Jack Darling hauled five two-year-old pacing colts to Georgian Downs on Sunday evening (August 23) and went home with two Grassroots trophies and two runner-up cheques.
The Cambridge, Ont.-based trainer, who owns all five horses, paired up with driver Jody Jamieson to win the second $18,000 division with Continual Hanover and the final division with St Lads Moonwalk. Notetoself Hanover and King Of Sports were second in the third and fourth splits, with only Vegas Dream failing to earn a pay cheque in the first race.
“Continual Hanover is the best Grassrooter, in my opinion. He’s right on the cusp of being a Gold colt,” said Jamieson of the duo’s first winner. “He was a very easy winner tonight, got a perfect trip.
“St Lads Moonwalk also got a great trip and won very handily,” added the Moffat, Ont. resident.
Starting from Post 1, Jamieson settled Continual Hanover into second as fan favourite Derecho zipped through fractions of :27, :56.3 and 1:24.4, then popped the colt out coming off the final turn and sprinted home to a five and one-quarter length victory in 1:53.2. Derecho settled for second and Instant Shadow finished third.
“1:53.2 tonight is a pretty darn good mile on that track. I thought it was a pretty impressive mile,” said Darling. “He acts like he’s kind of, he’s almost borderline Gold, but he’s had some bad luck. This is actually the first Grassroots he’s won.
“These Grassroots this year are a very tough bunch,” added the horseman. “By far the best that I’ve seen, and there’s a lot of them.”
The win was Continual Hanover’s first through six starts, with his previous best effort being a pair of seconds in the July 17 and August 13 Grassroots events. Darling trained the colt’s Sportswriter half-sister, Code One Hanover, to earnings of $182,325 last season and was willing to shell out $120,000 for the colt at last fall’s Harrisburg Yearling Sale based on that experience, but the trainer says Continual Hanover has little in common with his sister.
“He does a lot of squealing at other horses and when you go on the track he likes to do a lot of bucking and rearing and he’s a real pain,” said Darling. “He’s actually lazy when you’re jogging him and training him, but he’s just one of those horses, when you put him in a race he puts his game face on and he’s just a different horse. He’s all racehorse, where his sister had huge talent but she doesn’t try her hardest all the time. This horse has lots of try when he gets in a race.”
Darling says desire is also St Lads Moonwalk’s best trait.
“He’s just a real gamer, got all kinds of ‘try’ to him,” said Darling. “He got a nice trip tonight and he finished it off real well.”
The Mach Three colt got away fifth from Post 4 in the last Grassroots division and Jamieson was able to slide into the outer lane behind Gotti heading for the half and trail that colt through the three-quarters. Coming around the final turn Jamieson sent St Lads Moonwalk out three-wide and the colt accelerated down the stretch to a two-length win in 1:56.2. Only Half Bad and Moot Court also closed well to be second and third.
The win was the second straight for St Lads Moonwalk, with his first coming in the August 13 Grassroots event at Rideau Carleton Raceway. In five lifetime starts the $47,000 yearling purchase has posted two wins, one second and one third.
Darling did not earn a share of the $18,000 purse in the first division, which went to Sutton Seelster off a pocket trip behind Twin B Machniven. Sutton Seelster and driver Tyler Moore of Guelph, Ont. hit the wire one-half length ahead of Twin B Machniven in 1:55.3, with Day Trade Hanover three more lengths back in third.
Dr. Ian Moore of Guelph trains Sutton Seelster, a Camluck colt acquired from the Forest City Yearling Sale for $31,000 by Nor Easter Stable of Guelph. Sunday’s win was the pacer’s first, and came in his third lifetime start and first Grassroots appearance.
The third division trophy went home with Perseverant, who got a come-from-behind steer from the Ontario Sires Stakes program’s leading reinsman Sylvain Filion. The Vintage Master son powered home to a one length victory in 1:55.1, besting Darling’s Notetoself Hanover and Rockstar Dreams.
The win was Perseverant’s third straight and first in Grassroots action. Luc Blais of Lochaber Ouest, QC conditions the colt for owner-breeder Determination of Montreal, QC.
Kokanee Seelster moved to the top of the two-year-old pacing colt division point standings with his second Grassroots win. The only colt to win on the front end, Kokanee Seelster and driver Phil Hudon of Guelph rang up fractions of :28, :57.1 and 1:25.2 on their way to a 1:54.3 score in the fourth division. Darling trainee King Of Sports finished two lengths back in second and Three Truths was hot on his heels in third.
Acton, Ont. resident Anthony Montini conditions Kokanee Seelster for Ming Siu of Richmond, BC and Edmund Lui of Parkhill. In three Grassroots outings the Camluck son has two wins and one second for a point tally of 125, 11 more than St Lads Moonwalk and Blue Zombie.
The freshman pacing colts will make their fifth Grassroots start at Mohawk Racetrack on August 31 and then wrap up their regular season at Grand River Raceway on September 7. The top 20 point earners from the six regular season events will square off in a pair of semi-finals at Mohawk on September 17, with the top five finishers from each semi-final earning a berth in the $50,000 Grassroots Championship at Mohawk on September 26.