heavy favourite going into the $30,000 Semifinal is division point leader Elaborateobsession.
Jim Whelan bred, owns and trains Elaborateobsession in partnership with the other members of Poco Caballo Stable of Troy, Vet Link Limited of Toronto and Clarence Devos of Langton. Through six starts the son of Elaborate Dream and Supreme Obsession has accumulated four Grassroots trophies and has only finished out of the money on one occasion.
“It’s especially rewarding when it’s one I own the father and mother of, and we raised him at home,” says Whelan of the colt’s success. “He’s a feisty little fellow. He’s mentally bigger than he is physically. In the barn he’s like a little pet, but when he gets on the track he’s full of business.”
Elaborateobsession and Whelan will try to add another piece of hardware to their collection from Post 5 in the first Semifinal.
Following the trotting colts’ lead are the trotting fillies, and trainer Frank O’Reilly will start one filly in each Semifinal. Division point leader Taylorlane Bliss gets Post 4 in the fourth race and Emme Emme will start from Post 5 in Race 9.
“They both seem to be going into this race in good shape,” says O’Reilly. “Bliss has been there since the first Grassroots and Emme Emme has been there since the second, so they’re pretty tight.”
Taylorlane Bliss has dominated the competition in the Grassroots program this season, capturing four of five starts and finishing second in the other for breeder Edwin Taylor of Grand Valley and O’Reilly’s wife Dr. Julie Ballinger of Orton. The Royal Ballad miss heads into the fourth race off a solid third-place finish in Trillium Series action at Kawartha Downs on Oct. 19.
Emme Emme finished sixth in her Trillium Series division and O’Reilly is hoping the King Conch daughter can bounce back with a repeat of her victory in the last regular season Grassroots event at Sudbury Downs on Oct. 9.
“She’s a nice, big, strong filly that we haven’t seem the best of yet,” says the Orton resident. “She was really good up in Sudbury, so we’re hoping that if she can get a hold of the track in Sarnia she’ll be just as good.”
O’Reilly shares ownership on Emme Emme, a $20,000 US yearling, with John Fielding of Toronto and Ross Battin will drive both her and Taylorlane Bliss on Thursday.
Hiawatha Horse Park sends its first race behind the gate at 7:30 pm on Thursday and turn the spotlight on the province’s top two-year-olds in Races 2, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10 and 11. The top four finishers from each Semifinal will return to the Sarnia oval on Saturday, Nov. 6 for their $100,000 Grassroots Championships.