DUNDAS, ON — In spite of the rain soaked conditions Ontario’s top Grassroots competitors delivered an outstanding evening of Championship action at Flamboro Downs Sunday.
Two races were decided by margins less than a length and one featured a dead-heat for third as the three-year-old trotters and pacers battled for top honours in four $100,000 Grassroots Finals. Pacing filly Shami Cami delivered the fastest win of the evening over the soggy oval, rated two second slower than normal, with a spectacular come-from-behind effort that saw her close from sixth to first through the final quarter to record the 1:57.4 victory.
“I thought coming in there might be a speed duel,” said driver Jody Jamieson after the race. “And things shaped up perfect. When I tipped her three-wide on the last turn I knew I was a winner.”
Leaving from Post 6, Jamieson and the Run The Table daughter took full advantage of the sharp fractions laid down by favourites Mike Saftic and Feathery Fame, sitting patiently in seventh until their decisive move at the three-quarters. At the top of the stretch Shami Cami had moved into third, just one and three-quarter lengths to the rear, and she maintained her momentum down the stretch to score the three-quarter length victory over Espirit Seelster and Apaches Angel.
Scott McNiven trains Shami Cami for his wife Kimberley McNiven of Putnam, Twin B Stables Ltd. of Embro and Bradley McNiven of Embro. It was the filly’s fifth win this season in 19 outings and boosted her lifetime earnings to $172,630.
Two races later the pacing colts also turned in a thrilling finish. While fog obscured much of the race, fans had a clear view of the battle to the wire that saw Au Rumba prevail by a neck over local favourite Twin B Mirage in 1:58.2. And three quarters of a length back Allamerican Salute and Tigerama required a photo to determine the third-place finisher.
“That was a good win tonight, he had a good trip and did what he had to do,” said Shane Langille, second trainer in the Bill Robinson stable, about Au Rumba’s narrow victory. “It was good to get position, because it didn’t look like the front-end horses were able to hold on tonight.”
Driver Greg Wright, Jr. had Au Rumba settled in second spot when the colts emerged from the fog at heading to the halfway marker, sitting comfortably behind Tigerama, who suffered only his second defeat in Grassroots action this season. Bob Hamather of Exeter bred and owns both Au Rumba and Tigerama, who also captured their Semifinals last week at the Dundas oval.
The only horse able to pull off a front-end victory was trotting filly Armbro Amaze, who led from start to finish in the first Grassroots Final of the evening. The King Conch daughter and Ross Battin powered to the front from Post 4 and never faced a challenge, cruising home one and one-quarter length victors in 2:03.1.
Trainer Frank O’Reilly of Orton shares ownership on Armbro Amaze with John Fielding of Toronto and John Jesson of Tillsonburg. The partners have watched the talented trotter rack up eight wins in 15 starts this season for earnings of $143,388.
Regular season point leader, and last year’s Grassroots champion, Designable delivered a solid performance to earn the second-place finisher’s share of the $100,000 purse and Sephora and Dream Alone hit the wire in a dead heat for fourth, but were elevated to third when Gadget Girl was demoted to seventh for failing to lose ground while on a break in the stretch.
Semi Spot delivered an impressive performance in the trotting colt Championship to send jubilant owners and fans pouring into the winner’s circle. The King Conch son, owned by Kathlyn MacDonald of Paris, Walter Bauer of Brantford and Gary Silliphant of Simcoe, toughed it out on the outside through the entire mile and still had enough to power to catch pacesetter and favourite Jayport Express in the stretch and score the 2:02.4 victory.
“This was probably one of the biggest trips of the year for him. He did all the work and was still strong finishing,” said driver Paul Mackenzie, adding that the win would go a long way toward boosting trainer Kirby MacDonald’s spirits while he recovers in hospital from pneumonia.
Mackenzie and MacDonald guided Semi Spot to eight wins, four seconds, five thirds and earnings of $182,354 in 23 starts this season. The colt also qualified for next week’s $300,000 Super Final with four solid outings at the Gold Series level, but his connections wisely opted to go the Grassroots route when he delivered a lacklustre performance in the Oct. 3 Gold Final at Mohawk Racetrack.
Sunday’s event wrapped up the Grassroot season, leaving just the Nov. 8 Super Finals to complete the 2003 Ontario Sires Stakes program. The Grassroots Championship also closed out another outstanding year of provincial action at Flamboro Downs, which saw the Dundas oval play host to seven Gold Series, one Trillium and one Grassroots event in addition to Sunday’s $400,000 Championship. The OSS will return to Flamboro Downs in 2004 with a fresh crop of trotters and pacers keen to test their skills over the fast half-mile oval.