09/30/2017 11:00PM

Mohawk: Bax, Steacy trotters sharp in Ontario Sires Stakes Grassroots finals

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Dalliance Seelster keyed a sweep of the trifecta for trainer John Bax in the OSS Grassroots final for rookie trotting fillies

Eighty of the best trotters and pacers in Ontario gathered at Mohawk Racetrack on Saturday evening for the 2017 Ontario Sires Stakes Grassroots Championships, competing for a total of C$400,000 in eight divisional battles.

The 2-year-old trotting fillies kicked things off in the first race, and trainer John Bax swept the top three spots with his entry of Dalliance Seelster, Warrawee Trip and Gradabra. Driven by James MacDonald, Dalliance Seelster left smartly from post two, yielded to P L Layla just after the quarter pole and then circled out around that filly and Warrawee Trip before powering down the stretch to a 1 3/4 length victory over her stablemates in 2:00.

“James gave that filly a great drive, I mean you couldn’t have mapped it out any better than that,” said Bax, also complimenting the efforts of drivers Steve Byron and Paul MacDonell. “She’s been half sick all summer so the stars all lined up tonight. I’m happy for all the owners, including Matt and I. It couldn’t be any better than that.”

The Bax Stable, the trainer and his son Matt, shares ownership of the daughter of Holiday Road and Desi Sweet Sixteen with Glengate Farms. A $30,000 purchase at last fall’s Forest City Yearling Sale, Dalliance Seelster wrapped up her freshman campaign with one win, two seconds and two thirds in 10 starts and earnings of C$40,487.

“John does a great job with them. I give him a hard time because that’s the one I picked out you see. The two he picked out were second and third,” said Glengate Farms’ Jim Bullock with a chuckle. “No, I don’t buy anything without him looking at it, and we’ve been together a long time.”

After the win, MacDonald recorded one second, a pair of thirds and three off the board results before returning to the Grassroots winner's circle in the last showdown with 3-year-old trotting filly Delcrest Magicstar. Starting from post nine, the recently-crowned World Driving Champion had Delcrest Magicstar in high gear as soon as the wings folded, and the pair rang up all the fractions on their way to a 1 1/2 length victory in 1:56 1/5.

The Ontario Sires Stakes’ leading trainer Mark Steacy came close to replicating Bax’s result from the first race as Ticket To Seattle and Stritch finished third and fourth behind their stablemate. Bustingattheseams broke up the Steacy trio, shadowing Delcrest Magicstar from start to finish and collecting the second-place share of the C$50,000 purse.

“I really thought, as long as she got an okay trip, I thought she was the one to beat, so I raced her like that and she didn’t let me down,” said MacDonald, who shares ownership of the Majestic Son filly with Johnathan McKinnon and Peter Porter. “Front-end’s not her cup of tea and then coming back in four days, but it just, it didn’t matter, she was the best tonight.”

Delcrest Magicstar, who finished second in a Canadian record mile against the Gold Series fillies at Grand River Raceway on Wednesday evening, wrapped up her Grassroots season with a flawless record of four wins in four starts and boosted her season earnings to C$103,617 with the victory.

Driver Jonathan Drury also piloted two division winners, scoring with 2-year-old pacing filly Love Kills and 2-year-old pacing colt Pretty Handsome.
Love Kills reeled in division point leader and fan favorite Neon Moon with a 1:54 1/5 effort for trainer Carmen Auciello and owner Denarben Stables.  Ashlees Sport was third.

In the 2-year-old pacing colt contest, Pretty Handsome was elevated to the top spot when winner Phantom Seelster was ruled to have caused interference while manuvering from the rail to an open lane in the stretch. Pretty Handsome finished one length ahead of Letjimmytakeover and two lengths up on Sprocket in the 1:54 mile. Andrew McCabe conditions the Mach Three son for owner Glenview Livestock Ltd.

Like Delcrest Magicstar, 3-year-old pacing colt Wildriverbumblebee wrapped up his Grassroots campaign with a flawless record and a commanding gate-to-wire performance. The Sportswriter son cruised to a 3 3/4 length victory in 1:52 1/5, with The Dark Shadow and Dream Of Luck battling it out for second and third.

Sylvain Filion engineered Wildriverbumblebee’s third Grassroots win for trainer Francis Richard and owner-breeder Dr. John Bradbury, boosting the fan favorite’s sophomore earnings to C$87,125.

Just two division point leaders converted their regular season success into a division crown:  2-year-old trotting gelding Stormont Ventnor and 3-year-old pacing filly Shewearsthepants.

Stormont Ventnor delivered an impressive effort to earn the freshman trotting colt title, sitting in the outer lane for the better part of the mile before pulling away in the stretch to a 1 3/4 length victory in a personal-best 1:57 4/5. James MacDonald piloted John Bax trainee Chief Justice into second and Barney Mac rounded out the top three.

“He raced huge,” said Phil Hudon, who drove the Justice Hall gelding to the win for trainer Kevin Benn and owner-breeder Eric Baker. “I didn’t want to be locked in, but I wouldn’t have minded being second-over. It didn’t work out, but I was pretty confident in the colt.”

Sent off the fans’ top choice, Stormont Ventnor wrapped up his freshman Ontario Sires Stakes campaign with two wins and four seconds in six starts, for earnings of C$52,937.

Race favorite Shewearsthepants also delivered an impressive effort to claim the sophomore pacing filly crown, taking command at the 55 3/5 half and then battling all the way down the stretch to a 1:53 victory, 1 1/2 lengths ahead of Manhattan Play and Treasures Pearl.

“I actually did think we were in a little bit of trouble at the head of the stretch, because you can’t torture her that way. I know she’s got a lot of wins this year, but a lot of them have been off cover or like a first-over or something. She hasn’t won too many off the front the whole way, but she dug in tough,” said driver Doug McNair. “She knows how to win, that’s for sure. If she’d come in not winning as many she probably would have stopped in the stretch, but she’s brave, so she was good.”

McNair engineered the win for his father, trainer Gregg McNair, and owner-breeder Anatolia Farm LLC.  In seven Grassroots starts the daughter of Big Jim and Simply Liz recorded five wins and two seconds and Saturday’s victory boosted her season earnings to C$119,182.

The other Grassroots trophy went home with 3-year-old trotting gelding Yo Yo Mass, who squeaked up the inside to nab pace-setter Charmbo Chrome at the wire in 1:56 3/5. Vesuvio Bi came up the outside for third, and the three colts were separated by a lean neck at the wire.

“All week I figured, this horse, he’s better off the front-end, we’re better just to roll him and play catch me if you can,” said trainer Kyle Reibeling.

“But Jody (Jamieson) was patient, he gave him a great drive, everything worked out. I’m just tickled pink with the way things worked out.”

Jamieson piloted Yo Yo Mass to the win for Reibeling and Nancy Grimble. The Muscle Mass son was the runner-up in the point standings with two wins, two seconds and one fourth in five regular season Grassroots starts. His championship victory boosted the gelding’s sophomore earnings to C$81,780.

--press release (Ontario Sires Stakes)--