The Ontario Sires Stakes Grassroots Series came to a close for 2021 with an evening of nearly half-a-million dollars in purses for the eight divisions on Saturday (Oct. 9) at Woodbine Mohawk Park.
There were buoyant hugs, joyful tears and no fewer than seven first-time post season winners as the top Grassroots pacers and trotters gathered at Mohawk for their $480,000 season finale.
Moneyworth opened the evening with a gritty 1:56.1 grind to down 1-5 favourite Portofino in the Two-Year-Old Filly Trot.
The Paul Reid pupil landed in fifth to a :27.3 first quarter set by Clockwork Orange, who then yielded command up the backside to Portofino through a :57 half. Driver Scott Young got underway with Moneyworth to the final turn, advancing steadily on Portofino to three-quarters in 1:26.3. At the bottom of the turn, Moneyworth reached the neck of Portofino and powered forward to edge three-quarter lengths better than the chalk to the beam to pull a mild 8-1 upset. Angelonia rallied for third with Da Royal Miracle closing for fourth.
A daughter of Encore Encore, Moneyworth won her third race from 10 starts, pushing her earnings to $64,216. Brian Kleinberg owns the $17.30 winner.
Cyclone Sister slid to the top and shut the door on her foes to win the Three-Year-Old Filly Pace in 1:52.3.
Driver James MacDonald motored the Nick Gallucci trainee off the car and faced no challenge through early splits of :27.2 and :57.1. Voluptuous made a minor bid first over into the final turn but failed to menace against the pacesetter as she opened three lengths to three-quarters in 1:25.4. The Shadow Play filly strolled from there to the finish, chased home by Shes Got It All to win by a diminishing length with Saulsbrook Olympia rallying for third and Alumni Seelster settling for fourth.
A homebred for Millar Farms, Cyclone Sister scored her fourth victory from 11 starts this season and her seventh from 20 overall, pushing her earnings to $169,695. The back-to-back Grassroots champ paid $14.60 to win.
Randy Waples poised Chantal Mitchell trainee Armstead Cole in a perfect-striking spot to pounce towards a 1:56.4 victory in the Two-Year-Old Colt and Gelding Trot.
Armstead Cole settled into sixth from post 10 as Renegade Gypsy ripped to the lead approaching a :28.3 first quarter, where Lexus Ranger made a break. HP Maestro circled to the front up the backside and he soon broke stride to leave Renegade Gypsy back on top in a :59.1 half. By three-quarters in 1:27.3, Renegade Gypsy clung to a narrowing lead as Waples launched Armstead Cole off a second-over trip and zipped to the lead in the final eighth. Royal Champane rallied from the back to take second, beaten 1-3/4 lengths, with Stonebridge Zeus finishing third and odds-on favourite Archery Seelster fourth.
Winning his third race from eight starts, Armstead Cole has accrued $59,830 in lifetime earnings for owners James Armitage, Grant Watson, Sheryl McDiarmid and Dr. Roland Armitage. The Johnny William gelding paid $9.80 to win.
An aggressive steer by Austin Sorrie to make a mid-race move to the top with Cold Creek Queso cashed lucratively to the tune of an 11-1 score in the Two-Year-Old Colt and Gelding Pace.
Sports Fan sped off the wings to the top from post 10, clicking a :28.2 first quarter as Sorrie settled Cold Creek Queso in fourth. With the field tightening approaching a :58.3 half, Sorrie sent the Murray Brethour trainee for the front and opened two lengths on his competition moving to three-quarters in 1:26. In the sprint down the straightaway, the Betterthancheddar gelding held his ground under late pursuit from Macho Phil to win by 1-3/4 lengths in 1:53.2 while odds-on favourite Dynomites Peak assumed third through the disqualification of Sports Fan, placed fourth for a pylon violation.
“It didn’t feel real at the start of it. It was just...everything was like slow motion when you were walking back to the winner’s circle,” said Sorrie. “It’s a different kind of feeling when you win one of them.”
Owned by Cold Creek Standardbred, Cold Creek Queso won his second race from seven starts, pushing his earnings to $50,012. He paid $24.10 to win.
“I’m sorry, I’m just a little hyped up at the moment, I’m not talking very well,” said Daniel Walker of Cold Creek with a chuckle after his first Grassroots win. “We’ve been up and down on these (horses).”
Trevor Henry employed a patient drive with 4-5 favourite P L Opportunity and landed in the winner’s circle of the Three-Year-Old Filly Trot with a 1:55.1 mile.
Midnight Miracle marched for the top from post 9, setting a first quarter of :27.3 before I Da Princess swept to the top into the backstretch. I Da Princess then took the field to a :57 half and to three-quarters in 1:26.1, where Tealicious applied minor first-over pressure and soon tired into the stretch. P L Opportunity meanwhile raced third over and rushed down the center of the course with trot to secure a 2-1/2-length win over late-closing Stonebridge Strong. I Da Princess held third and Tipsy In Dixie rallied for fourth.
Trainer Matthew Dupuis owns P L Opportunity, who now has six wins on her card from 11 starts and $86,374 banked. The daughter of Kadabra paid $3.70 to win.
“In this business you get lots of sad and disappointing things, but when you have nights like tonight, when a horse that really wasn’t supposed to be here makes a lot of people happy, it’s pretty exciting,” said Uxbridge, Ont. resident Norm Clements, whose Prince Lee Acres bred three-year-old trotting filly champion P L Opportunity.
The win was the Kadabra daughter’s third straight and her sixth on a season that has been remarkable simply for its existence. If not for the quick thinking of Prince Lee Acres staff in the seconds after her birth, P L Opportunity would not have survived an attack by her mother, P L Indyanaca, a first-time broodmare. After removing the tiny filly from her mother, the Prince Lee Acres team immediately put the call out for a nurse mare and were connected with the owners of a Belgian whose foal had died at birth.
“We got her down the next morning and it took about an hour to get little Opportunity attached to the new big Belgian, but they did, and it was the greatest mother that she could ever have, this great big Belgian with this little wee Opportunity running underneath her,” said Clements. “Matt and Rachel (Dupuis) are almost part of my family, and Matt was very careful with her as a two-year-old because he said she’s not mature and then every race this year she’s got better. So it’s a thrill for me to see Rachel so happy in the winner’s circle, I was so excited.”
Day To Party sprung a 14-1 upset once fed racetrack by driver Doug McNair, taking the Two-Year-Old Filly Pace in 1:52.4.
Winx battled for the lead from Speaker Nancy to a :26.1 first quarter, forcing the latter to sit a pocket up to a :55.3 half. Dewitt For Josie recouped ground as the tempo slowed and tipped first over to match strides with the pacesetter circling the final turn. McNair sat in the stalled tier with Day To Party, positioned third over, and charged off a helmet after three-quarters in 1:24.1 to take over control in the eighth pole. Favourite Delight Bayama rallied from fourth over to take second, beaten 1-1/2 lengths. Dewitt For Josie held third and In The Mood, off a second-over trip, took fourth.
Returning $31.90 to win, Day To Party broke her maiden with the Grassroots victory while pushing her bankroll to $52,462 for owners Daniel Plouffe, Terry Krawec and Wallacestandardbreds Inc. Ben Wallace trains the daughter of Sportswriter, and he had warned his new partner Krawec that there would be ups and downs when they purchased two-year-old pacing filly Day To Party last fall, but the St. Catharines, Ont. resident embraced the journey and was rewarded with a Grassroots Championship victory.
“They have watched the process of buying a yearling, getting it broke, the pitfalls that you encounter along the way and the possible success, which we had tonight, at the end of the road,” said Puslinch, Ont. resident Wallace, adding that the Krawec’s have been regular visitors to his barn since they acquired a third of Day To Party last fall. “And I am sure they are just shaking their heads in wonderment.”
The Prince put in a coast-to-coast effort as the 7-5 favourite to win the Three-Year-Old Colt and Gelding Trot in 1:54.4.
Launching off the wings from post nine, The Prince circled speedy post-10 starter Stonebridge Armour to lead the field by a :28.1 first quarter with Sweet Soul David in the pocket. Four Wheelin mounted a first-over challenge after a :57.4 half and pressed The Prince to three-quarters in 1:26. The Prince rebuffed that challenger off the corner and drifted slightly off the pegs, creating a seam for Sweet Soul David. Mystic came rolling off cover from the back to make a two-pronged attack after The Prince, who managed to keep both at bay to the beam. Sweet Soul David settled for second by a neck, Mystic took third and Four Wheelin held fourth.
A gelding by Archangel, The Prince won his seventh race from 15 starts, pushing his earnings to $136,425. Chantal Mitchell trains the $4.60 winner for owners Imagine Stable and Party Dont Stop Racing while Paul MacDonell sat in the bike, and gave the trainer a sweep of the $60,000 trotting colt divisions. The Prince also provided Mitchell with first Ontario Sires Stakes post-season win as an owner.
“The biggest thing I had on my mind was the post positions,” said Mitchell regarding her victories. “I knew that they raced super in their Semi-Finals, they both had a great week, they trained up good, they were feeling good, so I was confident that they were ready to perform, it was all going to come down to the trip.
“I am in the same barn as Paul (MacDonell) and Randy (Waples) works for us, so we can joke around, and this week Kris (DiCenzo) said, ‘We’re going to have to see how you two made it into the Hall of Fame with those post positions,’” said Mitchell with a laugh. “And Randy did a masterful drive, getting a second over trip from the 10-hole, I don’t know how it worked out, but it did. And Paul did what he’s been doing with that horse all year. He put him in position, put him where he needed to be to get the job done, and it worked.”
Armor Seelster swept by a pair of tiring pacesetters to snag victory in the Three-Year-Old Colt and Gelding Pace, winning in 1:49.1.
Cantstoplying sped off the car to post a :26 first quarter and a :54 half with 6-5 favourite Jimmy Connor B drafting from second. Jimmy Connor B came off the pegs around the final turn and inched to within a neck of the lead while the tempo remained hot to three-quarters in 1:21.2. Armro Seelster sat third behind the two through the mile and was angled off the pegs at the bottom of the turn by driver Sylvain Filion to attack. The Bettors Delight filly reeled in the top pair to land a half-length blow on Cantstoplying at the beam. Jimmy Connor B settled for third and Proline finished fourth.
Owned by Jeff Courchesne and Martwest Racing Stable, Armor Seelster won his fifth race from 20 starts, pushing his earnings to $112,033. Gabriella Sasso trains the $10.20 winner.
“I actually looked after him when he was two-year-old, just as a groom, and when his owners put him up for sale after his two-year-old year my husband and I bought him. We didn’t even have a harness, we had nothing, so this was the first horse that we bought that kicked off our stable together,” said Sasso. “So I kind of owe a lot to him. Not only was it our first Grassroots Championship, he was kind of a first for a lot of things for us.”
COSA TV's coverage of 2021 Ontario Sires Stakes Grassroots Finals night is available here.