Favorites Western Joe and Filibuster Hanover came out on top during Sunday night's elimination round for the 40th edition of the $182,500 Confederation Cup, which is scheduled for May 20 at Flamboro Downs.
The top four finishers from each $20,000 elimination, plus a fifth-place finisher drawn by lot (TBA), will advance to the final.
Western Joe won his Canadian debut in the first elimination with driver Doug McNair working out the winning front-end trip for trainer Christopher Choate.
Leaving from post five, Western Joe set his sights on the lead and worked to clear Maroma Beach (Yannick Gingras) through a :26.4 opening quarter. The 3-5 favorite carved out middle splits of :56.2 and 1:24.1 with even-money Funknwaffles (Corey Callahan) launching his attack out of third down the backstretch and Eddard Hanover (Louis-Philippe Roy) rushing three wide. However, Western Joe pulled clear of his rivals to score in 1:51.3 by 1-1/4lengths. Maroma Beach finished second over Eddard Hanover while Funknwaffles ended up fourth. Bags To Riches (Jody Jamieson) was fifth.
Owned and bred by New York's Anthony Ruggeri, the 4-year-old son of Western Ideal out of Ante Fay entered the Confederation Cup eliminations off three close runner-up finishes at the Meadowlands. Winning for the seventh time this year in 14 starts, Western Joe returned $3.40 to his backers at the betting windows.
Filibuster Hanover was victorious in the second elimination for driver Gingras and trainer Ron Burke, who previously won back-to-back editions of the Confederation Cup in 2015 and 2016 with All Bets Off and Rockin Ron.
Art Scene (Roy) charged three wide into the first turn to take the lead over insiders Blood Line (Trevor Henry) and 1-5 favorite Filibuster Hanover. He was on top by three lengths at the :26.3 quarter mark and raced on to the half in :55.3 before coming under attack.
Filibuster Hanover swept by down the backstretch and opened up a quick three length lead past three-quarters in 1:23.1 with Daiymir (Jonathan Drury) in pursuit off his cover. Down the stretch, Odds On Delray closed inside with Doug McNair trying to sweep the eliminations, but came up one length short as Filibuster Hanover prevailed in 1:51.4. Boogie Shuffle (Randy Waples) came on for third over Daiymir. Rock N Tony (Callahan) completed the top five finish order.
A judges' inquiry into the start of the race concerning Red John resulted in no change to the order of finish. The judges ruled that Red John's sulky sustained a flat tire after the start and there was no interference caused by Boogle Shuffle or Daiymir relating to equipment issue.
Filibuster Hanover, the 2017 Little Brown Jug champion, paid $2.50 to win. He is now two-for-two this year following his Graduate Series win last weekend at the Meadowlands. The Somebeachsomewhere-Fashion Ecstasy gelding is owned by Burke Racing Stable, Weaver Bruscemi, Joseph Di Scala Jr. and J And T Silva Stables. (SC)