The 2015 Ontario Sires Stakes (OSS) season wrapped up on Saturday night at Woodbine Racetrack with $2 million in purses on the line for a star-studded card of harness racing.
Two-Year-Old Filly Pace
L A Delight lived up to expectations as the overwhelming 1-5 favourite in the evening’s first $250,000 Super Final as she expanded her double-digit win streak with a 1:51.2 stakes record victory for trainer Bob McIntosh.
The victory gave McIntosh his ninth Super Final win, the most of any trainer in OSS history.
Good Will Hanover (Paul MacDonell) established the lead from the inside post position over L A Delight and driver Randy Waples, who left from mid-field and protected the pocket position as outsider Free Show (Jody Jamieson) found herself parked out through a :25.2 scorcher.
Free Show eventually worked her way to the top, but Good Will Hanover came back out for the retake by the half in :54.4. Thisorthat Hanover (Phil Hudon) was also on the move from fourth at that point and the filly took over command with L A Delight chasing her and taking a brief tuck by the 1:22.4 three-quarters mark.
Thisorthat Hanover raced into the stretch, but L A Delight rolled right by down the lane and opened up four lengths to equal the stakes record for three-year-old filly pacers that was set earlier this year by Thatsoveryverynice. Divisional point leader Twin B Thong (Chris Christoforou) came on for second over Thisorthat Hanover.
“Jody was on my back last week and he had a lot of pace and I just thought his filly needed to be roughed up a little bit,” said Waples of his early strategy in the race. “I was pretty worried about Paul’s filly too, like giving her a two-hole trip, because she’s an awful nice filly too. I just thought I’d make them mix it up a little bit and then see what happens because mine, she just doesn’t really get tired, so I figured even if I had to come first over at least she’d have a fair shot at it.”
L A Delight has now won 11 (consecutive) stakes races from 12 career starts to bank over $700,000 in purses, making her the leading money-earning horse in Canada this year. Among her victories are the Grand Circuit’s Shes A Great Lady Stakes and divisions of the Eternal Camnation and Champlain.
“We’ve proven it over and over again that Ontario-breds can go with anybody in the world and she’s just another case of that,” said Waples.
The Bettors Delight-West Of L A filly is owned and bred by the Robert McIntosh Stables Inc. of Windsor, Ont., C S X Stables of Liberty Center, Ohio and Al McIntosh Holdings Inc. of Leamington, Ont.
Two-Year-Old Filly Trot
Waples headed straight back to the winner’s circle with 1-9 choice Caprice Hill after keeping her to task in the final turn for the 1:56.4 triumph.
While five of the trotting fillies made early breaks, Waples sent Caprice Hill to the lead from post seven and the Tony Alagna trainee carved out fractions of :28.3, :58.1 and 1:27. Despite a bobble in the last turn and winding up out in the three-path, Caprice Hill recouped and trotted home for the two-length victory over the late-closing Emoticon Hanover (Sylvain Filion) and Silky Flashy Nfast (Mario Baillargeon).
“She’s just unbelievable,” said Waples, who picked up the catch-drive on the winning filly with Tim Tetrick unable to make the trip due to other stakes commitments stateside. “It was my fault that she made the bobble coming around the turn. I had so much horse and I was just letting her stay within herself, or whatever, and it was kind of deep footing on the rail and she just put a little bit of a step in there. As soon as I gave her her head, she took off trotting. She’s just fantastic. Horses like that, they are so intelligent. She’s going to have a long career, this filly.”
The Kadabra-Bramasole filly boasts a near perfect freshman campaign with seven wins in eight starts and career earnings passing the half-million dollar mark for owner Tom Hill of Hamilton, Ont. She was the OSS divisional co-leader (with Devils Advocate) and also boasts victories in the Peaceful Way Stakes and a division of the Champlain.
“She’s had three different drivers, you know, Yannick [Gingras], Timmy [Tetrick] and now Randy. Anybody can drive a Rolls-Royce and I think she’s a Rolls-Royce with hair on,” said Hill, who purchased the Hanover Shoe Farms-bred filly for $55,000 from the Harrisburg Sale.
Caprice Hill will now head to the Breeders Crown.
“I think probably — you don’t like to say this because people think you’re big headed — but I think she’s probably the best trotting filly in the world,” stated Hill. “And I think she’s beat all the ones that have claimed to be the best. We’re not afraid of any of them.”
Two-Year-Old Colt Pace
The favourite trend continued as 3-5 Betting Line and driver Chris Christoforou assumed command early on and powered home for the 1:52 triumph in the next Super Final.
Voracity (Randy Waples) left for the lead from post four with Betting Line just to his outside and Nvestment Bluechip (Jody Jamieson) widest of all from post 10. Nvestment Bluechip took over the top spot before Betting Line cleared at the :27.1 first quarter mark. From there, Betting Line led the field through middle splits of :56.1 and 1:25 and turned for home with a one-length lead as Nocturnal Bluechip (Paul MacDonell) had moved first over. Betting Line doubled his leading margin down the lane with divisional point leader Nvestment Bluechip following for second-place. Voracity finished third.
“He got roughed up a bit recently so I was looking to get there as easily as possible with some kind of trip relief tonight, but they were walking off the gate tonight — they weren’t going very much — so we had to take advantage of that,” explained Christoforou. “We got to the front and he did the rest, that’s for sure.”
Casie Coleman trains and co-owns the Bettors Delight-Heathers Western colt as part of the West Wins Stable of Cambridge, Ont., along with Christine Calhoun of Chatham, Ont. and Mac Nichol of Burlington, Ont. A $60,000 Harrisburg Sale yearling purchase bred by Fair Winds Farm, Betting Line has earned six wins in 10 starts while banking over $480,000 in purses during his debut season.
Coleman noted that the Metro Pace runner-up and Champlain winner has been paid into the Breeders Crown and Governor’s Cup. His schedule will be decided in the next few days.
Two-Year-Old Colt Trot
Trainer Bob McIntosh added another Super Final trophy to his collection as divisional leader Tony Soprano delivered on his 1-5 pari-mutuel promise in the next $250,000 stakes final with John Campbell in the sulky.
Tony Soprano took the lead after the 28-second opening panel and cruised past the half in :57.2 and three-quarters in 1:26.2 en route to the career-best 1:55.1 victory. Will Take Charge (Paul MacDonell) advanced first over from the backfield and tucked in behind the leader down the stretch for cover, ultimately finishing two and three-quarter lengths behind in second. Early leader Deweylovernleaver (Trevor Henry) was third.
“They were trotting out of there pretty good on both sides of me,” noted Campbell after the race. “I asked him after we got out of there to make the front and, you know, :28 can be a good first quarter for those horses. After that, he rated well and he responded really well in the stretch when I asked him.”
Tony Soprano notched the fourth win of his 10-race season and pushed his bankroll over $286,000.
“He’s held his form,” said Campbell. “He started out very good and he’s held his form all year. I think he is maybe as strong tonight as he has been all year.”
“I was really high on him all last winter,” noted McIntosh. “I kept talking him up to John. He went through a few growing pains earlier in the summer, but nothing major. He’s just really matured into a great horse right now. I think it’s just a matter of maturity.”
The Kadabra colt is out of the millionaire mare Windsong Soprano, who was campaigned by McIntosh throughout her racing career. Bred by Lothlorien, Tony Soprano was purchased for $90,000 at the Lexington Select Yearling Sale by the Robert McIntosh Stables Inc., Mardon Stables of Loretto, Ont., Paradox Farm Inc. of Caledon East, Ont. and Dave Boyle of Bowmanville, Ont.
“Lothlorien bought the mother, Windsong Soprano, at the sale in Lexington. I trained her her whole racing career and she was just a fantastic mare,” said McIntosh. “As soon as I saw him in the catalogue, I said I’ve got to take a look at him.”
Three-Year-Old Colt Pace
Reverend Hanover earned his second straight Super Final title with a front-striding score in the Glamour Boy division. Christoforou and Coleman teamed up again for their second championship victory of the night.
Christoforou left with Reverend Hanover from post seven and cleared Moonwriter (Sylvain Filion) before the first turn. The 3-5 favourite then carved out panels of :26, :54.2 and 1:22.2 en route to the two-length victory in 1:50.1. Moonwriter finished second and Physicallyinclined (Paul MacDonell) journeyed first over to show.
The Sportswriter-Razzle My Tazzle gelding is owned by the West Wins Stable, Steve Calhoun of Chatham, Ont. and Anthony Beaton of Waterdown, Ont.
After bucking a front shin and getting a late start to his career as a freshman, Reverend Hanover won his first four starts, including last year’s Super Final. This year, after another setback, he is three-for-seven.
“This year, he decided to buck a right hind shin when we were coming into the North America Cup,” explained Coleman. “I’ve never heard of that in my life ever and neither have my vets, but he managed to do it. At least he’s paying us back for it now after we took our time and brought him back.”
Coleman said that the lightly raced sophomore is Breeders Crown-bound if everything goes according to plan.
Bred by Hanover Shoe Farms, Reverend Hanover was purchased for $24,000 from the Harrisburg Sale and now sports a career bankroll of nearly $500,000.
Three-Year-Old Filly Trot
Second Sister stormed home late to collar Elegant Serenity in the final strides for three-time defending Johnston Cup winning trainer Gregg McNair.
Rick Zeron drove the Deweycheatumnhowe-Sister Sammy filly to the 6-1 upset victory for owner Jarold Hawks of Jeddo, Michigan.
When divisional point leader and 4-5 favourite Muscle Baby Doll (Doug McNair) broke stride off the gate, Amoureuse Hanover (John Campbell) grabbed the lead early from mid-pack, but she had Your Majestic (Sylvain Filion) trotting up to take over through a 27-second first quarter.
Parked from the outside post 10, the 7-2 second choice Elegant Serenity (Roger Mayotte) pressed on to take over command into the backstretch and she proceeded to the half in :56.1 and three-quarters in 1:26. Meanwhile, Stubborn Belle (Paul MacDonell) progressed first over with All That Sparkles (James MacDonald) fanning wide.
Elegant Serenity began to open up on top down the stretch, but Second Sister, who was second-to-last among the trotting fillies in the early going, rallied home late to steal the glory in 1:55.3 and paid $14.10 to win. Amoureuse Hanover finished three and a half lengths behind in third.
“It couldn’t have worked out any better at the end, but it sure looked like down the backside she was in trouble to maybe even get money,” said McNair. “But Rick, he was pretty sure he was going to win with her, he tossed his whip away at the head of the stretch.”
Second Sister, who began her career competing in the Grassroots program as a freshman, earned her third win from 14 starts this season and boosted her career bankroll over $327,000.
“She’s been pretty steady all year. She wears the trotting hopples and we’ve been letting them out a little bit all along there so she’s really liking that,” said McNair of the Diamond Creek Farm-bred filly, who was a $32,000 yearling acquisition from the Lexington Select Sale. “She trained down the same way last year. She started out a little slow and she got stronger as the year went on and her best start was the last start of the year.”
Three-Year-Old Colt Trot
Defending Super Final champion Dont Rush carried Christoforou to his third stakes victory of the night with a 1:55.1 triumph in the next division.
As the sophomore trotters jockeyed for position off the gate, divisional point leader Dont Rush followed Olympic Son (Anthony MacDonald) in the early outer flow and overtook that rival for the lead at the first quarter mark, which was clocked in :27.3.
Dont Rush continued to lead the field down the backstretch to the half in :57.2 with Rubber Duck (Jack Moiseyev) advancing into the pocket ahead of Olympic Son. Meanwhile, early leaver Hemi Seelster (Steve Byron) broke stride from fourth-place.
Dont Rush raced by three-quarters in 1:26.1 while Luck O The Irish (Sylvain Filion) advanced outside. Around the final turn, Rubber Duck appeared to be the biggest threat from the pocket though, but Dont Rush trotted on to secure his second straight championship title for trainer Dustin Jones. Rubber Duck finished over one length behind in second and Platoon Seelster (Ryan Holliday) closed late for another top-three Super Final finish.
“He raced really good. He’s such a nice little horse,” said Christoforou. “He was good at the end of last year, he came on strong and again, his last couple of starts have just been fantastic again. He’s a real pleasure.”
“We put him on Gastrogard three weeks ago and he just got better and better the last three weeks,” noted Jones, who shares ownership of the homebred Infinitif-Color Me Pretty colt with Greg Judson of Athens, Ont.
With five wins in 12 starts this year, Dont Rush has boosted his bankroll to over $583,000.
As for Jones, he has now trained two trotters that have won back-to-back Super Finals.
“I did it with Prestidigitator and came back and did it with him. That’s something, that’s quite an accomplishment I think,” smiled the Waterdown, Ont. horseman.
Three-Year-Old Filly Pace
With the McNair stable pulling off another 6-1 upset, Solar Sister closed out the Ontario Sires Stakes season by defeating her barn buddy Glamour Seelster in the last Super Final.
McNair’s son Doug, the 2014 Lampman Cup winning reinsman, drove the homebred Mach Three-Cabrini Hanover filly for owners David Willmot of King City, Ont. and Clay Harland Horner of Toronto.
Solar Sister fired off the gate from post seven, but her lead was short-lived as Tessa Seelster (Mario Baillargeon) pressed on to her outside and cleared into the first turn. The first quarter was clocked in :26.1.
As Tessa Seelster led the fillies through middle panels of :54.4 and 1:23, Glamour Seelster (Jody Jamieson) advanced first over from fifth with Maplelea (James MacDonald) following cover before that filly self-destructed.
Tessa Seelster and Glamour Seelster battled head-to-head into the stretch, with the latter gaining the upper hand. However, Solar Sister sprinted home to prevail over the duelling fillies in 1:51.1 by one and a quarter length. Wrangler Magic (Sylvain Filion), the 2-1 favourite, finished fourth.
“I used her up real hard leaving and in the last turn, they were pacing,” said Doug McNair. “Dad’s other filly, she can pace faster for a piece and they were going pretty good there around the last turn, and that’s when my mare kind of runs in a little bit. So once they straightened up, halfway down the lane I thought I would be second, but she dug in real tough to win.”
A two-time winner last year in 13 starts, Solar Sister has earned eight wins in 14 races during her sophomore season and was the OSS divisional point leader. The filly’s winnings tonight lifted her career bankroll over $732,000.
“They did a good job with her last year and bringing her back this year,” continued Solar Sister’s reinsman. “She’s been real good all year. The last couple of starts she’s been a little bit sore, you know, she’s been getting tired late, but my sister — she looks after her — she’s done a great job with her and getting her ready for tonight.”
“She ended up really strong last year. She was the second-best filly at the end of the year and we were pretty sure that she’d come back good and she has been good,” added Gregg McNair.