INNISFIL, ON — A pair of regular season point leaders delivered impressive performances to claim their division titles in two-year-old Grassroots Championship action at Georgian Downs on Saturday night.
The trotting fillies led off the $400,000 evening and division leader Designable dominated the field of eight with a gate-to-wire effort in 2:01. The Earl daughter and trainer-driver Wayne Langille shot to the front from Post 2 and rolled through fractions of :29, 1:00.2 and 1:30.3 en route to the two length victory over Semifinal winner Queen Of Jewels and Taffeta Seelster.
Harley resident Langille shares ownership on Designable with James Barton of Branchton, Jeff Adamson of Brantford and Terence Adamson of Harley. Their filly did not miss a Grassroots event this season and posted a record of four wins, one second and one third in six starts for a total of 237 points, 62 points ahead of Taffeta Seelster.
“That’s the year we needed,” said Langille in the winner’s enclosure. “I didn’t think she’d stay sharp that long. It’s not very often they do. I guess we’re quite lucky.”
Langille was relieved that the filly returned to her early season form in time for the $100,000 Championship after a disappointing third-place finish in the Semifinal round last weekend.
“She just disappointed me. I thought �Jeez, I hope she’s not coming down with a virus on me,’ because that’s not her. You throw her out and she’s gone,” he said. “But I don’t think it was the filly’s fault. She was slipping bad and it was snowing and blowing. It was just a bad trip last week with the weather.”
The win pushed Designable’s record to five wins, two seconds and two thirds in 11 starts and increased her earnings to $108,203, a nine-fold return on the $12,000 her owners spent to acquire her at last fall’s Canadian Classic Yearling Sale.
Two races later another point leader stepped up for a victory after a third-place finish in the Semifinal. Using the same strategy as Langille, Richard Webb sent Snoops Bytes to the front from Post 4 and the trotting colt never had to glance back, cruising to a 2:01.4 victory.
Semifinal winner Zoltar Seelster was one and a quarter lengths back in second and Certified Election, owned by trainer Kent Baker of Coldwater, Cal Patterson of Wasaga Beach and Wayne Smith of Coldwater, finished third.
Ray Paquette bred and owns Snoops Bytes and was delighted with the colt’s win, which capped a three win, one fourth-place season in the Grassroots program.
“Snoops Bytes is the best little two-year-old I’ve ever had. He’s smart and dedicated and tonight he proved that he is the best,” said Paquette, who orchestrated the mating between the colt’s sire Kawartha Snoopy and dam My Witch. “Last week we ran into road problems, but we got them back tonight. This is a very big race for me.”
The sixth race was a big one for trainer Robert McIntosh of Windsor and owner Robert Waxman of Ancaster when Tommys Luck and Daylon Alert finished first and second in the pacing colt Championship.
With Sylvain Filion back in the race bike behind Semifinal winner Tommys Luck, the heavy favourite landed in fifth spot from Post 5 as the other Semifinal winner Video Express blasted out to a two-length lead by the :27.2 opening quarter. Video Express then led the field of eight colts through a :58.1 half and a 1:26.2 three-quarters as Tommys Luck hung out on the outside behind Spare Time Scout.
As the colts turned for home Filion had moved Tommys Luck into second spot and was reaching for the turbo button. The Camluck colt rocketed up the stretch to a 1:55.2 triumph with stablemate Daylon Alert three lengths behind in second spot and Video Express another length back in third.
McIntosh trains both Tommys Luck and Daylon Alert for Waxman and the long time partners were pleased with the effort of both colts.
“I’m happy with the outcome, but I’m not surprised,” said Waxman. “Tommy’s Luck has got a quick brush of speed, we’ve seen that since the beginning of the year, but he got a little lame so we laid him off and then brought him back. This is what we expected him to be.”
“I think actually backing Daylon Alert up into the Grassroots made a horse out of him,” added McIntosh. “He was going to get discouraged racing against the Gold colts if we had stayed there, so he’s a good example of what the Grassroots can do for a horse.”
Waxman recouped his initial investment with the colts’ one-two finish. Tommy’s Luck was a $72,000 US purchase and boosted his earnings to $100,544 with the win while regular season point leader Daylon Alert, a $72,000 Canadian acquisition, banked a total of $99,433 this season.
The pacing fillies wrapped the outstanding evening of racing with the top three fillies from the regular season finishing first, second and third. The only change from the point standings was that Wendy’s Rocket established herself as the crown princess, while Pat Me Up was forced to settle for a role as a lady-in-waiting.
Semifinal winner Lucky Irma jumped out to an early lead in the eighth race and led the fillies through fractions of :27.3, :58 and 1:26.2 while Feathery Fame sat second on the rail, Wendys Rocket was right behind her in third and Pat Me Up hovered in mid-pack. When the pacesetter started to fade through the final turn the fillies stalking her from the back started to rev their engines and it was Wendy’s Rocket who boasted maximum horsepower on this night, reaching the wire two lengths on top in 1:56. Pat Me Up closed hard to be second, just a hair ahead of Feathery Fame and fourth-place finisher Burning Point.
William “Bud” Fritz trains and drives Wendys Rocket for owner-breeders Bloomingwood Farms of Harriston, and the 2002 Horse Racing Hall of Fame inductee was pleased with the filly’s performance, which shaved almost two seconds off her personal best.
“I thought she’d be right there,” said Fritz. “I’ve been happy with her all year, since she qualified.”
The Pacific Rocket daughter took a run at the Gold Series fillies in September at Windsor Raceway, finishing second in her Elimination and fifth in the Final, and posted a record of three wins and one second in four regular season Grassroots starts.
Wendy’s Rocket and her two-year-old peers will now turn their sights toward the Nov. 30 Canadian Breeders Championship at Mohawk Racetrack or embark on a well deserved winter vacation before beginning preparations for their sophomore campaign in the New Year.
Saturday’s Grassroots Championships wrapped up the first Ontario Sires Stakes season at the new Georgian Downs facility and the provincial program looks forward to returning to the five-eights mile oval in 2003 when a new group of trotters and pacers will be eager to make their mark on the track’s history books.