CAMPBELLVILLE, ON — With minus 5 degree temperatures, a stiff wind blowing down the backstretch and snow falling heavily enough at times to obscure the view, conditions were less than ideal for the $2.4 million Ontario Sires Stakes season finale at Mohawk Racetrack on Saturday evening.
Most affected by the weather were the eight favourites who went to post in each $300,000 Super Final division and those who attempted a front end route to the winner’s circle over a track rated two seconds slower than normal making upsets the rule, rather than the exception.
Two-year-old trotting filly Wescott kicked off the long shot parade in the first race, sprinting down the stretch to post a head victory in 2:00.4. Nimbly manoeuvring through traffic Wescott and driver Trevor Richie fought their way into the clear through the stretch and stormed up the outside to nab Clarice Marie at the wire. Fan favourites Wanabeamillionaire and John Campbell held on for third after braving the elements up the outside around the final turn.
“I wouldn’t have given you a plugged nickel as they were coming around the final turn out there,” said part-owner Russell Meerdink of Neenah, WI after the race. “I thought the ball game was over, but (Trevor) worked his magic and, what can I say.”
Meerdink and his wife Jan share ownership on Wescott with Andrew and Christine Hoff of Noshotan, WI and were joined in the winner’s circle by 30 friends and family members who travelled on a bus from Wisconsin to see the filly compete in the Sires Stakes season finale.
One race later Dave Boyle was equally delighted with Ethen Seelster’s victory in the freshman trotting colt event, the culmination of an often frustrating season for the Bowmanville resident and his partners trainer Robert McIntosh of Windsor and CSX Stables of Liberty Center, OH.
“He’s had some ups and downs this season. I’m just happy for the whole group that he’s come around. Bob’s (McIntosh) done a great job,” said Boyle. “It was worth the drive in the ice.”
Ethen Seelster and driver Chris Christoforou were one of two pacesetters who were able to withstand the wind and cold to record the gate-to-wire victory. The Mr Lavec son stopped the clock at 1:59.3, one half length ahead of the fast closing Kingdom and Second Go Round.
In the much anticipated duel between division leaders Northern Harmony and The Patriot the pair locked horns in classic style through the final half of the mile, but were run down at the wire by long shot Ascending who claimed the 1:55.1 victory.
Fan favourite The Patriot finished second but was moved back to third when judges ruled that she had caused interference through the final strides by bearing out into Northern Harmony’s path, impeding the division leader’s forward progress. As a result Ascending’s owner Gerrie Tucker of Montreal, QC and trainer Bill Robinson of Hagersville bagged the top two spots in the freshman filly contest. Tucker shares ownership on Northern Harmony with Sampson Street Stables of Old Forge, PA, Don Bray of Newcastle and Angelo Dinardo of Etobicoke.
Carlisle trainer Bill Budd and owner Cliff Siegel of Brooklyn, NY also secured 75 per cent of the $300,000 purse when Boulder Creek and Sir Luck hit the wire first and second in the pacing colt event. While pleased with the result Budd was noticeably disappointed that stable star and million dollar winner Sir Luck did not cap off his OSS season with the Super Final title.
“I’m happy, I’d just like to have seen the other horse (Sir Luck) win, because he’s my favourite horse,” said Budd after the race. “I think you’ll see him bounce back next week.”
Saturday’s 1:54 mile was Sir Luck’s first start since his Oct. 4 Gold Final win and when the stablemates lock horns in next weekend’s Canadian Breeders’ Eliminations Budd predicts his star will be back to his pre-vacation form.
In the sophmore trotting filly division Corinas Mission chose the ideal time to record her first victory of the season, overcoming the track bias by roaring around the seven-eighths mile oval on the front end to score a one and a quarter length victory over favourite Early Secret in 1:58. Taste Test was eight lengths to the rear in third.
The win was a triumph not just for Clements, who recently turned over training duties on the frustrating filly to Mark Haas, but also for children and families in Bolivia where his cousin Corina runs a mission. At the start of the filly’s racing career owner Norm Clements of Stouffville decided to change her name and donate 20 per cent of her earnings to the Bolivian mission, making her Super Final win a victory on more than just the racetrack.
Harald Lunde of Campbellville accumulated more than one share of the $300,000 trotting colt purse when Rotation roared off the final turn to the 1:58.1 win and second stringer Cyclone Artie captured the fourth-place finisher’s share. Living Image and Visualize picked up the second and third cheques, while favourite Abbey Road C made a disastrous break around the first turn.
Guelph’s Bob Young repeated the feat in the pacing filly Final when Armbro Wallflower surprised favourite Precious Delight to nab the 1:54.1 victory and Oven Mitt picked up the final share with a fifth-place effort. Precious Delight, Lady Graceful and Nicki Newton rounded out the top five.
Paul MacDonell delivered a textbook perfect steer to land Armbro Wallflower and owners Stan Klemencic and the 30-Plus Stable of Trenton in the winner’s circle. The veteran reinsman fired off the gate to the front, allowed Precious Delight to take over just past the quarter and then stalked the pacesetter, firing out of the pocket as the fillies turned for home.
In the last Super Final division young driver Shane Weber took a page from the veteran’s book and kept Luckyisasluckydoes tucked in behind pacesetter Camystic until the final strides. As favourite Dreamfair Vogel stepped up to the lead at the head of the stretch Weber fired up Luckyisasluckydoes and sprinted home to the one and a quarter length 1:53 victory over Dreamfair Vogel and Armbro Warranty.
Ned Gvoich and trainer Dr. John Hayes of Beamsville share ownership on the colt and Gvoich was placing credit for the colt’s win squarely in Weber’s hands.
“Shane’s a wonderful driver. In fact, I credit him more than the horse to tell you the truth. It was a great drive,” said the long time owner. “I’m more happy for (Shane) than I am for myself and John. We’re old dogs. Him, he’s starting out. Did you see him? He was shaking. It’s wonderful.”
The 2002 Super Final Champions will now turn their attention to the Canadian Breeders’ Championship, eliminations on Nov. 22 and 23 and Finals on Nov. 30, where they will try and prove that Saturday night’s triumphs were no accident.