Her season has not unfolded quite the way Blake MacIntosh imagined it would, but the trainer has been encouraged by the steady forward progress being made by his two-year-old pacing filly Sports Expert.
The filly captured her third Grassroots trophy at Mohawk Racetrack on Tuesday evening, sprinting from fifth to first through the stretch in a personal best 1:54.2. Not Depressed and Southwind Shania rounded out the top three in the third Grassroots division.
“She got off to a rocky start; first qualifier, we brought her in, she was off left hind after warming up and we couldn’t figure it out. We-x-rayed it a bunch of times, still couldn’t figure it out, so we just had to put some work into her and she finally came sound,” explained MacIntosh. “And since then she just keeps getting sounder and sounder and better and better every week. So she’s coming around.
“I thought she was going to be a top filly, and maybe she’ll get there still,” added the Cambridge, ON resident.
As a result of the interruption in her training, Sports Expert did not make her Grassroots debut until the second event, at Georgian Downs on July 19, where she earned her first lifetime win with a 1:56.1 effort. In the Aug. 9 Grassroots event at Clinton Raceway the daughter of Sportswriter and Lyons Mandi made a bobble at the start and had to settle for second, but she was back in the winner’s circle following the Aug. 24 event at Mohawk, where she stopped the teletimer at 1:55.1.
In addition to her Grassroots efforts, Sports Expert finished second in her Battle of the Belles Elimination at Grand River Raceway on July 27 and finished eighth in the final after suffering interference.
“She was a top filly training down; she’s paid into a lot of open stakes. I thought she was going to replace Sports Chic as a two-year-old,” said MacIntosh, who trained Sports Chic to earnings of $241,389 last season.
“We’ll keep her in the Grassroots and then if she’s dominant we’ll try the Breeders Crown with her, she’s still paid up to that,” MacIntosh added. “We’ll see what happens.”
MacIntosh purchased Sports Expert, a full-sister to $202,964 winner Sporting The Look, at last year’s Harrisburg Yearling Sale for $20,000 and sold a quarter share of the filly back to breeder 30 Plus Stable of Trenton, ON and a half-share to Touch Stone Farms of Guelph, ON.
Tuesday’s victory, which was engineered by driver James MacDonald of Guelph, boosted Sports Expert to the top spot in the division standings with 175 points.
The two-year-old pacing fillies make their final regular season start at Grand River Raceway on Sept. 9, with the top 20 point earners qualifying for the Sept. 17 Semi-finals at Mohawk and the top five finishers from each Semi-final advancing to the $50,000 Grassroots Championship at the Campbellville oval on Sept. 26.
Hoping to join Sports Expert in the top 20 is stablemate Mattjestic Tempo, who finished second in the first Grassroots division on Tuesday. The Royal Mattjesty daughter finished two and three-quarter lengths behind winner Rosy Outlook in the 1:54.2 mile. Fan favourite Divas Image settled for second.
Moffat, ON resident Jody Jamieson piloted Rosy Outlook to the win, her second in Grassroots action, for trainer Dave Menary of Cambridge and Blue Chip Bloodstock Inc of Wallkill, NY. The Badlands Hanover daughter now has 124 Grassroots points and sits tied for fourth in the standings.
Party In Rome earned her second straight Grassroots victory in the second division, leading through all stations on her way to a 1:53.1 clocking. Bad Lightning and Active Lady were one and three-quarter lengths back in second and third. The win bumped the Big Jim daughter from 31st to seventh in the division standings, giving her 100 points.
Gerald Lilley of Dutton, ON conditions Party In Rome for Bill Manes of Rockwood, ON, William Cripps of Acton, ON and Steven Papillon of Rockwood.
Moffat resident Jack Moiseyev also opted for a front-end strategy in the fourth division, guiding fan favourite Mayhem Seelster to her second Grassroots win in a personal best 1:53.3. The Mach Three lass bested Selling The Dream and St Lads Smokin Hot by four lengths.
Trained by Cambridge resident Tony O’Sullivan for Domenic Chiaravalle of Hamilton, ON, Mayhem Seelster currently sits third in the division standings with 125 points earned from a pair of wins and one second in three Grassroots appearances.
The final division was captured by Miss Print and Trevor Henry, who got a whisker in front of fan favourite Stonebridge Pearl and Dancin Inthe Nude at the wire.
The Arthur, ON resident guided the Sportswriter daughter to the 1:55.1 win for trainer Shaun McDonald of Rockwood and owner-breeder Glenview Livestock Ltd. of Guelph-Eramosa, ON. With two wins and two thirds, Miss Print has 124 points and is tied for fourth in the standings with Rosy Outlook.
While the two-year-old pacing fillies wrap up their season at Grand River Raceway on Monday, Sept. 7, Mohawk Racetrack will be hosting the regular season finale for the three-year-old pacing fillies, with the first race going postward at 7:25 p.m.