Driver Steve Byron and trainer John Bax teamed up to win all three $18,800 divisions of the last regular season Grassroots event for two-year-old trotting fillies at Flamboro Downs on Tuesday evening.
Byron and Bax kicked off their successful evening in Race 1 with Warrawee Trip, who led from gate-to-wire in a contest reduced to five fillies as the result of three scratches due to sickness. The 2:01.4 clocking was a personal best for Warrawee Trip, who trotted under the wire one and three-quarter lengths ahead of her stablemate Dalliance Seelster. Candid Hally was well behind the leaders in third.
“You never know until you get out in a race whether they’re going to have that drive to win or not, or that heart, or brains; there’s so many variables in this game,” said Bax. “She always wanted to do it, that’s her biggest attribute.”
Campbellville resident Bax conditions Warrawee Trip for his partners Glengate Farms of Mississauga, Kenneth Ewen of Georgetown and Bruce Norris of Caledon East, ON. Tuesday’s win was the Majestic Son daughter’s second in seven starts this season and boosted her career earnings to $22,099. Warrawee Trip, who was a $30,000 purchase at last fall’s Canadian Yearling Sale, will have an opportunity to pad her earnings in the Sept. 30 Grassroots Championship. With one win and two seconds in Grassroots action she finishes the regular season in fourth-place in the standings with 100 points.
In the second Grassroots division Byron got away fourth with fan favourite Magical Lady, then moved into second behind pacesetter Princess Stephanie when stablemate Tusk and Ladys Intuition went off stride heading for the half. Pretty N Well challenged Princess Stephanie through the final quarter, but when Byron manoeuvred Magical Lady into an open lane in the stretch the filly trotted right by the duelling leaders and on to a one-half length victory in 2:02.3. Pretty N Well finished second, with Princess Stephanie settling for third.
“That was the first time Steve drove her and he was pretty impressed with her gait,” said Bax of the Kadabra daughter. “She was pretty green out there, she did a little sashaying once in a while, but I think when she learns she’s going to be useful.”
It was just the third start of the season for Magical Lady, who finished second in her Grassroots debut at Mohawk Racetrack on Sept. 4. With a total of 75 points the filly fell one point shy of finishing in the top 10 and joining her stablemates in the Grassroots Championship. SRF Stable of Delray Beach, FL owns Magical Lady, who was a $150,000 acquisition from the 2016 Lexington-Selected Yearling Sale and has returned $15,395 in her first three starts.
Bax and Byron completed the Grassroots hat trick with Gradabra in the third division. Starting from Post 3 Gradabra landed on the rail in second behind Precieuse CC, who led the field to a :30.1 quarter and a 1:01.4 half before skipping off stride heading into the third turn. Inheriting the lead, Gradabra demonstrated a bit of inexperience, but rallied when Ms Miller appeared on her flank heading for the 1:32.4 three-quarters. After matching strides with Ms Miller through the final turn, Gradabra found another gear in the stretch and trotted under the wire three-quarters of a length on top in 2:02.3. Ms Miller settled for second with Melanie G well back in third.
“She’s pretty green too,” noted Bax. “Steve had to do a lot of yelling. He was actually happy when a horse pulled out beside him. When she warmed up Matt (Bax) said she was looking at everything, you know, her ears were going every which way.
“She fought back really well today, I was real impressed,” Bax continued. ‘That was kind of the first time she’s taken on another horse, so that was good to see.”
The win boosted Gradabra’s point total from 34 to 84, landing her in the Grassroots Championship with Warrawee Trip and Dalliance Seelster. In her first four Grassroots starts the Kadabra daughter had posted two thirds and two fifths.
Bax shares ownership of Gradabra with Glengate Farms of Mississauga, ON, Gordon Wright of Charlotte, MI and Dave Hudson of Dallas, TX. The filly, a full-sister to former Bax trainee Juanitas Fury ($416,292), was a $70,000 purchase at last fall’s Harrisburg Yearling Sale and has earned $18,339.
“It’s good to end on a higher note,” said Bax. “I’m really pleased with Gradabra and Magical Lady that they started to show me what I kind of thought in the winter time that they had.”
While the Bax fillies and their peers wrap up their Grassroots campaign at Mohawk Racetrack on Sept. 30, Flamboro Downs will host one more Ontario Sires Stakes event before the 2017 season comes to a close, welcoming the two-year-old trotting fillies for Gold Series action on Wednesday, Oct. 4.