Driver Doug McNair almost missed Saturday night’s Grassroots Championships at Woodbine Mohawk Park, but when the Guelph resident finally arrived he went straight to the winner’s circle, a trip he would make two more times before the $600,000 championships were over.
“Oh it was a great night, I mean it started off bad, I missed my first drive, and I thought she was one of my best shots, that pacing filly of Rob Fellows’ (Mach My Kiss),” said McNair, whose arrival was delayed due to the late finish of the afternoon program at The Red Mile in Lexington, KY where he had two stakes drives. “I thought, �This is going to be the start of a bad night’, but everything just clicked, everything worked out and it usually doesn’t work out like that.”
After missing the drive aboard two-year-old pacing filly Semi-Final winner Mach My Kiss, who finished tenth for driver Jonathan Drury, McNair’s first assignment was with two-year-old pacing colt Mayhem Hanover. Lining up at Post 1 the pair got away second, tucked in behind fan favourite and division point leader Quick Tour as he rang up fractions of :26.3, :56.3, and 1:24.1. My Land pressed the pace through the middle of the mile, but there was room for Mayhem Hanover to slide out of the pocket in the stretch and the colt kicked home in :26.3 to get a neck in front of Quick Tour for the 1:51.1 victory. Bettorbuckleup closed hard to be third, almost four lengths behind the leaders.
“Off that trip, he might’ve surprised some people tonight, but he didn’t really surprise me,” said McNair. “He’s a real fast, high-speed colt, and he just got such a good trip tonight, it kind of worked a bit better for him.”
The driver’s father, Gregg McNair of Guelph, trains Mayhem Hanover for Scott Horner and Clay Harland Horner of Toronto, ON. The championship victory gives the Sportswriter colt a freshman record of four wins and two seconds in nine starts for earnings of $79,405.
McNair’s next drive was aboard three-year-old pacing filly Kylie Seelster and the Big Jim daughter closed like a rocket to finish second behind heavy favourites So Much More and driver Louis-Philippe Roy, who cruised home one and three-quarter length winners in 1:51.1 for trainer Don Beatson of Granton, his son Ken Beatson of Palgrave and grandson Cole England of Exeter, ON. Kylie Seelster’s stablemates in the Gregg McNair barn, Sports Flix and Swift Ally, finished third and fourth.
In the seventh $75,000 division final, McNair was in the race bike of three-year-old trotting filly Semi-Final winner Rebellious Lady. The pair started from Post 4 and watched from third as Halo Its Me and Petro Hall battled to a :26.4 quarter and then Petro Hall opened up a four length gap on the field before the :55.2 half. The gap started to shrink on the way to the 1:24.3 three-quarters and when McNair tipped Rebellious Lady to the outside coming off the final turn the Angus Hall daughter reeled in Petro Hall and then fought hard to hold off Lefkada and claim the head victory in 1:55.1. Warrawee Ultra also closed well to be third.
“The last turn they were going a real good clip up front and she kind of felt half-relaxed, but she trotted real hard through the stretch and it was a good win,” said McNair. �It was good to win for Duane Marfisi the trainer, like I said on the TV there, I think it was my second-ever race and he put me down to drive one, so it was great to get a Final win for him.
“She surprised me,” he added. “I thought I had a shot at Louis (Roy, Petro Hall) when she went by because his horse was likely a little tired, but I didn’t think she’d fight off Scotty’s (Wray, Lefkada). But I’m pretty sure he was three-wide for a lot of the last turn, so that makes a big difference.”
Guelph resident Duane Marfisi trains Rebellious Lady and leases her through his Green And Gold Inc. from Hugh Fitzpatrick, who also calls Guelph home.
McNair completed the Grassroots Championship hat trick in the last division, sending fan favourite Fast N First to the lead early from Post 10. Fast N First took over control from Dreamfair Moxy heading by the :26 quarter and was comfortably in control at the :54.4 half. By the 1:23.4 three-quarters Carlisimo was applying pressure and turning for home Carsons Shadow had stepped around Carlisimo and looked ready to score the upset, but Fast N First dug in and kept a nose in front for the 1:51.1 victory. Dreamfair Moxy was promoted from fourth to third when Sportsline was judged to have caused interference in the stretch and placed from third to ninth.
“I kind of really just wanted to float with him and see what happened, because I think he’s just as good off the pace as he is on the lead. And I mean once Bob (McClure, Dreamfair Moxy) made the front at the eighth-pole I figured he’d want to follow me, and he did the rest from there.
“He scared me for a second but that was kind of my fault, I kind of had him right to sleep you know, worried about Bob on my back, I wasn’t worried about anybody else,” McNair continued. “If I would’ve just kind of let him rattle I think he’d have won a lot easier. He impressed me tonight. That’s the best he’s raced for me. Nice little horse. That was a good night.”
Blake MacIntosh trains Bettors Delight colt Fast N First for his co-owners Ridgeway Racing of Ridgeway and Steve Heimbecker of Conestogo, ON. The win caps off a stakes season that saw the colt win two regular season Grassroots divisions and last week’s Semi-Final, along with his Little Brown Jug elimination. In 20 starts Fast N First has logged 10 wins, four seconds and two thirds for earnings of $306,409.
St. George, ON resident MacIntosh was also victorious in the two-year-old pacing filly division with Queso Relleno, who hit the wire two and three-quarter lengths ahead of So Delightful and Kat in a personal best 1:52.2. MacIntosh shares ownership of the Betterthancheddar filly with Sue Vernon Smith of Oakville, ON, Hutt Racing Stable of Malvern, PA and The Flanagan Sisters of Dublin, Ireland. Moffat resident Jody Jamieson piloted Queso Relleno to the win, his second appearance in the winner’s circle after playing the role of proud father earlier in the evening while his daughter Hailey Jamieson sang the national anthem.
The two-year-old trotting filly championship went to Scorched Romance, who controlled the tempo on the way to a one length victory in 1:57.2. Milton resident Sylvain Filion drove the Kadabra daughter to the win for New Jersey-based trainer Richard “Nifty” Norman and owners Melvin Hartman of Ottawa, Herb Liverman of Miami Beach, FL and David McDuffee of Delray Beach, FL.
Two-year-old trotting colt point leader Lovedbythemasses wrapped up his Grassroots campaign with a division title, sailing home four lengths ahead of his peers in an impressive 1:55.4. Campbellville resident Mike Saftic drove Lovedbythemasses to the victory for trainer Ed Peconi, Jr. of Peterborough and his co-owners Nicholas Peconi of Lakefield, ON and Wade Peconi of Stanchel, PEI, who also bred the son of Muscle Mass.
Division point leader Gold Edition took the three-year-old trotting colt final with a big 1:53.4 effort for driver Phil Hudon of Guelph, trainer Blair Burgess of Campbellville and owners Stirling Fisher of Waterloo and Karin Olsson Burgess of Campbellville. Southwind Frost finished one and one-half lengths back in second and Royale Elite rounded out the top three.
Complete results for Saturday’s program are available at Grassroots Championship Results.