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Darling's Five Grassroots Contenders

Published: September 21, 2016 7:02 pm ET

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Trainer Jack Darling shipped five pacing colts to Mohawk Racetrack for the Grassroots Semi-finals last week and all five will return to the Campbellville oval on Saturday, Sept. 24 for the $400,000 Grassroots Championships.

“I just trained all five of them this morning (Wednesday) and they all trained as good as they can,” said Darling of three-year-olds Continual Hanover and St Lads Moonwalk and two-year-olds Master The View, The Dark Shadow and Trident Seelster. “It’s just very tough; both divisions are very tough this year. We need a little bit of racing luck.”

Reigning division champion St Lads Moonwalk will need the largest serving of luck, as he gets the outside Post 10 for his third straight start over the Mohawk oval. On Sept. 1, in the last regular season Grassroots event, driver Mike Saftic of Campbellville guided the Mach Three son to a head victory from Post 10, and in last Friday’s Semi-final driver Jody Jamieson of Moffat teamed the colt to a runner-up finish from the outside post, just a neck behind winner Arsenic.

“It’s just bad luck, so you just kind of roll with the flow,” said a philosophical Darling. “It’s going to be tough from there, but we’ll see what happens.”

Continual Hanover won his Semi-final, his third straight victory, posting a 1:51.2 clocking for Jamieson. Milton resident Randy Waples will steer the Bettors Delight son from Post 7 in Saturday’s $50,000 Championship, while Jamieson is back in the race bike behind St Lads Moonwalk. The three-year-old pacing colts square off in the ninth race on the program.

The two-year-old pacing colts wrap up the Championship in Race 10, with The Dark Shadow (Shadow Play) and Jamieson starting from Post 3, Waples sending Master The View (Vintage Master) out from Post 5 and Saftic teaming Trident Seelster (Big Jim) from Post 7. The Dark Shadow and Master The View finished second and fifth behind Tymal Peacemaker in last Thursday’s Semi-final round and Trident Seelster was fourth in the other split, won by Bet On Brett.

“The Dark Shadow, he’s my best shot in the two-year-olds. He’s just a really nice colt, but there again it’s a tough division,” said Darling, who also owns all five colts. “And the other two, nice colts too, but we’re just fighting for a cheque with them.

“But you never know, it’s a horse race,” added the Cambridge resident.

Since narrowing his focus to Ontario Sired young horses in 2012, Darling has consistently ranked among the top 10 trainers in the Ontario Sires Stakes program, with his stable of 15 to 20 horses earning more than $400,000 in the last three seasons.

“I just don’t like the travelling so much anymore, as far as racing. I just kind of like to stay close to home,” the trainer explained. “So I just decided to put my money into the Ontario Sired program, and just try to buy the best Ontario Sired yearlings I can and go from there.”

Each fall Darling sells his three-year-olds at the end of their stakes season and acquires eight to 10 yearlings. He was among the leading buyers at the season opening Canadian Yearling Sale on Sunday, Sept. 18, acquiring sale topping pacing colt Brunos From Mars (Mach Three) for $105,000 and pacing fillies Warrawee Templar (Shadow Play) for $42,000, Write Me A Song (Sportswriter) for $47,000 and Northern Roulette (Shadow Play) for $50,000.

“I’m a little ahead of schedule,” said Darling with a chuckle. The horseman will also be shopping at the Lexington Selected Sale Oct. 4 to 8, the Forest City Yearling Sale on Oct. 23 and the Harrisburg Yearling Sale Nov. 7 to 11. “You just never know how it’s going to work out. It just turns out that I found a few that I really liked and the prices were okay, so I got them bought. Sometimes you go and things just don’t click, you just can’t quite find what you want, and then when you do, they just maybe go for a little bit too much.”

Darling will get the youngsters started and then hand them off to colleagues while he and wife Ann head to Florida for their annual winter break. By the first of April the group will be reassembled at Classy Lane Training Centre in Puslinch and Darling will be doing what he enjoys most.

“Racing horses doesn’t excite me like it used to,” admitted Darling, who has been training since he graduated from Exeter’s South Huron District High School in 1972. “I just like the babies, I like buying the yearlings and training the two-year-olds and racing the two-year-olds. That’s what I like to do.”

With five hopefuls prepping for Saturday’s Grassroots Championship, Darling’s focus on buying Ontario Sired yearlings and doing the work he enjoys most is clearly paying off.

Grassroots Championship Night gets under way at 7:30 pm, with the eight Finals slated as Races 2 through 6, 8, 9 and 10. The $311,000 Milton Stakes for aged pacing mares, dominated by former Ontario Sires Stakes stars, goes postward as Race 7.

In addition to the on-track excitement, those arriving early will receive an Ontario Racing t-shirt with their program purchase and fans can play the popular Ontario Sires Stakes Trivia Spin and Win game. On Thursday, the SC website will open the first of two online Handicapping contests in concert with the Ontario Sires Stakes Championship events, with $1,500 in cash prizes up for grabs in the OSS Grassroots Pick 8.

To view the entries for Saturday night, click on one of the following links: Saturday Entries - Mohawk Racetrack -- Saturday Program Pages (courtesy TrackIT).

(with files from OSS)


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