Magical Steph scored her third straight win in Grassroots action during Georgian Downs’ celebration of the Ontario Sires Stakes program on Saturday evening.
The two-year-old trotting filly and driver Steve Byron of Thornton, Ont. powered away from post seven and sat third through fractions of :28 and :59, then moved to take command of the race heading for the 1:28.3 three-quarters. One and three-quarter lengths ahead of the field turning for home, Magical Steph hit the wire three lengths ahead of her peers in 1:58.1. Dayliner and Wonder Wand earned the second and third-place shares of the $18,000 Grassroots purse.
“Some of the guys in our barn, they joke that she’s been push button right from the start,” said owner/trainer Gary Lance with a chuckle. “A Kadabra — push button.”
Magical Steph qualified at Georgian Downs on June 27 and made her racing debut in the first freshman trotting filly Gold leg at the Innisfil oval on July 12. The daughter of Kadabra and I Like Stephanie finished a closing fourth, but Lance felt a stint at the Grassroots level would serve as a better platform for the filly’s long term development.
“She was a late foal, she’s a May foal, and we lost a little bit of time with her in the spring. We knew going into the start of the Sires Stakes that she was a little bit behind the other fillies, probably a good month, so that’s kind of why we just thought we’d try her in the Gold and see how she was,” explained Lance. “She’s getting better every week and these races in the Grassroots have really helped her develop.”
Since moving down to the Grassroots level, Magical Steph has posted a 2:02.1 quarter-length victory at Grand River Raceway on July 22, a four and three-quarter length 1:57.1 personal best at Mohawk Racetrack on July 30 and Saturday night’s victory at Georgian Downs. Through four starts, she has banked $31,200.
Once the filly has a had a few days to recover from Saturday’s contest, Lance will decide whether her next start will be the fifth Grassroots event at Rideau Carleton Raceway on August 16 or the fourth Gold Series event, back at Georgian Downs on August 15.
“We’ll see how she comes out of this, we haven’t decided what we’re going to do next week, whether we’re going to go to Ottawa,” said the Port Perry, Ont. resident. “It’s kind of a long hike up to Ottawa, so we just might stay local around here and try the Gold.”
A $50,000 purchase from the Harrisburg Yearling Sale last fall, Magical Steph is a full-sister to Lance’s good trotter Cold Certified, who was a three-time Gold elimination winner in his 2012 sophomore season. Since then the colt has gone on to earnings of $436,478 and currently competes out of the Jeff Brewer barn at Scioto Downs.
“We raced the full brother to her, Cold Certified, I bought him off Robert and Owen Coblentz from Double Spring Farm in Ohio,” said Lance. “She’s kind of like the spitting image of him, looks just like him and travels the same way on the track like him.”
Lance, who works full-time as a maintenance manager at Ontario Power Generation, currently has one other trotter in his barn in addition Magical Steph and says the support of family and friends have been instrumental to both the filly’s and her brother’s success.
“This is our hobby, and we always have a good contingent of people that come with us and support us. My buddy Brian Samis and his son Ryan, they come to almost every race,” said Lance. “We always have fun when we go to race, we always enjoy it. I think it’s kind of a boys night out for us because we don’t race very often, and when we go out we really enjoy it and we enjoy each other’s company. We have a great time when we do race.
“And my son helps out quite a bit, Trevor [Lance], he helps around the barn and comes and helps us race and he helps with the daily activities at the barn, he’s quite involved as well.”
Other ownership groups that were celebrating at Georgian Downs on Saturday were those connected to Dewdle All Day, Its All About Sam, Majestic Presence, Smash Hit, Liseberg and Mariana.
Dewdle All Day popped out of the pocket to win the first division for trainer/driver Dustin Jones of Waterdown, Ont. and his partners 9177 8720 Quebec Inc. of Saint-Sauveur, Que. and Greg Judson of Athens, Ont. The Deweycheatumnhowe daughter hit the wire in a personal best 1:59.3, one and one-quarter lengths ahead of favourite I Want Kandy and Shezastrikin Loral.
Its All About Sam picked up her third Grassroots trophy in the second division, cruising home a two and three-quarter length winner in 1:58.3. Paul MacDonell of Guelph, Ont. crafted the win for trainer Scott McEneny of Waterdown, Ont. and owners Brad Grant and Teresa Davidson of Milton, Ont. and Michelle McEneny of Waterdown. Tough Affair and Chapel Hall finished second and third behind the Angus Hall daughter.
Majestic Presence went gate-to-wire in 1:58.4 to record her first lifetime victory for trainer/driver Anthony MacDonald of Guelph, Ont. and owners Brenda Selwyn Waxman and Isaac Waxman of Dundas, Ont., Rene Allard of Milford, Pennsylvania and Danielle Henri of Saint-Esprit, Que. The Majestic Son daughter bested Trumpets and Jarette AS by four and one-half lengths.
Smash Hit also earned her first victory with a 1:59.2 score in the fifth division. The Kadabra filly and trainer/driver Per Henriksen of Norwood, Ont. hit the wire one and one-half lengths ahead of Traviata and Anneli Hanover. Steve Organ of Aurora, Ont. and Asa Farm of Norwood share ownership of Smash Hit.
Owner, trainer and driver Dagfin Henriksen of Peterborough, Ont. guided Liseberg to her first win, one and one-quarter lengths ahead of Cadillac Sally and Malia. The Johnny William daughter controlled the tempo from start to finish, reaching the wire in 1:58.1.
The final Grassroots trophy of the evening went home with Mariana, who sprinted down the stretch to a 1:59.3 victory over Malibu Seelster and T C Sno Massive. Riina Rekila of Campbellville, Ont. trains and drives Manofmanymissions daughter Mariana for Overseas Farms Ltd. of Campbellville.
Next Saturday, August 15, Georgian Downs hosts Gold Series action for both the two-year-old pacing fillies and two-year-old trotting fillies.