Henry leads big Grassroots night at Mohawk
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Trevor Henry arrived at Woodbine Mohawk Park for Saturday’s three-year-old Grassroots Semi-Finals with an almost insurmountable lead in the Ontario Sires Stakes driver’s standings and the Arthur resident boosted his point tally with three victories.
Henry’s first two wins came with Bob McIntosh trainees Judge Ken and Splurge On Me in the three-year-old trotting colt and filly Semi-Finals. Lining up behind Post 3 with Judge Ken, Henry fired the gelding to the front and never looked back. Judge Ken rolled through fractions of :28.1, :57 and 1:26 before digging in down the stretch to fend off Windsong Pioneer for a head victory in 1:54.4. Red Hot Torch finished third, LA Magic was fourth and fan favourite Southwind Frost finished fifth.
“He’s really sharp, he’s ready now, he’s good,” said Henry. “He can leave pretty good, but he can sit on a helmet. You can do whatever you want with him.”
Windsor resident McIntosh bred and owns Judge Ken in partnership with Dave Boyle of Bowmanville, ON and C S X Stables of Liberty Center, OH.
“He’s a fighter that’s for sure. I mean he’s perfect gaited — he can trot about as fast on a half as he can on a mile — but he’s got that will to win and he’s determined,” said McIntosh of the Justice Hall son. “He’s got a big heart.”
In spite of starting five positions farther out on the starting gate, Henry opted for the same strategy with trotting filly Splurge On Me. The fan favourites took early command of the race and were never under threat, trotting by a :27.1 quarter, :57 half, 1:25.4 three-quarters and on to the victory in a personal best 1:55. Petro Hall was one and one-quarter lengths back in second, Halo Its Me finished third and Checkmate Titan and Lefkada were fourth and fifth.
“She’s more or less the same way. You can do whatever you want with her,” said Henry. “She can leave fast, that’s why I put her near the front, and she’s good gaited.”
McIntosh and C S X Stables bred and own Kadabra daughter Splurge On Me, who finished the Grassroots regular season atop the point standings and has now won nine of her 16 sophomore starts.
Henry completed the Grassroots Semi-Final hat trick in the second $20,000 sophomore pacing filly Semi-Final, once again opting for front-end tactics with Deb. The pair left smartly from Post 5 and took command just before the :26.4 quarter. Unchallenged through the :54.4 half, Deb was under pressure from fan favourite Swift Ally from the 1:22.4 three-quarters to the wire, but held on for a neck victory in a personal best 1:51.2. Freya Seelster finished four lengths behind the duelling leaders in third, just ahead of Crisp Mane and Premier Cabernet.
James Dean of Guelph trains Deb for Wilma and James MacKenzie of Ennismore, ON and was delighted to see the Sportswriter daughter return to form after a pair of lackluster performances at Woodbine Mohawk Park in the first two months of September.
“I really don’t know why she hadn’t shown up the last two weeks. Her blood came back good. She just raced poorly,” said Dean. “I just changed some driving gear on her and we schooled her Tuesday (Sept. .24) at Mohawk and she never had a harness on her after that, I just turned her out in the paddock. Try to keep her happy I guess, just try to cheer her up a bit. It’s getting later in the year, if they ain’t fit now they never will be.”
Henry said the equipment changes worked wonders as he and Deb battled division point leader Swift Ally and driver Doug McNair down the stretch.
“She wasn’t on a line, she drove perfect. She went a big trip, I think that was a lifetime mark,” said Henry. “That horse of Dougie’s (McNair), it’s a good filly, and she just fought her right to the wire.”
Although he couldn’t get past Deb, driver Doug McNair won two other Grassroots Semi-Finals, the first and last of the evening.
Starting from Post 10 with three-year-old trotting filly Rebellious Lady in the opening event, McNair hit the accelerator early and the Angus Hall miss rang up fractions of :27.3, :58.1 and 1:28.1 on her way to a neck victory in 1:58. Miss Congeniality was second, Cambridge Kate finished third and Warrawee Ultra and Witches N Angels claimed the other two berths in the Oct. 5 Grassroots Championship.
“They didn’t, obviously, go nearly as fast as the other division, but she did everything right, just hope for a good spot in the final and she’ll hopefully pick up some money,” said McNair, who drives the filly for trainer Duane Marfisi’s Green And Gold Ltd. of Guelph. “She’s great to drive, she’s good gaited, there’s maybe some better ones than her, but she tries hard.”
McNair closed out the sophomore Semi-Finals with pacing colt Fast N First, who took command heading by the half and powered home to a three and three-quarter length victory in 1:51. HP Napoleon closed well to be second, Better Than Cash was third, Phils Sun was fourth and Jay Eye Em finished fifth.
“He usually doesn’t want to win by that many. He was just really good tonight,” said McNair of Fast N First, who was making his first start since winning his elimination and finishing second in the final of the historic Little Brown Jug. “Obviously he was great at the Jug, so maybe that kind of woke him up a little bit. He’s getting real sharp right now.”
Trainer Blake MacIntosh of St. George, Ridgeway Racing of Ridgeway and Steve Heimbecker of Conestogo, ON share ownership of Bettors Delight son Fast N First, who has won nine of 19 starts.
The other pacing colt Semi-Final went to Dreamfair Moxy, who was a one and three-quarter length winner in a 1:50.4 personal best. Henry and Sportsline finished second, division point leader Sugartown was third, Carlisimo was fourth and Carsons Shadow was fifth. Travis Cullen drove Bettors Delight son Dreamfair Moxy to the win for trainer Jodie Cullen and owner John Lamers of Ingersoll, ON.
The second trotting colt Semi-Final saw Royalty For Life son Royal Elite and driver James MacDonald storm down the stretch to a one and one-half length victory in 1:55.3 Encarnacion was second, division point leader Gold Edition was third, A Royal Line was fourth and Wings Of Speed was fifth. MacDonald engineered the win for trainer Shawn Steacy and owner-breeders Hudson Standardbred Stable Inc. of Hudson, QC.
So Much More took the second pacing filly Semi-Final with a commanding performance, cruising home four lengths ahead of her peers in 1:51.1 McNair and Kylie Seelster were second, Saulsbrook Jessie was third, Sports Flix was fourth and Manhattan Night completed the top five. Louis-Philippe Roy drove So Much More to the win for trainer Don Beatson of Granton and his son Ken Beatson of Palgrave and grandson Cole England of Exeter, ON. The Big Jim daughter now boasts a record of 11 wins and three seconds in 17 starts.
The top five finishers from each Semi-Final will return to Woodbine Mohawk Park on Saturday, Oct. 5 for eight $50,000 Grassroots Championships.