ELORA, ON — Faye Antoniou has always enjoyed attending Grand River Raceway’s Industry Day, but this Monday’s festivities will be especially memorable for the Fergus native.
Nine days ago Antoniou acquired her first horse, and two-year-old trotting colt Hitithard is among the favourites for Monday’s $120,000 Gold Final at Grand River after winning his July 29 elimination in effortless style.
“This is Annie’s and my little dabble to see how it is,” explains Antoniou, who shares ownership on the colt with her friend Anne Della Maestra of Waterdown. “We are really excited about it, and looking forward to the future.”
Hitithard and driver Mike Saftic cruised along on the front end to a three and a half length victory in Tuesday’s elimination round, stopping the teletimer at 2:01.2, the quickest of the three divisions. The performance came as no surprise to Antoniou and Della Maestra, who acquired the Mr Lavec son the day after he posted a 1:57.1 track record at Kawartha Downs in a Gold Series Consolation event.
“He has good breeding, Mr Lavec, and he is a big strong horse,” says Antoniou, who currently resides in Waterloo. “We have a good driver, a good trainer — you can’t ask for more.”
Saftic will steer Hitithard from Post 6 in Monday’s seventh race, while the other two elimination winners — Mopey Corey and Rosesbowls MVP — will start from Posts 1 and 5. The Campbellville resident has piloted the colt in all three of his starts, along with two early season qualifiers, and Antoniou was impressed with the way the veteran reinsman handled Hitithard at Grand River on Tuesday.
“With a two-year-old out for the first time on a track, anything can happen,” she explains. “At Grand River the crowd is really close to the racetrack, but Mike brought him up to the rail before the race and he was very calm.”
No stranger to harness racing — her husband Georgios Antoniou trains a few Standardbreds of his own — the newly minted owner also has high praise for trainer John Ciarpelli of Waterdown.
“John is a real good trainer,” asserts Antoniou. “He had the horse ready.”
To calm their excitement and while away the time before the seventh race goes to post on Monday, Antoniou and Della Maestra intend to sample all of the family friendly activities Grand River Raceway has lined up for its 18th annual Industry Day celebration.
“They have a little something for everyone. They put a lot of effort into it,” explains Antoniou, who will try out the face painting, pony rides and craft station with her grandchildren. “It’s very family oriented, and I think that’s what the industry needs.
“We’re looking forward to seeing our family there, and our friends there, and all the people who support harness racing,” she adds.
In addition to Hitithard’s $120,000 Gold Final, eight colts who missed the final will battle in the $20,000 Gold Consolation, slated as Race 3. The on-track feature event is the consolation and final of Grand River’s signature race, the $300,000 Battle of Waterloo for Ontario-sired freshman pacing colts. The Battle of Waterloo Consolation will be contested as Race 5, while the eagerly anticipated Final rolls in behind the starting gate in Race 9.
Grand River Raceway kicks off its Industry Day celebrations at 2 pm, with the fun lasting well into the evening.
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