GLOUCESTER, ON — Two-year-old pacing filly St Lads Popcorn is headed to Rideau Carleton Raceway on Sunday to begin defence of her Gold Final crown, but once again the young trotter and driver Jason Brewer will line up on the outside in their $40,000 Gold Elimination.
“You get some good luck and some bad,” says trainer Jack Darling philosophically.
The filly’s good luck came on July 18 when she drew off the also eligible list into Post 2 for the Gold Final at Flamboro Downs, went straight to the front, and never looked back, sailing home to an Ontario Sires Stakes record 1:53.3. Darling says the daughter of his former trainees Twin B Champ and Hot Butter bounced back quickly from her record setting effort and is up for the challenge of Post 8 at Rideau Carleton.
“I was walking her after (the Gold Final), to cool her out, and she was just dragging me around,” recalls Darling. “It was unbelievable.”
The impressive mile quickly thinned the ranks of the Gold Series fillies, with just nine choosing to make the trip to Ottawa to take on St Lads Popcorn. As a result, only one filly will be eliminated on Sunday, with the other nine earning a return invitation to the $120,000 Gold Final on Aug. 3.
With the outside post, Darling does not expect Brewer and St Lads Popcorn to break any records this week. The Cambridge resident is simply hoping the filly navigates the five-eighths mile oval safely and hits the wire in front of at least one other horse.
“Just, it’ll be up to Jason, but just not doing anything crazy, just getting around safe,” says the veteran horseman of their Gold Elimination game plan.
Among the positive aspects of having another outside post is that St Lads Popcorn will not be able to sprint off the starting gate for a second straight week. Darling says he and Brewer are being very careful with the youngster in an effort to keep her on an even keel.
“I’m always a little bit nervous that she might get a little bit hot,” admits the trainer, who acquired St Lads Popcorn for just $5,000 as a yearling. “That Apaches Fame line, their eyes are always bugging out of their heads, always letting you know to just be careful.”
Darling says he has been even more watchful with St Lads Popcorn since her Gold Final win. That sharp mile and the resulting trip to the winner’s circle seem to have tuned the filly’s strings a notch tighter than they were two weeks ago.
“She just seems a little more up on the muscle,” notes Darling. “The funny thing about her; I can’t turn her out in a paddock, she just goes crazy. She’d likely be okay if you put another filly out with her, but I am always afraid to, I’m afraid she’ll get kicked, so we take her out and just grass her on the lead shank.
“She’s good with that, but at some point she’ll start bucking and kicking, and then you’ve got to go in,” he continues. “She’s just got all this pent up energy.”
Darling is willing to put up with the youngster’s high jinks, as long as she keeps putting all that pent up energy to good use on the racetrack.
Rideau Carleton Raceway fans can catch the lively St Lads Popcorn and her peers in the fifth race on Sunday’s program, which gets under way at 6:30 pm.
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