Grand River Raceway hosted Ontario Sires Stakes Fan Celebration Night on Friday and fans that placed their trust in driver Trevor Henry did a whole lot of celebrating.
The Arthur, Ont. resident won a pair of two-year-old trotting colt Gold Series divisions, finished second in the other Gold division, and won three overnight races on the 11-race program.
“I haven’t driven there in a while, so it was nice to have a good night,” said Henry, who switched his focus from driving at the province’s smaller ovals to driving at Mohawk and Woodbine Racetracks in 2014.
Henry kicked off his evening with a runner-up finish in the first $70,000 Gold division, ringing up fractions of :28.3, :59 and 1:29.1 with Smoke Monkey before being caught in the stretch by Dunvegan Don. Fan favourite Adored By Masses finished third.
“He’s a nice colt. They had a lot of problems with him steering, he would always run in on the turns and he wasn’t easy to drive, but Chris has got him figured out now,” said Henry, who piloted Smoke Monkey for trainer Chris Beaver of Delaware, Ohio and Synerco Ventures Inc. of Toronto, Ont. “Tonight was the best he ever drove so he’ll probably only get better from now on.”
Guelph, Ont. resident Doug McNair piloted Dunvegan Don to his first victory, halting the Grand River teletimer at 1:58.2. Herbert Holland of Milton, Ont. owns and trains the Cornaro Dasolo colt, who finished third in the Aug. 7 Gold leg at Mohawk Racetrack after a pair of disappointing outings in the first two legs.
“That horse has been quick since the start of the year, but was a little choppy gaited,” explained McNair. “The last two starts he’s been almost perfect. Herb has done a good job on him.”
The Trevor Henry show got under way in earnest in the second race when he piloted Ground Shaker to a win in a claiming event and then went back to the paddock to climb into the race bike behind two-time Gold Series winner Deweylovernleaver.
Starting from post two, Henry fired the colt to the front and controlled the tempo through a :29.3 quarter, 1:00 half and 1:30.1 three-quarters. Deweylovernleaver then accelerated down the stretch to a one and one-quarter length victory in a track record equalling 1:58.1. Fan favourite Tony Soprano settled for second and Unitaliano BI completed the top three.
“He didn’t have to work too hard, he kind of got everything his own way, but he trotted home a last quarter in :28,” said the reinsman, adding that he feels the colt has not yet tapped his full potential. “He’s a nice horse to drive and he doesn’t do anything wrong.”
Chris Beaver trains Deweylovernleaver for his partners Synerco Ventures Inc. and Leo Fleming of Campbellville, Ont. The Deweycheatumnhowe son boasts a record of three wins and one fourth in Gold Series action and currently sits atop the two-year-old trotting colt division standings with 158 points.
In the final Gold Series division, Henry also lined up behind post two with Mass Balance and opted for the same strategy. Taking early command, Henry and Mass Balance got away with a :30 quarter, 1:01.1 half and 1:32 three-quarters on their way to a 2:01.2 victory. Nofear Blue Chip was one and one-quarter lengths back in second, and favourite Will Take Charge was two lengths to the rear in third.
Synerco Ventures Inc. also owns Mass Balance, who is trained by Rob Fellows of Rockwood. The Muscle Mass son started his season in the Grassroots program where he was a winner in the July 11 season opener at Georgian Downs. Moving up to the Gold Series level, Mass Balance finished third at Georgian Downs on July 21 and fifth at Mohawk Racetrack on Aug. 7.
“He’s a nice colt,” said Henry, adding that he appreciates the investment Synerco Ventures has made in the Ontario Sires Stakes program in recent years. “I drive a lot for Synerco Ventures, Costa [Athanassoulias], I’ve got to know him over the last couple years and I’ve driven quite a few horses for him.”
The reinsman completed his five-win evening in the seventh and eighth races, both claiming events, with Tomei Seelster and Delcrest Flexyhall.
Ontario Sires Stakes graduate Shadows Wonder closed out the card with a 1:54.3 victory in the $10,000 Fillies & Mares Preferred 2 Pace for the father-son, trainer-driver duo of Dr. Ian Moore and Tyler Moore. The win was the third in a row at Grand River for the four-year-old Shadow Play mare, who is owned by Dr. Moore and Nancy Moore of Guelph, Ont., and William Shearer of Brookfield, N.S.
In addition to the Gold Series divisions and the driving clinic put on by Henry, 100 fans were treated to Ontario Sires Stakes t-shirts autographed by first-crop sire Big Jim and Hall of Fame stallion Camluck, who passed away recently at the age of 28, and all fans enjoyed the creativity on display in the Horse Name Costume Game.
After some difficult deliberations, judges Gayle O’Brien from DAVE-FM, Jenna Knox from Grand River Raceway’s Booking Department and driver Ryan Holliday selected one adult and one 15 and under winner. In the adult category, Becky Koeslag got the nod for her representation of Gold Series competitor Bee In Charge, and Paula Turnbull was the judge’s choice in the youth category for her Coal Black Shadow costume.
Ontario Sires Stakes excitement continues at Grand River Raceway next Wednesday, Aug. 19 with two $105,000 Gold divisions for the three-year-old trotting fillies.
(Standardbred Canada With files from OSS)