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Darling Loves Popcorn

Published: July 8, 2008 10:05 am ET

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Last fall Jack Darling told countless people to have a look at St Lads Popcorn before she stepped into the ring at the Forest City Yearling Sale, but when the daughter of Twin B Champ stalked into the arena bidding was sluggish, and Darling was able to scoop her up for a mere $5,000.

Nine months later the two-year-old pacing filly has captured a qualifier in impressive fashion and Darling stands to recoup his investment if St Lads Popcorn can deliver a top three finish in the first of three $40,000 Gold Eliminations at Flamboro Downs on Friday evening.

"To anybody who would listen I'd say, 'Go look at this Twin B Champ filly, she's just a beautiful filly,' but nobody would go and look at her," recalls Darling. "She was just beautiful as a yearling."

St Lads Popcorn was on Darling's radar long before she arrived at the yearling sale. The Cambridge, ON resident trained Twin B Champ through his $437,235 career - which saw the horse go undefeated through six Ontario Sires Stakes starts - and he trained the filly's dam Hot Butter until she suffered the injury that caused her early entry into the broodmare ranks at St Lads Farm in Ruscom Station, ON.

When he saw St Lads Popcorn as a yearling Darling was impressed with her appearance and conformation, and nothing has changed since October, although he says she has very little in common with either her sire or dam.

"She's a good sized mare, lots of leg under her," says the horseman. "She really doesn't remind me of either (Twin B Champ or Hot Butter) that much."

Short of space in his own barn last fall, Darling sent St Lads Popcorn to Delaware, ON resident Gary Payne to learn her early lessons. Payne trained the filly all winter and sent her back to Darling ready to qualify. On July 5 the novice pacer rolled up behind the starting gate at Mohawk Racetrack with seven of her peers and delivered an impressive effort to claim a half length victory in 1:59.4.

Starting from Post 8, the filly suffered interference at the quarter pole that left her more than 14 lengths behind her peers. Making steady progress up the outside through the remainder of the mile, St Lads Popcorn kicked into high gear through the final quarter, coming home in :27.1, among the fastest last quarters of the 14 qualifying events held at Mohawk last Saturday.

Jason Brewer piloted the filly to her qualifying victory and will return to the race bike on Friday, starting from the outside Post 7 in the second race.

"I wasn't too happy to see that," says Darling of the filly's outside draw. "But Jason is really good with these young ones. It's a Sires Stakes, but you've still got to be pretty careful. You don't want anything crazy happening."

Two of the fillies in the first Gold Elimination have already seen action over the Flamboro half-mile, including Northern Duchess, a 1:55.2 winner in her Bud Light division on July 2. Regular reinsman Mike Saftic will send Northern Duchess after her second victory from Post 5 in Race 2. Pantecostal, who will start from Post 2 in the $40,000 skirmish, finished third in her Bud Light division.

Three of the other fillies in the second race also have one start under their belt, with just St Lads Popcorn and Kesons Avaia headed into the Gold Elimination off a qualifier.

Races 4 and 5 also feature Gold Eliminations, with Bud Light runner-ups Spoiled Beach and Shellace getting Posts 4 and 8 in the fourth race, and high-priced talent Rose Seelster - a $100,000 yearling acquisition - making just her second start from Post 5 in the fifth race.

Flamboro Downs sends its first race behind the gate at 6 pm on Friday, before rolling out the red carpet for the Gold Series debut of the two-year-old pacing fillies in Races 2, 4, and 5. The top three finishers from each elimination will return to the Dundas oval on Friday, July 18 for their first crack at a $120,000 Gold Final.
To view Friday's entries at Flamboro, click here.

(with files from OSS)

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