Favourites Dominate Grassroots Sophomore Semi-Finals

New Rules winning at Woodbine Mohawk Park
Published: September 23, 2023 02:19 am EDT

Following up a night of freshman photo finishes on Thursday, the three-year-olds took their turn in the Ontario Sires Stakes Grassroots semi-finals on Friday, Sept. 22 at Woodbine Mohawk Park and the favourites ran the show.

The evening featured two $20,000 semi-finals per division, with the top five finishers in each race qualifying for the $75,000 Grassroots finals on Saturday, Sept. 30 at Mohawk.

Smashin Racquets ($2.30) kicked off the night, delivering on her pari-mutuel promise with a 1:55 score in the first $20,000 semi-final for three-year-old trotting fillies. Parked through the first quarter, Bob McClure sent the 1-9 favourite on a successful front-end mission to win by 1-3/4 lengths over late challenger Sweet Detrmination (Doug McNair), with Northern Demi (Trevor Henry), divisional point leader Northern Charlotte (Chris Christoforou) and Southwind Chardnay (Tyler Borth) rounding out the top five to advance.

Kyle Fellows trains Smashin Racquets, a winner of two Grassroots divisions during the regular season. Owned and bred by Awesome Acres Standardbreds of Rockwood, Ont., the Resolve-Princess Serena filly is now six-for-13 with $81,547 banked in her sophomore season. 

Driven by Chris Christoforou, Pretty Special ($3.40) lowered her lifetime mark to 1:53.3 after the 3-5 favourite took off in the final quarter to win by nearly four lengths with Lastkickathecan (Louis-Philippe Roy) chasing in second. Following well back in third through fifth were Its Your Choice (Doug McNair), Cardio Muscle (Jonathan Drury) and Shiny New Penny (James MacDonald).

Another daughter of Resolve, Pretty Special is out of Pretty Crafty. She earned her second win of the year in 11 starts and bumped her seasonal bankroll to $39,576 for trainer Camilla Christoforou and owner Brad Grant of Milton, Ont.

Resolve To Win ($4), the three-year-old trotting colt leader, topped his semi-final group in 1:54.4 with Scott Young aboard. The even-money favourite progressed from midfield heading to the final turn and drew clear, winning by 1-1/2 lengths over Rough Tuff Testing (McNair) with P L Quinella (MacDonald) third. Like Chaos (Henry) edged out DWs Point Man (Roy) for fourth.

Matt Bax trains the Resolve-Sensual Hall gelding, who has hit the board in 11 of his 12 starts this year. Resolve To Win is a five-time winner with $78,627 banked in his sophomore campaign for owners Grant, Bax Stable of Campbellville, Ont., Gaelic Stable of Sharon, Ont., and Don Allensen of Wyoming, Ont.

Undefeated in Grassroots action this year, New Rules ($3.10, pictured above) lived up to expectations in the semi-finals, taking the lead in the second panel en route to a 1:54 victory in rein to Austin Sorrie. The Great Reset (Lorne House) bested Deadline Hall (Christoforou) in a photo for place, finishing 2-1/2 lengths behind the 1-2 popular winner. Kinnder Thinktwice (Sylvain Filion) and Lite The Candles (McClure) will also advance to the final.

Trainer Marcel Barrieau shares ownership of New Rules (Lookslikeachpndale-Mini Her) with Gestion Mastel Inc. of Longueil, Que. The gelding now has six wins from 15 sophomore starts with his annual income topping the $100,000 mark.

An 11-1 winner in the first semi-final for three-year-old pacing fillies, the Shawn Steacy-trained post 10 starter Twin Delight ($24.30) and McClure upset the theme of the night scoring along the pylons in 1:52.3 by a head over Mystic Wild Rose (Phil Hudon) and Elises Delight (Henry). Uncontrolled (McNair) was fourth over the winner's stablemate and even-money favourite, Century Jamila (MacDonald). 

Overlooked at the betting windows, Twin Delight (Bettors Delight-Twin B Cheeks) was tied atop the divisional standings with four wins and a second in the preliminary legs of the Grassroots Series. She earned her sixth win in 13 starts and increased her earnings to $80,880 this year for the Pennsylvania-based Hutt Racing Stable. 

The second semi-final for three-year-old pacing fillies went to 1-5 favourite Sweetest Belle ($2.50), who won a stretch duel with 29-1 shot Glenboro in 1:52.3, prevailing by a half-length to keep her win streak going with Doug McNair in the sulky. Grandeur Seelster (Sorrie) finished third over Dance With Tabby (Drury) and Kuper Trooper (McClure).

Susie Kerwood trains Sweetest Belle, who has won four races in a row, three preliminary Grassroots divisions and seven races in total this season. The Sportswriter-My Secret Belle filly has banked $93,551 from 19 sophomore starts for owners Frank Brundle of East Garafraxa, Ont., and Gordon Lyons of Georgetown, Ont.

In the first semi-final for three-year-old male pacers, 1-5 favourite Winmebak ($2.50) made it three Grassroots wins in a row (and four total this season) with a three-length romp in 1:51 in rein to James MacDonald. Mufferaw Joe (Henry) won the race for place over The Moment Arose (McNair), Tignanello (Tyler Jones) and Artsalive (Jody Jamieson).

Nick Gallucci has watched his trainee accumulate half a dozen wins and earn $68,720 from 11 starts this season. Winmebak (Shadow Play-Winbak Speedi), who tied atop his divisional standings, is owned by Millar Farms of Stouffville, Ont.

Sent off as the 9-2 second favourite, Palladium Hanover ($11.60) closed out the semi-finals with a career-best 1:51.2 victory for driver Travis Cullen, taking the lead turning for home and holding clear by 1-1/2 lengths at the end. Ahi Sunshine (Drury) got the jump on Liberty Royal (Henry) for second. Troubles A Brewin (Borth) and Santana Hanover (Filion) will also join the top trio in the final.

Trained by Jodie Cullen, Palladium Hanover (Artspeak-Pilgrims Witchie) now has four wins from 17 starts and $65,054 banked this year for owners Wayne MacRae of Fall River, N.S. and Daniel Ross of Belfast, P.E.I.

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

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