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Filion And Henry Face Off

Published: September 23, 2015 9:04 pm ET

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Heading into Saturday’s $400,000 Grassroots Championships at Mohawk Racetrack, just one point separates drivers Sylvain Filion and Trevor Henry in the Ontario Sires Stakes Lampman Cup race.

Filion has 498 points earned from 204 Ontario Sires Stakes (OSS) starts, 40 wins, 28 seconds and 25 thirds, while Henry has accumulated 497 points in 215 starts, scoring 29 wins, 32 seconds and 35 thirds. In the weeks leading up to the Grassroots post-season, the race between Filion and Henry had been close, but Henry closed the gap when he captured four Semifinals last weekend and the Arthur, Ont. resident is optimistic about Saturday’s prospects after drawing inside posts with four of his five Championship mounts.

“I drew pretty good I thought,” said Henry. “The one filly [Traviata] didn’t draw too good, she drew the nine-hole, but I think she can overcome that.”

Henry won both two-year-old trotting filly Semifinals, guiding Myretirementticket and Traviata to identical 1:57.1 clockings, and the reinsman chose Richard “Nifty” Norman trainee Traviata for the Championship in spite of her outside post. Henry will also steer two-year-old pacing filly Semifinal winner St Lads Smokin Hot from post three, three-year-old trotting colt and gelding Semifinal winner Duh Bubbees from post two, three-year-old pacing filly Stonebridge Quest from post two and three-year-old pacing colt Win One Soon from post five.

After getting nudged aside by Henry following the two-year-old Semifinals, Filion reclaimed his narrow lead in the standings when he captured a three-year-old trotting filly Semifinal with Meadow Seelster. That filly will make her bid for a third straight win from post five, with Filion’s other mounts — two-year-old trotting gelding Dynamic Edge, three-year-old trotting gelding Buzz, three-year-old pacing filly Aniston Seelster and three-year-old pacing colt Western Bayama — starting from posts one, nine, one, and eight, respectively.

“I think it might be a tough assignment for me, but you never know. Hopefully we’ll get lucky,” said Milton, Ont. resident Filion, who also had to overcome outside posts with Buzz and Western Bayama in the Semifinal round. “We’ll need some points.”

This is the second time Henry and Filion have been neck-and-neck in the race for the Lampman Cup, which is awarded annually in memory of longtime Ontario Jockey Club harness racing publicist Jim Lampman. The duo also battled for top spot in 2012, with Filion capturing what would be the first of back-to-back titles. While he was bested by Filion in 2012, Henry is no stranger to the title, having won the point race in 1996 and 2007.

What has changed for Henry this time around is the way he has accumulated points. Three years ago, the reinsman was plying his trade at the province’s smaller ovals — Grand River Raceway, Hanover Raceway, Clinton Raceway and Western Fair Raceway — but in the fall of 2014, he made the decision to race full-time at Mohawk and Woodbine, where Filion has been a fixture among the top reinsmen since relocating from Quebec in 2008.

“I wanted to slow down and not drive as much as I used to, just drive four or five days a week instead of seven,” said Henry, while admitting that peak OSS season remains a seven-day a week commitment.

“In the summer, it’s pretty much every day anyways, with the Sires Stakes and that. I think the other day was the first day off I had in, it was almost three months,” added the 44-year-old reinsman. “It’s more in the winter-time, in the winter they only race four days at Woodbine.”

While they are in a virtual dead-heat in the OSS driver’s race, Filion is sitting on a comfortable lead in the Mohawk/Woodbine driver standings with 152 wins, 111 seconds, 113 thirds and earnings of $3,353,366 as of Sept. 21. Henry currently sits fifth, with 83 wins, 92 seconds, 117 thirds and $1,795,318 in earnings.

“I had a really good start of the year, it’s kind of tailed off a bit at the end, but I can’t complain,” said the 41-year-old Filion. “It’s been a very good year.”

While Saturday’s Championship marks the end of the OSS season for the Grassroots competitors, Filion and Henry will continue to duel through the Oct. 10 Gold Super Finals. Both resinmen have impressive mounts at the Gold level, with Filion the regular pilot for top sophomore pacing filly Wrangler Magic and two-year-old trotting filly Emoticon Hanover, and Henry the regular guide for two-year-old trotting colt division leader Deweylovernleaver and his stablemate Smoke Monkey.

While Filion and Henry are duelling on the racetrack Saturday, fans can test their Ontario Sires Stakes knowledge in the "Spin & Win Trivia" game, where every correct answer earns an OSS prize. In addition, fans arriving early for the Grassroots Championship program will receive a special gift with their program purchase and each program contains a ballot for a "Super Final Dining and Wagering" package for four.

The two-year-old colt and gelding trotters kick off the Grassroots Championship program at 7:25 p.m. and the other seven Championships go behind the Mohawk Racetrack starting gate in races three through seven, nine and 11.

To view Saturday's harness racing entries, click on the following link: Saturday Results - Mohawk Racetrack.

(With files from OSS)

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