The Ontario Sires Stakes program’s talented three-year-old male trotters and two-year-old filly trotters invaded Grand River Raceway on Wednesday (August 10) and destroyed their respective divisional track records during the evening’s Gold Series action.
Sass out-duelled Tony Soprano in a 1:56.3 track record performance during the evening’s first $105,000 Gold match-up, with his winning time shaving two-fifths of a second off the mark for three-year-old male trotters set by Covert Operative in a Gold event last July. Will Take Charge then lived up to his name in the very next race as he took charge of the field off the gate and shattered the new divisional record with a 1:55.2 triumph.
Sass earned his first-ever OSS victory with James MacDonald driving for trainer Mark Steacy and owner/breeder Hudson Standardbred Stable Inc. of Hudson, Que. The Kadabra-Armbro Equinox colt fired out from post two and pocketed Smoke Monkey through a :28.3 first quarter while 3-5 favourite Muscle Hustle blew the first turn. Reigning divisional Super Final champion Tony Soprano then advanced first over from third at the :58 half-mile mark in search of his first victory this year and worked up alongside the leader down the backstretch. They battled past three-quarters in 1:27.1 and all the way to the wire, with Sass ultimately holding on for the 1:56.3 victory by a neck. Makers Mass closed inside for third.
Sass was the 9-2 second choice and paid $11.50 to win. After competing at the Grassroots level as a freshman and earning just one win from 10 starts, the brown colt has won five of his 11 sophomore starts and was a runner-up in his last Gold event on July 11 at Mohawk Racetrack. His first ‘Gold jackpot’ boosted his bankroll to $146,740.
Will Take Charge claimed his second Gold trophy this year and pulled ahead out of a tie with Muscle Hustle atop the divisional point standings in rein to Paul MacDonell for trainer John Bax. Sent postward as the 1-2 favourite, Will Take Charge fired from the outside post five and overtook Wildwild Men around the first turn into a :27.2 opening quarter. As the Kadabra-Celebrity Angel gelding carved out middle splits of :57.4 and 1:26.4, early breaker Dia Monde regrouped to challenge first over, but eventually threw in the towel around the final turn. Will Take Charge remained in charge down the lane as he cruised to a two-length victory in 1:55.2. Bee In Charge tracked Dia Monde’s cover and then overtook that rival in the stretch for the runner-up honours.
Will Take Charge paid $3.40 to win. He was purchased as a yearling for $47,000 at the Lexington Selected Sale by the Bax Stable of Campbellville, Ont., John Hayes of Sharon, Ont., Don Allensen of Wyoming, Ont., and Gordon Wright of Charlotte, Michigan. The bay gelding earned his only freshman win from 13 starts in a Gold division before finishing second in the Super Final. This year, he has not missed the board in stakes action, with top-two finishes in the Goodtimes Trot and three Gold legs. He now boasts four wins in nine seasonal starts to lift his lifetime earnings to $397,640.
The two-year-old trotting fillies put their speed on display during the second half of the program as the Gold stakes continued.
Sweet Of My Heart handed divisional leader On A Sunny Day her first taste of defeat in a 1:58.4 record mile. The former track record for two-year-old trotting fillies was 1:59.2, set by 2013 Gold winner Miss Aultsville.
Chris Christoforou engineered the winning trip for trainer Paul Reid and owner/breeder Robert Key of Leechburg, Pennsylvania. Undefeated through the first three Gold legs, 2-5 favourite On A Sunny Day drove on to take the lead over insider Sweet Of My Heart with Holiday Promise parked out in third. Those three fillies raced away from the rest of the field through opening fractions of :30.1 and :59 before Holiday Promise broke stride. On A Sunny Day continued to lead past three-quarters in 1:29.1 with Sweet Of My Heart still hot on her heels. Christoforou then launched Sweet Of My Heart from the pocket down the stretch and she wore down On A Sunny Day to win by half a length in 1:58.4. Literally followed six lengths back in third.
Sweet Of My Heart paid $8 to win as the 3-1 second choice. The Angus Hall-Sweetheart K filly, who has hit the board in all five of her career starts, earned her first OSS victory and second career win. The lion’s share of the purse more than doubled her bankroll, which now stands at $102,900.
Paul MacDonell earned a stakes double as he later guided Janderson to victory lane in the final Gold division of the night for the two-year-old trotting fillies. Mike Keeling, of recent Hambletonian fame, trains the Muscle Mass-Gracious Marla filly for owners Dr. Roland Armitage of Dunrobin, Ont. and James Armitage of Carp, Ont.
Janderson looped early leader and eventual breaker Mass Psychology at the :30.1 quarter pole and proceeded to the half in 1:01 before being confronted by 4-5 favourite Gravitator. However, Janderson kept that determined rival at bay through three-quarters in 1:30.4 and prevailed by a half-length in 2:00. Lady Justice finished nearly four lengths behind in third.
Sent postward as the 5-2 second choice, Janderson paid $7.30 to win. Purchased for $14,000 at the Canadian Yearling Sale, she has now won three of her four career/OSS starts while banking $122,500.
In regular racing action, War Filly ($21.10) nosed out pacesetter Passion Quizrace in 1:55.3 to win the $7,500 Fillies & Mares Preferred Pace, with Squeeze This a half length behind in third. Ryan Holliday drove the four-year-old Mach Three-Elite Avatar mare to her fourth Grand River victory this year for trainer John Powell and co-owner Bradley Powell.
The OSS three-year-old trotting colts will face off in their fourth Gold leg on August 27 at Georgian Downs while the the fifth and final preliminary leg for the two-year-old trotting fillies will take place on September 29 at Mohawk Racetrack.