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Grassroots Championships In The Books

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Published: October 1, 2011 6:31 pm ET

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The best two and three-year-olds from the Ontario Sires Stakes Grassroots program converged at Mohawk Racetrack on Saturday to compete in the $800,000 championships.

Eight $100,000 championships were contested during the Campbellville oval's final card of the season and Trot Insider has provided updates below on all the action.

Two-Year-Old Filly Trot

Thundering Ovation ($31.10) and driver Anthony MacDonald fired to the lead from Post 8 in the first Grassroots Championship of the night and went to distance to win in 1:58.3. The daughter of Thunder Road-Shesintuff held off the pocket-pulling Barbie And Ken (Chris Christoforou) by a nose while Majestic Taglet (Mario Charron) rallied off the cover to finish back in third. Divisional leader and fan favourite Dayplanner (Rick Zeron) advanced first over from third at the half, but couldn't make it past the leader and faded to fourth.

"He [Chris Christoforou and Barbie And Ken] had me beat at the toteboard and I leaned into her a bit and down by the wire she dug back in," commented MacDonald after the win. "You know, these fillies are so tired. They're two-year-old fillies, it's a long year and it's cold out tonight. They both raced really good. I'm happy she raced a little bit better."

Gerald Sloan trains the homebred filly, who won two regular season Grassroots starts and finished second in the semifinals to Can I Say, for owners Joanne and Courtney Sloan of Harley, Ont.

"I think the biggest point was he bridle change tonight [side rolls to blind]," noted MacDonald. "I mentioned to Gerry a couple of times that I thought she just went to sleep in places where she couldn't afford to go to sleep and if she had her mind on her business I thought I was at least second best. Garrett [Whelan]'s filly [Can I Say] looked like she was the best of the best of the bunch."

Thundering Ovation, a three-time winner who has never missed a paycheque in six starts, watched her earnings climb to $83,645.

"He [Gerald Sloan] has been protecting her from day one. I don't think she has to do anything [to improve]. She just has to mature and come back and want to race as much as she did this year and I think she is definitely going to make some money next year also."

Two-Year-Old Colt Pace

Fresh off a victory in the semifinal round, Secretsoftheknight ($7.50) sat fourth through quick opening fractions before moving out behind the first over Life Signature (Rick Zeron) and rallying wide to win his championship final in a career-best 1:52.2 by nearly three lengths. Iwilldowhatido (Jack Moiseyev) and True To Mach (Phil Hudon) came on for second and third.

"It worked out good. We left out of there and got a spot, they raced up front and we picked up the pieces late," summarized Saftic. "I could hear them coming [when he made the front]. He's a little green and halfway down the lane he kind of wandered a little bit, but he went to the wire and we're happy. It's not overly hot, but the wind is down and the track is pretty good so it's a good mile. He's a good colt."

Gregg McNair trains the son of Mach Three-Docs Reward, who was a $50,000 Lexington Select Sale purchase for Ontario owners Tony Lawrence of Hanover, Leonard Gamble of Etobicoke, John Newell of Waterloo, and Graham Hopkins of Chesley. The winner of three races (all Grassroots events) in 11 seasonal starts now has $115,739 stashed away in purse earnings.

Two-Year-Old Colt Trot

Northern Victory ($13.90) and driver Sylvain Filion scored an off the pace victory in his Grassroots Championship, providing owner Robert Montgomery of Carp, Ont. with his biggest win to date.

Northern Victory moved underway from sixth down the backstreth and picked up cover from House Money (Joe Hudon) before the final turn. Entering the stretch, the son of Amigo Hall-Yankee Nugget angled wide and came on to score in a life's best 1:58.3. Ill Be There (Scott Zeron) finished one length behind in second and Oaklea Umpire (Luc Ouellette) came on from the backfield for third.

"I was playing it by ear. They were leaving pretty hard and I knew if I could just get a nice, decent trip for my colt he had a good shot," said Filion in the winner's circle. "I came first up past the half and then we got cover around the last turn and he felt good the whole way."

Northern Victory won two Grassroots events during the regular season and was second-placed-fourth in the semifinal.

"He was good tonight -- even last week. It was my fault, I didn't have much room to get out of there. I tried to get out and I kind of squeezed my way out so they placed me back to fourth. Luckily, we were able to race in the final. I had to redeem myself tonight."

Montgomery purchased the Rodney Zeron trainee for $8,000 at the Canadian Yearling Sale. He has since recorded three wins, three seconds and three fourths in 10 seasonal starts while banking almost $90,000.

"They're great owners, I've known them for a long time," added Filion. "He mainly races in Ottawa and it's just great to have them here tonight."

Two-Year-Old Filly Pace

The ultra consistent Eat Me Up ($5.40) provided Filion with back-to-back championship victories as she put forth a career-best 1:54.3 effort in her division.

Filion sent the Post 8 starter first over from third down the backstetch and cleared the lead before the half-mile mark. The popular daughter of Mach Three-Presidentialintern cruised home for the two length score over pocket-sitter Memumsnotnice (Luc Ouellette) and Katys Jet (Scott Zeron), who rallied home off cover.

"I don't think it does any good to take back, especially when you're the favourite," said trainer Gord Remmen following the win. "I knew she would be at the front or going there. I think she's better from off the pace, but she had to get there."

Eat Me Up, a $12,000 Harrisburg yearling, now has eight wins and two seconds on her 10-race freshman record for owner David Ratchford of North Sydney, N.S.

"She started out in Nova Scotia," explained Remmen. "Dave Ratchford had her and he trained her down all winter and raced her the first couple of times. He phoned me and told me, 'I think I have a nice filly here. I'm going to take her to Ottawa and if she's okay I'll send her on down.' She was okay there and she's been okay ever since.

"She was ready made when she got here and actually she's just got better as the year has gone by -- not any credit to me, but she's just gotten stronger. This time of year they're usually losing weight and sour, but she's happier and fatter than when she started out."

The season for the divisional leader, who went undefeated in four regular Grassroots starts and was beaten by just a neck in her semifinal, may not be over. Since Eat Me Up missed her fifth Grassroots start, she is eligible to race in the final Gold Series event. Remmen said he is still tossing around the idea.

"We'll see how she comes out of this one," he said.

Three-Year-Old Filly Trot

A recall and delayed start to Defy Time's Grassroots final was not a problem for the maturing daughter of Southfork-Cinnabar Hanover.

With Scott Coulter in the bike, Defy Time ($7.90) got away fifth and followed Zorgwijk Lunar (Sylvain Filion), the eventual second place finisher, who moved first up near the half. Flying home off cover, the Ian Downey trainee struck the front in deep stretch and cruised to victory in 1:56.2. Magical Paige (Robert Shepherd) was third.

"It's a cold night and that's her life best," noted Coulter, adding that the delay may have posed a problem a few starts back but was a non-issue tonight for the relaxed filly. "I think she's just coming into her own. Twenty-one starts and that's her 11th win on the season I think, so that record speaks for itself. She's a good filly.

"She has a quick turn of foot and she's become very manageable," he continued. "I can race her anyway I choose. Racing on the half-mile tracks, that pays dividends. And then, of course, here on the big track as long as you can keep yourself out of trouble and find good cover like I did tonight she'll make her presence known."

Susan Downey of St. George Brant, Ont. and Scott Maracle of Brantford, Ont. share ownership of Defy Time, who won two regular season Grassroots events along with her semifinal. Unraced as a freshman, she has banked $127,085 in 2011.

Three-Year-Old Filly Pace

Three Charms may have finished second in the regular season to Cameron Lucky and second in the semifinal round to Back Yard Baby, but the homebred daughter of Camluck-Luck On The Run kicked it up a notch to beat them all in the championship round.

Three Charms ($7.80) and driver Stephen Byron settled into a four-hole while inside starter Dapple Apple (James MacDonald) took command of the 10-horse field. Cheryls Surprise (Jack Moiseyev) made a backstretch brush to command from third with Three Charms hot on her heels and clearing at the half-mile mark. She continued to lead the way into the stretch and was three lengths clear as she stopped the clock in 1:53.3. Cameron Lucky (Bruce Richardson) journeyed first over to finish second with Modern Cinderella (Trevor Henry) following her cover to show.

Unraced as a two-year-old due to a series of injuries, the Eric Adams trainee now sports a record reading 4-4-2 in 11 starts (two Grassroots wins) with earnings totalling $127,212 for Millar Farms of Newmarket, Ont.

"It seems like a lot of my fillies lately are getting beat on the front end," noted George Millar of Millar Farms. "They're racing well, but there's a lot of good horses in these races and they always seem to just nip you at the wire. We were thinking about that when I was talking to my trainer, Eric Adams, last night about trying to take her off the pace, and I was thinking maybe getting her away seventh. You know, Steve did a great job getting away in a four-hole and the race just worked out really well. It's kind of hard to go against these fillies, especially late in the season, on the front end all the time. I'm thinking most of them in there probably thought we were going to be on the front so it's nice to see she wasn't for a change."

Millar also noted that Three Charms has a future career as a broodmare at his farm.

"We breed a lot of horses and I've bred a lot of American-breds but we're breeding all Ontario-breds now because when you look at the money on the cards of these Grassroots horses a lot of these horses have 60, 70, 80, 90, 100 thousand dollars. They're good horses, but they're not having to race completely crazy and they're making really good money. We have the absolute best racing program for sire stakes in the world and I think just keeping it this way and seeing how these horses race and how much money they can make even as second tier horses, owners and breeders can do well. It's just an absolutely great program."

Three-Year-Old Colt Trot

Tymal Recap ($5) finished off his Grassroots season in top form with victories in his Grand River Raceway division, his semifinal and tonight's championship.

With Scott Coulter in the sulky for a double, Tymal Recap advanced first up from third at the half and applied pressure to Major Herbie (Wayne Henry), who had muscled his way to the lead from Post 10 in the early going. The son of Ken Warkentin-Lukes Elvira wore down the leader and held off the pocket pulling Winbak Hall (Scott Zeron) to win by half a length in a career-best 1:55.2. Here Comes Numbers (Anthony MacDonald) rallied off the winner's cover to show, also a half length behind.

"He was leaning a little bit toward the center of the track, but had lots of trot," said Coulter of the racing room in the stretch. "Each week he just gets a little bit better. This was a tough trip he went tonight -- he went first up -- and he raced great.

"There's a bit of a wind too and it is colder so yeah, that's a really big mile, especially when three weeks ago he went in two minutes. That's a big, big drop."

Sue Marie Gangell of Simcoe, Ont. trains and co-owns the gelding with John Devito of Whitestone, New York. He has won a third of his 15 starts this year while banking $90,895. With the lion's share of the purse, his career earnings surpassed the $100,000 mark.

Three-Year-Old Colt Pace

Divisional leader Musselsfrmbrussels ($6.50) wrapped up the 2011 Grassroots program with a dazzling 1:50.4 triumph in the last championship event, equalling his lifetime mark set last week in the semifinals.

With trainer Lyle MacArthur in the bike, Musselsfrmbrussels was parked out in the backfield during fast opening fractions after a Post 7 start, but picked up cover from Sonic Dancer (Scott Zeron) down the backstretch. He fanned wide entering the stretch and swept past his rivals to score the three length win. Stolen Car (Aaron Byron) finished second and Eastend Eddie (James MacDonald) rallied from last to show.

"Well, it worked out perfect, but my horse never got on the rail at all -- he was parked the whole way -- but he had good cover, which dragged him right to the head of the stretch and he knew what to do when I moved him," said MacArthur following the victory. "When I moved him at the head of the stretch, he kicked home real good. Usually he doesn't tire late in the stretch, he keeps digging."

Anne and Mike Shunock of Dorchester, Ont. own the Modern Art-Remember The Magic colt, who won four of his five regular season events. Lightly raced as a freshman, Musselsfrmbrussels has earned eight wins in 23 sophomore starts while banking $161,810.

MacArthur noted that the colt will likely continue his sophomore season on track after a few weeks off.

"Somewhere we'll give him a month break, but I don't think he's the kind of horse you want to give a long time off," said the veteran trainer.

To view Saturday's harness racing results, click on the following link: Saturday Results - Mohawk Racetrack.


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