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"She's Been A Real Sweetheart"


Published: September 30, 2011 9:40 am ET

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As the Ontario Sires Stakes Grassroots season draws to a close with Saturday’s $800,000 championship event at Mohawk Racetrack, Ian Downey is content with the accomplishments of three-year-old trotting filly Defy Time.

“She’s been a real sweetheart,” said the trainer. “I tell you, when they can win 10 or 12 races in their sophomore year, it makes me pretty tickled.”

Ranked seventh at the end of the regular season, Defy Time captured her Semifinal last weekend with a come-from-behind 1:56.3 score, a personal best for the daughter of Southfork and Cinnabar Hanover. The win was the filly’s 11th in 20 starts and bumped her earnings to $83,085.

Downey has had faith in Defy Time’s ability since she made her first lifetime start in February, and the St. George Brant, Ont. resident said any success she enjoys in Saturday’s three-year-old trotting filly Grassroots Final would be icing on the cake.

“I thought she might make $100,000 this year,” noted the horseman. “If she has any luck on the weekend she’ll get pretty close, and if not we’re still happy.”

Downey conditions Defy Time for his wife, Susan Downey of St. George Brant, and Scott Maracle of Brantford, Ont. The partners offered up $5,500 to acquire the filly from the 2009 Forest City Yearling Sale, and opted against a freshman campaign when the young trotter indicated to Downey that she needed time to grow and mature.

“They tell you what they want to do, and you have to listen,” said Downey, adding that the filly is still not shy about making her desires known.

“She knows how she likes things done," he said with a wry chuckle. “She has to be fed first, she demands it. She’s got her own ideas and we work with them.”

Driver Scott Coulter will steer Defy Time from Post 1 in Saturday’s sixth race, the fifth $100,000 Grassroots Final on the Oct. 1 card, and Downey said one place the filly is not bossy is on the racetrack. While last week’s victory came from an off the pace effort, the trotter is capable of dealing with whatever gets thrown her way when the wings fold.

“She can race on the front, or come from behind, or sit in the middle,” said Downey. “She’s very versatile, which makes it nice going into the final with the rail.”

Downey prepped Defy Time with a training mile on Thursday, and said the filly seems to be peaking at the right time and should give her fan club something to cheer about on Saturday.

“She’s got a pretty big fan club. Scott has a lot of friends, and our whole family will be there. She’ll have a cheering section, that’s for sure,” said the horseman.

The Defy Time cheering section got a workout in last week’s Semifinal when the filly sprinted from fifth at the top of the stretch to the half length victory.

“She kept coming, and coming, and coming, until at the wire she was out front by half a length,” recalled the trainer. “And your heart’s pumping... that’s horse racing.”

A desire to experience that thrill of ownership was what led Anthony and Janet Wagner to sign on for the first Standardbred Breeders of Ontario Association New Owner Mentoring Program back in 2005. Mentored by long time owner Scott Arsenault and trainer Scott McEneny, the Wagners got a thrilling introduction to ownership when the Ten To Win Stable’s Ontario-sired trotting colt Lemon Drop put together an impressive freshman campaign that saw him win two Gold eliminations and one Grassroots division, banking $97,925 in the provincial program.

Armed with the knowledge gained from their experience in the SBOA program, the Wagners and some of their partners in the Ten To Win Stable purchased a few more horses, and six years later the Mississauga, Ont. residents currently own pieces of eight standardbreds, including top two-year-old trotter The Game Plan, who gave his connections a heart pounding experience when he captured the $469,000 William Wellwood Memorial Trot by a head on Sept. 17.

“[Trainer] John Kopas buys a bunch of young horses, and I asked if we could get in on one,” recalled Anthony Wagner. “We luckily picked The Game Plan out of the ones that were available. He’s made over $400,000 -- that’s kind of like the dream, and we’re fortunate that we’re realizing the dream.”

One lucky fan will take a step closer to realizing their ownership dreams at Mohawk on Saturday night when the Ontario Sires Stakes program’s Win The Thrill contest comes to a close. Win The Thrill finalists from across the province will be at the Campbellville oval for the Grand Prize draw, hoping their name is selected as the winner of a share in this year’s SBOA New Owner Mentoring Program.

This year’s group, who will be mentored by Brian Webster of St. George Brant and trainer Tony O’Sullivan of Cambridge, have pinned their hopes on Badlands Hanover son Bad Boy Matt, who was purchased out of the Canadian Yearling Sale for $22,000. The Grand Prize winner will have an opportunity to meet the young pacer and their new partners in October, when the group gathers at O’Sullivan’s Classy Lane Training Centre barn to see Bad Boy Matt in harness.

“The whole program, the way it’s set up, is kind of perfect for new owners. You’re not getting into it too deep, yet you get to see everything from start to finish,” noted Janet Wagner. “They really take you along in the process.”

Hopefully the process will have Saturday night’s Win The Thrill Grand Prize winner and their new partners experiencing their own thrilling moments in the 2012-2013 Ontario Sires Stakes program.

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


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