Rideau Carleton Raceway wrapped up its 2017 Ontario Sires Stakes season with the final Grassroots event for the two-year-old pacing fillies on Sunday’s harness racing card, which was later marred by an accident that sent one driver to hospital.
Gerard Demers was taken to hospital following an accident in Sunday’s 12th race, which was declared a No Contest.
The accident was caused when the trailing tier horse, Road Runner Colony with Clarke Steacy in the bike, found himself in tight quarters heading to the first turn and stepped on the wheel of another horse in front and fell causing a chain reaction.
The extent of Demers’ injuries is not yet known. Early reports indicate the other drivers and horses that went down in the spill escaped serious injuries.
Earlier on the program in the first $18,800 Grassroots division, heavy favourite Neon Moon cruised to a three-length victory over Color Envy and Love Kills, taking control just after the :27.4 quarter and leading the field of seven through a :57 half and 1:26.1 three-quarters on her way to the 1:54.3 victory.
“She is a very fast filly, so I thought she would probably cut the mile,” noted Jack Darling, who bred, owns and trains Neon Moon. “She is very game and looked strong at the wire.”
Louis-Philippe Roy engineered the win, which was the fourth in five Grassroots starts for the daughter of Sportswriter and Beach Of A Time. With a third in her other Grassroots start, Neon Moon finished the regular season with 212 points and sole ownership of top spot in the division standings. She and the other nine top point earners will compete in the $50,000 Grassroots Championship at Mohawk Racetrack on September 30.
“There is a gap of three weeks until the final, so I hope there will be a race for her at Mohawk before then,” said Cambridge, Ont. resident Darling, whose Write Me A Song also finished in the top 10, but will not compete in the final due to an injury that brought her freshman campaign to an early close in mid-August.
Heading into the second division, Askmysecretary was sitting on the edge of a championship berth, tied for ninth with 70 points. Sent off as the fans’ fourth choice, the Mach Three daughter left smartly from post five for local reinsman Brett MacDonald, reaching the quarter in :27.4. Manotick, Ont. resident MacDonald opted to let favourite Duchess Dolly take the lead before the :57.1 half and then watched from the pocket as Sunday Afternoon challenged the leader through the 1:26.2 three-quarters. In the stretch, MacDonald fired Askmysecretary out of the pocket and the filly pulled away to a three-quarter length victory in 1:56, leaving Duchess Dolly to settle for second. Hammering Haley rounded out the top three.
The win was Askmysecretary’s second in Grassroots action and boosted her point total to 120, putting her sixth in the standings and securing her berth in the championship. Ted MacDonnell of Allenford, Ont. trains the winner of $25,672 for his partners Leonard Gamble of Etobicoke, Ont., and Tony Lawrence of Hanover, Ont.
MacDonnell says Askmysecretary has become a true professional through her eight-race freshman campaign.
“I honestly thought she was possibly a Gold filly for a little while, until some of the bear cats right off the bat came out, and then we quickly changed our mind, but she’s been good in that she has had very few hiccups really,” said MacDonnell. “She’s been pretty easy, pretty easy on us to look after and she’s pretty push button, she’s nice gaited and behaves well and does everything right. Sylvain Filion did a great job bringing her along for me and that shows up now, it’s meant a lot.
“Being a Mach Three, they can tend to get a little warm, so that’s what Sylvain really worked on, her manners, and now she’s two fingers no matter what you do with her,” the horseman added.
Like Darling, MacDonnell would like to see Askmysecretary have one more race under her belt before the September 30 Grassroots Championship, but is pleased to be heading into the post-season off a victory.
“That heads her into the final in nice shape, so that’s good,” said MacDonnell.
The top 10 two-year-old pacing fillies will join the top point-earners from the other seven Grassroots divisions at Mohawk Racetrack for the September 30 Grassroots Championships, with a total purse for all eight finals of $400,000.
(Standardbred Canada with files from OSS)