LONDON, ON — Western Fair Raceway fans are in for a treat on Friday night as the London oval welcomes the province’s top two-year-old pacing fillies and pacing colts for a slate of Gold Eliminations.

Ontario’s talented freshman pacing fillies will take the first turn around the half-mile oval, battling in Races 7 and 8, and Dorchester resident John Pentland will harness one filly in each $40,000 split. Northern Duchess will carry the Pentland Stable colours from Post 3 in the first elimination, and Pentland says the filly is ready for battle.

“We gave her some time off because we didn’t want to over race her, and she seems good,” says the horseman. “She trained in 2:00 on Friday in London.”

The Western Terror miss, owned by Karen Carroll of Shedden, heads into the last Gold Series event off an impressive fourth-place finish in the Oct. 6 Gold Final at Mohawk Racetrack. Starting from Post 10, Northern Duchess and driver Mike Saftic were last by 13 lengths at the halfway marker, and sprinted home in :26.3 to finish just over three lengths behind winner Shacked Up.

Through 10 starts Northern Duchess has accumulated two wins, five seconds and one third for earnings of $199,228. Her victories came in the Aug. 10 Robert Stewart Stakes at Mohawk and the July 2 Bud Light Series at Flamboro Downs. Although she has yet to score a win in Gold Series action, Northern Duchess has been a model of consistency, missing just one cheque all season.

“I think she’s a better filly than most of us thought,” admits Pentland. “It seems like to me, she’s knocking at the door of beating (St Lads) Popcorn — that’s her nemesis.”

Northern Duchess has finished second to three time Gold Final winner St Lads Popcorn on three different occasions, and Pentland would love to see her reverse that trend at Western Fair. However, the filly will not have an opportunity to do so this week, as stablemate Star Gazed is the one who will face St Lads Popcorn in the elimination round.

Star Gazed will also start from Post 3 in the eighth race, and will be looking for just her second win of the season. The Astreos miss earned her first victory in an accident marred Gold Elimination at Flamboro Downs on July 11 and has added two seconds and one third to her resume in the last three months.

The filly heads into Friday’s contest off a pair of runner-up finishes. She scored a second in the Oct. 6 Gold Consolation at Mohawk, and a second in overnight action at Windsor Raceway on Oct. 22.

“She kind of keeps Northern Duchess company,” says Pentland, wryly. “She raced a lot better her last start in the Consolation at Mohawk. She really stepped up there. She’s always been a bad allergy horse, so the cool weather helps her out.”

Natalie Pentland of Dorchester, CJS Stables Inc. of London, and James Millier of Dorchester share ownership on Star Gazed, who is the second foal from their good race mare Catch This Bunny, a winner of $141,391.

Once the freshman pacing fillies have wrapped up their Elimination battles, the remarkably talented two-year-old pacing colts will take centre stage in Races 9 and 10. Headlining the pacing colt event is two-time Gold Final champion Nebupanezzar, who heads into his elimination off a spectacular victory in the Governors Cup Final at Woodbine Racetrack on Saturday night (Oct. 25).

“He’s one of the better horses I’ve ever trained,” says Hall of Fame horseman Bob McIntosh. “That trip the other night put him in that category in my mind. He never did see the rail, even Steve (Condren) said he overcame a bad drive. The horse did it all on his own, and that last little sixteenth of a mile was incredible.”

On the outside through the entire mile, Nebupanezzar and driver Steve Condren sprinted home from third at the top of the stretch to earn the head victory in 1:51.2.

Bred and owned by Peter Pan Stables Inc. of Pepper Pike, OH, the No Pan Intended son boasts a record of eight wins and two seconds in 11 starts, with his only off the board finish coming in his first lifetime start, where he made an early break at Grand River Raceway and came back on to finish fifth.

Nebupanezzar and Condren will be looking for their ninth win of the season from Post 4 in the tenth race, facing off against reigning Gold Final winner Surrealist from Post 6.

In addition to the four Gold Eliminations, Western Fair Raceway fans will be treated to a full program of Middlesex County Pacing Series action for both fillies and mares and colts and geldings.

Post time at the London oval is 7:05 pm on Friday, with the two-year-old pacing fillies squaring off in Races 7 and 8, and the two-year-old pacing colts battling for a top four finish in Races 9 and 10.

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