Covert Operative earned his first victory in the Ontario Sires Stakes with a track record performance on Wednesday night in the third leg of the Gold Series for three-year-old male trotters at Grand River Raceway.
Driven by Chris Christoforou for trainer Per Henriksen, Covert Operative held off favourite Citizen Hall to win his $70,000 division in 1:57 flat. The Deweycheatumnhowe-Serenas Genie gelding shaved one-fifth of a second off the divisional track record that was set by Thankyoukessel during the 2013 OSS season.
After leaving from post three with insider Citizen Hall tucking into second-place, Covert Operative carved out fractions of :28, :57.4 and 1:27.3 while keeping first over One Direction at bay. Down the stretch, Covert Operative dug in to hold off the pylon-skimming Citizen Hall by half a length. Caulfield edged out One Direction for third.
Covert Operative made just two Grassroots starts as a freshman and is now five-for-12 in his sophomore campaign with earnings totalling $120,126. He is owned by breeder Andrea Lea Racingstables Inc. of Lakefield Gore, Que. and Asa Farm of Norwood, Ont.
Covert Operative paid $10.30 to win as the 4-1 second choice.
Platoon Seelster just missed the record prior to Covert Operative’s victory.
Driven by Ryan Holliday, Platoon Seelster took the lead from post four and carved out fractions of :28.3, :58.4 and 1:29.2 with Muscle Up The Goal hot on his heels in the pocket. Meanwhile, Namesmuscle was parked from the start and Call Me Richard tipped out three-wide, but the top pair separated themselves from the rest of the field turning for home. Muscle Up The Goal closed up the inside and matched strides with Platoon Seelster, who fought back to win by a nose in a career-best clocking of 1:57.2. Rubber Duck finished third.
Sent postward at odds of 7-1 in a field that included last year’s Super Final champion Dont Rush, Platoon Seelster paid $17 to win.
The Federal Flex-Personal Hanover gelding is trained by Holliday’s father David and owned by his wife Caroline along with Dennis Hannath of Harriston, Ont. A Gold winner and Super Final runner-up at two, Platoon Seelster earned his first victory of the season from five starts and pushed his career bankroll to $197,525.
The final division was won by Eternal Quest and driver Sylvain Filion in 1:58.1.
With the inside post advantage, the Chad Milner-trained Eternal Quest established the lead off the gate and carved out panels of :29.2, 1:00.1 and 1:29.4 with pressure mounting in the form of first over Winning Wizard. However, Eternal Quest pulled away from that rival in the stretch to win by more than two lengths. Setanta edged out Winning Wizard off a pocket trip for second-place honours.
Eternal Quest was the 6-5 favourite and paid $4.50 to win.
After going winless in three freshman starts, the lightly raced Pilgrims Taj-Eternal Spirit gelding won a Grassroots event on June 4 at Mohawk Racetrack and was a runner-up in the last Gold leg at Mohawk to Dont Rush. He now has two wins in five seasonal starts to lift his bankroll to $82,620.
Wednesday’s card also included an $11,000 Preferred 2 Trot that saw Doug Millard’s four-year-old gelding Theresademoninme go wire-to-wire in 1:56.4 for the driving and training Baillargeon team of brothers Mario and Ben.
After his record win, Christoforou drove Order By Commander to a narrow score over Luck Is All Ineed in a $7,500 Preferred Trot. Craig Yates trains the 1:58.1 winner for the ownership group consisting of Frank Lamacchia, Guy Polillo and Wayne Deserres.
In a $10,000 Preferred 2 for pacing fillies and mares, JJS Stables’ homebred Bestulldotanite held off the 2014 Super Final freshman champion Code One Hanover by half a length to win in 1:54.4 with Bruce Richardson driving for trainer Robert Ellis.