Ontario Sires Stakes postseason action gets underway this Thursday, Oct. 1 at Woodbine Mohawk Park with eight $20,000 Grassroots Semi-Finals for the two-year-old competitors.
Trainer Marcel Barrieau will harness one starter in each of the trotting colt Semi-Finals, sending division point leader Four Wheelin out from Post 2 in the second race and Stoked Blue Chip from Post 7 in Race 10.
Four Wheelin heads into Thursday’s test with a perfect record of three wins in three Grassroots starts, the most recent a personal best 1:57.1 in the Sept. 14 leg at Woodbine Mohawk Park. Barrieau piloted the Wheeling N Dealin son to his first win, in the July 11 season opener at Georgian Downs, but Louis-Philippe Roy was in the bike for wins two and three and will be at the lines on Thursday.
“Lately, he just hit his own and he’s been real good for me,” said Cambridge, ON resident Barrieau, who shares ownership of Four Wheelin with Gestion Mastel Inc. of Longueil, QC. “The other fella (Stoked Blue Chip), he’s not as strong as I wish he was. He was strong all spring, but now he seems like he goes the same speed all around. He’s kind of a nice trotter, a nice horse, but he’s got no zip at the end of the mile. That’s Four Wheelin’s strong point.”
Milton resident Sylvain Filion will steer Stoked Blue Chip in the second trotting colt Semi-Final, hoping to guide the Muscle Mass son to his fourth top-five finish for owners Wayne MacRae of Fall River, NS and Howmac Farms Ltd. of North Wiltshire, PEI.
Trotting filly point leader Top Of The Bar heads into the Semi-Finals off three straight Grassroots wins over half-mile ovals. Just one of the Muscle Mass daughter’s four career starts came at Woodbine Mohawk Park, a third-place result in the July 13 Grassroots season opener.
“She’s coming in I guess as good as you can expect one to come in with the record she has. She’s feeling good and hopefully she steps up and goes forward,” said trainer Mark Etsell. “She’s pretty versatile. You can leave with her, you can sit with her, you can come first up. We never had the second-over trip yet, but I don’t see it being a problem, she’s trained every which way.”
Rockwood resident Etsell shares ownership of Top Of The Bar with Robert Newton of Walkerton, Graham Hopkins of Chesley and Peter Porter of Port Dover, ON. Regular reinsman Bob McClure will be in the race bike on Thursday, lining up at Post 7 in the second trotting filly Semi-Final.
“It’s a horse race, anything can happen, we’re up to the racing gods now, and trips and all that stuff. She seems to be coming in sharp so that’s the big thing,” said Etsell. “She’s definitely one of the freshest ones anyways, because she hasn’t had many starts, so she’s definitely not over-raced.”
Take Control also heads into his Semi-Final battle off a win in the last Grassroots leg. The freshman pacing gelding posted a 1:52.3 personal best at Woodbine Mohawk Park on Sept. 17, impressing both driver Louis-Philippe Roy and trainer Dan Lagace.
“Every time he’s had a shot to put his best foot forward, he really has. Roy said he was real good last week so we’re hoping, you know there’s some nice horses in that race, but I think if he shows his best they’ll know he’s there,” said Lagace, who shares ownership of the Control The Moment son with Ben Mudry of Toronto. “He’s a nice colt, he’s not a great colt or anything like that, but he’s seems to be getting better and I think he’ll mature into a nice three-year-old next year.”
Roy will steer Take Control from Post 4 in the second pacing colt Semi-Final, which features three of the four winners from the Sept. 17 leg. In addition to Take Control, Proline will start from Post 2 and No Plan Intended gets Post 5. Division point leader Stonebridge Rex starts from Post 3.
Take Control’s stablemate Sportsfire will be looking for a rebound effort from Post 7 in the second pacing filly Semi-Final. The Sportswriter daughter won her division in the first two Grassroots legs, finished second in the next two, but faded to fourth in the Sept. 15 contest at Woodbine Mohawk Park.
“She didn’t finish very strong her last start. She got a good trip, good drive, and didn’t finish overly strong the last 100 feet. We took her blood afterwards and she showed a little bit of ulcers bugging her so we treated her that way,” said Cambridge resident Lagace. “She trained good, seems good, she’s healthy, so we’re hoping for a little stronger finish so that we can make the final.”
Lagace trains Sportsfire for owner/breeder Fred Brayford of Alliston, ON and Jody Jamieson will steer the filly on Thursday.
The trotting fillies will open Thursday’s program in Race 1 at 7 pm, with their second Semi-Final going postward in Race 8. The trotting colt Semi-Finals are slated as Raced 2 and 10, the pacing fillies will battle in Races 3 and 7, and the pacing colts will compete in Races 4 and 9. Fans can download a program and watch the live stream on the Woodbine Mohawk Park website.
Feature Image: Louis-Philippe Roy drove two-year-old trotting colt point leader Four Wheelin to a Grassroots win at Woodbine Mohawk Park on Sept. 14, 2020.