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Grassroots Winners Advance To Semis

Published: September 4, 2016 11:01 pm ET

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Flamboro Downs kicked off its 2016 Ontario Sires Stakes schedule on Sunday evening (September 4) with the Grassroots regular season finale for the three-year-old trotting fillies.

The first $18,000 Grassroots division rolled in behind the Flamboro Downs starting gate in the sixth race and Sunrise Avenue powered straight to the front from post three and never looked back, ringing up fractions of :29.1, :59.4 and 1:29.4 before reaching the finish in 1:58.4. The Power Of Many and Anneli Hanover were two and one-quarter lengths back in second and third.

"The reason why I dropped her back down into the Grassroots is she hasn’t been strong enough for me this year,” said trainer/driver Rick Zeron. “I’ve really struggled with keeping her strong and that’s the reason why she was back in the Grassroots tonight, because she can handle the Grassroots.”

Sunrise Avenue started her sophomore campaign at the Grassroots level, posting one sixth and one second-place result, then moved up to the Gold Series level for two starts, where she finished seventh in both efforts. Zeron conditions the daughter of Kadabra and Miss Wisconsin for his Ontario-based partners Millar Farms of Newmarket, James Walker of Port Perry and Noblock Racing Stable of Collingwood, and says the partners are confident the filly will eventually mature into a stronger trotter.

“I will move horses from time to time, put them in sales and stuff like that, and I really want to keep this filly, because I think, if she can develop over the winter, I think she’s going to be an open trotting mare for me next year as a four-year-old,” the Oakville, Ont. resident explained.

In the short term, Sunday’s victory extended Sunrise Avenue’s Ontario Sires Stakes season through the September 16 Grassroots Semi-final at Mohawk Racetrack.

All three of Sunday’s winners will compete in the Semi-finals in spite of spending time competing at both the Gold and Grassroots levels this summer.

In the second division, Could It Be Magic returned to the Grassroots after one start at the Gold level and picked up her second Grassroots win. The Kadabra daughter powered out to the front from post two and led the field through fractions of :28.3, :58 and 1:27.2 on her way to a season’s best 1:57.1. Fan favourite Magical Valentine settled for second, six and one-quarter lengths behind Could It Be Magic, and Moonlight Cocktail was two more lengths back in third.

Trainer/driver Wayne Henry of Arthur, Ont. shares ownership of Could It Be Magic with Fred Brayford of Alliston, Ont., and the partners have been disappointed that the filly has not regained the freshman form that saw her win six of 10 starts and bank $195,156.

“She didn’t come back this year the way that we’d hoped,” said Brayford. “I think she’s got a couple of wins in the Grassroots, but that’s about it.”

Through eight sophomore starts, Could It Be Magic has tallied two wins and two seconds and earned $27,000. She wraps up the Grassroots regular season with 125 points, good enough for a top 10 ranking in the division standings.

Myretirementticket went to the top of the standings with her third Grassroots win of the season in the last division. In rein to Paul Mackenzie, the Cornaro Dasolo daughter controlled the tempo through fractions of :28.4, 1:00 and 1:28.2, and sailed home a one-length winner in a season’s best 1:57.4. Windsong Magic and Roadmapper rounded out the top three.

“You go out, you parade her, you score her down, she’s good, and put her nose on the gate and she knows what it’s all about,” said Mackenzie. “So she’s not hard to drive, she’s really good for a trotter to drive, she’s very consistent, and if you ask her to leave she can leave, or you take her back, do whatever you like, she’s handy. She’s just a real nice filly in that class.”

Like Sunrise Avenue and Could It Be Magic, Myretirementticket dabbled in the Gold Series, making two starts and netting two fifth-place cheques from her battles against the division’s top tier fillies.

“He said he tried her in the Golds, but she can’t go with Caprice Hill and them, so he put her back in the Grassroots; she’s real competitive here,” said Puslinch Ont. resident Mackenzie, who piloted the filly to victory for trainer/owner/breeder Eli Wagler of Ingersoll, Ont. “She’s been really good to him from a two-year-old right up to now.”

The other 17 top point-earners will join Sunrise Avenue, Could It Be Magic and Myretirementticket in the September 16 Semi-finals, with the top five finishers from each Semi-final earning a berth in the $50,000 Grassroots Championship at Mohawk Racetrack on September 24.

Dustin Jones, who scored a Grassroots victory earlier in the day at Clinton Raceway with three-year-old pacing filly Glorious Delight, earned a training triple during Flamboro's evening card. Among his winners were three-year-old pacing colts Mr Sessor and Day Trade Hanover, who have also competed in the Grassroots Series this year.

Ontario Sires Stakes action continues at Flamboro Downs on Thursday, Sept. 8 with the last regular season Grassroots event for the exciting two-year-old pacing colts. Racing gets under way at the Dundas, Ont. oval at 6 p.m.

To view Sunday's harness racing results, click on the following link: Sunday Results - Flamboro Downs.

(With files from OSS)

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