Driver Phil Hudon guided a pair of three-year-old pacing fillies to Grassroots victories at Mohawk Racetrack on Friday (August 5), on an evening that he recorded a driving hat trick.
The Guelph, Ont. resident opened his night with a victory aboard former Ontario Sires Stakes competitor Justabit Mean in a fillies and mares event in the fourth race and, one race later, he was back in the winner’s circle with Grassroots competitor Top Royal.
Starting from the outside post 10, Hudon hustled Top Royal away from the gate and the filly was sitting fourth in the outer lane when Icthelight Hanover reached the :26.3 quarter. Hudon opted to keep driving and Top Royal reached the front before the :54.4 half, sailed to a 1:23.3 three-quarters, and then sprinted down the stretch to a 1:52 personal-best. Trilife was two and three-quarter lengths back in second and Icthelight Hanover was two more lengths behind in third.
“Top Royal is finally coming back the way she was in the fall at two,” said Hudon. “She was making breaks — I think her ovaries were bugging her — but the last few starts she has been good. I thought if I could get her to the front she could win, and she did.”
Hudon drives the Royal Mattjesty daughter for trainer Heather Toll of Seaforth, Ont., and her partner Brydown Farms Inc. of Clinton, Ont. The win was Top Royal’s first in nine sophomore starts, and her first ever in Grassroots action. Last fall, the filly captured a leg and the final of the Autumn Series at Woodbine Racetrack, capping off a two-year-old campaign that saw her win six of 15 starts.
Two races later, Hudon was back in the Grassroots winner’s circle with Windsun Glory. Like Top Royal, Windsun Glory hustled away from post eight and landed on the rail in second behind pacesetter Tahiti Seelster. Through fractions of :26.2, :54.1 and 1:22.4, Windsun Glory and Hudon sat patiently in the pocket and, when Tahiti Seelster swung wide off the last turn, they powered down the lane to a 1:52.1 victory. Fan favourite Parklane Glamorous finished three lengths back in second, with Golden Idol two more back in third.
“She’s just a nice filly,” said Hudon. “Her last start she tied up, but today the trip worked out perfectly.”
Murray Brethour of Sunderland, Ont. conditions Windsun Glory for his partners Windsun Farm Inc. of Uxbridge, Ont., Kevin McKinlay of Holland Landing, Ont., and Jim Fielding of Toronto. Brethour and Windsun Farm also bred the daughter of Mach Three and Windsun Princess. Friday’s victory was the filly’s second in Grassroots action this season and boosted her record to five wins, two seconds and three thirds in 17 starts for earnings of $79,092.
Driver James MacDonald also scored a hat trick on Friday’s card, winning a pair of overnight races early in the program and capping things off with a victory in the final $18,000 Grassroots division.
Starting from post four with fan favourite Forever Liza, MacDonald opted to sit off the pace while Twin B Thong took the field to a :27.1 quarter and :56.2 half. When Thisorthat Hanover took control heading for the 1:23.2 three-quarters, Forever Liza was five lengths back, but when MacDonald asked for another gear, the filly pulled away to a one and three-quarter length victory in 1:52.1. Windsongmagnifique closed hard to be second, beating out Southwind Tango.
“I was first up for a bit, and then I was second over for a little bit, and then I was first up for a bit again, and then I was in the four-hole,” said MacDonald with a chuckle. “It was an odd race, a very odd race.
“She’s a little goofy and, in the last turn, she got a little lost out by herself, but luckily the four-hole opened up right where I was so I dropped her on Steve Condren’s back for a minute and she swelled back up. When I moved her down the lane, she knew what to do,” MacDonald continued. “She’s got a good motor and, when you call on her, she’ll usually give you what she’s got.”
MacDonald engineered the win — the filly’s third in Grassroots action — for trainer Mark Steacy and owner Hudson Standardbred Stable Inc. of Hudson, Que. Through 10 sophomore starts, the daughter of Bettors Delight and Forever Cam has tallied five wins, one second, one third and $49,360 in earnings. Her three wins and one fourth in Grassroots action put her atop the division standings with 158 points.
Bourbon Seelster also scored her third Grassroots win in Friday’s fourth division. In rein to Campbellville, Ont. resident Mike Saftic, the Camluck daughter laid down a :27.3 final quarter to reel in pacesetter Tonightimlovingyou and hit the wire a neck on top in 1:52.4. Kays Shadow, with Hudon in the race bike, finished four lengths back in third.
The win was the third straight for Bourbon Seelster, who is trained by Robert Manders for Scott and Keith Manders of Watford, Ont. In eight starts this season, the talented pacer has six wins, one second and earnings of $65,150. She currently sits second in the division standings with 150 points.
The other Grassroots trophy was awarded to Norcross Blue Chip, who toured the Mohawk oval in a personal-best 1:51.2 for trainer/driver Dan Megens. Norcross Blue Chip hit the wire three-quarters of a length ahead of Maxim Seelster and Selling The Dream to earn her first Ontario Sires Stakes win.
Hamilton, Ont. resident Megens shares ownership of Norcross Blue Chip with Donna and Robert Fox of Stoney Creek, Ont. Through seven sophomore starts, the Bettors Delight daughter now has five wins and one second for earnings of $23,200.
The three-year-old pacing fillies are back in Grassroots action on August 21 at Rideau Carleton Raceway.
Ontario Sires Stakes action is back at Mohawk Racetrack on Monday, August 8 with the third Grassroots division for the three-year-old trotting colts. The colts will kick things off in the first race at 7:30 p.m., and will also battle in Races 3, 5, 7, and 10.