The 2016 Ontario Sires Stakes season kicked off on the Molson Pace undercard with the three-year-old pacing colts and geldings in the spotlight competing in three $70,000 Gold divisions.
North America Cup eligible Magnum J ($8) was the first winner of the OSS season for the father-son team of trainer Gregg McNair and driver Doug McNair.
The 2015 Battle of Waterloo champion retook the lead from Brookdale Sonny (Sylvain Filion) during the :27.2 first quarter and carved out middle splits of :57.1 and 1:25.4 with even-money favourite Bettor Memories (Chris Christoforou) grinding away first over. Turning for home, Magnum J drew away by more than two lengths to score the 1:53.2 victory. Brookdale Sonny finished second while Bettor Memories held for third over Carolina Hurricane (James MacDonald).
The Big Jim-Jamirotoy gelding, who went two-for-four in his freshman campaign last year while banking $126,798, was victorious in his second start of his sophomore season.
“He qualified real good,” said Doug McNair of Magnum J’s return to the races this year. “He was a pretty decent two-year-old. They shut him down right after the Battle of Waterloo. He always had high, high speed and so last week [in his season’s debut at Mohawk], he was grabbing on pretty good in the last turn and I think I just shut him off, that’s all, and he couldn’t get his air. The vet had a look at him and they had him good for tonight.
“I think they took some chips out of him or something behind and they just wanted to make sure he was fresh for this year. He’s comes back real good. He’s a handy horse. I figured he’d like the track. The track’s in great shape tonight.”
Magnum J is owned by his trainer Gregg McNair, Tony Lawrence and William Brown.
The 2015 Lampman Cup-winning driver Sylvain Filion earned his first OSS victory of the new season in the next division steering Print Media ($32.40) to a 15-1 upset in a four-across finish.
“I decided to leave with him,” said Filion in a post-race interview from the winner’s circle. “He leaves real good, but afterwards he gets real lazy so he got me working. But it worked out good and here we are.”
Richard Moreau trains the Vintage Master-Matilda Hall gelding, who fired off the gate from post four and led the field in single-file alignment through opening panels of :27.3 and :56.4. At the half, Semi Automatic (Trevor Henry) tipped out from fourth and confronted the leader as they raced into the backstretch and battled head-to-head past three-quarters in 1:24.2. Semi Automatic retreated to the two-hole for the final turn, but was back out down the stretch with 1-5 favourite War N Munn (James MacDonald) and Worthy Art (Chris Christoforou) closing outside. However, Print Media held on by one length to earn his first win of the year in 1:54.1 following a pair of runner-up finishes at Mohawk. War N Munn finished second with Semi Automatic edging out Worthy Art for third.
A Grassroots contender last year, Print Media had put together a freshman record reading 2-5-2 from 14 starts while earning $46,618 for owner Saverino Spagnolo.
Gerries Sport (Sylvain Filion), the 1-5 favourite, was the quickest off the gate from post two between the early leavers while insider Cruise Patrol (Mark MacDonald) broke stride and outsider Flaherty (Trevor Henry) settled into the two-hole. Gerries Sport proceeded to carve out opening fractions of :27.3 and :56.2 before being headed down the backstretch by the second wagering choice, Sintra, who charged first over from fourth. Sintra pressed on outside of Gerries Sport and eventually defeated him by over two lengths in the record time of 1:52.4. Flaherty followed back in third.
“Obviously, there’s some nice colts here tonight,” noted Jamieson after the race. “I saw Sylvain’s horse get a little rough around the third turn so I popped the plugs and went at him. He got him to pace perfect around the last turn though, I was surprised about that, but Sylvain can do that sometimes. Anyways, my horse was just better tonight. Obviously, he had to be to set the track record.”
Sintra shaved one-fifth of a second off the gelding record that was set by Sportskeeper last May and he equalled the overall male record held by colt Stonebridge Tonic.
The Mach Three-Dancin Barefoot gelding, who suffered a broken bone last year limiting his debut season to just three starts, is now three-for-three to start his sophomore campaign and boasts a mark of 1:51.4 taken last week at Mohawk. He is owned by Brad Gray, Michael Guerriero, and Menary Racing Inc.
The City Of London Series wrapped up on Friday, with purses ranging from $36,200 to $40,600 up for grabs in the four divisional finals. The series was for Ontario-sired four-year-olds and younger that are non-winners of $10,000 lifetime as of midnight February 29, 2016.
Trained, co-owned and driven by Garrett Rooney, 3-2 favourite On The Ridge ($4.20) went first up from fourth after the opening quarter and eventually wore down Muscles Bound (Paul MacKenzie) to win ‘Take 2’ of the final for male trotters in 2:01. The popular inside starter had prompted a recall prior to the initial start of the race for interfering with the trailing starter, but left smoothly in the second attempt and completed a sweep of the elimination and final. Angela Carroll also shares ownership of the three-year-old Kadabra-Miss Ridge colt, who is now a six-time winner from 13 starts in his debut season. The Big Muscle (Alfie Carroll) finished third.
William Kirkpatrick’s homebred four-year-old pacer Irvine James ($3.20), the 3-5 favourite in his final despite an outside post seven, delivered on his pari-mutuel promise as he quickly crossed to command in the opening turn and lasted on the lead for the 1:58.1 victory. Mark Williams drove Irvine Hames for back-to-back victories in the series to double the Mach Three-Dexter Shmoopy gelding’s career win count. Mid Town Mickey (Robert Shepherd) finished second off a pocket trip over the wide-closing Sly Baran (Nick Steward).
Western Fair’s leading driver Alfie Carroll steered Shes All Muscle ($16.80) wire-to-wire to a 2:02 career-best win in the filly and mare trotting final, pulling off a mild 7-1 upset as the favourite Miami Magic (Steve Byron) broke stride early in the race. The three-year-old daughter of Muscle Mass out of All Time Favorite, who was also an elimination winner last week, now has four career victories for trainer Jamie Wilson and owner Chris Wilson. Longshots Angel Assault (Mike Whelan) and Burning Memories (Andy Moore) finished second and third, respectively.
In the final for pacing fillies and mares, the Trevor Henry-driven You Mach Me Crazy ($10.70) held off the persistent first over pursuer Machioda (Bob McClure) and late-rallying Stonebridge Medusa (Doug McNair). The three-year-old Mach Three-Lady Terror filly prevailed by less than a length over the favourites in a lifetime-best clocking of 1:56.3 for trainer Andrew McCabe and owner/breeder Glenview Livestock Ltd. The lightly raced filly is now two-for-six in her career.
A pair of Preferred 2 pacing events were won by the season-debuting four-year-old mare Stonebridge Quest ($2.90, Trevor Henry) in 1:54.2 and the locally-debuting six-year-old pacer The Rev ($3.50, Doug McNair) in 1:53.1.
Also on the card, Red Leaf Morgan ($9.10, Jody Jamieson) and Passion Quizrace ($10.60, James MacDonald) won their respective male and female finals of the Alliance Spring Series for $6,000 claiming pacers.