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Top Of The Bar Tops The Grassroots

Published: September 19, 2020 7:07 pm ET

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It took a few days longer than anticipated, but the two and three-year-old trotting fillies wrapped up their Grassroots and Prospect Series regular season at Flamboro Downs on Saturday, Sept. 19.

Originally scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 17, the event was suspended after just one Grassroots division had been contested due to an electrical fire in a light standard. As a result, two divisions of Grassroots fillies and both Prospect Series divisions returned to the Dundas oval on Saturday, competing in a special four-race, non-wagering event prior to the regularly scheduled Flamboro Downs program.

Before Thursday’s program was suspended Top Of The Bar had romped around the half-mile oval to a three and one-half length victory in a personal best 2:02.1. The fan favourite and trainer Mark Etsell bested All Muscle N Sass and Snowfalla to score their third Grassroots victory and move to the top of the two-year-old trotting filly Grassroots standings.

“I kind of wanted to go to the front just to change it up a bit, make her not have to work so hard, because she’s come first up the last two starts,” said Etsell on Thursday. “And it just turned out with two horses breaking the decision was really easy. She’s a pleasure, she doesn’t get bully she just does whatever you ask her.”

Rockwood resident Etsell shares ownership of Top Of The Bar with Robert Newton of Walkerton, Graham Hopkins of Chesley and Peter Porter of Port Dover, Ont. The Muscle Mass daughter was also victorious in the July 29 Grassroots leg at Grand River Raceway and the Aug. 29 leg at Hanover Raceway and finished third in the July 13 season opener at Woodbine Mohawk Park, giving her a total of 162 points and top spot in the standings heading into the postseason.

When the fillies returned to Flamboro Downs on Saturday, Doing It All and driver Stephen Byron lined up at Post 5 in the first $22,450 Grassroots division and fired out to a :31.1 quarter. The filly marched on to a 1:02.2 half and, although she came under pressure from Ban Ban Deo heading by the 1:31.3 three-quarters, was able to accelerate away to a two-length victory in a personal best 2:01.3. Ban Ban Deo finished second and Darling Please was eight lengths back in third.

It was the Kadabra daughter’s second straight win in Grassroots action and impressed both Byron and John Bax, who trains Doing It All for Menhammar Stuteri AB of Paris, Ky.

“She opened up and won comfortably, I guess you could say, so she’s learning. Steve was pretty happy with her,” said Campbellville, ON resident Bax. “I think we’re heading in the right direction.”

With two wins, one fourth, one fifth and one seventh, Doing It All heads into the Oct. 1 Semi-Finals in fourth spot in the standings with 115 points. The top 20 point earners advance to the Semi-Finals and the top five finishers from each Semi-Final will earn a berth in the $75,000 Grassroots Championship at Woodbine Mohawk Park on Oct. 10.

The second of Saturday’s Grassroots divisions was won in near-identical fashion by driver Mike Saftic and HP Mama B, who powered to the front from Post 2 and rang up fractions of :29.1, :59.2 and 1:30.1 on their way to a five and one-half length win in 2:00. Tipsy In Dixie finished second and Kadillac Girl was four more lengths behind in third.

“I said, ‘Call me when the race is behind the gate and tell me what’s going on’. So she called me and said, ‘Oh we’re parked, oh we’re clear now, we’re in the front’. And I said, ‘Okay, if we’re in the front the race is pretty much over if she doesn’t miscue or something’,” said trainer Ben Baillargeon, who was readying seven starters to compete at Woodbine Mohawk Park on Saturday night and did not make the second trip to Dundas. “I think she’ll be a very nice three-year-old that mare, she’s very big. She made a few breaks at the beginning, it was just inexperience and immaturity, but she’s okay now.”

Guelph resident Baillargeon also bred and raised HP Mama B, who is owned by Guylaine Picard of Guelph, Ont. and Celine Paquin of Ayers Cliff, Que. The Royalty For Life daughter wrapped up her regular season with two wins, one second and one ninth in Grassroots action for a total of 125 points and third spot in the standings.

Both Craving You and Credits Celebrity made the shift from the Grassroots program to the Prospect Series for the final three-year-old trotting filly leg, and the move paid off as both Kadabra daughters visited the winner’s circle and earned a spot in the Sept. 25 Final at Grand River Raceway.

In the first $7,200 Prospect Series split, Craving You reeled in pacesetter and point leader Wheely Twicky in the stretch to score a one and one-quarter length victory in 2:01.3. Pocket-sitter Ella finished second, edging out Wheely Twicky. Anthony Haughan engineered the win for trainer Meg Crone and the Cambridge, Ont. couple’s co-owner Enzed Racing Stable Inc. of Allentown, N.J.

Credits Celebrity and trainer Wayne Henry opted for the front-end tour of the Flamboro oval in the last $7,300 division, cruising home three lengths in front in a personal best 1:59.2. Muscles Aplenty finished second and Kads Kiss was two more lengths back in third. Arthur resident Henry trains the filly for his co-owners Daylon Farms Ltd. of Komoka, Waples Stable Inc. of Baden, Ont. and Gordon Yeo of Calgary, Alta.

Complete results from Thursday’s program are available here and results from Saturday’s races are available here. Grassroots point standings can be found on the Ontario Sires Stakes Leaderboard and Prospect Series point standings are available on the Ontario Racing website.


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