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Fierce Battles In Grassroots Semis

Published: October 3, 2020 1:11 am ET

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Seventy-eight of Ontario’s top three-year-old trotters and pacers converged on Woodbine Mohawk Park on Friday, October 2 for eight $20,000 Grassroots Semi-Finals and the battles for a berth in next weekend’s Championship saw five of the eight contests decided by a half-length or less.

Three-Year-Old Pacing Filly Semi-Finals

The sophomore pacing fillies opened and closed the program in Races 1 and 11, and both Semi-Finals were a fight from start to finish.

The first split saw the field turn for home separated by just three lengths and it was Lyons Tilt Hanover who kicked home hardest to claim a 1-1/2 length win in 1:52.2. Need Ur Opinion and Bettorthanbobbi also closed hard to be second and third, leaving fan favourite Mia Culpa to settle for fourth. Kat rounded out the qualifiers for the October 10 Grassroots Championship.

Anthony Beaton of Waterdown, Ont. trains Lyons Tilt Hanover for Threelyonsracing of Brantford, Ont., and said the stalking style has been working for the Bettors Delight daughter and driver J Harris since the filly arrived in his barn in early August.

“When I first got her, it looked like she kind of closed good and that first overnight race we raced [August 18]. I just told J, I said, ‘Listen I’m not sure what we’ve got here and she’s been off for about 40 days, let’s just take this like a qualifier and let her pace home and see what she’s got,’” said Beaton. “She almost got up to win that night and raced super and that’s kind of the way we’ve been using her, stalking the horses and letting her pace home, and it seems to working for her.”

Lightly rated Smiling Dialing swept from last to first in the second pacing filly showdown, sneaking up the inside to get a short nose in front of division point leader Mach My Kiss at the 1:52.3 finish. Free Flyin Ticket and Odds On Vero Beach were less than one length back in third and fourth, while fan favourite Mary Kat was two lengths back in fifth.

“The trip worked out pretty good,” said trainer Rod Boyd, who handed the lines over to Jonathan Drury for the first time on Friday. “I think if JD had drove her before he probably would have put her on the outside. She definitely can fly home, so next week I think he’ll put her on the outside, give her some clear sailing, let her rock home. She’s definitely got potential. She’s so small, but she’s got a big heart and big kick to her.”

Cambridge, Ont. resident Boyd trains Smiling Dialing, a Thinking Out Loud half-sister to last year’s three-year-old pacing filly Grassroots champion So Much More, for 1187422 Ontario Inc. of Ottawa, Ont.

Three-Year-Old Trotting Filly Semi-Finals

In the first trotting filly Semi-Final, Moana and driver James MacDonald snuck up the inside to get a head in front of fan favourite Sonadora Deo at the 1:56.3 finish. Yen was third, No Angel Here fourth and Noblesse Duharas fifth.

“She’s got such quick speed, she doesn’t need a whole lot of room to pop through there and as soon as it opened up, she just took right off,” said Guelph, Ont. resident MacDonald, who fired the filly out of post eight. “She can get herself spotted with her gate speed, and then if you don’t [use] her too [hard], she’ll give you another little kick. She’s just a nice little horse.”

Shawn Steacy of Brantford, Ont. trains Muscle Mass daughter Moana for Landmark 12 Racing Stable of Lansdowne, Ont., 1187422 Ontario Inc. of Ottawa, Ont., and Hudson Standardbred Stable Inc. of Hudson, Que.

Division point leader Profound Paragon rebounded from her miscue in the September 21 Grassroots leg with a personal best 1:55.2 in the second trotting filly split. Fifth through the first half of the mile, driver Jean Bernard “Bert” Renaud sent Profound Paragon after the lead at the halfway marker and the pair was matching strides with pacesetter Highland Foxytrotr by the three-quarters. Fan favourite Th Present tried to reel in Profound Paragon in the stretch, but could not get past the leader’s saddle pad. HP Starlette finished third, Chelseas Magic was fourth and She Must Be Magic fifth.

“I thought she was beat with a very nice horse on her back, but she fought to the wire. Now we’ll hope for a little better draw next week,” said trainer Julie Walker, who sent profound Paragon out from post eight and stablemate Yen from post nine.

Carlisle, Ont. resident Walker shares ownership of Profound Paragon with breeder Steven Titus of Manalapan, New Jersey. Friday’s win was the Muscle Mass daughter’s 11th in 15 sophomore starts.

Three-Year-Old Trotting Colt Semi-Finals

Ripped And Ready got to control the tempo in the first trotting colt Semi-Final and the Muscle Mass son romped home to a 4-1/2 length victory in a personal best 1:55.1. Fan favourite and division point leader Mikey Mass closed hard for second, pocket-sitter Blue Cupertino was third, Kenogami Coco was fourth and Fit Bitt rounded out the top five.

“He’s a really nice colt who hasn’t had the racing luck he’s needed, but still won plenty of races,” said driver Jody Jamieson. “He was on cruise tonight and hopefully will be as good next Saturday.”

Moffat, Ont. resident Jamieson engineered the colt’s fifth sophomore win for trainer Thierry Vandenplas of Brinston, Ont., and owner/breeder Dr. Ruth Irving of Russell, Ont. In 10 starts this season, Ripped And Ready has only missed the top three on one occasion.

Reigning Grassroots champion Lovedbythemasses romped to a seven-length victory in the second trotting colt Semi-Final. After getting away mid-pack, driver Mike Saftic sent the fan favourite to the front at the halfway marker and Lovedbythemasses powered away to a 1:54.1 win. Ongoing Royalty, Lexus Markus, Charmbo Prince and Awesomedabra also qualified for the Grassroots Championship.

“I was a little worried going into it, I didn’t know what kind of traffic was going to be in that race with some leavers on the outside, but the way it turned out it was absolutely perfect. He landed good and one of the favourites [Life Is A Feast] unfortunately ran in front of me, but when I set sail up the backside it was clear sailing. Once he got to the front, he just swelled up,” said Saftic. “He’s not the best leaver, so sometimes you get a little more traffic than you’d like in front of him, but today it worked out. Hopefully it works out next week, and that will be a good year for him.”

Campbellville, Ont. resident Saftic drives Lovedbythemasses for trainer Edward Peconi of Peterborough, Ont., and his co-owners Nicholas Peconi of Lakefield, Ont., and Wade Peconi of Stanchel, P.E.I.

Three-Year-Old Pacing Colt Semi-Finals

When Mayhem Hanover’s mind wandered briefly on the way to the wire in the first pacing colt Semi-Final, Bettorbuckleup pounced on the chance to reel in the fan favourite in the final strides, scoring a nose victory in 1:50.4. Two-year-old Grassroots champion Mayhem Hanover settled for second, Sports Obsession was third, Captivate Hanover closed hard for fourth and YS Mathis was fifth.

“They don’t make them like him very often. He’s just a tiny little guy, but he’s got tons of class,” said driver James MacDonald. “He was all out and then the other one [Mayhem Hanover] came back to him just a hair, and as soon as he saw him coming back, he just took right off again. He’s just a little horse, huge heart and huge desire to win. He’s fun to drive, that’s for sure."

MacDonald steers Bettorbuckleup for trainer Nick Gallucci and owner Millar Farms of Stouffville, Ont. The Bettors Delight colt has not finished worse than third since July 11.

National Sport won the charge to the wire in the second pacing colt Semi-Final, getting a neck in front of Sundown Kid and pacesetter Poseidon Seelster at the 1:51.2 finish. Fan favourite and division point leader The Wild Card was fourth and Twin B Frenchtoast was fifth.

“I knew him from last year, I always liked him, but he had sickness issues last year,” said driver Louis-Philippe Roy, who returned to the gelding’s race bike for the first time this season on Friday. “He raced good tonight, he never gave up. There were some nice colts in the other division, hopefully he can do as good against them in the final.”

Guelph, Ont. resident Roy engineered National Sport’s second win of the season for trainer Jared Bako and owner 1362313 Ontario Ltd. of Windsor, Ont.

The $600,000 Grassroots Championships go postward on Saturday, Oct. 10 at the Milton, Ont. oval.

To view Friday's harness racing results, click on the following link: Friday Results - Woodbine Mohawk Park.

(With files from OSS)

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