LONDON, ON — After a three month hiatus Ontario Sires Stakes action returns to Western Fair Raceway this Friday with five Grassroots divisions for the exquisite two-year-old pacing fillies.

Dave Lemon trainee Daylon Highlander returns to Grassroots action off her own hiatus. The Mach Three daughter has missed the last two months of racing due to a serious battle with the virus that swept through Ontario stables in August.

“She was just coming into herself when she got sick,” says Komoka resident Lemon, who also bred and owns the filly. “I thought it would be a couple of weeks, but a couple of weeks went by and she was still sick. It took her about a month or more to get over it.”

Once Daylon Highlander had recovered her health, Lemon resumed training the filly and then sent her out to qualify over the Western Fair Raceway oval on Oct. 3. Over a heavy track rated two seconds slower than normal, the young pacer clocked a 2:03.1 mile and her trainer says the effort seems to have renewed the filly’s zest for racing.

“Since we qualified her, it seems like she’s back to herself,” he explains. “But I don’t know what to expect from her this week.”

Daylon Highlander will start from Post 1 in the first $20,000 Grassroots division on Friday, and she carries a record of one win, two seconds and one third into the race. In two Grassroots starts the filly posted a runner-up finish to Stonebridge Breeze at Grand River Raceway in the July 14 season opener, and a 1:57.2 win in the July 31 event at Hiawatha Horse Park. Lemon chose not to ship to Sudbury Downs for the third Grassroots event, and Daylon Highlander was battling the virus when her peers went to Rideau Carleton Raceway and Flamboro Downs in September.

“She should put in a good showing. She usually tries pretty hard,” says Lemon. “We’ll keep our fingers crossed. If she races good there, we’ll be happy.”

While Daylon Highlander was battling to regain her health, rival Stonebridge Breeze was flexing her muscles against the Gold Series fillies.

In her first six starts, Stonebridge Breeze scored four wins and one second — two of the wins were in Grassroots action, and the runner-up performance came in a Trillium Series event against three-time Gold Final winner St Lads Popcorn. Off those impressive efforts, breeder Angie Stiller of Arva and her partner, Gordon Bryant’s Artana Stables of St. Thomas, decided to give the Camluck miss a shot at the Gold Series.

In her Sept. 29 Gold Elimination the filly drew Post 9 and finished sixth in the 1:52.2 mile captured by St Lads Popcorn.

“She acquitted herself well. We debated about leaving her in for the consolation,” says Bryant. “But we decided to drop her back down to where she’s comfortable. She does not like a horse passing her, she strains to stay ahead, and we didn’t want her to get roughed up. We decided that we’d stay on the other side of the fringe.”

Stonebridge Breeze and driver Doug McNair will start from Post 1 in the last Grassroots division on Friday, hoping to add a few more points to the 100 they earned through their first three Grassroots outings. Gregg McNair trains the filly, who is the third foal from a full sister to $1 million winner Electrical Art.

The talented two-year-old pacing fillies will face off in their last regular season Grassroots event in Races 5, 7, 8, 10 and 11 on Western Fair Raceway’s Friday evening program. Post time for the first race is 7:05 pm.

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