Hemi Seelster and driver Steve Byron kicked off Saturday’s stakes action with a 76-1 shocker in the $233,000 Goodtimes Trot for local trainer John Bax, who campaign the race’s namesake.
Set to make the trophy presentation to the winning connections, Bax was pleased when he was able to keep the hardware for his own collection.
“I’m a little numb, but I always dreamed that I’d be able to give the trophy to myself,” said Bax in a post-race interview. “I thought it was a little bit of a pipe dream. This was quite a shock.”
The popular Jimmy Takter-trained elimination winners Canepa Hanover and French Laundry made breaks in stride paving the way for a double-digit upset.
Rubber Duck (Sylvain Filion) left for the lead from post six with outsider Iron (Tim Tetrick) moving up to his outside, but making a break of his own into the first turn. Rubber Duck reached the first quarter in :27 while heavy 1-5 favourite Canepa Hanover (Yannick Gingras) tried to clear before making his miscue.
Covert Operative (Randy Waples) then pulled the pocket down the backside and overtook Rubber Duck past the :57.3 half-mile mark. He trotted on to three-quarters in 1:25.4 while French Laundry (Brett Miller) advanced first over and then suffered the same fate as his stablemate going off stride.
Covert Operative continued to lead into the stretch with Rubber Duck out and challenging. Rubber Duck struck the front, but Hemi Seelster rushed by to steal the spotlight with the barefoot The Bank (Jimmy Takter) closing off cover. Hemi Seelster prevailed in a new lifetime mark of 1:54 by one and a quarter lengths. The Bank and Rubber Duck completed the top three finish order.
“When [track and Canadian record holder Canepa Hanover] made a break that sure helped, but I was just hoping to get a a good trip and get away close and hopefully see what happens at the end of the mile and it worked out perfect,” said Byron, who also spoke about the Holiday Road-Hollywood Beauty gelding’s versatility. “He’s getting more manageable. He is a big, strong horse and he showed good speed tonight.”
After sustaining serious injuries in a qualifying accident at Kawartha Downs in 2013 that kept him out of action for six months, Byron noted how much the stakes victory meant to him.
“To come back and do what you love doing, I’m just a happy man tonight,” he said.
Scoring his first victory of the season, Hemi Seelster returned $155.10 for a $2 win ticket. He is owned by Bax’s Parkhill Stud Farm, his son Matt Bax, John Houston of Cobourg, Ont. and the Goin To The Show Stable of Peterborough, Ont.