HP Royal Theo rebounded from an uncharacteristic break in his last start to post an impressive victory in the second of two $106,400 two-year-old trotting colt Gold Series divisions at Woodbine Mohawk Park on Tuesday evening.
Starting from Post 7 in the eight-horse field, driver Louis-Philippe Roy eased HP Royal Theo away from the gate and the fan favourites were sitting seventh when Port Perry hit the quarter in :28.1. As Port Perry marched on to a :58.3 half Roy sent HP Royal Theo into the outer lane behind Beyond Ordinary and Simsalabim, and all eight horses maintained their position through the 1:28 three-quarters.
Port Perry turned for home three and one-half lengths ahead and stablemate Threefiftytwo looked poised to mount a challenge from third, but once Roy got HP Royal Theo squared up the William Wellwood Memorial champion found a gear that shocked even his driver. Sprinting home in :26.4, HP Royal Theo hit the wire one-half length ahead of Port Perry in 1:56.2. Threefiftytwo finished third.
“He really impressed me a lot tonight. Going in the last turn I honestly thought he couldn’t win from there, but the colt wanted to prove me wrong. I’m just happy he did,” said Guelph, ON resident Roy. “He goes into the Super Final at his peak thanks to (Jean) Tourigny’s and (Ben) Baillargeon’s team that managed him well.”
Jean Tourigny qualified HP Royal Theo for breeder Claude Hamel of Ayer’s Cliff and his partner Michel Damphousse of Louiseville, QC and then sent the son of Royalty For Life to Ben Baillargeon, who has started the gelding eight times. Tuesday’s win was HP Royal Theo’s third of the season, but his first in Gold Series action and Baillargeon was relieved to see the youngster pad his point total and guarantee himself a berth in the Oct. 12 Super Final.
“He was awesome. Louis did a great job keeping him calm, and he came from behind and that’s what I asked him to do, not to panic,” said Guelph resident Baillargeon, who watched the race from the Lexington Selected Yearling Sale. “We needed to get some points because we were tenth. We needed to get points and I wanted him to race good, and the win is very nice.”
Baillargeon is hopeful that the confidence HP Royal Theo gained in Tuesday’s start will result in another impressive result in the $225,000 Super Final, where he will face off against nine other top point earners.
Among the horses vying for the Super Final title is Blue Cupertino, who recorded his second Gold Series win in the first division on Tuesday.
Easing away from Post 1, Blue Cupertino and driver Doug McNair landed fourth as fan favourite Horse Trader led the field to a :28.2 quarter. Just past the :57.2 half McNair sent Blue Cupertino into the outer lane and the colt was starting to press Horse Trader by the 1:27 three-quarters. Catching Horse Trader halfway down the stretch, Blue Cupertino then held off the charging Your Still Up for a one-half length victory in a personal best 1:56.2. Hetalkstoangels came up the inside to be third.
“My horse raced good tonight, first over, he had to do all the work,” said McNair. “You used to have to watch him on the gate, with the rail tonight I watched him again, but he’s a lot better on the gate than he used to be, so that way you can get away a little closer and you’re not trying to make up as much ground.”
The Guelph resident drives Blue Cupertino for his father, trainer Gregg McNair of Guelph, McKinlay & Fielding of Toronto, ON and Crawford Farms Racing of Syracuse, NY. In four Gold Series starts the Kadabra colt posted two wins and two seconds and wraps up the regular season in a tie for top spot in the standings with Port Perry.
McNair expects another solid effort from Blue Cupertino in the Super Final, a race he expects will be hotly contested.
“It’s kind of wide open I think. I think there’s five or six that look pretty decent. That one of Louis’ (Roy) he just kind of sits back there, he (HP Royal Theo) can make up a lot of ground in the stretch,” said McNair, while noting that he likes Blue Cupertino’s chances. “I wouldn’t trade him for too many, that’s for sure.”
Before the top Gold horses gather at Woodbine Mohawk Park for Super Final Night, the Campbellville oval will play host to the very best Grassroots horses in the province. The Grassroots Championships go postward on Saturday, Oct. 5 with a total of $600,000 up for grabs in the eight division finals. The first race gets under way at 7:10 pm.
Complete results from Tuesday night’s program are available at Woodbine Mohawk Park Results.