Over $500,000 is on the line at Western Fair Raceway this Saturday as the London half-mile hosts two $140,000 Gold Finals and a quartet of Middlesex County Series Finals.
Local filly Shellace will start from Post 5 in the two-year-old pacing filly Gold Final, and trainer Scott McNiven is hoping she can catch a piece of the lucrative Ontario Sires Stakes purse and earn a few more points toward a berth in the season ending Super Final.
"It's hard to say how the race will shake out," says McNiven, who trains Shellace for owner and breeder Donald Douglas of Ingersoll. "It looks like all the top horses are inside her, so hopefully they race horses up front and we can get some sort of a trip."
Through her first six Gold Series appearances Shellace has put together a very consistent season, missing a cheque on just two occasions. In last week's elimination the Aces N Sevens daughter carved all the fractions before being caught in the stretch by Arts Star and Northern Duchess, giving the filly her third straight third-place finish in Gold Elimination action.
"In her first qualifier (June 20) she won at London and looked really good there, and she's been good since," says McNiven. "She's only got a couple blemishes on her card - she made a break in the no contest race at Flamboro and finished seventh in the (Oct. 6) Gold Final at Mohawk - but other than that she's been right there."
Shellace has accumulated 44 points in Gold Series action and sits just six points below the current cut off for a berth in the season ending Super Final. McNiven would love to see the half-sister to $383,343 winner Island Zeeker jump up with a big effort on Saturday to earn a spot in the $300,000 season finale, but even if she does not, he is hopeful that a few of the fillies ahead of her will opt out of the Super Final and Shellace will squeak in.
"She has ground it out all year, and it looks like she'll get in," explains the Putnam resident. "That was our goal the whole year. I said to her owner Donald Douglas, 'I think she's a Gold filly, but you have to stick to it, that's the only way to get to the Super Final.'"
While Shellace will be battling to boost her point tally, two-year-old pacing colt Nebupanezzar has already locked up his Super Final berth with a near perfect record in provincial action.
Through seven Gold Series outings the No Pan Intended son has only been bested once, finishing second to Millionaire Cam in the Sept. 27 Gold Final at Mohawk Racetrack. In addition to his outstanding performances in the Ontario Sires Stakes program, the gelding has also battled against, and beaten, North America's best freshman pacers.
A 1:51.4 winner in his Metro Pace Elimination at Mohawk on Aug. 23, the Bob McIntosh trainee was a narrowly beaten second in the $1 million final one week later, and he swept though the Governors Cup Elimination and Final at Woodbine Racetrack in October with a pair of heart pounding stretch drives.
"He's definitely an exceptional colt, that's for sure, he went a big trip for the Governors Cup," says driver Steve Condren, who has steered the gelding in all but one of his 12 starts. "I think he's one of the better colts in North America."
Condren will send Nebupanezzar after his tenth victory of the season from Post 5 in the ninth race on Saturday, and the veteran reinsman says with a field of talented colts on a half-mile track, there is no point contemplating strategy until the starting gate roars away.
"He's very versatile and he's a very tough colt, but realistically, there's not much you can say until the gate folds," explains Condren, who steers Nebupanezzar for owner and breeder Bob Glazer's Peter Pan Stables Inc. of Pepper Pike, Ohio.
Post time for Western Fair Raceway's exceptional Saturday evening of harness racing is 7:05 p.m., with the $140,000 Gold Finals going postward in Race 6 (pacing fillies) and Race 9 (pacing colts). The Middlesex County Trotting Series Finals are slated as Races 4 and 5, and the Pacing Series Finals are Races 7 and 8.
To view Saturday's entries, click here.