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Stage Set For Grassroots Finals

Published: October 20, 2008 12:30 pm ET

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A total of $480,000 is on the line at Flamboro Downs on Friday night, and 64 of the province's top trotters and pacers will be honing their skills all week in the hopes of earning a Grassroots Championship crown.

Three-year-old pacing gelding Giddy Up Lucky heads into the Championship undefeated in Grassroots action, but trainer Jean Louis Arsenault is still planning to make a minor equipment change that he hopes will add a little extra fire to the Camluck son's assault on the title.

"I'm probably going to add blinkers for his next start. It might make him a little more aggressive," explains the Carlisle resident. "I took them off for his last three starts now, but I think I'll put them back on for the Final."

Giddy Up Lucky captured his Semi-final by a half-length in 1:53.4 off a tough trip around the outside, but Arsenault says the gelding did not kick into gear until there were horses to race on both his left and right.

"He only raced about an eighth of a mile," says the horseman, who trains Giddy Up Lucky for David Shea of Campbellville and Reg Petitpas of Shediac Bridge, NB. "He's a very lazy horse. He does what he has to do and nothing more."

Arsenault will train the gelding once this week, but says his priority at this stage in Giddy Up Lucky's career is just to keep the pacer happy and healthy until Friday.

"He's like a big overgrown kid; he's happy about life," says the trainer. "He's never a sad horse, he's happy about everything he does - except work. He doesn't like a lot of work."

Since August 1 Giddy Up Lucky has only been bested once in Ontario. In his last 10 starts the pacer has logged seven wins, a second to reigning Gold Final champion The Mohegan Pan in the Bud Light Series at Flamboro, and a third in the first heat and fifth in the final of the Little Brown Jug in Delaware, OH.

Arsenault would love to see him wrap up his Ontario Sires Stakes career with another victory, but the veteran horseman knows the other seven horses in the Grassroots Championship all have the same goal.

"If we can keep him healthy for the next four days he should be good, but you never write your cheque before the race," he says. "You've got to race it, and we're well aware of that."

Regular reinsman Paul MacKenzie will steer Giddy Up Lucky from Post 5 in the sophomore pacing colt Championship, slated as Race 5 on Flamboro Downs' Friday evening program.

Keeping his horse healthy is also the top priority for trainer Philip Coole, who is hoping the onset of cooler weather brings an end to the viruses that have plagued Ontario stables through the late summer and early fall.

"We'll do our best to try and keep him healthy for Friday," says the Puslinch resident. "I'm hoping it stays cold all week."

Windsun Pride delivered a resounding victory in the second three-year-old trotting colt Semi-final, sailing across the wire eight lengths ahead of the competition in 1:58. Coole says the Angus Hall son bounced back effortlessly from the winning effort and was on his toes Monday morning.

"He came out of the race really good," says the trainer. "In fact, today (Monday) he was trying to kick me out of the jog cart, so I guess that's a good sign."

The regular season point leader in the sophomore trotting colt division, Windsun Pride posted three wins and three seconds in six Grassroots starts. Unraced at two, the gelding made his racing debut in late February and has amassed a record of nine wins and three seconds in 19 starts for earnings of $97,750.

Coole shares ownership on the gelding with Don Murray's Stoney Island Stable of Kincardine and Dr. Peter Johnston of Peterborough, and says the trio has been delighted with the trotter's progress.

"He started racing in February and here we are in October and he's still as fresh as he was then," notes Coole. "He's raced three weeks in a row so he's pretty tight right now. He's an easy doer; he doesn't take a lot of work."

Dave Wall piloted Windsun Pride to his Semi-final win and will be back in the race bike from Post 4 in the fourth race on Friday. The veteran reinsman, known as "Mr. OSS" for his long running success in the Ontario Sires Stakes program, also qualified Abe Linkin for the final, but handed that mount off to colleague Doug Brown in favour of Windsun Pride.

"We got very lucky he picked him, that's a vote of confidence too," admits Coole. "It's up to Wally now, I've done all I can, and Wally's been to the show before."

The Grassroots Championship show gets under way at 6 pm on Friday. The province's most talented two and three-year-old trotters and pacers will compete over the Flamboro Downs oval in Races 2 through 7, 9 and 10.


To view Friday's entries, click here.

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