The youngest Ontario Sires Stakes stars will line up in London on Friday, Oct. 15 as Western Fair Raceway plays host to eight $30,000 Grassroots Semifinals for the most gifted two-year-old trotters and pacers in the province.
The $240,000 event is the first of three exceptional evenings of harness racing on tap during the opening week of Western Fair Raceway’s fall meet. On Saturday, Oct. 16 the province’s top three-year-old trotters and pacers will battle in their own Semifinal skirmishes, and then the finalists from Friday and Saturday’s contests will return to the London oval on Saturday, Oct. 23 for the $800,000 Grassroots Championship night.
“There are a lot of good horses around, good young horses,” says Komoka, ON resident Dave Wall, who anticipates three outstanding nights of racing.
The veteran reinsman will compete on both evenings of Semifinal action, and starting from Post 1 in the first race on Friday, Wall and two-year-old pacing filly Pocket Of Gold will lead the parade of Grassroots stars onto the London oval.
The top four finishers from each Semifinal earn a return invitation to Western Fair for their respective $100,000 Grassroots Final, so Wall is hoping Pocket Of Gold can extend her record of top four Grassroots finishes to six.
“She was fourth her last start (Sept. 29). She hadn’t raced in about three weeks and I went first up with her, and she held tough,” says Wall, known as ‘Mr. OSS’ for his long running success on the provincial circuit. “She’s got the rail and she’s pretty handy. She does everything she’s asked to do.”
Strathroy, ON resident Dean Wall trains Pocket Of Gold for breeder Michael Guest of Boca Raton, FL and his parent’s Wall Tyme Stables Inc. of Komoka. Through eight starts the Rambaran daughter has posted two wins, two seconds and two thirds for earnings of $34,750. In five Grassroots starts Pocket Of Gold captured one trophy —touring Grand River Raceway in a personal best 1:57.3 on Aug. 11 — two seconds, one third and one fourth for 120 points and sole ownership of seventh spot in the two-year-old pacing filly point standings.
Among the fillies Wall and Pocket Of Gold will face in the first freshman pacing filly split are second ranked The Big Macher from the trailing Post 8 and third ranked Modern Best from Post 4.
The novice pacing fillies also wrap up the Grassroots portion of Western Fair’s Friday evening program in Race 8, and the second $30,000 Semifinal features a showdown between division point leader Lucky Taryn from Post 1 and recent Gold Series challenger Epoxy Queen from Post 2.
Like Wall, longtime owner Dan McCann will be trackside both Friday and Saturday night. The Parkhill, ON resident owns three Semifinal contestants, a pair of two-year-old trotting colts and one three-year-old pacing filly. Both trotting colts ended up with Post 6 in their respective Semifinals on Friday, but McCann figures Starlitestarbrite landed in softer company than his stablemate Major Herbie.
“Major Herbie looks to be in maybe a little tougher, but he’s an excellent trotter himself,” notes McCann. “It would have been nicer to draw inside a little bit more, but hopefully he can get to the final and go from there.”
The son of Here Comes Herbie and former Gold and Grassroots winner Independent Dame ($231,359) recorded three wins and one fifth in five Grassroots starts this summer, and also captured a Gold Elimination trophy in his sole test against the province’s top tier colts. McCann shares ownership of the colt — who finished the regular season ranked third in the point standings — with the Henry Stable of Arthur, and Wayne Henry trains and drives the youngster.
Henry will steer Major Herbie from Post 6 in the sixth race, and the pair will face off against a tough field that includes the top five point earners from the regular season. Bob From Brussels gets Post 3, Mr Joe Sixpack will start from Post 1, Assignment has Post 5, and P C La Mousse will roll off the starting gate from Post 2.
While Major Herbie faces a tough task in his talent laden split, Starlitestarbrite faces a less prolific field and heads into the race off an impressive runner-up effort to Bob From Brussels in the Oct. 7 Grassroots event at Flamboro Downs.
“I think he seems to be getting stronger all the time,” says McCann, who shares ownership of the Angus Hall son with driver Trevor Henry of Arthur. “Trevor did a good job last week to get him in, now hopefully we can get into the Final and take a run at them.
“We weren’t expecting maybe to get this far with him, but the way he’s turned out he could be a factor,” adds the owner.
Trevor’s wife Shannon Henry handles training duties on Starlitestarbrite, who has a record of one win, two seconds and three thirds from eight starts. In six regular season Grassroots events the colt posted one win, one second and two thirds, which put him in tenth spot in the point standings. The top ranked colt Starlitestarbrite will face in the fifth race is Chuckalo Caden, who makes his bid for a third provincial victory from the advantageous Post 1.
“I’m hoping Friday night works out, and Saturday,” says McCann. “I’m starting to get excited about it all.”
Friday’s two-year-old Grassroots Semifinals will occupy the first eight races on Western Fair Raceway’s fall opener. The first $30,000 battle rolls in behind the starting gate at 7:05 p.m.
(courtesy Standardbred Canada & OSS)