The 2015 Ontario Sires Stakes Grassroots program wrapped up on Saturday night as Mohawk Racetrack hosted the $400,000 season-ending championships.
Mach Three was the only sire with a pair of champions among the eight divisional finals in Mayhem Seelster and St Lads Moonwalk. Mayhem Seelster was one of two winners bred by Seelster Farms while the other was Meadow Seelster. Meanwhile, St Lads Moonwalk was part of a championship driving double for Jody Jamieson, who was also victorious with Dublin Rose. Trot Insider has provided full recaps of all eight finals below.
The two-year-old trotting colts opened the Saturday night program with Muscles For Life rounding into form for the championship victory for Team McNair — driver Doug and his father/trainer Gregg.
The Muscle Mass-Serenity Girl colt was flushed first up from third after opening panels of :27.4 and :59 and confronted the leading Willyorwonthe and Mike Saftic as they approached three-quarters in 1:29.3. The top two raced side-by-side into the stretch with 2-1 second choice Muscles For Life taking the lead and trotting away to a two-length victory in a career-best clocking of 1:57.2. Dynamic Edge and driver Sylvain Filion followed the winner’s cover and completed a sweep of the top two spots for the McNair stable. Georgies Pockets, the divisional point-leader and 8-5 favourite, followed in third.
“I figured he was one of the best in there and I just wanted to make sure that I didn’t get him in a tough spot,” said Doug McNair of his race strategy. “I just let him coast first over and the pace wasn’t too hot. In the last turn, I could tell Saftic’s was in a little bit of trouble so I just let him coast up nice and slow, and as soon as he hit the top of the stretch, he just trotted away.”
Bred by Jonas Schlabach of Apple Creek, Ohio, Muscles For Life was a $35,000 Lexington Selected Sale yearling. He has overcome some early breaking issues and earned his third straight victory from six starts in the Grassroots program. The lion’s share of the championship purse doubled his bankroll, which now sits at $49,400, for owner Jarold Hawks of Jeddo, Michigan.
“He used to just make breaks leaving,” explained the colt’s driver. “I don’t know what he would do it for, but I got scoring him out a little more and kind of getting his attention before the race and he seemed to respond very well, you know, the last three starts he’s been perfect. As soon as you get him off the gate, he usually trots perfect.”
Jangone pulled off a 16-1 upset in two-year-old filly trot championship as she closed late to score a career-best 1:56.3 triumph for trainer/driver Riina Rekila.
Divisional leader Magical Steph had the backing of the public and was sent off as the 8-5 favourite after being picked off late in the Semis, but she would suffer the same fate this night.
Magical Steph led the fillies through fractions of :27.4, :58.2 and 1:28 with her rival, Semi-Final winner Myretirementticket, following in the pocket and outsider Liseberg parked out the entire way. Myretirementticket launched her attack coming out of the pocket at the top of the stretch, but Jangone stole the spotlight as she rallied out from mid-pack to score the one and three-quarter length victory. Tough Affair came on for second over Myretirementticket and Magical Steph.
The Johnny William-Panderosa F filly is owned and bred by Rekila and Esa Lahtinen’s Overseas Farms Ltd. of Campbellville, Ont. She paid $35.90 for the upset victory. The win was her fourth in nine starts and boosted her bankroll to $54,140.
“I always knew she was a very nice horse, but she’s French blood from the mother’s side so those kind of horses they are a little bit late developing,” noted Rekila. “She has huge speed, but she was not easy to handle.”
Mayhem Seelster showcased her versatility in the two-year-old pacing filly final with an off-the-pace effort in 1:53.1 in rein to Jack Moiseyev for trainer Tony O’Sullivan.
Noone To Depend On first blasted to lead from the outermost post 10 into a :26.4 opening quarter with Southwind Shania following in second and Selling The Dream parked out in third. Down the backstretch, Southwind Shania took over command and reached the half in :56 and then three-quarters in 1:24.2. However, 5-2 second choice Mayhem Seelster had moved out second over and rallied wide outside of Selling The Dream with her sights set on overtaking Southwind Shania down the lane for her third straight victory. Divisional leader Sports Expert chased her home and finished second, a quarter-length behind, while Southwind Shania was third.
“That was kind of the plan [to race her a little bit differently on a helmet tonight],” said Moiseyev after the race. “If I had a chance to move her, I was going to, but they wanted to try her from behind. I was a little worried in the first turn, but everything went well.”
The Mach Three-Macapelo Rose filly was purchased for $55,000 from the Forest City Yearling Sale by Domenic Chiaravalle of Hamilton, Ont. She has never finished worse than second, with five wins from seven starts, and earnings climbing to $68,500.
“Each start she just got a little better, a little smarter, and a little racier,” said Moiseyev. “I think next year she’s going to be a real nice filly.”
The 8-5 favourite after his Semi-Final victory, Duh Bubbees made the lead down the backstretch and never looked back to take the next championship for three-year-old trotting colts.
Following a few lead changes, driver Trevor Henry made his move with Duh Bubbees and the favourite swept up from mid-pack to take the lead by the half in :56.1. Duh Bubees raced by three-quarters in 1:25.4 with In Secret in pursuit. However, In Secret dropped into the pocket around the final turn as Duh Bubees opened up two lengths on top and prevailed in 1:55.2, equalling his lifetime mark. Parkhill Lancelot came on for second over In Secret.
“He had a bit of problems earlier on there, always at the wrong time,” noted Huron Park, Ont. horseman Jamie Wilson, who trains the homebred Up Front Ben-Nothing To Justify gelding for his wife Chris. “He won here three or four times this year. Every time it seemed to be in :55.2, but I think tonight is a better mile than the other nights he did it. He’s trotting better tonight than he has been.”
Duh Bubees’ Sires Stakes season isn’t done just yet as the sophomore has been entered in the final Gold leg on Monday at Mohawk.
“I had always planned to take one more shot at the Golds,” said Wilson, who didn’t expect Duh Bubees to make the Grassroots Semis Finals as he ranked just outside the cutoff in 21st, however, not all of the top contenders entered. “We went to the first [Gold] and he made a break leaving. He was one of the favourites…he usually recoups pretty quick.”
After securing a pocket trip, Dublin Rose came through between horses down the stretch in rein to Jody Jamieson to win the championship for three-year-old pacing fillies.
Divisional point-leaders Stonebridge Quest and Dublin Rose left together, with the former winning the battle during a :26.2 first quarter while the latter dropped in behind. Stonebridge Quest continued to lead the fillies through middle splits of :55.1 and 1:24.3 while 2-1 favourite Lovely Erin applied first over pressure. Down the stretch, Ainsleynoelle closed off cover, but Jamieson maneuvered Dublin Rose through to prevail by a quarter-length in 1:52.2, equalling her lifetime mark. Ainsleynoelle was second over Stonebridge Quest.
“Really, I didn’t have any apprehension at all. I was looking to sit in the two-hole whether I got to the lead and Trevor [Henry and Stonebridge Quest] came back around or I got in the two-hole,” said Jamieson. “It was just a matter of getting in there. We were kind of stuck in there a little bit. I thought Lovely Erin would go a little further, but she was having steering problems there around the last turn and into the stretch. But I knew once I got loose, it was just a matter of getting loose and she was going to win. Dave had her really good tonight.”
“I was just lucky to get the phone call and I appreciate the business,” said David Menary, who took over the training of the the Major In Art-Bronwen Seelster filly in late August for new owner Jerry Clark of Finksburg, Maryland. “I was a little disappointed at the beginning. She won her first start, but I thought she would be a little bit better, but I hadn’t had her very long. She had a little foot we had to work on.”
Dublin Rose has now won three of her four starts for the Menary stable and has nine wins in 22 career starts, with her earnings climbing to $139,394. She was bred and previously campaigned by Allen Tomlinson of Mason, Michigan.
Jody Jamieson earned back-to-back championship victories as he came right back to score a 17-1 upset with the Jack Darling-trained St Lads Moonwalk in the two-year-old colt pace.
Despite being the division point-leader thanks in part to three consecutive Grassroots wins in August, the Mach Three-Warrawee Cammy colt was overlooked at the betting windows.
Jamieson was able to get away third with St Lads Moonwalk while Kokanee Seelster emerged with the lead from the inside post position and 1-2 favourite Gerries Sport settled into second. Kokanee Seelster carved out fractions of :26.2, :55.3 and 1:24.3 with Bingo Ingo advancing first over and eventually taking the lead into the stretch. However, St Lads Moonwalk came through down the stretch and dropped inside of horses to prevail in a new lifetime mark of 1:53.2 by one length. Azul Pool came on for second ahead of Bingo Ingo.
The upset winner returned $37.30 to his backers for a $2 win ticket.
“When he gets out late, he can absolutely fly. He might be one of the fastest two-year-olds Jack has,” said Jamieson. “It just seems, sometimes, if you get him out in the outer flow, he doesn’t really respond well so I wanted to be sitting close and hopefully get some luck in the stretch, and that’s exactly what happened.
“I wasn’t worried what his odds were. He got into the final and he wasn’t great last week [finishing fifth in the Semis]. Jack did his job and had the colt really good tonight. If the trip worked out, he was going to be really good and it definitely did.”
“He had some soreness issues last week,” explained Darling. “He was very rough-gaited. Jody did a heck of a job keeping him together and getting him in the final. We had to do some vet work this week and touch up some spots and he was good to go. We were hoping he was better and thought he would be, and he proved that he was.”
Bred by St. Lads Farm of Ruscom Station, Ont., St Lads Moonwalk was purchased for $47,000 from the Canadian Yearling Sale by the Jack Darling Stables Ltd.
“St Lads, they raise great horses and they race and they want to win,” said the Cambridge, Ont. conditioner. “This was a really game colt. He trained down super and he’s just been a nice colt all along.”
St Lads Moonwalk wrapped up his freshman campaign with four wins, two seconds and one third-place finish from nine starts for a bankroll totalling $63,160.
In the following championship, Meadow Seelster dominated the three-year-old trotting fillies with a 1:56 four-length romp in rein to Sylvain Filion.
Sent postward as the heavy 1-5 favourite, Meadow Seelster swept from fourth to first after a :26.4 first quarter and reached the half in :57.2. She then proceeded to three-quarters in 1:27.2 and extended her lead down the lane en route to her third straight victory. Oh My Magic closed on the outside in the scramble for second-place while Judy The Beauty finished third.
“She just seems to be getting better with age and confidence. She’s got lots of confidence now. She’s a nice filly,” trainer Bill Budd said of the Seelster Farms-bred filly. “She was a little warm as a two-year-old and we had to put the trotting hopples on her. It gives her a little confidence. She was a big, rugged mare and she’s starting to learn how to race the right way now.”
The daughter of Holiday Road out of Must Be Sold will look to improve upon her 10-race win record and $171,745 earnings for owner William Dixon of Caledon, Ont. as she heads to the final Gold leg on Tuesday at Mohawk before enjoying some time off.
Artful Way closed out the Grassroots season with a bang as he persisted in wearing down 3-5 favourite Make Some Luck for a 39-1 shocker in the three-year-old pacing colt championship.
Make Some Luck emerged between early leavers to take the lead and he fronted the field through fractions of :26.2, :55.4 and 1:23.4. Meanwhile, catch-driver Paul MacDonell sent Artful Way first over from fourth near the half-mile mark and moved up to challenge the leader into the final turn. Make Some Luck pulled clear entering the stretch, but Artful Way dug in down the lane to persevere by half a length in a career-best 1:51.1. His Boy Elroy was a fast-closing third after a parked journey from post 10.
“I wasn’t sure what was going to happen there coming first up against the 3-5 favourite, but he just kind of paced along and didn’t use much effort doing it,” said MacDonell, who drove Artful Way for the first time in Saturday’s Grassroots final. “On the last turn, I felt like I still had some horse, and when I asked him, he paced on.”
Artful Way paid $80.10 for the upset win.
Bred, owned and campaigned by the Robert McIntosh Stables Inc. of Windsor, Ont. the Artistic Fella-Art Debut gelding has won five of his 17 starts this year after a winless, nine-race freshman season. His career earnings climbed to $88,010.
While the 2015 Grassroots season came to a close on Saturday, the Gold Series continues with the final legs coming up this week and the Super Finals set for Oct. 10 at Woodbine Racetrack.
“I think it’s so important for Ontario racing in general just to have a solid program,” added MacDonell. “Every year we finish off the year with top horses going head-to-head and I find that it’s great for our business and I hope it can keep going down the road.”
Other highlights on Saturday’s card included Venus Delight’s 1:50.1 victory in the $300,000 Milton Stakes for older pacing mares, with James MacDonald driving for Bamond Racing LLC.
In the weekly $34,000 Preferred Pace, Evenin Of Pleasure and driver Sylvain Filion inherited the victory, clocked in 1:49.3, as initial first-place finisher Ultimate Beachboy was set back to seventh for causing interference in the stretch. The Richard Moreau trainee is owned by Gestion J Y Blais Inc.
Mohawk also hosted its first under saddle race with pari-mutuel wagering during the undercard. Santo Domingo won the $10,000 Harlequin Invitational Trot, going wire-to-wire in 1:56.4 with European rider Philippe Masschaele aboard. Mike Guitard trains the trotter, who now has two wins under saddle, for owners Jalade Investments Ltd., Deanmar Sons Stable, and Peter Miskolczi.