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Stakes, Open Trot Form Solid Card

Published: April 22, 2012 1:19 pm ET

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Monday's 12-race card of harness racing at Woodbine Racetrack not only features North America Cup-eligible pacing colts in the opening leg of The Diplomat Series, a division of the Princess Series and the final of the Celias Counsel, it also features the first ever showdown between two O'Brien Award winners in the Open Handicap Trot.

Lexus Helios has earned a berth in the $50,000 Celias Counsel Series final after sweeping her preliminary leg divisions. Named after her dam and the Greek Sun God, Lexus Helios is a homebred daughter of Ken Warkentin out of the Conway Hall mare, Lexus Hall. Trainer/owner Norm Dunstan purchased Lexus Hall as a yearling for $5,200 in 2001 and is hoping the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

“She went on to win just under a quarter of a million dollars for me and finished third in the Breeders Crown (behind Stroke Play and runner-up Delmartha in 2003), which I was happy with,” recalled the veteran conditioner. “We were against some very tough horses back then.”

The Caledon Village resident already sees a striking resemblance between mother and daughter.

“Lexus Hall was not a big mare, she is quite small and ‘Helios’ is the same,” said Dunstan. “She is built exactly the same as her mother, same height, wide front end, wide back end, both are passing gaited…almost what I would call a perfect trotting filly.”

The lightly-raced miss, who made only one start as a freshman and finished sixth, sports a record of two wins from three starts this year, with $25,350 in lifetime earnings.

On March 15, Lexus Helios made her first start of her sophomore campaign, but she broke stride.

“The reason for that was we changed a bit in her mouth and she got mad,” explained Dunstan. “So we switched back to the normal bit that she had and she won her next two races.”

Her first career victory came as a surprise to the betting public.

In her opening leg division of the Celias Counsel on April 2, Lexus Helios, at odds of 35-1, defeated the heavily favoured Holy Molie Maggie by half a length in 1:57.1.

“I was surprised a little bit, but not totally,” Dunstan said. “We knew that she would be better than 35-1. We didn’t know if we could beat Holy Molie Maggie. It was a pleasant surprise the way she finished. That made me more confident in her for the second leg.”

In the second round on April 12, Lexus Helios romped, this time as the post-time favourite, winning by seven and a half lengths in 1:58.

“I think we stand a good chance of being in the top three, if not on top,” said Dunstan, of his chances in the final.

Dunstan is gearing up to race the bay filly this summer. Her next stakes engagement will be the Ontario Prep Series on May 2 at Flamboro Downs.

“We are looking forward to that and racing her on a half-mile track,” he said. “The track she trains on at home is a half-mile track, but with five-eight turns. Going to Flamboro will be a change for her.

“We are also looking forward to the Ontario Sires Stakes this summer,” he continued. “Whether she races in the Grassroots or the Gold Series, she will tell us when we get there where she belongs.”

Lexus Helios will leave post four for regular reinsman Mike Saftic in the Celias Counsel final for three-year-old trotting fillies that are non-winners of $30,000 in 2011.

The fillies will line up behind the gate as follows:

PP-Horse-Listed Driver
1. Im On Cloud Nine – J. Moiseyev
2. Justasmalltowngirl – A. MacDonald
3. Crystal Rayne – M. Baillargeon
4. Lexus Helios – M. Saftic
5. Winbak Maya – J. Jamieson
6. Sher To Be – R. Waples
7. Belle Nana – K. Oliver
8. Cynthia Loo – T. Henry
9. Holy Molie Maggie – S. Zeron
10. Sugar Wheeler – P. MacDonell

A handful of Pepsi North America Cup eligibles, which include Best Ears, Ontheclock Hanover, Spinarama, State Treasurer and Racing Rocky, will look to follow in the hoofsteps of Up The Credit, last year’s The Diplomat final winner and NA Cup champion, in two $25,000 first leg divisions of The Diplomat Series.

Sophomore pacing fillies, who are also non-winners of $100,000 in 2011, will go to post in a lone $25,000 opening round division of the Princess Series.

Two races later in the $50,000 Open Handicap Trot, San Pail makes his first start since a rare loss in the final of the Glory Comet. The 2011 Horse of the Year has been assigned Post 10, while O'Brien Award winner Daylon Magician makes his four-year-old debut in Post 5. Windsong Geant, who will be heading overseas to compete in the Oslo Grand Prix and Elitlopp, has Post 9.

The stakes-filled card gets underway with a first race post time of 7:10 p.m. To view the card, click the following link: Monday Entries - Woodbine Racetrack.

(with files from WEG)

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