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Darling Rallies The Troops Again

Published: October 8, 2014 9:52 am ET

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Jack Darling of Cambridge, Ontario, is one of this province’s top Standardbred trainers as evidenced by his four starters in this Saturday’s rich Ontario Sires Stakes Super Finals at Mohawk. He’s also a great person.

He has successfully rallied the harness racing industry on both sides of the border when he finds a cause or issue he feels strongly about. Several years ago he almost single-handedly organized a fundraiser which raised more than $140,000 for the Ontario Standardbred Adoption Society. Earlier this year he led a successful initiative to have major races televised and now he’s spearheading another fundraiser for the widow and daughters of his good friend and fellow trainer Mark Austin, who passed away suddenly last month at 54.

“He was a great person, everyone liked him. He and his wife, Julie, devoted their whole lives to horse racing. We were all shocked when he died and I wondered what we could do for them. Their girls are going to be going off to school soon, one wants to be a vet, so we decided to raise money for their educational fund and the response has been phenomenal,” said Jack today.

The event is called the Keith and Ron Waples Tribute, and will pay homage to those two legendary harness drivers, both members of Canada’s Horse Racing Hall of Fame. It will be held at Mohawk Racetrack on October 29 and several wonderful items have already been donated for the silent auction including a breeding to red hot sire Sportswriter, who is the sire of Darling’s first Super Final starter on Saturday night, Code One Hanover.

That two-year-old pacing filly has drawn post five in her $250,000 final, race seven with Paul MacDonell at the controls. Her lone OSS Gold victory came earlier this summer at Grand River Raceway. “She’s got lots of talent, but her last two starts I’m not really happy with (a fourth and a sixth, both in Gold events). She has lots of ability but this is a really good group of fillies.”

As to why the first crop of Sportswriter is performing so well in the OSS this year and beyond, Darling surmises: “They all seem to have everything going for them, speed, gait and manners. But you have to race them to determine if they have the killer instinct.”

In the Super Final for three-year-old pacing fillies Darling has a pair of Shadow Play daughters, Nefertiti Blue Chip and Alibi Seelster, going postward from posts six and eight. “Alibi has the better chance, she’s coming into the race in good shape. She just can’t seem to beat that Skippin By mare,” he notes.

Alibi Seelster has finished second to Skippin By, this division’s top point earner, in her last two Gold starts coming into Saturday’s race. “Jody (driver Jody Jamieson) is just going to have to work out a trip from post eight.

“We were lucky Nefertiti Bluechip drew in as she was 16th on the point standings (Alibi Seelster was fifth). But only nine horses were entered so hopefully she’ll race well and get a cheque.”

Darling purchased Alibi Seelster at the Forest City Sale as hip number 52 for $27,000. Less than 10 horses later, he purchased another yearling from the Seelster Farm consignment in Allstar Seelster for $35,000. The son of Artistic Fella has four wins under his harness to date this year. Darling owns all of his Super Final starters.

“It might be a bit of a stretch for him in here, we’ll see. He’s been racing much better since I put him on Lasix. He won two straight preferreds at Flamboro last month. He’ll need a good trip to get a cheque.” 'Allstar' leaves from post two in race 10 with Mike Saftic at the lines. Inside him is the top colt in this division, Jet Airway, who was undefeated in four OSS outings this year.

Mohawk’s program on Saturday night featuring the eight $250,000 OSS Super Finals and the best colts and fillies in the province, has a 7:25 post time. The races have been carded as Race 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9 and 10. To view the entries, click here. For a free, printable program page, courtesy of TrackIT, click here.

The day following the Super Finals, October 12, will see the annual Forest City Sale take place at Western Fair District’s Agriplex where many buyers will be looking to find their next OSS Super Final starter. What they’ll also find for sale are tickets to the Waples fundraiser through Ann Straatman of Seelster Farms.


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