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Brothers' Investment Pays Off

Published: September 13, 2016 8:15 pm ET

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Thursday’s Grassroots Semi-finals at Mohawk Racetrack will mark a rare first for members of a harness racing family that stretches back four generations.

Brothers Sean and John Mehlenbacher will send out their first Ontario Sires Stakes post-season contender on Thursday’s program. Two-year-old pacing filly Daenerys Hanover heads into the $20,000 Semi-final ranked sixth in the division standings with 110 points earned from two wins, one fourth and one seventh-place finish in four regular season Grassroots outings.

“She got to the races a little late, but since she’s been there she’s been getting a little better every start,” said Sean Mehlenbacher, who trains the filly for his brother John.

The daughter of Camluck and Dragon Moon was a $12,000 purchase from the 2015 Harrisburg Yearling Sale, and Mehlenbacher says her diminutive size made her an economical acquisition in a record-setting sales year for Ontario Sired yearlings.

“My brother, John Mehlenbacher, and my father Jack, they actually went down and picked her out. She was a little small, which was probably a lot of the reason why she went for just $12,000 American,” said the Hamilton, Ont. resident. “We gave her a lot of time to develop, she grew a little bit, that’s why she got to the races late, and then she was a little sick right when I was set to qualify her, but since then she’s gotten healthy, she’s grown and she’s been racing very good.”

The purchase of an Ontario Sired yearling marked a departure from the brothers’ recent endeavours, which have seen them concentrating more on claimers and overnight horses, along with a few American-bred young horses that they placed in the care of US-based trainers.

“It’s something that we’re kind of getting into a little more,” said Mehlenbacher. “A lot of the babies that we were buying, through my owners and my stable, were American-breds that we would send down to, Linda Toscano had a bunch of them there for a while and Rene Allard has a few of them, but now we’re into a little bit more of the Ontario program.

“We bought one this year that was Ontario-bred, and we’ve already looked at three or four more at the sales this fall,” the trainer continued. “It’s something that we’re going to get into a little more as the years progress here.”

Mehlenbacher added that John, who makes his home in Burlington, Ont., currently has a trotting filly he retained for breeding and has speculated about Daenerys Hanover’s broodmare potential.

The filly, who has banked $21,120 through her first five starts, could boost her chances for a post-racing career with a top five finish in Thursday’s Semi-final. The top five finishers from each of the Semi-finals will return to Mohawk for the $50,000 Grassroots Championship on Sept. 24. Thornton, Ont. resident Aaron Byron, who piloted Daenerys Hanover to victory in the Sept. 8 Grassroots event at Flamboro Downs, will steer the filly from Post 7 in the eleventh race.

“She actually won her first OSS, in her second lifetime start, at Mohawk from the eight-hole,” noted Mehlenbacher. “It doesn’t bother her really what hole, she can get spotted away very good, and she’s good off the pace, and she’s good near the front too.

“You can use her more than once in a mile, which I really like about her, she’s not just a one move horse,” he added. “And she tries very hard, that’s one of the really big advantages with her.”

Daenerys Hanover and her peers in the eleventh race will wrap up the evening’s Semi-final action, which gets under way in the first race. The two-year-old trotting fillies kick things off in Race 1 and will also battle in Race 6. The two-year-old pacing colts compete in Races 2 and 4, the trotting colts in Races 3 and 8 and the freshman pacing fillies wrap things up in Races 9 and 11.

Mohawk Racetrack will send the first race in behind the gate at 7:30 pm on Thursday, and on Friday evening the Campbellville oval will welcome the three-year-old pacers and trotters for their Grassroots Semi-finals.

(with files from OSS)

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