Adare Castle, Silver Label Star In Ontario Graduate Series

Adare Castle winning at Woodbine Mohawk Park
Published: April 28, 2023 11:32 pm EDT

Ontario Sired Graduate Series stars Adare Castle and Silver Label won their respective $25,000 third-round divisions featured on another rainy Friday night (April 28) at Woodbine Mohawk Park.

James MacDonald, two-time Driver of the Year, worked out the winning trips for both four-year-old mares who have graduated to consecutive series scores off O'Brien Award-winning sophomore seasons.

"I've been blessed with these two since they were two and they've just been little bank machines for me for a couple years now and hopefully for a long time to come," said MacDonald.

Undefeated through the three trotting preliminary legs to start her four-year-old season, the Mark Etsell-trained mare Adare Castle stamped herself as the favourite for next week's championship off an impressive 1:55.2 victory over the 'good' going as she fought past Mischieveous Rose through the stretch.

Leaving from post six, 2-5 favourite Adare Castle trotted to the top for MacDonald over Safe Conduct (Chris Christoforou), but gave way to Mischevious Rose (Louis-Philippe Roy) as that mare rolled on after an outside start to clear past the :28.1 quarter mark. After a leisurely second quarter to the half in :59, two-time series runner-up Esplosione (Sylvain Filion) started up from the backfield, flushing cover from Safe Conduct, but Adare Castle got the jump on those foes and launched from the pocket nearing three-quarters in 1:28.3. The determined winner sprinted a final quarter in :26.3 to wear down Mischievious Rose for the half-length victory, with Safe Conduct finishing two lengths behind and holding off Esplosione for third-place honours.

 "That's a nice trip, a nice easy half -- too easy a half maybe, but just a nice freshener for next week," said Etsell, who co-owns Adare Castle with partners Robert Newton of Walkerton, Ont., Graham Hopkins of Chesley, Ont., and Peter Porter of Port Dover, Ont. 

Adare Castle has added $37,500 to her bankroll this year going three-for-three in the series. A career winner of nearly $1.2 million in purses, the Muscle Mass-Pacific Edge mare now boasts 17 wins and six seconds from 25 starts.

"She's just super special," said Etsell. "She's just awesome to have around. She's great in the barn and she's great on the track -- she just refuses to lose, like she just fights to the end."

Adare Castle will be aiming to complete a sweep of the open trot division of the series when all of the Ontario Graduate Series finals will be held on Saturday, May 6.

"She can race anyway," said Etsell. "I don't think there will be a half in :59 next week, but she'll give it all that she has. Just looking for a good race."

Adare Castle paid $2.80 to win.

Once again, Silver Label overcame an outside post position in less than ideal conditions to repeat in the pacing mares division of the series.

MacDonald was also in the sulky behind 3-5 favourite Silver Label as he sent the Millar Farms homebred firing from post nine and pressed past front-end rival Intothemysticmoon (Phil Hudon) after a 26-second showdown. SIlver Label managed to steal a second quarter breather, reaching the half in :56.4, then remained clear on top heading to three-quarters in 1:25.2 with the outer flow developing and Intothemysticmoon posing the biggest threat as she popped the pocket in the stretch. Intothemysticmoon was closing in as the wire approached, but Silver Label prevailed in 1:52.3 by a neck. Got The Gold (Louis-Philippe Roy) closed off cover to finish third over Raptors Won (Sylvain Filion) after those two were caught in tight quarters through the stretch; a judges' inquiry found no violations of the racing rules.

"The nine-hole kind of ties your hands. You kind of gotta go forward, she was the heavy favourite," said MacDonald of his early strategy. "I didn't want to be there in :26 flat, but she does it so easy. I never asked her to leave, she just coasted off the gate, floated to where it looked like I was going to get there pretty easy. The wind has really picked up -- conditions are getting pretty bad out there -- but it was right on her back leaving so it ended up being a hot quarter, but I really didn't use her that hard, like I didn't have to mush her out of there. She's so good-gaited and so handy.  It was a hot quarter, but I wasn't overly worried because she was still quiet, she came back, I got a big breather in and then she's just a game mare."

Nick Gallucci trains the Bettors Delight-Hidden Gem mare, who started her four-year-old campaign in the series with a close fourth-place finish before posting back-to-back wins to bump her career bankroll to $866,864. The victory was her 14th lifetime to go along with five seconds from 25 starts.

Silver Label paid $3.40 to win.

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

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