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Semi-Finals Set For Grassrooters

Published: October 13, 2008 9:05 pm ET

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This Friday, on the second night of Grassroots Semifinal action at Flamboro Downs, sixty-four of the province's most talented two-year-olds will bring their 'A' game to the Dundas oval in search of a berth in their Grassroots Championship.

Trotting filly B Cor Tanya heads into her $30,000 Semi-final off a lacklustre performance in a Gold elimination at Rideau Carleton Raceway on September 26, but trainer Riina Rekila says fans should ignore that start and focus on the back-to-back victories the filly posted in Grassroots action at Georgian Downs and Grand River Raceway.

"In her last race she was very nervous, she was shaking in the trailer for 14 hours," explains Campbellville resident Rekila. "We should forget this race."

B Cor Tanya finished a well beaten fifth at Rideau Carleton, after scoring a five and a half length victory at Grand River on September 12 and a four and one-quarter length triumph at Georgian Downs on August 19.

In eight starts, two at the Grassroots level and six against the top fillies in the province, B Cor Tanya has recorded two wins, one second and three fifth-place finishes for Rekila and owner Esa Lahtinen of Campbellville.

"Usually, if she is normal, she is doing very well in the last half," notes the native of Finland. "If she's like that, I think she can go to the final."

With the outside Post 8, Rekila is not expecting the Mutineer daughter to maintain her perfect Grassroots record, but she is confident that the filly will be back on her game at Flamboro on Thursday.

Rekila will also steer trotting colt Oaklea Rush in Friday's sixth race, and like his stablemate, the Angus Hall son heads into the post season off a sub-par performance at Rideau Carleton.

Starting from the trailing Post 9 at the Ottawa oval on October 9, the young trotter made a break off the gate and spotted the field 15 lengths.

Fortunately, Oaklea Rush was able to recover and add a fourth-place finish to the pair of Grassroots wins he had already recorded at Hanover Raceway on September 6 and at Hiawatha Horse Park on September 27.

"He is not so clever, he doesn't understand so much," says Rekila, with a chuckle, about the colt's trials with the trailing post. "I think he should be okay."

Oaklea Rush will start from Post 4 on Friday, a spot Rekila feels will suit the aggressive youngster perfectly. Through four starts the colt, a $30,000 purchase by Lahtinen out of last fall's Forest City Yearling Sale, has posted two wins and one fourth for earnings of $21,600.

While Rekila and Lahtinen are looking for improved efforts from their Grassroots Semifinalists, trainer Jim Koelln is hoping pacing colt Ponder Seelster can match the impressive results he delivered from outside posts in his last two starts.

On Sept. 28 at Dresden Raceway, Ponder Seelster started from Post 6 and did all the work on the outside to finish second by a head in a 1:59.2 mile. Last week at Flamboro the Modern Art son got a second-over trip from Post 6, and stepped off the cover in the stretch to earn his first Grassroots victory and secure a berth in the Semi-final.

"He doesn't have much luck with the draw," laments Cambridge resident Koelln, who shares ownership on Ponder Seelster with Terry Hamilton of Lethbridge, AB. "We would have liked a better post for Friday, but you can't control the draw.

"Death, taxes and the draw, you can't control any of them," adds the horseman wryly.

Ponder Seelster and reinsman Scott Coulter will start from Post 7 in the fifth race on Friday, and Koelln is just hoping the colt can squeak through to the final.

"If he's healthy, he'll give us all he's got," notes Koelln. "Hopefully he can sneak up there and get a piece."

The freshmen kick off their Semi-final battles at 6 p.m. on Friday in Race 1 and will compete in every race through to the eighth.

The top four finishers in each Semi-final will earn a return invitation to Flamboro Downs for the Friday, October 24 Grassroots Championships, worth a total of $480,000.


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