Only 10 horses advance to the Super Final and when they lined up behind the starting gate at The Raceway at the Western Fair District on Friday night neither Denali Seelster nor Beach Blanket Book was among the 10.
Denali Seelster was sitting in twelfth spot in the two-year-old pacing colt division standings with 29 points and Beach Blanket Book was seventeenth with 18 points. Both colts needed a win to guarantee themselves a post season berth and neither one was the morning line favourite to get the job done in their respective divisions.
Fortunately for their connections, both colts ignored the odds-makers and came up with victories that will extend their season through the Oct. 12 Super Final.
“Denali raced real good tonight. With the rail there, I got away third, and I really didn’t want to come first up and I’m pretty sure Doc (Moore) didn’t want me to sit in the three-hole, so I made the move early, cleared to the front and controlled the pace from there and he raced really good,” said driver Sylvain Filion. “He was pacing good. Usually he gets a little bumpy in the turns, but tonight he was perfect.”
Denali Seelster rang up fractions of :27.2, :56.2 and 1:24.3 and then dug in down the stretch to secure the one-half length victory in 1:54.4, a new track record for two-year-old pacing colts. The record replaced the mark of 1:55.4 set by Keystone Raptor in a November 2009 Gold Series event. Fan favourite YS Mathis finished second and Examiner Hanover claimed the third-place finisher’s share of the $104,800 purse.
Filion engineered Denali Seelster’s first Ontario Sires Stakes victory for trainer Dr. Ian Moore of Cambridge, ON and owners Ratchford Stable NS of North Sydney, NS. The son of Sunshine Beach and Demi Seelster was born and raised at Seelster Farms’ Lucan, ON nursery.
With one win, one second, one sixth and one eighth in his four Gold Series starts Denali Seelster wraps up the regular season with 79 points, good enough for sixth spot in the standings. The colt scored his first lifetime victory in an overnight event at Woodbine Mohawk Park on Sept. 20 and heads into the Super Final on a two-race win streak.
In the second $104,800 division Filion tried a similar strategy from Post 1 with Denali Seelster’s stablemate Tattoo Artist. The fan favourites took command just after the :27.1 quarter, hit the halfway marker in a sharp :55.4 and the three-quarters in 1:25.3. Starting from Post 5, driver Chris Christoforou and Beach Blanket Book watched the early speed from the back of the six-horse field and advanced along the rail as their rivals shifted into the outer lane. After tipping out behind Aneto in the final turn, Beach Blanket Book shifted into high gear as soon as he got a clear look at the wire and reeled in the field for a three-quarter length victory in 1:57.3. Aneto finished second and Tattoo Artist stayed game for third.
“We’ve been happy with him, and the battle up front helped too tonight, so it worked out,” said trainer Blake MacIntosh. “He’s a nice colt and he deserved to win tonight, because he’s had a tough year, so it was good, a good night.”
St. George, ON resident MacIntosh trains Beach Blanket Book for Hutt Racing Stable of Malvern, PA and Mac And Heim Stables of Cambridge, ON. The win was the second lifetime and the first in Ontario Sires Stakes action for the Sportswriter colt, who got his first win in the Battle Of Waterloo eliminations at Grand River Raceway and was one of the favourites for the Aug. 5 final before hooking wheels with Bettorbuckleup and being forced to pull up before the finish line.
“He’s been a tough luck horse. He hooked wheels in the Battle Of Waterloo there or he would have won that I thought, or been right there,” said MacIntosh. “He raced great in the (Sept. 21) Metro, he paced a third quarter in :25.1, he was just a little overmatched in there, that’s all.”
In his five Gold Series starts Beach Blanket Book delivered one win, two fourths, one seventh and one ninth-place result for a total of 68 points and ninth spot in the standings.
Friday’s event marked the end of the Ontario Sires Stakes Gold Series regular season. The top Gold Series competitors from all eight divisions will meet in the $1.8 million Super Final Night at Woodbine Mohawk Park on Saturday, Oct. 12.
Complete results from Friday’s program are available at The Raceway at the Western Fair District Results.