DUNDAS, ON — When Jody Jamieson got off the race bike following his Semifinal win with three-year-old pacing filly Shake That Junk, the Cambridge resident was not satisfied with her effort, but trainer James Dean says the filly had an excuse for her lacklustre finish last week and should be sharper for this Friday’s Grassroots Championship.
“We had her scoped after the race and she was pretty dirty — full of mucous,” relates the trainer. “She never ran a fever, never coughed, ate, and felt good. So hopefully we can have her better for Friday.”
Shake That Junk recorded a nose victory in her Semifinal, leading the field from gate to wire in 1:55.3, well off the 1:52.3 she clocked over the Flamboro oval winning a division of the Bud Light Stakes in early September. Jamieson will send her after a second win from Post 3 in the last of eight Semifinals on Friday, and Dean is hoping she is ready to give her best effort.
“She can step around Flamboro pretty good that mare,” says the Campbellville resident, who conditions the filly for his partners Jamieson, Dr. David Powell of Campbellville, and P And J Stable of Mississauga. “The half-mile track suits her way of racing. It helps her out a lot.”
A winner of $283,319 as a two-year-old, Shake That Junk struggled against the Gold fillies this season, and did her best racing away from the province’s larger ovals. She recorded wins in both of her regular season Grassroots appearances, the Bud Light Stakes, and a Trillium Series division. Through 14 starts the Camluck daughter boasts a record of five wins and two thirds for earnings of $97,650.
In addition to Shake That Junk, Dean will also harness two-year-old pacing colt Semifinal winner Sterling Chris in the second final. The Astreos son delivered a gutsy 1:56 victory in the qualifying round last week, but faces an uphill battle from Post 6 on Friday.
“He’s got some gate speed, not a whole lot. Hopefully he can use it to get positioned,” notes Dean. “I don’t think we’ve got to be on the front end, he can race from behind.”
Since Aug. 31 Sterling Chris has only finished worse than third on one occasion, and Dean still does not know what happened to the colt when, in Grassroots action on a sunny September afternoon, he went down in a heap turning for home at Dresden Raceway.
“I still don’t know what happened to him at Dresden. He had his Niatross moment I guess,” Dean says wryly. “Jason (Brewer) had no clue. He never grabbed a shoe or a boot, his equipment was intact. He’s such a clean going colt, you just can’t knock him off his feet, except for that day.”
Fortunately neither Sterling Chris, nor driver Jason Brewer were seriously injured and the colt was able to bounce back and score a runner-up finish in the last regular season event at Flamboro Downs on Oct. 8, assuring him of a berth in the Semifinal.
Toronto resident John Fielding bred and owns Sterling Chris, who has accumulated four wins, one second and two thirds in 10 starts this season for a total of $47,500. Anthony MacDonald engineered last week’s Semifinal victory and will return to the race bike on Friday, keeping close tabs on the other Semifinal winner, Shortstacked, who will start from his right at Post 7.
The two-year-old trotting colts will open the Grassroots Championship show in Race 2, and trainer Mike Keeling is expecting another scrappy performance from Striking Lightning and driver Stephen Davis.
“He’s quite small, and small horses have that little horse syndrome. They’re scrappy,” explains the Cambridge resident, who trains Striking Lightning for P C Wellwood Enterprises Inc. of Cambridge and Stake Your Claim Stable of Secaucus, NJ. “He’s still very scrappy, and he gets himself into trouble because of it.”
Striking Lightning finished fourth in his Semifinal, and will make his bid for a Grassroots title from Post 3. The Striking Sahbra son has yet to find his way to the winner’s circle through 10 starts, and Keeling does not expect the youngster to change that statistic against the best colts in the province.
“He’s just getting his mind on racing,” says the horseman. “He’s going to be a nice three-year-old, he’s not going to hit his full stride at two.”
While Striking Lightning is just starting to get the hang of racing, his former stablemate, Lukas Rossi, has been a quick study. In five starts the Roadshow Hall son has recorded four wins, including a commanding five length 2:02.2 score in last week’s Semifinal round.
Keeling’s partner, Paula Wellwood, taught the youngster his early lessons and shares ownership on the colt with trainer Ron O’Neill of Cambridge and Nancy Stephens of Woodstock. The pair also trained the colt’s father, and Keeling says Lukas Rossi comes by his crusty temperament honestly.
“Roadshow Hall, he was just a nasty little bugger,” recalls Keeling. “Our blacksmith says he is the one horse in his life he’ll never forget, because even at five years old he was impossible to shoe.”
Lukas Rossi and driver Randy Fritz will benefit from Post 1 in the first Grassroots Championship on Friday, with the other Semifinal winner, Oaklea Rush, getting Post 5. The evening’s excitement gets under way at 6 pm, with the province’s most talented trotters and pacers impressing Flamboro Downs fans in Races 2 through 7, 9 and 10.
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