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Sophomores Go For Broke At Flamboro

Published: October 13, 2008 2:40 pm ET

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When Ontario's top three-year-old trotters and pacers line up behind the starting gate at Flamboro Downs on Thursday, all the hard work they did to get into the Grassroots Semifinals ceases to matter.

All eight starters in each Semifinal are on equal footing, and they all share the same goal, a top four finish and advancement into next weekend's Grassroots Championship.

"Actually, I think we're going into the race pretty good," says Cambridge resident Ron O'Neill, who will harness trotting filly Magical Wand from Post 1 in the eighth race and trotting colt Patriot Seelster from Post 2 in the ninth.

Magical Wand heads into her $30,000 Semifinal off an early break in the regular season finale at Flamboro on October 6, but O'Neill does not expect to see a repeat of the bad behaviour on Thursday.

"She was just having a cranky day I think. She was just in a mood that day - typical filly," says O'Neill with a chuckle. "She's better if she gets near the hunt of things. She grabs a hold of the bit a lot better."

The day she made the break, Magical Wand and regular reinsman Randy Fritz were starting from Post 7. The pair will have a much easier time getting into the thick of the action from the advantageous rail position on Thursday.

O'Neill also owns the Kadabra daughter, who wrapped up the regular season in tenth spot in the division standings with a total of 112 points earned from one win, two seconds and one third in five Grassroots starts.

Stablemate Patriot Seelster heads into his Semifinal from third spot in the trotting colt ranks. In five starts the Berndt Hanover son posted three wins, one second and one fifth for a total of 180 points, and he wrapped up his regular season with a 1:59.1 victory at Windsor Raceway on October 8.

"He raced really good there last week," notes O'Neill, who conditions Patriot Seelster for Jalade Investments Ltd. of Oakville, Deanmar Sons Stable of Mississauga and Peter Miskolczi of Brampton. "He's pretty good sitting on a helmet, but he can cut one out too. He's a nice horse."

In his October 8 victory, Patriot Seelster and Sylvain Filion sat in the pocket behind pacesetter Kangamangus, and then powered down the stretch to a two length victory. On Thursday, Kangamangus will line up to their right at Post 1 and O'Neill jokes that he would be happy to see both colts deliver a repeat performance of the Windsor start.

While O'Neill would be delighted with a repeat of Patriot Seelster's last outing, Mac Nichol is hoping that KG Survivor, who makes the trip to Flamboro Down on Thursday, is a vastly different colt than the one who finished a lacklustre sixth in an October 3 overnight at Mohawk Racetrack.

"His last race, we weren't very happy with," admits the Burlington resident. "We scoped him after the race and he was just right full of mucous, that's probably why he ran out of steam at the end of the mile."

Nichol says trainer Todd Clements of Dundas went straight to work on treating the colt's ailment, and that a repeat exam this week indicates the antibiotics have done their job and cleared up the infection. Michael Langdon will steer KG Survivor from Post 6 in the first pacing colt Semifinal, and Nichol is hoping to see the No Pan Intended son deliver the kind of strong effort that landed him in seventh spot in the division standings with 120 points earned from two wins, one third and one fourth in four Grassroots starts.

Sophomore pacing filly Kingfishers Gypsy has also struggled with sickness this season, but owner Michael Capton says the Bo Knows Jate daughter has not responded to treatment as well as KG Survivor, leaving him and trainer Rob Fellows scratching their heads on more than one occasion.

"She hasn't really been in top form for a while," explains the Ohsweken resident. "It seemed like it took forever to get rid of the sickness."

A winner of $90,067 as a two-year-old, Kingfishers Gypsy has struggled to recapture that form this season. She finished fifteenth in the division standings with 84 points earned through a June 22 victory at Clinton Raceway, two thirds and two fifth-place finishes in six Grassroots starts.

"We've had no luck drawing, no luck keeping her healthy, it has been a real challenge this year," says Capton. "Rob and I have been standing back scratching our heads saying what are we going to do next. As the weather gets cooler, hopefully she'll improve.

"On Thursday in the Semifinal, it's supposed to be a cooler day," he adds. "If she can just get a piece of it I'll be happy."

The top four finishers from each Semifinal will earn an invitation to the Grassroots Championship at Flamboro Downs on Friday, October 24, when all eight Grassroots divisions will be spotlighted on an evening worth a total of $480,000.

The three-year-old Semifinalists will showcase their skills in Races 2, 3, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11 at Flamboro Downs this Thursday, October 16, with the two-year-olds stepping into the spotlight on Friday, October 17. Post time for both programs is 6 p.m.

To view Thursday's entries, click here.


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