FRASERVILLE, ON — After a season full of disappointments, the stars aligned for Featured Image at Kawartha Downs on Saturday night, and the three-year-old trotting filly delivered a commanding Grassroots Final victory in front of her hometown fans.
“She has, at times, self destructed,” recalled trainer John Bax of Peterborough. “It’s been a long process with her. She likely should have had $80,000 on her card going into the race as opposed to $40,000.”
Featured Image and driver Stephen Byron started from the advantageous Post 1 and led the field through fractions of :29.2, 1:00.2 and 1:29.3 before cruising home to a one length victory in 2:01.3. Tymal Timeout finished second and fan favourite Hi Edith, owned by Roger Hie of Cobourg and Hielite Acres Inc. of Fraserville, finished third.
“The rail did help,” asserted Bax, who shares ownership on Featured Image with Paul Kinmond and William White of Peterborough and John Hayes of Sharon. “The track’s a little slow tonight, it’s a heavy track, and when I saw that she got to the half in one minute I was thinking, �That’s pretty good, she’s a big, strong mare and it will likely be in her favour.'”
The win marked the fifth time Featured Image has visited the winner’s circle in 18 starts this season, and boosted her earnings to $90,283. The Balanced Image miss started the season off at the Gold Series level, moving down to the Grassroots in August. In three Grassroots starts she posted one win and one second.
Travelin Supergirl also scored one for the home team in the two-year-old trotting filly final, digging in through the stretch to reel in pacesetter Live In Love, who was a shocking 11 lengths ahead of the field at the halfway marker.
“That was a nail biter for sure,” said Shawn Steacy, who works alongside his father Mark Steacy to condition Travelin Supergirl. “Live In Love got away on us, but ours is a tough filly. She’s real honest, she’s all heart, and she tried real hard for us this year. We let her mature at her own pace and it really paid off.”
In rein to �Mr. OSS’ Dave Wall, Travelin Supergirl got a head in front of Live In Love at the wire to claim the 2:03.4 victory. Good Common Cents was one length back in third while fan favourite Quintessential K made an unforced error at the halfway marker and finished out of the money in sixth.
Bred and owned by Peter Heffering of Port Perry, Travelin Supergirl was the number two filly in the division standings after the regular season with three wins and one third in four Grassroots starts. Saturday’s victory boosted the Kadabra daughter’s earnings to $90,661.
Three-year-old pacing colt Junior K was the only Semifinal winner who came back this weekend to claim a division title. The Astreos son and driver Doug Brown battled tooth and nail with Tymal Cameron before getting up in the stretch for the one length victory in 1:56.3. The Grin Man came up the outside behind Junior K to finish second, pushing Tymal Cameron into third.
“Randy Waples called me and gave me a few pointers. He said he’s pretty routine, he’s a real nice colt and you can do pretty much anything you want to with him,” recalled Brown. “He said he might fall asleep, so make sure you keep his attention, even in traffic.”
The Bowmanville resident engineered the winning catch drive for trainer Keith Waples and his Shady Hill Racing Stable of Guelph.
“It was a real privilege to drive for Keith,” added Brown. “He had the horse ready to go.”
Junior K wrapped up his Grassroots career with a flawless record of five wins in five starts this season.
While Junior K was the only Semifinal winner to score a Grassroots final trophy, there were two point leaders who stepped up to the plate on Saturday. In the first $100,000 Grassroots Final of the evening, two-year-old pacing filly Onyx Killean came up with a gutsy effort to run down heavy favourite A Fiesty Affair and earn her sixth Grassroots victory.
Starting from the outside Post 8, Onyx Killean and Keith Oliver got away seventh and spent most of the mile on the outside. Third at the top of the stretch, the Astreos daughter put her head down and reeled in the leaders to score a neck victory in 1:56.2. St Lads Seraph, the number two point earner, finished second and A Fiesty Affair was one length back in third.
“I’d seen her race. She’s just a tough filly, which made my job a little easier,” said Oliver, who stepped into the race bike for the first time on behalf of trainer Gary Wallace and owner Liam Wallace of Troy. “She just keeps coming. There’s no stop to her.”
The other point leader to deliver a victory was Spun Sugar, who went gate-to-wire in 1:57.1 to claim the three-year-old pacing filly crown. Trevor Henry drove the Camluck miss to the one quarter length win over Secret Grin and Just Her Way, leaving favourite Quail Seelster to settle for fourth. Bradley Grant of Milton owns Spun Sugar and Ben Wallace handles training duties on the winner of $240,656.
Round About Fame scored an upset in the two-year-old pacing colt final, stealing a five length win from favourite Lyons Geoff and pacesetter Dougs Fame. Jeffrey Gillis of Guelph and Dario De Gasperis of Kleinburg share ownership on the Apaches Fame son, who was making just his second appearance in the winner’s circle, and Carl Jamieson trains the pacer.
The Mash Potato went gate-to-wire in the two-year-old trotting colt championship, hitting the wire one and a half lengths ahead of Canadian Frontier and favourite Start Livin in 2:01. John Smith Racing Stable Inc. of Woodlawn owns the Potato Race son, who captured five of nine starts this season under the tutelage of Brenda Spence.
T Js Mr Lavec also wired the field in the three-year-old trotting colt final, tripping the teletimer at 2:00.3 for driver Trevor Henry of Arthur and his partner James Laverty of Sauble Beach. Wayne Henry trains the Mr Lavec son, who bested Keystone Saint and Stonebridge Spirit to secure the win.
With the Grassroots Championships completed, the Ontario Sires Stakes program makes one last stop at Kawartha Downs on Tuesday, Nov. 27 when the two-year-old pacing fillies will battle in their last Trillium Series contest.
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