Two years after earning her first Grassroots Championship, trainer Julie Walker returns to the Ontario Sires Stakes postseason at Woodbine Mohawk Park this Friday, Oct. 2 with a pair of three-year-old trotting fillies.
Yen will start from the outside Post 9 in the first $20,000 sophomore trotting filly Semi-Final and Walker said she is glad Sylvain Filion will be responsible for decision making once the wings fold for the second race of the program.
“I always say I’m glad I’m not the driver, because I don’t know what I would do, but I think in my mindset as a trainer, I just want to make it to the Final,” said the Carlisle, ON resident. “They take the top five, that’s all I’m looking for is top five and hope for a better draw.”
Yen heads into Friday’s Semi-Final on a two-race win streak at Woodbine Mohawk Park, the first coming in a Sept. 14 overnight event and the second in the Sept. 21 Grassroots leg. Two other winners from the regular season finale will also line up in the first Semi-Final, with No Angel Here getting Post 4 and Sonadora Deo getting Post 6.
Both Yen and Sonadora Deo were late arrivals to the Grassroots program after starting their sophomore campaigns at the Gold Series level. Yen recorded one third, one fifth and one ninth-place result before Walker and owner/breeder Overseas Farms Ltd. of Cambridge, ON decided a change of scenery was in order for the E L Titan daughter.
“I think that she was not the best Gold horse, but I still believe that she was a Gold horse, it’s just every time we went somewhere she had a bad post, got away last, just such bad luck we thought we’d change our luck,” said Walker. “And you can see that she still hasn’t drawn good even in the Grassroots but, because I think she’s a little better than the competition, even if she draws bad we can still compete.”
Unlike her stablemate, Profound Paragon spent the summer competing on the Grassroots circuit and was riding a perfect record of four Grassroots and eight straight wins until the Sept. 21 event when she made an uncharacteristic break in the stretch that saw her placed back to ninth.
“I feel confident that it was just a little bump in the road just because nothing can be too easy,” said Walker ruefully. “Obviously I’m happy it happened then and not in the Semi-Final, and I really don’t think it was anything. I think it was just a little reminder that nothing’s easy. They both trained Tuesday and they both trained really well, so that’s all we can do going in.”
Walker shares ownership of Profound Paragon with breeder Steven Titus of Manalapan, NJ and Jean Bernard “Bert” Renaud drives the Muscle Mass daughter, who boasts a record of 10 wins in 14 starts this season.
“Bert’s done a great job with Shelby (Profound Paragon). That’s been a big part of it,” said Walker. “I think it’s funny that everyone was kind of shocked at the break she made. Yeah I was shocked and disappointed, but at the same time I think that Bert’s made her look better than what she’s been the whole time, because he knows the ins and out of her so well that he can kind of hide those little parts that maybe she’s not perfect at. I think that’s kind of cool, that she’s come as far as she’s come.”
Profound Paragon heads into the second sophomore trotting filly Semi-Final, scheduled as Race 7, at the top of the division standings with 200 points and will be looking to advance to the Oct. 10 Championship from Post 8.
While preparing Yen and Profound Paragon for the Grassroots postseason, Walker has also started searching through yearling catalogues and videos in hopes of finding a future Ontario Sires Stakes star who could take her to another Grassroots Championship or a Super Final.
“Obviously you work towards having a barn full of Gold fillies not just Grassroots, but the fact that I have two now instead of one, it’s a little progress,” said the trainer, who earned her 2018 Grassroots title with two-year-old trotting filly At Will. “I’d like to have a little better calibre in my barn, but I think I’m heading in the right direction, just very baby steps.”
Friday’s three-year-old Semi-Finals get underway at 7 pm with the three-year-old pacing fillies kicking things off in Race 1 and wrapping them up in Race 11. The three-year-old trotting fillies compete in Races 2 and 7, the three-year-old trotting colts square off in Races 3 and 9 and the three-year-old pacing colts will battle in Races 5 and 10. Fans can download a program and watch the live stream on the Woodbine Mohawk Park website.
Feature Image: Three-year-old trotting filly Yen and Sylvain Filion winning in Grassroots action at Woodbine Mohawk Park on Sept. 21, 2020. (New Image Media photo)