Ontario’s three-year-old pacing colts delivered their Grassroots swan song at Mohawk Racetrack on Monday evening on a night that also featured eliminations for the Peaceful Way and William Wellwood Memorial for the novice trotting fillies and colts.
In the first $18,800 Grassroots contest fans sent Wildriverbumblebee off as their top choice and the Sportswriter son did not disappoint. Starting from Post 1, driver Sylvain Filion had Wildriverbumblebee on the move soon after Frontier Seelster reached the opening quarter in :27.2. Marching along on the front through a :55.4 half and 1:23.4 three-quarters, the favourites never faced a challenge, cruising home one and three-quarter length winners in a lifetime best 1:51.2. Makasi closed hard to be second and Dream Of Luck was third.
The win was Wildriverbumblebee’s second in Grassroots action and assured him of a berth in the Sept. 30 Grassroots Championship at Mohawk. In eight sophomore starts the colt has tallied six wins — including a victory in the $65,000 Breeders Cup (Coupe des Eleveurs) Final at Hippodrome Trois-Rivieres on Sept. 3 — and earned $62,125 for trainer Richard Francis of Becancour, QC and owner-breeder Dr. John Bradbury of Cookshire-Eaton, QC.
The second $19,150 Grassroots division saw Southwind General pick up his third trophy of the season and move into top spot in the point standings with a total of 186.
Starting from Post 5 with regular reinsman Jody Jamieson in the bike, Southwind General got away seventh as his stablemate The Dark Shadow and Western Phil battled to a :26.3 opening quarter. Western Phil won the duel and carried on to a :54.3 half, while Southwind General continued to sit seventh. As Western Phil took the field of nine to a 1:23.3 three-quarters, Southwind General was able to advance up the rail to fourth and as the colts squared up in the stretch Jamieson was able to guide the Sportswriter gelding off the rail and home to a three-quarter length victory in a personal best 1:53.4. Favourite Kazimoto finished second and Thrownoutofbetter was another length back in third.
“He got a seriously good trip,” said Moffat, ON resident Jamieson. “A lot of things had to work out before I could have him where I did at the head of the lane. He’s had lots of luck, seemingly, in the Grassroots, that’s his third win. Fingers crossed he can come up with one more good one in the finals.”
Jamieson drives the winner of $40,752 for owner and trainer Jack Darling of Cambridge, ON. In addition to Southwind General, Darling will also send out The Dark Shadow and Frontier Seelster in the Grassroots Championship. The Dark Shadow finished third in the point standings with 123 and Frontier Seelster was fifth with 105. After his battle with Western Phil, The Dark Shadow finished eighth, 13 lengths behind his stablemate in Monday’s contest, and Frontier Seelster was fifth in the first division.
“Frontier is not on his game right now. The Dark Shadow has been sharp, but he got scorched pretty good tonight trying to get to the front, so that will probably take something out of him,” admitted Darling. “I will just keep grinding away and try to get them better for the final.”
The top 10 point earners will compete in the $50,000 final on Sept. 30, joining the top colts and fillies from the other divisions on a Grassroots Championship night worth a total of $400,000.
On Tuesday evening the two-year-old pacing colts will bring their Grassroots regular season to a close at Mohawk Racetrack. The colts will compete in Races 2, 4, 7, and 8 on the program, which gets under way at 7:30 p.m.