Guelph, Ontario resident Anthony MacDonald took his brother’s advice about an equipment change on two-year-old trotting filly Onatopp, and it paid off with a Grassroots victory at Grand River Raceway on Wednesday evening.
“I was stubborn; I didn’t want to put the hopples on her. I felt that, the few times that I put them on her, I didn’t feel that she was as strong or as fast with them on, and I felt that I could keep her trotting, at least on the bigger track, without them,” said MacDonald, who co-owns, trains and drives Onatopp. “And James had schooled her for me when I was away and he said, you know, I think she needs the hopples. And, you know, he was right. I put them on her and she was really, really good.”
Making her debut with trotting hopples from post nine in Wednesday’s sixth Grassroots division, Onatopp was able to secure a spot on the rail in fourth as favourite Ballykeel Rocket led the field to a :31.4 opening quarter. MacDonald was content to sit fourth through the 1:04.3 half, but when Favourite Tweet stepped into the outer lane from third, he followed suit.
Rolling by the 1:36 three-quarters, MacDonald tipped Onatopp out three-wide and she sailed effortlessly past the leaders to the front, pulling away to a two and one-half length lead in the stretch and stopping the clock at 2:05.1. Ballykeel Rocket settled for second and pocket sitter Sweet With Heat was third.
“I know she only went in 2:05.1 tonight, but she can go as fast as any Grassroots filly out there, there’s no end to her speed,” said MacDonald. “I mean she came a last half in :59 or something tonight and I never pulled the ear plugs, never even asked her, I just moved her out in position where she could do her work, and she was more than happy to do it.”
MacDonald and his partner Rene Allard of Milford, Pennsylvania purchased Onatopp out of the Canadian Yearling Sale for $11,000. The filly is a Manofmanymissions half-sister to $529,825 winner Sim Brown, and the partners had high hopes for her all winter. Onatopp made her Ontario Sires Stakes debut in the July 12 Gold Series opener at Georgian Downs, but made a break and finished eighth, a result that prompted MacDonald to take his brother, James MacDonald’s, advice.
In addition to his brother, the horseman said a great deal of credit for Onatopp’s victory falls to his wife Amy, who works alongside him in their 11-horse stable.
“She works really, really hard on them and she deserves a lot of the credit, a lot of the credit,” he emphasized.
In addition to Onatopp, six other fillies went home from Grand River Raceway with Grassroots trophies on Wednesday, with four of them also stepping down from the Gold Series for their second Ontario Sires Stakes start.
Mariana and trainer/driver Riina Rekila kicked things off in the first race with a 2:04 clocking, reeling in pacesetter Shezastrikin Loral and pocket-sitter Tala Seelster in the stretch. Rekila and Esa Lahtinen bred and own Mariana through their Overseas Farms Ltd. of Campbellville, Ont. Rekila piloted the daughter of Manofmanymissions to a runner-up result in the Grassroots season opener at Georgian Downs on July 7.
Trainer/driver Eddie Green piloted Malia to a 2:03 win in the second $18,000 division. The Cornaro Dasolo daughter bested Tymal Tempest and Early Decision by one-half length. Green conditions Malia for Kristine Green of Ohsweken, Ont. and, like MacDonald, sent her to the Gold Series for her first provincial appearance, where she finished sixth.
Guelph resident Phil Hudon crafted a gate-to-wire victory for Toss It Back in the third division. The Majestic Son filly cruised across the wire four lengths ahead of Chapel Hall and Talbotcreek Jetta. Trainer Pat Hunt of Cambridge, Ont. shares ownership of Toss It Back with Leo Fleming of Campbellville, Ont. The win gives the filly one victory and one fourth-place result through the first two Grassroots events.
Magical Steph was the second filly of the evening to step down from the Gold Series and find success, capturing the fourth Grassroots division with a late sprint past pacesetter and favourite Shes In Gear. Major Muscle rounded out the top three in the 2:02.1 mile. Steve Byron engineered the Kadabra filly’s first victory for trainer Gary Lance and owner GL Racing Inc. of Port Perry, Ont.
In the fifth division, Deweycheatumnhowe daughter Dewdle All Day hit the wire three and one-half lengths up on Windsongmusclelady and Herbe A Loral in 2:03.3. Dustin Jones of Waterdown, Ont. drives, trains and co-owns Dewdle All Day with partners 9177 8720 Quebec Inc. of Saint-Sauveur, Que. and Greg Judson of Athens, Ont. Dewdle All Day came into the test off a sixth-place result in the July 12 Gold Series event.
The final Grassroots trophy of the evening went home with Myretirementticket, the fifth competitor shifting from Gold to Grassroots competition. The Cornaro Dasolo daughter and owner/trainer/driver Eli Wagler of Ingersoll, Ont. cruised along on the front end to a 2:01.1 victory, crossing the wire two and three-quarter lengths ahead of Very Classy and Cadillac Sally.
The two-year-old trotting fillies make their third Grassroots start at Mohawk Racetrack on July 30.
Grand River Raceway’s next Ontario Sires Stakes event will come during the highly anticipated Industry Day program on Monday, Aug. 3. The Elora oval will host the third Gold leg for the three-year-old pacing fillies in addition to the finals for its signature races, the Battle of the Belles for two-year-old pacing fillies and Battle of Waterloo for two-year-old pacing colts.