DUNDAS, ON — Flamboro Downs kicks off two weeks of Ontario Sires Stakes excitement this Saturday afternoon with a pair of $40,000 Gold Series Eliminations for the province’s best two-year-old trotting colts.

Reigning Gold Final champion Imperial Count will begin defence of his title from Post 6 in the first elimination, while two-time Gold Final winner Buckhams Bay returns to action from Post 9 in the second split. Air Stewart was the runner-up to Imperial Count in both the elimination and final at Rideau Carleton Raceway in August and trainer Ben Wallace is expecting another consistent effort from the Striking Sahbra son this week.

“He’s a real nice colt to have around,” says the Milton, ON resident. “Every race he’s been a little stronger.”

Air Stewart heads into Saturday’s test off a runner-up finish in a Sept. 14 non-winners of one race contest at Mohawk Racetrack and Wallace believes it was the colt’s best effort to date. Starting from Post 6, the young trotter carved out fractions of :28, :57.4 and 1:28 before getting nipped at the wire in 1:56.4.

“He got beat half a length at the wire, and did all the work to get there,” notes the trainer. “I was pretty happy with him.”

Woodstock, ON resident Doug Millard shares ownership on Air Stewart with Canamerica Capital Corp. and Hyatt Holdings Inc. of Milton, ON. Wallace says it was Millard and Pembroke, ON resident Sandra Burns who picked the colt out at last year’s Lexington Selected Yearling Sale, making the final bid of $55,000 US. Burns then took the youngster to Florida to learn his early lessons and brought him back to Ontario in the spring, qualifying the youngster three times before handing him over to Wallace.

“Sandra (Burns) broke him, she had him in Florida. I certainly give her a lot of credit for doing the ground work,” says Wallace. “I also have to give credit to his groom Bill Shea, he’s taken his time with him all summer.”

Wallace harnessed the colt for the first time in the Gold Series season opener at Mohawk Racetrack on July 12 and Air Stewart delivered an impressive :27.3 finishing kick to make up seven lengths on the leaders in the stretch, but his fourth-place result did not earn him a berth in the Gold Final. The colt then made one start in an overnight event, finishing sixth, and took part in the first two legs of the Bridger Series at Mohawk, where he was third and fourth, before returning to Gold Series action at Rideau Carleton on Aug. 20.

Through eight starts the half-brother to $295,983 winner Heza Challenger has posted three seconds and one third for earnings of $58,883, and has thoroughly surpassed Wallace’s expectations.

“I’m surprised he’s as good as he is. You hear this all the time, but I do think he will be a much better horse next year,” explains Wallace.

“To be honest, it’s nice to have a horse that’s making money in a stage when you know his best his yet to come,” he adds. “I think he will be a very good aged horse, but he’s certainly more than creditable right now.”

Randy Waples has driven Air Stewart in all but two of his starts and will be back in the race bike for Saturday’s Gold Elimination. The Milton, ON resident will steer Air Stewart after a top four finish from Post 3 in the third race, and Wallace is looking for a strong effort from the novice trotter.

“Actually, I am really looking forward to racing him. I think he’ll be good for us,” says the trainer. “They are two-year-old trotting colts, but he’s shown that trotting the turns and the straight-aways hasn’t been an issue, so I’m hopeful that he’ll be okay.

“I think we’re in the race when you consider the post,” he adds.

The top four finishers from each Gold Elimination will earn a return trip to Flamboro Downs for the Oct. 2 Gold Final. Saturday’s eliminations are slated as Races 2 and 3 on the program, with the first race getting under way at 1 pm.

To watch Air Stewart’s previous Gold Series starts click: Air Stewart

For complete entries click: Flamboro Downs Entries — Sept. 25, 2010