Defending Lampman Cup champion Sylvain Filion made the trip to Georgian Downs for the two-year-old pacing filly Grassroots opener on Tuesday evening and delivered three trophies into the hands of delighted trainers and owners.
A four-time winner of the Lampman Cup as the top driver in the Ontario Sires Stakes program and currently sitting third in the point race, Filion opened the Grassroots event with a 1:55.3 score with Azure Seelster. The daughter of Shadow Play made a break going around the first turn, but recovered quickly and was leading the field of eight by the halfway marker. Azure Seelster powered home one and three-quarter lengths ahead of Raven Seelster, with Sunday Afternoon three more lengths back in third.
“She’s a little aggressive and going through the first turn she just couldn’t handle the turn and made a break, but she made the nice recovery and she was game on after that,” said Filion. “She held on tough, she raced good, really good.”
Filion piloted Azure Seelster to her first lifetime victory for trainer Jacques Dupont and owners Les Ecuries Dorleans Inc. of Repentigny, QC, numbered companies 9099 3833 Quebec Inc. and 2745 5815 Quebec Inc. of Sorel-Tracy, QC and Paul Andre Lehoux of Sainte-Marie, QC. The partners acquired Azure Seelster from last fall’s Forest City Yearling Sale for $55,000. The filly’s dam, Winbak Alice, is a half-sister to former Ontario Sires Stakes star and $2 million winner Lady Shadow.
After finishing third and fifth in the next two Grassroots divisions with a pair of fillies trained by Dany Fontaine, Filion was back in the winner’s circle after the fourth division. The Milton, ON resident guided Askmysecretaryto a 1:55.3 score over Daily Sports and Shadowofhersmile, who crossed the wire in lockstep, dead-heating for second.
“We had a nice second over trip, almost amounted to disaster around the last turn when the horse in front of us (Ovation Seelster) made a break, but she was able to stay at it, and she just flew home,” said Filion. “I pulled the plugs at the top of the stretch and she just kicked in another gear.”
Filion added that trainer Ted MacDonnell had made an equipment change before Tuesday’s start that had a positive impact on Askmysecretary. Allenford resident MacDonnell shares ownership of the Mach Three daughter, a $35,000 yearling at the Forest City Sale, with Leonard Gamble of Etobicoke and Tony Lawrence of Hanover, ON.
“They were very pleased with that race, she was way stronger than she was the last time I sat behind her,” said Filion, who had piloted the filly to a seventh-place result in her first lifetime start at Mohawk Racetrack on July 3.
Filion’s final mount was the primary reason he decided to make the trip to Georgian Downs. The reinsman had qualified Shower Play twice, and in each mile the daughter of Shadow Play impressed him more. In the last $19,150 Grassroots division the pair went straight to the front from Post 3, fought off a challenge heading by the three-quarters and then sailed home four and one-quarter length winners in 1:56. Write Me A Song finished second and challenger Delaney R was third.
“She’s a real nice, big, strong filly and every time I’ve sat behind her, the further she went during the mile, the stronger she got,” explained Filion. “Nobody could have went past her tonight I think. She felt real strong still at the wire, and with minimal urging. I see her improving her next couple starts again. I don’t know, I might be wrong, but I can maybe see a Gold potential there.”
Rockwood, ON resident Rene Dion trains Shower Play for his partner Susanne Kerwood of Rockwood and Martin Leveillee of St-Blaire-Sure-Richelieu, QC. The filly was a $15,000 purchase from the Forest City Yearling Sale.
Trainer Casie Coleman is also hoping to make a move up to the Gold Series with Play The Bell, who delivered the fastest mile of the five Grassroots divisions, stopping the teletimer at 1:53.1. Play The Bell rang up fractions of :27.3, :56.2 and 1:25 on her way to the one-half length victory over Oxford Comma. Last Symphony, with Filion at the helm, was six and one-quarter lengths behind the leaders in third.
“She’s been getting better and better. She trained with Summer Travel this week and trained really big with him,” said Coleman, referring to a two-year-old pacing colt stablemate of Play The Bell’s who was a dominant 1:51.4 winner in a two-year-old contest at Mohawk Racetrack on Tuesday. “I was mad at myself for not entering the Gold after she trained so well, but her first start (July 3) I wasn’t all that happy with her so went Grassroots.”
Elora resident Bob McClure crafted the win for Coleman, who calls Cambridge home, her partners in the West Wins Stable of Cambridge, Mac Nichol of Burlington and Calhoun Racing Ltd of Chatham, ON. Play the Bell, a daughter of Shadow Play and Bell Bottom Pans was a $60,000 acquisition from the Harrisburg Yearling Sale.
The other Grassroots trophy went home with another daughter of Shadow Play, Shadow World, who scored a 1:56.4 victory over Hammering Haley and Enchanted Eva. Jonathan Drury drove Shadow World to the win for trainer Colin Johnson of Repentigny, QC, Thomas Kyron of Toronto, ON and Jean Mondoux of Laval, QC. The filly was a $32,000 purchase out of the Canadian Yearling Sale.
The two-year-old pacing fillies will make their second Grassroots start at Mohawk Racetrack on July 21. The Ontario Sires Stakes returns to Georgian Downs on Sunday, July 16 with the second Grassroots event of the two-year-old trotting filly campaign. Post time for Sunday’s event is 6 p.m.