A pair of $19,500 Ontario Sires Stakes Grassroots events for two-year-old trotting fillies took centre stage on Sunday evening (July 16) at Georgian Downs, with Yokomotion ($6.40) and Stonebridge Rhyme ($10.20) both seizing command early and holding their ground in their respective divisions.
The first Grassroots event (race seven) saw Yokomotion and Stephen Byron outsprint a pair of inside leavers through the first eighth of the mile and draw clear at once to gain control of the terms. Yokomotion threw down fractions of :28.3, :58.4, and 1:29.3 before facing a mild bid from pocket rival Bonnie Breeze (Jonathan Drury) with three-sixteenths to go. The daughter of Justice Hall and Yoko Hanover responded to that challenge upon cornering for home, ultimately gaining 2-1/2 lengths of separation in deep stretch with plenty in reserve at the end of her 2:00.3 triumph. Bonnie Breeze protected second, while Gradabra (Matthew Bax) mounted a mild bid to take third.
Yokomotion made an early break in the July 6 Grassroots season opener at Mohawk Racetrack and had to settle for fifth, but Byron said she was solid, if a little aggressive, in her second lifetime start.
“Last week she hit the bike, and this week they put a different bike on her, but in saying that, she was still a little excitable. She remembered it,” Byron noted. “She was a little keener than I would want, but she did race great.”
Campbellville resident Bax shares ownership of Yokomotion with Goin To The Show Stable and Kenneth Andrews of Peterborough and Happy Trails Stables of London, ON. The partners acquired the daughter of Justice Hall and Yoko Hanover for $22,000 at last fall’s Canadian Yearling Sale, and she returned $9,750 with Sunday’s victory.
“She did that pretty easy,” said Byron. “She’s a big, strong, fast mare, so hopefully she keeps doing it.”
While Yokomotion had a relatively easy time in her Grassroots event, Stonebridge Rhyme handled no fewer than three direct challenges en route to a 2:02.1 victory in the second division (race nine). The daughter of Kadabra and Stonebridge Ballad protected inside position in a :29.3 duel with Christmas Candy (Phil Hudon) before yielding to the pocket and retaking with a circuit to go. After pulling the half back to 1:00.1, Stonebridge Rhyme braced for the first-over bid of Dalliance Seelster (Stephen Byron), seeing her lead shrink to half a length through three-quarters in 1:31.4. Ultimately, Stonebridge Rhyme proved up to the task, parrying Dalliance Seelster and keeping a second move from Christmas Candy—who found room to angle out in upper stretch—a length at bay. Kant Afford It (Bob McClure) angled three-wide off stalled cover at head-stretch to save third.
Rob Fellows trains Stonebridge Rhyme, also a second-out winner, for owner Arpad Szabo. Fellows said the daughter of Kadabra and Stonebridge Ballad has been a pleasure to train and chalked up a break in the July 6 Grassroots opener at Mohawk Racetrack to inexperience. The filly quickly resumed trotting and finished fourth, so her connections were hopeful she would rebound with a positive effort Sunday.
“When she qualified the first time, she kind of threw her head a little bit going into the first turn, but kept trotting. But her first race, when they were cutting over in front of her, just being green, she just tossed her head and went off stride,” explained the Rockwood, ON resident. “She was better this week so hopefully she can keep going.
“You always worry about them getting a little aggressive and that kind of stuff, especially trotting fillies. You have to worry about every step they take,” he added.
The third Grassroots event for two-year-old trotting fillies goes postward July 30 on Clinton Raceway’s Legends Day program, and Fellows hopes Szabo has another opportunity to gather his family in the winner’s circle before the end of the campaign.
“This is a nice little filly. I don’t know if she has any total package speed to be a 1:54 trotter or anything like that as an aged horse, but right now, in this stage, she’s had two starts, and she’s stayed trotting in one of them and she’s won it, so I’m happy,” said Fellows. “If I keep her in the Grassroots and manage her properly, she might develop.”
In the sub-featured $11,000 Preferred 2 pacing event (race eight), Rockin Finish ($11.00) sustained a first-over push into a stout pace and edged away in upper stretch for a 1:50.4 score. The Mohawk invader pressed a hot pace at the pegs before yielding to both Totally Kissed (Scott Young) and Make Some Luck (Drury), who worked clear after a :26.4 first quarter. After perching close to the pace, Bob McClure angled Rockin Finish first-over with nine-sixteenths to go, advancing at once into a :55 half and gaining level pegging with Make Some Luck upon reaching the backstretch.
Rockin Finish forced a :27.3 third split before edging to a narrow lead midway on the far turn, and the eight-year-old Rocknroll Hanover gelding edged away in upper stretch after dueling down Make Some Luck. Rockin Finish, while driven out, prevailed by 1-3/4 lengths over Champagne Phil (Sylvain Filion), who stalked the mid-race battle from second-over and reached second spot a sixteenth from home. P L Jackson (Travis Cullen) emerged belatedly from off the pace to finish third, while Totally Kissed shook free from the pocket to save fourth.
Richard Moreau trains Rockin Finish—now a 39-time winner—for owner Gerrie Tucker. The driving win was one of five on the nine-race card for McClure.