Grassroots, Charity Driver Tourney at Clinton
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Clinton Raceway wrapped up its 2019 season on a high note Sunday afternoon with the 39th annual Charity Driver’s Challenge and four $22,800 Grassroots divisions for the two-year-old pacing colts.
The first seven races were dedicated to the driver’s challenge, which benefitted the Royal Canadian Legion branches in Clinton, Seaforth, Wingham and Brussels. The top four drivers from Clinton Raceway, Colin Kelly, Scott Wray, Natasha Day and Ryan Holliday, competed against four of the top drivers from Woodbine Mohawk Park, Sylvain Filion, Louis-Philippe Roy, Jonathan Drury and Jody Jamieson, with each driver looking to amass the most points through seven starts
Louis-Philippe Roy got off to a quick start, winning the first two races, and finishing second to defending champ Jody Jamieson in the third. Canada’s leading reinsman Sylvain Filion romped to an 11 length win in the fourth race and Natasha Day edged out Roy for the win in the fifth. Roy looked to have things well in hand, but the early leader finished last in the final two legs and Filion finished first. Filion took the win with 175 points through the seven races, Roy was second with 158 and Jamieson was third with 117.
Once Filion had been crowned the winner of the Charity Driver’s Challenge, which raised over $12,000 for the Royal Canadian Legion branches, the freshman pacing colts stepped to centre stage.
Bettorbuckleup and driver Mike Saftic won the first $22,800 division with a sharp front end effort from Post 3, sailing home two and three-quarter lengths the best in 1:57.2. Usurper finished second and Twin B Watch Me was third.
“He’s been in the Gold a couple times, but he’s just kind of a fringe payer in the Gold,” said trainer Eric Adams. “He’s got all kinds of go, but he’s not quite a Gold horse so we’re going to tackle the Grassroots and see if we can get to the Grassroots Semi-Final.”
Adams trains the son of Bettors Delight for Millar Farms of Stouffville, ON. The win was the colt’s first in Ontario Sires Stakes action and his second through seven starts. In his three Gold Series appearances Bettorbuckleup’s best finish was a second at Woodbine Mohawk Park on July 15.
Century Grizzly has competed in all four of the Grassroots Legs this season and earned his first provincial victory with a track record equalling effort at Clinton on Sunday. With Jody Jamieson in the race bike the fan favourite controlled all the fractions, cruising through a :28.3 quarter, :59 half and 1:28 three-quarters on his way to the 1:57 victory. Sundown Kid was one and one-half lengths back in second and Bee Two Bee was three lengths back in third.
The mile matched the 1:57 track record set by Thinkofagameplan in Grassroots action on Aug. 31, 2014.
“He’s turned the corner a bit. He was a slow starter, but he’s figuring it out,” said Jim Ritchie, who trains the Sunshine Beach colt for Paul Ritchie of Mono, ON. “He was always fast but he was goofy, like playing around and whinnying at horses, but he’s starting to figure it out.”
After finishing no better than third in his first four starts, Century Grizzly recorded his first victory on Aug. 22, touring Woodbine Mohawk Park in 1:54.1. Sunday’s win bumped him up among the top 20 point earners heading into the last regular season Grassroots event at Woodbine Mohawk Park on Sept. 16. The top 20 point earners from the five regular season events will advance to the Sept. 27 Semi-Finals, with the top five finishers from each Semi-Final earning a berth in the Oct. 5 Grassroots Championship.
In the third division, Doc Fanelli also took a front-end tour to the Grassroots winner’s circle, battling down the stretch to a three-quarter length victory in 1:58.4. Fan favourite Gentry Seelster settled for second and Walk It Talk It rounded out the top three.
Sunday’s win was the Badlands Hanover son’s second. He also won his career debut at Georgian Downs on June 29.
“He was kind of lazy horse training down and after his first qualifier it just kind of clicked,” said owner-trainer Kyle Bossence of Arthur, ON. “Great gaited, paced without the hopples right from Day 1, he just did what you asked him to do. He wasn’t an overachiever, but he’s kind of catching the hang of it now and wanting to go a little more.”
Colin Kelly, who finished the 2019 meet as Clinton Raceway’s top reinsman, drove Doc Fanelli to the win. The reinsman — along with Clinton’s leading trainer Andrew McCabe — was presented with his trophy just before he drove Doc Fanelli to the win.
Captivate Hanover wrapped up the fourth Grassroots Leg and the 2019 Clinton meet with a 1:57.3 victory in the last division. The Bettors Delight son and driver Phil Hudon sat behind pacesetter Needless To Say through fractions of :29, :57.3 and 1:28.2 before sprinting down the stretch to a one and one-half length victory in 1:57.3. Mr Cheeseman finished second and Disneyman was third.
“He put in a big effort, that’s for sure. He got a little steppy from time to time, but he’s quick and everything so he was able to make up for it,” said trainer Shawn Steacy of the fan favourite. “He’s just a nice horse. He comes to play all the time, so that’s why we like him.”
Steacy trains Captivate Hanover for Hudson Standardbred Stable Inc. of Hudson, QC, Stephen Klunowksi of North York, ON and James Feeley of Pine Bush, NY. The colt was also victorious in the July 5 Grassroots season opener at Woodbine Mohawk Park and currently sits second in the division standings with 116 points.
In addition to supporting the Royal Canadian Legion through a bake sale, 50-50 draw and silent auction, fans wagered a total of $67,417 on the races, the biggest handle of Clinton Raceway’s 2019 meet.