Hemi Seelster and driver Steve Byron cruised wire-to-wire to win the $75,100 Dream Of Glory Trot during a stakes-filled Saturday night program at Hanover Raceway.
Hemi Seelster left from post three and cruised through fractions of :28.3, :59.2 and 1:28.4 en route to the 1:57.4 score by two and a half lengths. Sumthintotalkabout and Ross Battin finished second ahead of pocket-sitter Ill Stay Here, driven by Ryan Holliday.
John Bax trains the Holiday Road gelding and shares ownership as part of Parkhill Stud Farm with his son Matthew and partners John Houston of Cobourg, Ont. and the Goin To The Show Stable of Peterborough, Ont.
The Goodtimes Stakes champion had set a 1:56.4 track record for three-year-old male trotters in his Dream Of Glory elimination and was the odds-on favourite in the final. He paid $2.90 to win.
Hemi Seelster’s stablemate, Parkhill Lancelot, driven by Matthew Bax, finished fourth while Kadabrasnewrecruit and Scott Coulter rounded out the top five finishers.
Bax said after the race that a good start by his trotter let him settle in and then he took control of the race. The Campbellville, Ont. horseman added that the Dream of Glory is a great event at a great track and he’s optimistic about the future of the sport.
Hemi Seelster now has six wins in 20 career starts and earnings of $230,475.
The victory was the fourth Dream Of Glory championship for Byron, who also won in 2007 with The Mad Duke for trainer Norm Dunstan. Bax and Byron won the 2009 Dream If Glory with Augusto and the 2012 edition with Summer Indian.
In front of an enthusiastic Dream Of Glory Night crowd, local reinsman Bruce Richardson piloted a pair of three-year-old pacing fillies to Ontario Sires Stakes Grassroots victory.
“It’s just like playing for the Leafs,” quipped Richardson from the Hanover Raceway winner’s circle. “A jam-packed house.”
The Arthur, Ont. resident made his first visit to the winner’s circle in the opening division, guiding Dublin Rose to a 1:55 victory over Aniston Seelster and Code One Hanover.
Starting from post five, Richardson and Dublin Rose watched from sixth as Code One Hanover rocketed out to a :26.4 opening quarter. Heading for the :56.3 half, the reinsman tipped Dublin Rose into the outer lane and the fan favourites made steady progress up the outside through the 1:25.2 three-quarters. Turning for home Dublin Rose was one-half length back and she powered down the stretch to score a half-length victory, just one-fifth of a second off the track record for sophomore pacing fillies.
“She’s a real nice filly,” said Richardson. “I drove her up in Clinton [on July 5] and got locked in the two-hole with her and she finished okay, she finished third up there. Tonight she raced just real tough, I come first up with her and just grinded it out, and she raced right to the wire.”
Richardson engineered the win for Allen Tomlinson of Mason, Michigan, who bred, owns and trains the daughter of Major In Art and Bronwen Seelster. The win was the filly’s second in Grassroots action and gives her 100 points in the race toward a post season berth.
The driver’s second Grassroots victory came in the fourth division, with lightly rated Happy Ending Gal, who lived up to her name after a rocky start to the evening.
“He said that she made a break warming up, and she pulled a shoe. He said she did everything bad that she wasn’t supposed to tonight,” said Richardson of his pre-race conversation with trainer Gerald Lilley. “And he said that she sometimes doesn’t finish her mile very good, but she got a good enough trip. They battled up at the front end and kind of slowed up, and we were in a lucky spot and got through, and she won.”
Starting from the trailing post eight, Happy Ending Gal was sixth at the :27.4 quarter and :56.4 half. Richardson tipped the Jeremes Jet daughter into the outer lane behind three other horses heading for the 1:25.3 three-quarters and when the leaders seemed to stall in the stretch he sent her wider still and Happy Ending Gal sprinted home to a one and three-quarter length victory in a personal best 1:56. Southwind Geisha and Got Some Spark also closed well to be second and third.
The win was both Happy Ending Gal and trainer Gerald Lilley’s first in Ontario Sires Stakes action. Dutton, Ont. resident Lilley conditions the filly for Bill Manes and Steven Papillon of Rockwood, Ont. and Donald Swackhamer and William Cripps of Acton, Ont.
In addition to his pair of Grassroots victories Richardson, currently second in the driver standings at Hanover Raceway, also won the evening’s first race with maiden trotter Mulan Road.
Warrawee Qually earned her first Grassroots win of the season with a 1:55.4 effort in the second division for driver Steve Byron and trainer Pat Hunt. The Jeremes Jet daughter went gate-to-wire, besting Wishes For You and Mystical Wonder.
Hunt trains Warrawee Qually for his partners Glengate Farms of Campbellville, Ont. and Goldfinger Stables of Burlington, Ont.
Northern Starlet posted her first victory of 2015 in the third division, circling the Hanover oval on the front end for driver Jean Bernard Renaud. The favourites hit the wire one length ahead of Amazing Control and Evas Girl in 1:57.
Stephane Larocque of Carlisle, Ont. trains Sportswriter daughter Northern Starlet for Bayama Farms Inc. of Saint-Andre-d’Argenteuil, Que.
The final Grassroots division was captured by Clarke Steacy and OK Heavenly, who was also making her first appearance in the winner’s circle this season. Another daughter of Sportswriter, OK Heavenly powered down the stretch to a one-quarter length victory over Windsun Chanel and Much Adoo in 1:58.
Steacy crafted the come-from-behind victory for his father, trainer Mark Steacy of Lansdowne, Ont., and owners Oak Knoll Stables of Campbellcroft, Ont., Conrad Leber of Montreal, Que., Richard Karper of Saint-Laurent, Que. and Wheelhouse Racing Stable of Mississauga, Ont.
In addition to Byron’s victories in Saturday’s stakes, the Thornton, Ont. reinsman also won a $6,000 Preferred 3 Pace with My Friend Diaz nosing out Button Up in 1:55.1 for local horseman Douglas Lever.
Another Byron — trainer Jeffrey — sent out the evening’s Preferred 3 Trot winner, Dragin The Wagon, who scored in 1:57.4 with Anthony Haughan driving for owners James Cantelon of Thornton, Ont., David Cantelon of Bolton, Ont. and Michael Cantelon of Tottenham, Ont.
The other Preferred 3 Pace was won by the Heather Toll-trained Goldstar Badlands and Bob McClure in 1:56.4 for owner Morley Bradshaw of Wilsonville, Ont.
The Ontario-sired three-year-old pacing fillies will make their fourth Grassroots start at Mohawk Racetrack on August 14. Ontario Sires Stakes action returns to Hanover Raceway on Saturday, Sept. 5 with the last Grassroots test for the three-year-old trotting fillies.
Hanover Raceway hosts the 151st Hanover Fair next week so the next live card of harness racing will be on August 15 with the finale of the Survivor Handicapping Contest. Sixty-six fans qualified for the final during the four weeks of eliminations in July. The event is sponsored by Country 93 radio and the winner will walk away with a 58-inch high definition Samsung TV. The Hanover Fair agenda can be found at hanoverfair.ca and the weekend includes a Kim Mitchell concert on Friday night and a Country 93 video dance party on Saturday night. Both events are 19 and over and start at 9:00 p.m. with doors opening at 8:00 p.m.
(Standardbred Canada with files from OSS and Hanover Raceway)