There were two Battle Finals, a pair of Gold Series divisions and five Grassroots splits up for grabs at Grand River Raceway on Monday, Aug. 3, part of the Elora oval’s annual Industry Day celebrations, and local driver Doug McNair won one of each.
The rural Guelph resident kicked off the afternoon’s festivities in the first race, firing three-year-old pacing filly Karma Seelster away from Post 4 in the first $105,600 Gold Series division and repelling all challengers on the way to a one and one-quarter length victory in 1:53. Sound Idea closed to be second and pocket-sitter Betalady rounded out the top three.
“We had two good horses along the inside that both have been racing pretty good, but I just figured I had the handiest one of them all, just for leaving the gate and pacing the turns. So I thought if I could get her out of there on the right foot they’d have a little trouble catching her, and they did,” said McNair, referring to fan favourite Sex Appeal at Post 1 and reigning division champion Alicorn at Post 2. “She can make up ground on the turns, where a lot of them are just trying to hold their position. It really helps her when they race on a half. Going for $100,000 you’ve got to take advantage of it.”
The driver’s father, Gregg McNair of Guelph, trains Karma Seelster for Eileen and Keith Waples and Karen Hauver of Durham, ON. The win was the Sportswriter daughter’s first of the sophomore campaign and extends her unbeaten streak at Grand River Raceway to four. Last season the filly swept her elimination and the final of the Battle Of The Belles and came back nine days later to win a Gold Series Leg.
In the fourth $22,800 three-year-old pacing Grassroots division, not long after the first of two downpours that shifted the track from fast to fair, McNair took full advantage of Post 1 with Landry Seelster, sending the fractious filly straight to the front and rolling home to a two length win in 1:55. Mary Kat and Coqui Coqui finished second and third behind the fan favourite.
“She’s just a little tricky sometimes. She’s a little tough to handle, she’s a little warm,” said McNair. “Having the rail I just figured as long as I got her off the gate, we should be able to let her do kind of what she wanted, and it worked out good.”
Kim Lezanchuk and trainer Michael Ellis of Brantford, who recently acquired Landry Seelster from Gregg McNair and his partners, enjoyed a quick return on their investment in the Mach Three daughter. With two wins and one third in the first three Grassroots legs, Landry Seelster currently sits atop the three-year-old pacing filly standings with 112 points.
In the afternoon’s finale, the $200,964 Battle Of Waterloo for Ontario Sired two-year-old pacing colts, McNair was also sitting on a good draw with elimination winner Bettor Sun. The colt got away smartly from Post 2, settled briefly behind Avion Seelster heading for the :28 quarter and then brushed to the front. Through fractions of :56.2 and 1:25.1 Bettor Sun never faced a challenge and the Sunshine Beach colt cruised home a two and three-quarter length winner in 1:53.4. Avion Seelster earned second-place honours and Cantstoplying was third. Fan favourite Stonebridge Duel was fourth.
“I thought he had a really good shot. The favourite had the nine-hole so I figured if we got him off on the right foot that we were going to be able to control the race,” said the reinsman. “We weren’t crawling around there today, it’s not like I stole the race, we went pretty good fractions. That was a good mile around there today. I mean the track was hard enough so it wasn’t like he was going through slop, but it definitely wasn’t fast, that’s for sure.
“We just outdrew everybody, that’s what helped us. If you get a good draw like that and you’ve got a handy horse, then the best place you want to be is on the front as long as the fractions aren’t too hot.”
Gregg McNair conditions Bettor Sun for owner-breeder Willow Oak Ranch of Rogersville, TN. In his first three lifetime starts the colt has his Battle Of Waterloo elimination and final victory along with a fourth-place result in the July 18 Gold Series event for freshman pacing colts.
Scarlett Hanover won the $128,149 Battle Of The Belles for Ontario Sired two-year-old pacing fillies for driver Ed Hensley, trainer Ashleigh Hensley and owners Burke Racing Stable LLC of Fredericktown, PA, Frank Baldachino of Clarksburg, NJ, J And T Silva Purnel & Libby of Delray Beach, FL and Weaver Bruscemi LLC of Canonsburg, PA. The Bettors Delight daughter stopped the teletimer at 1:54.3, three and one-half lengths ahead of pacesetter Ring Of Kerry and Cyclone Sister.
Lauras Love took the other $105,600 three-year-old pacing filly Gold Series division with a gritty first up effort. The fan favourite and driver Bob McClure wore down pacesetter Rose Run Vantage to secure the one length victory in 1:54.2. Pocket-sitter All Day Sunshine was third.
“He (McClure) said she was all grit, she wasn’t pacing great,” said trainer John Pentland. “She’s a really nice filly, like she’s a winning horse, not just because she’s got all those wins on her card, but because she’s tough to beat. She wants to win.”
London resident Pentland shares ownership of the Betterthancheddar filly with Gracie Mae Barr of Thamesford, ON. Monday’s win was Lauras Love’s first in Ontario Sires Stakes action, but her seventh of the season.
Trainer Marcel Barrieau captured two $22,800 Grassroots divisions with Bettorthanbobbi and Preeminence. Bettorthanbobbi controlled the tempo on her way to a one-half length win over Happy Looker and Hit By A Bus, stopping the clock in 1:54.4. Sylvain Filion crafted the Betterthancheddar daughter’s first Grassroots win for Barrieau and owner Ian Smith of Charlottetown, PEI.
Preeminence sprinted home to a nine and one-half length victory in 1:54. Keystone Kalimba was second and fan favourite Trafalgar was third. Cambridge resident Barrieau trains the Sportswriter daughter for Gilles Caouette of Sudbury, ON, Claude Baril of Mascouche and Michel Daneault of Terrebonne, QC.
The other Grassroots divisions went to fan favourite Kat, who scored a 1:56 win for driver Jody Jamieson, trainer James Dean and owners Wilma and James MacKenzie of Ennismore, ON, and Free Flyin Ticket, who hit the wire three and one-half lengths the best in 1:54.1 for driver Paul MacDonell, trainer Anthony Beaton of Waterdown and his co-owners Gary Volpe of St. Thomas, George Quartarone of Claremont, ON and David Mercer of Sydney, NS.
The three-year-old pacing fillies will make their fourth Grassroots start on Aug. 24 and their fourth Gold Series on Sept. 5, both at Woodbine Mohawk Park.
Complete results from Monday’s program are available at Grand River Raceway Results. The Elora oval hosts its sixth Ontario Sires Stakes event on Wednesday, Aug. 19, welcoming the two-year-old trotting fillies for their third Gold Series test.
Featured Image: Doug McNair drove three-year-old pacing filly Karma Seelster to a 1:53 victory in Gold Series action at Grand River Raceway on Aug. 3, 2020. (AG Photography)