Mystician and Odysseus Bluechip began their aged campaigns with a pair of winning performances in the first leg of the Willowdale Pacing Series for four-year-olds on Saturday night at Woodbine Racetrack.
Mystician was a wire-to-wire winner in his $30,000 Willowdale division for the 2011 O’Brien Award nominated team of driver Jody Jamieson and trainer Jeff Gillis. The win was the third on the 12-race card for WEG’s 2011 leading duo.
Jamieson fired last year’s Upper Canada Cup champion to command from Post 4 and rolled by opening fractions of :28.2 and :58.2.
At the half, Ontario Sires Stakes Super Final winner Camaes Fellow (Doug McNair) launched his attack from fourth with Progress Pace and Cleveland Classic champion Westwardho Hanover (Brett Miller) following his cover. However, Mystician picked up the pace en route to the 1:25.4 three-quarters mark and extended his leading margin to two lengths around the final turn.
Down the stretch, Im Feelin Good (Keith Oliver) pulled the pocket while Westwardho Hanover kicked into high gear, but both pacers ran out of racetrack as Mystician hit the wire in 1:54 to win by a neck. Im Feelin Good finished right there in second with Westwardho Hanover third. Camaes Fellow was fourth.
“I thought he raced great,” commented Jamieson. “There’s no question he can go with these horses. His best trip is definitely off a helmet, but the way it worked out with the slow half really helped. He competes week in and week out.”
The son of Camluck out of Mystic Mistress, a career winner of nine races and over $1.52 million in purses, is owned by Gillis, Ken Henwood of Mississauga, Ont., Mac Nichol of Burlington, Ont., and New Yorker Gerald Stay. Mystician paid $7.50 to win.
Odysseus Bluechip sat off the pace and watched a heated front end battle before picking up cover and sweeping by in the stretch to win the other division for the Baillargeon brothers.
Driven by Mario Baillargeon, Odysseus Bluechip settled into sixth from Post 4 while Reckless Ric (Randy Waples) sprinted off the gate with Lonesome Attack (Brett Miller) and the popular Valedictory runner-up Audreys Dream (Jody Jamieson) racing three-wide into the first turn. Lonesome Attack cleared to command just past the :26.4 quarter mark, but gave way to the persistent Audreys Dream as they raced down the backstretch.
Just as the field settled into single-file alignment, Reckless Ric came charging up to take over command before hitting the half in :55. As he led the way to the 1:23.3 third quarter mark, Lonesome Attack moved back out for more with Odysseus Bluechip picking up his cover.
Lonesome Attack confronted Reckless Ric as they moved into the stretch with Odysseus Bluechip swinging wide and Audreys Dream slipping up the pylons. However, it was Odysseus Bluechip who emerged from the four-pack in deep stretch to steal the glory. The gelding won for the second consecutive time, by a length and three-quarters in 1:52.3. Lonesome Attack grabbed the runner-up spot while Reckless Ric finished third over Audreys Dream.
“I was loaded at the three-quarter pole,” Mario Baillargeon told WEG’s communications department following the win. “He loves being on a helmet and tracking horses and with a lot of action up front in the race, it couldn’t have worked out better for him. It was a good mile out there tonight. The track is deep and it’s windy. It’s a 1:50 mile for sure on a good night.”
The son of Cams Card Shark out of Chutney Hanover notched his eighth career win and pushed his lifetime earnings to $186,021 for trainer Ben Baillargeon and owner Richard Berthiaume of Pointe-Aux-Trembles, Que. He paid $14.80 to win.
The Willowdale Pacing Series will continue next Saturday, Jan. 14 with $40,000 second leg divisions before wrapping up on the following Saturday, Jan. 21 with a $100,000 final.
(courtesy Standardbred Canada)