04/22/2014 5:51PM

Northfield: Kayla Grace goes for sweet 16

Marie St Charles
Kayla Grace starts from post three in the $110,000 Courageous Lady pace on Friday night at Northfield Park.

Horse ownership is all about the dream. Whether you purchase a yearling with unbridled enthusiasm of finding the next Hambletonian winner or buy a cheap claimer hoping to climb the ladder, expectations of success keep you going.

When trainer Marie St Charles got her hands on Kayla Grace, expectations were low. Now the 3-1 morning line favorite in the $110,000 Courageous Lady for 3-year-old pacing fillies on Friday night at Northfield Park, the undefeated miss has a chance to make a name for herself outside of her home state of Michigan.

Purchased for approximately $10,000 as a yearling according to St Charles, Kayla Grace, she of the 15-race win streak, was nothing special.

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“When she was training as a 2-year-old, we didn’t think she would be anything great,” said St Charles, whose husband Kevin co-owns the filly with E C S Racing LLC (Cheryl & Edward Sayfie). “As soon as she hit the big track at Hazel Park, she went from being in kindergarten to college.”

A winner of 12 races to begin her career on the Michigan fair circuit as a rookie, Kayla Grace won her races by a combined 128 lengths according to St Charles. She began her second year of racing by cruising through the conditioned ranks at Northville Downs and Hazel Park. But with the future uncertain for Michigan standardbred racing and dates at an all-time low, Kayla Grace would soon be out of opportunities.

While staked to the Cinderella and Hanover at Balmoral Park, and the Circle City at Hoosier Park, the Courageous Lady was hardly on the schedule for Kayla Grace until a chance occurrence on Saturday night (April 19).

“We didn’t have the money to enter,” said St Charles about the $10,000 supplemental fee. “It is hard to put up money you don’t make. Strangely enough our horse was claimed at Hazel Park on Saturday night for $10,000. I actually made the decision to enter at two minutes before 9:00 today (just before the entry box closed).”

What makes the tale of Kayla Grace a bit more interesting is the name of the claimed horse was Its A Go. Not only that, Its a Go was scratched that night but the claim was still processed.

“It’s like it was a sign that we should enter,” said St. Charles, the 2012 Michigan Harness Horsemen’s Association 2012 Trainer of the Year.

Kayla Grace, who has displayed versatility in winning her races, can do anything on the track according to St Charles. She left hard in her most recent start at Hazel Park and still finished up the mile in 27 4/5. In the Great Lakes at Sports Creek last October, the daughter of He’s All That-A Maze Of Grace made a bold move during the second quarter and won very impressively. “They tried every way they could to beat her that night,” recalled St Charles about the start.

While a victory on Friday could make April a special month for St Charles, who trains 12-head in Michigan, a pair of pending suspensions (class 2 – Caffeine) carrying 360 days worth of fines looms over her head. St Charles professed her innocence but refused to comment further as the suspensions are under appeal and a pending legal matter.

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Regardless of off-the-track issues, Kayla Grace will start from post three on Friday with regular driver Brad Kramer in the bike. She will tackle a solid group of sophomore fillies including Sister Stroll. The Brian Brown-conditioned filly by Art Official won a division of the Standardbred series at the Delaware County Fairgrounds last September and starts from post two. Another contender is That Woman Hanover (post six). The Dan Altmeyer trainee won five of 10 races as a 2-year-old.

The Courageous Lady is listed as race 11 on a 14-race card that features multiple Late Closer finals for claimers. Post time is 6:30 pm.