It was a speed show at Woodbine Mohawk Park on Friday night as all eight of the freshman Grassroots Semi-Final winners equalled or bettered their personal best times.
The two-year-old pacing colts set the standard in the first $20,000 Semi-Final as seven of the 10 starters fired off the gate. Tabloid Writer won the early sprint, reaching the quarter in :26.3, but his tenure on the lead was brief as fan favourite Day Delight swept past heading into the backstretch. Day Delight sailed on to a :54.2 half and a 1:22.2 three-quarters and hung on for a one and one-half length victory in 1:52. My Land finished second, Poseidon Seelster was third, Usurper fourth and National Sports rounded out the qualifiers for next Saturday’s Grassroots Championship.
“When we got to the quick half and the quick three-quarters I thought, ‘Oh dear,’ but he raced good,” said co-owner Bill Manes. “He’s a good horse, he’s a good colt. Hopefully he’ll be good again next week.”
Rockwood, Ont. resident Manes shares ownership of Day Delight with Lloyd Stone of Portland, Ont., 10462217 Canada Inc. of Gloucester, Ont., and Wayne MacRae of Fall River, N.S. Victor Puddy trains the son of Bettors Delight and driver Jonathan Drury engineered the Semi-Final victory, the colt’s third win of the season.
Division point leader Quick Tour took the other pacing colt Semi-Final with an impressive effort from the outside post 10, holding off fan favourite Mayhem Hanover for a three-quarter length victory in 1:51.2. Delightful Terror finished third, Bettorbuckleup was fourth and Lous Delight closed hard to grab the last spot in the final.
“Once again he was just impressive,” said driver Louis-Philippe Roy of Guelph, Ont. “I was a little worried when I saw the half in :54.4 pop up, but when another horse came to his wheel, he just never wanted to let him go by.”
Roy piloted Quick Tour to the win for trainer Mark Horner of St. Marys, Ont., and his partners from R A W Equine of Burlington, Ont. The win was the Mach Three gelding’s fourth of the season.
Moana brought the party to the winner’s circle in the first trotting filly Semi-Final. The Muscle Mass daughter came from off the pace to secure a one and one-half length victory in 1:57 and was joined by some 70 delighted members of fractional ownership group Landmark 12 of Lansdowne, Ont., and their partners 1187422 Ontario Inc. of Ottawa, Ont., and Hudson Standardbred Stable Inc. of Hudson, Que.
“She raced very good. She took advantage of others making mistakes and was able to capitalize,” said trainer Shawn Steacy. “Her best quality is her gait, she wants to trot. She should be very involved in the final.”
James MacDonald piloted Moana to her third win, besting Credits Celebrity, Canadian Titan, Scorched Romance and Need An Alibi.
Need An Alibi’s stablemate in the John Bax stable took the other trotting filly Semi-Final. Fan favourite Zebs Flur and driver Stephen Byron hit the wire one length ahead of Mybella Angel in 1:57.4. Warrawee Vulcan, Zakarina and Ready To Deal were well back of the leaders in third, fourth and fifth.
“With that first turn, when horses are running in front of her and beside her, if she was going to self-destruct that would have been the time,” said Bax, describing the early breaks by Peppas Angel and Craving You directly in front and to the right of Zebs Flur. “She wants to race, she wants to win now, so that’s all good.”
Bax Stable of Campbellville, Ont., Don Allensen of Wyoming, Ont., and Goin To The Show Stable of Peterborough, Ont. share ownership of the Muscle Mass filly, who has now won her last three starts.
Awesomedabra also delivered an impressive effort from post 10 to capture the first trotting colt Semi-Final. The Kadabra colt and driver Jody Jamieson split horses in the stretch and got a neck in front of fan favourite I Got The Looks at the 1:57.3 finish. Remember Titans was third, Aussie Lover fourth and Kenogami Coco was fifth.
“I couldn’t even tell where he was around the last turn. I thought he was third-over and I couldn’t see him and then I saw Jody coming up the rail," said owner/trainer Gary Lance. “I was just hoping to make the final.”
Port Perry, Ont. resident Lance shares ownership of three-time winner Awesomedabra with Keith Mullins of Fenelon Falls, Ont.
Division point leader Lovedbythemasses dominated the second trotting colt Semi-Final, sailing under the wire five lengths ahead of his peers in 1:56. Magic Bob, Secrets Justice, Enduring Strength and Youboozeyoulose claimed the other four spots in next week’s championship.
“He’s got really good manners and he’s really nice to drive, so just get him out of there clean and give him a chance and that’s what happened tonight,” said driver Mike Saftic of Campbellville, Ont. “He just sat outside that horse (pacesetter Magic Bob) and trotted home strong.”
Saftic drives the Muscle Mass son, now a four-time winner, for trainer Edward Peconi of Peterborough, Ont., and his co-owners Nicholas Peconi of Lakefield, Ont., and Wade Peconi of Stanchel, P.E.I.
The pacing fillies wrapped up freshman Semi-Final night with sharp efforts from Queso Relleno and Mach My Kiss.
Queso Relleno sat outside pacesetter Need Ur Opinion and then powered down the stretch to a one-length victory in 1:53.3. Landry Seelster finished second, favourite Coqui Coqui was third, Even Louder fourth and Preeminence was fifth.
“We were satisfied with that. I think she’s a very nice filly,” said trainer Blake MacIntosh, of St. George, Ont., who shares ownership of Queso Relleno with Sue Vernon Smith of Oakville, Ont., Hutt Racing Stable of Malvern, Pennsylvania and The Flanagan Sisters of Dublin, Ireland. “I’m very confident in the filly and I think she should be pretty good (next week).”
Jody Jamieson picked up his second win of the night with Betterthancheddar daughter Queso Relleno, who now has three wins on her resume.
Coqui Coqui’s stablemate Mach My Kiss and driver Doug McNair opted for a front end strategy and cruised home one and one-half lengths ahead of favourite Kat in 1:53.1. Siochan was third, Queso Relleno’s stablemate Sunshine Hall was fourth and Coco Beach De Vie grabbed the very last spot in next weekend’s championships.
“Coqui Coqui I’ve always thought was a better mare,” said trainer Rob Fellows of his Grassroots Championship entry. “I think if they raced against each other 10 times it would probably be very close to them both beating each other five times.”
Rockwood, Ont. resident Yolanda Fellows shares ownership of Mach My Kiss with Erna Corbeil of Beaumont, Alta. The Mach Three filly now has four wins under her belt through nine starts.
With the fields set for the two-year-old Grassroots Championship events, the three-year-olds will step into the spotlight at Woodbine Mohawk Park on Saturday night (Sept. 28) for their Semi-Finals, competing in Races 1, 3, 5 through 9, and 11 on the 7:10 p.m. program.