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Steacy strikes early in defence of Johnston Cup title
May 31, 2018
By OSS News

Mark Steacy earned his second straight Johnston Cup award as the Ontario Sires Stakes program’s leading trainer in 2017, and the horseman tallied two wins in support of a third title in the three-year-old pacing filly Grassroots opener at Woodbine Mohawk Park on Thursday, May 31.

Steacy trainee Hello Love went off as the favourite in the first $19,150 division and delivered a brave effort after missing some time due to sickness in recent weeks. Starting from Post 1 driver James MacDonald settled the filly into fifth as Mittany Nicole took the field of nine to a :27.2 opening quarter. Just before the :57.1 half Guelph, Ontario resident MacDonald tipped Hello Love to the outside and went after new leader Lifelong Dream. Three lengths back at the 1:25.1 three-quarters, Hello Love dug deep in the stretch to get a head in front of Lifelong Dream at the 1:52.4 finish. Mittany Nicole rounded out the top three.

“I thought it was kind of iffy whether she was even going to race tonight, but her blood came back not too bad there last night so we said, ‘Well, we’ll give her a try’,” explained Steacy. “So she showed a lot of courage.”

The 1:52.4 score was a new personal best for Hello Love, who has just four starts under her belt, all at Woodbine Mohawk Park. After a pair of qualifiers in April the daughter of Shadow Play and $203,040 winner Don’t Point At captured her April 26 debut, finished third in her second start on May 3 and was back in the winner’s circle on May 10. She was scratched out of a May 24 contest, but Steacy hopes the filly is back on the road to good health.

“I think she can only get healthier from here and I’m hoping that she’ll be able to step up maybe into the Golds for the rest of the year,” noted the Lansdowne, Ontario resident. “She’s not a big filly, but she’s a nice average size filly. And she always was — you know that’s why she cost so much as a baby — she was always a good looker.”

A $100,000 purchase out of the 2016 Harrisburg Yearling Sale, Hello Love is owned by Landmark 10 Racing Stable of Kingston, Ontario, J And T Silva Stables LLC of Long Beach, New York, Bertrand Gilhespy Stable of Edmonton, Alberta and Conrad Leber of Montreal, Quebec.

After a burst of rain that saw the racing surface downgraded from ‘fast’ to ‘good’, Steacy and MacDonald were back in the winner’s circle with Lady Bubbles who, after a brief appearance on the front near the :27.3 opening quarter, was able to follow fan favourite Firestorm through most of the mile. On Firestorm’s heels through fractions of :56.2 and 1:25.1, Lady Bubbles tipped out in the stretch and powered home to a one-length victory in 1:53.2. Color Envy and Campassion finished second and third.

“You know I wasn’t so sure about her coming back this year, because she’s not very big, and she didn’t end the year real great, but she’s come back actually better this year,” said Steacy. “She’s been a real nice surprise, because I think she’s improved a lot from two actually, she’s gotten stronger and she can carry her speed farther.”

The win was the Sportswriter daughter’s second this season and her fourth in Grassroots competition; she was a three-time winner at two for owner-breeders Hudson Standardbred Stable Inc. of Hudson, Quebec.

Sudden Passing clocked the fastest mile of the five Grassroots divisions, cruising along on the front end to a nine and three-quarter length victory in 1:52. Sweet Toujours and Hey Sweetie finished in second and third behind the heavy favourite.

Guelph resident Doug McNair crafted the victory for his father, trainer Gregg McNair of Guelph, and owners Lindsey and Connie Rankin of Lexington, Kentucky. The win was the Mach Three daughter’s second this season and her first in Ontario Sires Stakes action. She was a Gold Series regular at two and finished second to Gold filly Percy Bluechip in the Standardbred Breeders of Ontario Association Stake at Woodbine Mohawk Park on May 19.

“She’s a big, strong filly. She went a very nice mile tonight,” said Doug McNair. “Randy (Waples) said she was a little bit steppy-gaited last start (May 19), but she was perfect tonight.”

Like Hello Love, Sudden Passing could jump up to the Gold Series level for her second provincial start.

Milton, Ontario resident Randy Waples, who subbed for McNair in Sudden Passing’s race bike on May 19, also won a Grassroots division on Thursday, piloting favourite Machnhope to a 1:53 score over Avery Seelster and Lady Everlong. Bill Robinson trains the Mach Three daughter for breeders CMR Farms of Hagersville, David Serwatuk of Hamilton and BC Reichheld Stables of Caledonia, Ontario.

The other division was captured by Shower Play and driver Louis Philippe Roy in 1:52.2. The Shadow Play miss bested Askmysecretary and favourite Neon Moon. Rene Dion of Rockwood conditions Shower Play for his partners Susanne Kerwood of Rockwood, Ontario and Martin Leveillee of St-Blaise-Sur-Richelieu, Quebec.

The three-year-old pacing fillies will make their second Grassroots start on June 22 at Woodbine Mohawk Park, while the Gold Series fillies visit the Campbellville oval on June 23. Woodbine Mohawk Park’s opening week of Ontario Sires Stakes action continues on Friday, June 1 with five Grassroots divisions for the three-year-old pacing colts and geldings.

For complete results please visit Woodbine Mohawk Park Results — Thursday, May 31, 2018