The rain did not dampen the efforts of the two-year-old trotting colts in their third Grassroots outing at Mohawk Racetrack on Thursday evening as both divisions featured lively finishes.
The first $19,500 contest saw Smart Pick seize early command and lead the field to a :28.3 opening quarter. Heading down the backstretch Randy Waples tipped P L Louigi out of the pocket and took control of the tempo, reaching the half in :58.4 and the three-quarters in 1:29.3. Around the final turn Rick Zeron launched an attack with Radical Attempt and was followed off the rail by Steve Condren and Barney Mac, who powered down the centre of the racetrack to a one and three-quarter length victory in 1:58.2. Stormont Ventnor, who was 17 lengths back at the half, snuck up the rail to be second, with Smart Pick completing the top three.
Milton, Ont. resident Condren piloted Barney Mac to his first lifetime victory for trainer Kelly Sheppard, who shares ownership of the gelding with his father Cliff Sheppard through their Sea Of Green Inc. The Dundas residents also bred the son of Cornaro Dasolo and $313,339 winner Ziggy Wiggy. Barney Mac finished fourth in his Grassroots debut at Mohawk on July 18, delivering an impressive second half after making an early break, and now sits fourth in the standings with 58 points.
In the $19,850 second division driver Chris Christoforou, Jr. fired Nobodynosjustice away from Post 7 and the gelding reached the quarter pole in :29.1. Yielding to Paul MacDonell and Audacious, Christoforou and Nobodynosjustice followed that colt through a 1:00 half and 1:30 three-quarters and then squeaked up the inside for a nose victory over Chief Justice and favourite Tymal Tino, who were duelling in the middle of the racetrack.
“We almost squeezed out second over at the three-quarter pole, but didn’t have enough clearance,” said Christoforou. “Ducked up the inside in the stretch and had to check him, but when he got through he was all trot and just got his nose in front.”
The Campbellville, Ont. resident piloted Nobodynosjustice to his first Grassroots win for trainer Dany Fontaine and owner-breeder Ecurie Gaetan Bono Inc. of Montreal, QC. The son of Justice Hall and $111,186 winner Nobody Nos Butme earned his first win in the July 25 leg of the Coupe de l’Avenir at Hippodrome Trois-Rivieres on July 25. He made his Ontario Sires Stakes debut in the Gold Series season opener at Mohawk on July 9, finishing sixth.
“All winter he was almost my favourite, because all the time when he train he show me he is a nice colt,” said Fontaine. “He is a classy colt, he like the gate, he like what he do. He is a nice horse everywhere, in the stall, when you jog him and take care, everything.”
Nobodynosjustice will make his second Grassroots start at Kawartha Downs on August 12, and Fontaine is hoping the colt enjoys a second dose of racing luck before he heads back to Quebec for the last leg and the final of the Coupe de l’Avenir.
“Over there (Trois-Rivieres) the final is for $50,000 too, so I have to figure where I can make the more money for my owner, so that is why I figure if I race one more time in Kawartha I have a chance to get some good points and probably have a chance to make the final in the Grassroots at the end,” explained the trainer, adding that the colt could also see one more start at the Gold Series level if he continues to develop. “So that is my schedule for him, but I have to go start-by-start, because with a baby like that you never know the next day.”
Thursday’s victory gives Nobodynosjustice 50 points and a share of seventh spot in the point standings. The top 10 point earners will earn a berth in the Sept. 30 Grassroots Championship at Mohawk.
The Campbellville continues to feature the freshmen in Ontario Sires Stakes action this month, welcoming the two-year-old trotting fillies for their fourth Grassroots event on Thursday, Aug. 10.