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Christoforou sweeps Grassroots at Grand River
August 27, 2018
By OSS News

Driver Chris Christoforou swept the three-year-old trotting filly Grassroots event at Grand River Raceway on Monday evening, capturing all three divisions, two for trainer Lyle MacArthur and the other for his father, Chris Christoforou, Sr.

The Campbellville resident kicked off his successful evening with MacArthur trainee Zorgwijk Sophia in the second race. Starting from Post 7 the pair fired away from the starting gate and were rolling up on early leader Hay Darlene soon after the :28.3 opening quarter. Once they reached the front, Christoforou and Zorgwijk Sophia cruised through a :58.2 half and 1:29.1 three-quarters before opening up to a three and one-half length victory in 1:59. Hay Darlene followed the fan favourites to a second-place finish and Dalliance Seelster was third.

“I was concerned having the seven-hole, but was lucky to float out and find a spot on the rail close to the front,” said Christoforou. “Coming to the quarter I decided to remove her and she cleared easily. From there she was basically on cruise control and won handily.”

The victory was the Majestic Son daughter’s first in Grassroots action, but extended a recent win streak to four. She has been on a roll at Woodbine Mohawk Park this month, posting wins on August 2, 13 and 20, including a personal best 1:56.2 in her August 13 victory.

“She’s actually surprised me a little bit lately, because she’s getting a little stronger and she’s finishing her miles better,” said MacArthur, who trains Zorgwijk Sophia for Linda Wellwood of St. George Brant and Tammy Aspden of Caistor Centre, Ontario. “She win a Gold last year, but she just got lucky, she was in with some good trotting fillies and they all made breaks. I always thought she was probably a Grassrooter, but she didn’t start off this year that good. She just didn’t seem like she had much pop to her, but the last while she’s started to bounce back.”

With one win, one second, one sixth and one seventh in the first four Grassroots events Zorgwijk Sophia currently has 80 points, putting her in fifth spot in the division standings with one regular season event remaining.

Stablemate Ezee Tiguan also got a confident steer from Christoforou in the second $18,800 division. Powering away from Post 7 they rang up fractions of :29.2, 1:00.2, and 1:31.2 on the way to a two and three-quarter length victory in 2:00.4. Pocket-sitter Miller Time was second while fan favourite Stormont Charlotte settled for third after making an early break in stride.

“She has great gate speed,” said Christoforou. “She can be a bit headstrong and wanted to keep going when she cleared, but thankfully, after some gentle persuasion, she came back to me and rated nicely from there. She loves the half-mile track.”

Monday’s victory was Ezee Tiguan’s second in Grassroots action and puts her firmly in control of the division standings with 133 points. Linda Wellwood and Tammy Aspden also own the daughter of Angus Hall, who MacArthur admits has not reached the heights he envisioned for her earlier in the season.

“Halfway through the year I thought she was a way better horse than Sophia, but Sophia has kind of caught up and Ezee really didn’t step ahead,” said the trainer. “I really thought she’d get to be a 1:55 trotter, like over Mohawk, and she just didn’t step up that extra.”

Both Ezee Tiguan and Zorgwijk Sophia may be absent from the fifth and final regular season Grassroots event on September 6 at Woodbine Mohawk Park, as MacArthur is considering taking one run at the Gold Series fillies when they head to the half-mile oval at The Raceway at Western Fair District on October 2.

“They both are going to have a shot at making the final I think, for the Grassroots, so I am looking at that for sure, the Semi-Final and then the Final. But I am debating whether to skip the last Grassroots and maybe go in the last Gold at London, which is on a half-mile racetrack,” explained MacArthur. “Some of the big trotting mares don’t get around the track very good and some of them won’t even go there, so I am debating about doing that. Maybe skip the last Grassroots and take a shot in the Gold with the pair of them.”

Christoforou finished off his Grassroots hat trick with Hopes Solo in the last $19,150 division, going gate-to-wire from Post 1. The heavy favourites cruised home one and one-half lengths ahead of Melanie G in 2:01. Impressively Done was five lengths behind the leader in third.

“All the credit for Hopes Solo has to go to my wife Camilla,” said the driver. “She is a flighty filly with a few quirks and Camilla worked with her all winter and spring, through to the summer, and the filly has excelled because of her hard work.

“She had the rail, left well, got the lead and never looked back,” he continued. “It was an uneventful trip and I was grateful for that. She won handily and, more importantly, behaved herself. Hopefully she’ll continue to be productive for the rest of the season.”

The win was Hopes Solo’s first in Grassroots action and her second straight; she logged her first lifetime victory in overnight action at Woodbine Mohawk Park on August 20. Chris Christoforou, Sr. conditions the Cornaro Dasolo daughter for Carolyn Polillo of Brantford.

With one win and one second for 75 points, Hopes Solo is also poised to advance to the September 21 Semi-Final at Woodbine Mohawk Park. The top 20 point earners will advance to the $20,000 Semi-Finals, with the top five finishers from each Semi-Final moving on to the $50,000 Final, also at Woodbine Mohawk Park, on September 29.

Next on Grand River Raceway’s Ontario Sires Stakes schedule are the two-year-old trotting colts and geldings, who will wrap up their Grassroots regular season over the Elora oval on Wednesday, September 12.

For complete results please visit Grand River Raceway Results — Monday, August 27, 2018