Stage Set For Grassroots Finals

Years of hard work will be concentrated into less than two minutes of effort on Saturday night as the top two and three-year-old Ontario Sires Stakes Grassroots competitors battle over Western Fair Raceway for a total of $800,000 and eight division titles.

Dan McCann owns a share of three starters in Saturday’s Grassroots Championship and the Parkhill, ON resident was overjoyed to see that all three landed advantageous posts for the lucrative season finale. Two-year-old trotting colts Starlitestarbrite and Major Herbie will start from Posts 2 and 3 in the fourth race, while three-year-old pacing filly Mc Taylor gets Post 2 in the fifth.

“I was so pleased when I looked that up. I figure I must be living right to get those kind of posts,” says McCann with a chuckle. “To have the two trotters together on the inside and the pacing filly with the two-hole is excellent.”

To qualify for their respective $100,000 Grassroots Finals Starlitestarbrite finished second in his Oct. 15 Semifinal, while Major Herbie was fourth in the other two-year-old trotting colt split, and MC Taylor delivered a triumphant 1:55.3 effort in her Oct. 16 contest.

“They all raced very good. The trotters overcame the six-hole, the Henry boys got them in,” says the owner. “And Randy (Fritz) did a good job, the filly raced big. I’m a very happy individual.

“I’ve got my fingers and toes crossed for Saturday night,” he adds.

McCann shares ownership of Angus Hall son Starlitestarbrite with Trevor Henry of Arthur, ON, and Henry drives the winner of $38,895, while his wife Shannon handles the training duties. Elder brother Wayne Henry trains and drives Major Herbie, and the brothers’ Henry Stable shares ownership of the Here Comes Herbie son with McCann.

Mc Taylor is the first horse that McCann has bred and raised and he entrusts her care to trainer-driver Randy Fritz of Burlington, ON. McCann shares ownership of the daughter of Camluck-Debutante Willvan with his neighbour and longtime friend Dale Regier.

“He’s kind of my farm manager, he helps me out a lot with the mares and foals,” says McCann of Regier. “He’s really pleased too.”

A dozen people accompanied McCann to the races last weekend, including his niece Taylor, the namesake of Mc Taylor. It was the first time the Grade 6 student had seen the filly race, and she was delighted to get her picture taken in the winner’s circle.

“Usually when you take a bunch of people along the horses don’t perform, but it worked out good. My niece got her picture taken Saturday night,” says McCann. “I was hoping she could be there this Saturday, but she’s got a hockey tournament in Windsor, so my good luck charm won’t be there.”

While Mc Taylor will benefit from Post 2, the other Semi-final winner, All Chocolate, will start from Post 6 in the $100,000 Final. The other local filly in the race, Putnam Mackenzie, will start from Post 4 for owner-breeders Jamie Bardoel of London and Putnam Training Centre Ltd of Mossley, ON.

After landing Post 7 in the Semi-final, trainer Jeff Gillis was relieved to see What The Sheik get Post 4 for Saturday’s three-year-old pacing colt final.

“I was thrilled with him in his elimination race,” says the Hillsburgh, ON resident. “I was tremendously concerned about the seven-hole, but Doug (McNair) timed the gate perfectly and it worked out, I was thrilled.”

Firing away from Post 7 in last Saturday’s Semifinal, driver Doug McNair was able to drop What The Sheik into the second spot behind pacesetter Luckcamotion. The pair stalked Luckcamotion until the stretch and when McNair asked for speed, What The Sheik roared home to a three-quarter length victory in 1:54.2. The win was the Western Terror son’s ninth in 20 starts this season. He has also scored four seconds and three thirds and banked $115,940 for owners John Carver of Rapids City, IL, Kentuckiana Racing Stable of Lexington, KY and Ronald Michelon of Northbrook, IL.

“He’s an excellent example of how just a good horse, not a great horse, can make significant money with this program,” notes Gillis. “I think he’s got $115,000 on his card, and he’s never been anything but a Grassroots horse.”

Like Mc Taylor, What The Sheik enjoyed better post position luck than his fellow Semi-final winner This Is Wyatt, who gets the trailing Post 8 in Saturday’s tenth race.

In addition to eight $100,000 Grassroots Finals, Western Fair Raceway’s Oct. 23 program also features two eliminations for the Forest City Pace for aged pacing mares, and three divisions of the first leg of the Middlesex County Trotting Series for fillies and mare. Post time for the first race on Saturday is 7:05 p.m.

(courtesy Standardbred Canada & OSS)

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