Ontario’s talented three-year-old pacing colts kicked off the Honourable Earl Rowe Invitation Trot program at Georgian Downs on Sunday evening and trainer Jack Darling picked up two more Grassroots trophies to add to his collection.
The Cambridge, ON resident shipped three pacing geldings to the Innisfil oval and Southwind General was first off the gate for the Darling Stable, finishing third behind Wildriverbumblebee and Western Phil.
“General, he was a little bit sluggish early for some reason, but he was pacing strong at the wire, another few steps he’d have been second,” said Darling of the Sportswriter son’s effort.
Fan favourite Wildriverbumblebee got away fourth from Post 5 and watched as Rebel Voyager led the field to a :27.1 opening quarter. Wildriverbumblebee remained in fourth as Silverinyourpocket took over before the :55.3 half, but had stepped to the outside behind Western Phil as that colt powered up to a 1:23.3 three-quarters. On Western Phil’s flank as the colts turned for home, driver Sylvain Filion turned Wildriverbumblebee loose in the stretch and the colt sprinted away to a four and one-quarter length victory in a personal best 1:53.
Sunday was Wildriverbumblebee’s debut in the Ontario Sires Stakes program for trainer Francis Richard and owner-breeder Dr. John Bradbury of Cookshire-Eaton, QC. The win boosted the son of Sportswriter and Alcor Semalu’s sophomore record to four wins and one second in six starts, for earnings of $20,225.
In the second $18,800 Grassroots division driver Randy Waples sent Darling trainee The Dark Shadow directly to the front from Post 2 and the fan favourites reeled off fractions of :27.3, :57 and 1:25.2 on their way to a one length victory in 1:53.4. Pocket-sitter Doc Semalu finished second and Ugottobinittowinit was third.
“He’s just a really good Grassroots (horse),” said Darling of The Dark Shadow. “I was happy with him, he hung in there real game in the stretch. He’s racing good.”
A son of Shadow Play and Bestofbothworlds, The Dark Shadow now has two Grassroots wins, one third and two fifths to his credit for a total of 122 points and sole ownership of third spot in the division standings, 10 points behind stablemate Southwind General.
Milton, ON resident Waples opted for identical tactics with favourite Frontier Seelster in the last Grassroots division, sending the Artistic Fella gelding to the front from Post 7 and rolling through fractions of :27, :57.1 and 1:25.2 on the way to another 1:53.4 clocking. Three More Smiles paced up the outside into second, three-quarter lengths behind the winner and just ahead of hard closing All It Takes.
“He was sick, he’s getting over being sick, so he maybe wasn’t quite at his best tonight,” said Darling of Frontier Seelster, whose last start was in the July 22 Gold Series event at Mohawk Racetrack. “He raced good, but I just don’t think he’s quite good enough for the Gold right now.”
Frontier Seelster was a winner in the season opening Grassroots event at Flamboro Downs, and then made two starts at the Gold Series level, finishing fourth and sixth. With Sunday’s win the gelding moves into fourth spot in the Grassroots standings, giving Darling three contenders for the season ending $50,000 Championship at Mohawk Racetrack on Sept. 30.
“Looks like the three of them are going to be in the Final,” noted Darling, who owns and trains all three pacers. The trio will be looking to pad their point tallies in the last regular season Grassroots event on Sept. 11 at Mohawk Racetrack.
In addition to the Grassroots divisions, Georgian Downs fans were treated to an outstanding battle in the $75,000 Honourable Earl Rowe Invitation Trot. Fan favourite Windsun Revenge carved fractions of :27.4, :58.2 and 1:25.2, but Lookslikeachpndale pressed him through the second half and got up in the stretch for a head victory in 1:54. Dia Monde closed well to be second, leaving Windsun Revenge to settle for third.
Milton, ON resident Sylvain Filion, the leading driver in both Canada and the Ontario Sires Stakes last season, scored his second stake win of the night with Lookslikeachpndale, guiding the Muscle Hill son to his second win of the season for trainer Luc Blais and owner Determination of Montreal, QC.
Georgian Downs wraps up its stakes season next Sunday, August 27 when the three-year-old trotting fillies will compete in their second last regular season Grassroots event. Sunday’s first race goes postward at 6 pm.