Big Efforts In Ontario Graduate Finals, Opens

Published: May 7, 2023 12:36 am EDT

The inaugural Ontario Sired Graduate Series wrapped in exciting fashion on Saturday night (May 6) at Woodbine Mohawk Park. 

The new series for Ontario-sired four-year-olds featured three $80,000-plus finals that headlined Saturday’s 12-race program. The series finales came on the heels of three preliminary legs for each event.

Ontario-sired superstar Adare Castle (pictured above) completed the sweep of the Ontario Graduate Trot event with a career-best 1:52.1 victory.

The Mark Etsell-trained Adare Castle and driver James MacDonald got away third in the field of six, racing for a purse of $83,500. The duo powered to the top in the second quarter and put up fractions of :56.4 and 1:25.1. In the stretch, Adare Castle didn’t allow her rivals to get any closer than her wheel, powering home in :27 to win by a length and three-quarters.

“The great part about Adare Castle is she’s always got a little bit more left if you need it and she just kept digging through the wire,” said MacDonald, who was also asked to compare Adare Castle to star pacing mare So Much More.

“I’m just a lucky guy to get to sit behind both of them. They have some similarities, neither one has blazing gate speed, but both of them are tough as whalebone. [They] keep going and keep coming, so if Adare Castle can do what So Much More has done as an aged horse, Mark [Etsell] and the ownership group will be very happy.”

Mischevious Rose made it a mare’s sweep of the Open Trot final by finishing second. Safe Conduct was third, while Esplosione was fourth.

Adare Castle is now four-for-four to begin her four-year-old campaign. The latest stakes victory increased her career numbers to 18 wins and over $1.2 million earned for owners Etsell, Robert Newton, Graham Hopkins and Peter Porter. She paid $2.50 to win.

Grand Circuit competition is likely next for Adare Castle, as she’s eligible to the Miss Versatility and Armbro Flight. 

Raptors Won impressively held off heavy favourite Silver Label by a nose in the $84,500 Ontario Graduate finals for mare pacers.

Sylvain Filion put the Richard Moreau-trained Raptors Won on the front and kept rocking to score the victory. The leader posted clips of :26.3, :54.4 and 1:22.4 before delivering a :26.3 final quarter to hit the wire first in a career-best 1:49.2. Silver Label came first-up from fifth on the final turn and forced a photo finish in the runner-up effort.

“If [Silver Label] had come past the quarter, I probably would’ve let her go, but then Dewitt For Josie tried to remove on me, so I had to go on,” said Filion post-race of the front-stepping mission with Raptors Won. “She felt very good and I just felt I didn’t want to let [Silver Label] get close to me, so I let her rock.”

Intothemysticmoon finished third, while Dewitt For Josie was fourth.

Owned by Bruno Lepage, Raptors Won was winless in six starts this season prior to Saturday, including fourth, third and sixth-place efforts in the preliminary legs. She now has 10 wins and earnings of more than $200,000. She paid $16.70 to win.

The evening’s third final saw Cold Creek Queso fight off rivals Camara Moment to win the $81,500 Graduate Open Pace.

The contest began with a blazing opening quarter of :25.4 as Cold Creek Queso, Kolby Two Step and Camara Moment all pressed for the front. Camara Moment cleared Kolby Two Step entering the backstretch, but was quickly overtaken by a third-to-first move from Cold Creek Queso.

Once on the lead, the 3-5 favourite Cold Creek Queso ($3.20 to win) and driver Sylvain Filion got full control in the middle-half, posting fractions of :55.2 and 1:24.1. In the stretch, Cold Creek Queso held off a tough Camara Moment to win by a neck ​in 1:50.3. Ron finished third, while Dreamfair Arnie B was fourth.

“I had to get a little breather…we left out of there pretty hard,” said Filion post-race. “Down the lane, Camara Moment was coming at us pretty hard and got me a little anxious.”

Cold Creek Queso sat out leg three after winning the opening two legs in impressive fashion. The Murray Brethour trainee is now three-for-three this season and has career totals of 10 wins and more than $350,000 earned for owner Cold Creek Standardbred.

With Ontario-sired competition complete, Filion is optimistic about Cold Creek Queso’s future.

“We haven’t seen the top of him yet. Hopefully he’ll keep improving and be a top-class horse.”

Filion and MacDonald were prominent on other portions of the undercard, taking its co-featured top-class pace events. 

So Much More circled to the lead and fought gamely to a 1:49.3 victory in the $36,000 Free For All Pace. 

Starting from the pylon post, So Much More landed third as Roll With The Flow grabbed the lead to a :27.2 first quarter. Driver James MacDonald soon moved So Much More up the backside and cleared command after a :55 half. So Much More continued to roll towards three-quarters in 1:22.3 and repelled an attack from Wheels On Fire through the stretch to hold her ground by a neck at the beam with Roll With The Flow settling for third and Points North finishing fourth.

Don Beatson trains and co-owns So Much More, a seven-year-old mare by Big Jim, with Kenneth Beatson and Cole England. She won her 63rd race from 137 starts and has now earned $1,369,095. She paid $13.60 to win.

Sylvain Filion piloted Commanding Officer to a 1:49.3 victory in the $32,000 Preferred 2 Pace.

The five-year-old Captaintreacherous stallion sat a pocket trip to pacesetter Woodmere Stealdeal through fractions of :27, :55.4 and 1:23.1 before pouncing in the stretch and taking a length win. Woodmere Stealdeal settled for second and The Longest Yard, off a first-over push, finished third.

Benoit Baillargeon trains Commanding Officer for owner Richard Berthiaume. He won his 15th race from 71 starts and has now earned $316,272. He paid $4.20 to win.

Live racing resumes Monday evening (May 8) at Woodbine Mohawk Park. Post time is 7 p.m. (EDT). 

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

(with files from Woodbine)

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