Trainer Mark Austin is hoping to score a stakes daily double this weekend at Woodbine as he sends out Pray For Luck in the $61,300 Ontario Sires Spring Series (OSSS) on Friday and Sipwiththepres in the $77,000 Diplomat Pacing Series on Saturday. Both events are for 3-year-old colt and gelding pacers.
Pray For Luck enters the OSS final off of a win and a second-place finish in the two preliminary legs. The son of Northern Luck-Revallee Kathleen used different tactics on both occasions.
This colt is still pretty green,\" explains Austin. \"He won\'t go any more than he has to. In the first leg, he kind of got swarmed by horses late and fought back to win. Last week, he came from off the pace and he was gapped off a bit and fell just short. We just need to try to keep his focus.\"
In an effort to do that, the trainer, who also co-owns, will be making an equipment change this week.
\"We raced him at first in a blind bridle and then switched to a kant-see-back,\" says Austin. \"This week, we\'ll put the blinkers on him just to try and keep him focused a little more. He\'s won on the front, but I really think he is better from off cover. It\'s just a matter of getting some speed to chase and him keeping his mind more on business.\"
Pray For Luck has four wins and eight on-the-board finishes in just nine starts this year. It\'s an impressive record for a colt in his first season at the races, but it\'s not surprising to Austin.
\"He was pretty immature at two, so we had him castrated and just quit with him. He has trained down like a good one all along. I actually think he has another gear or two in him yet and I think he can make some noise in the sires stakes (OSS) this summer.\"
Paul MacDonell will once again drive Pray For Luck on Friday as the pair starts from post eight in the field of 10.
In Saturday\'s Diplomat Final, Sipwiththepres will try to rebound after a disappointing sixth-place finish in round two when he made a break at the start that took him out of serious contention.
\"It was disappointing because he raced really well in the first leg,\"says Austin. \"He\'s a bit tricky at times. He is a big, strong colt and sometimes when you go to switch gears with him, he wants to go too much too soon and will make a mistake. I think he was just trying to leave a little too much last week and I\'m not overly concerned about that happening again.\"
Just to be cautious, Austin says he had some maintenance veterinary work done with the colt to ensure he is in top form this weekend.
\"We took him to the vet and had the vet shock his splint and also up over his back. We want to make sure he is 100 percent and I have a lot of confidence in his ability.\"
Sipwiththepres showed plenty of talent last season as a rookie, winning three times and hitting the board in seven of nine starts while banking just over $90,000. He also took a fast race record of 1:52.3 in winning an OSS Gold elimination on Sept. 23 at Mohawk.
One of his best efforts of the season came in the $300,000 OSS Super Final in his last start of the season. The colt was a rallying third behind Domitian Hanover despite battling some sickness.
\"He was off just a bit in that race,\" recalls Austin. \"But he still raced fantastic. He came back really well this winter and has grown up and filled out a lot. After this series, he has the Burlington and Clearwater Cup, along with the Ontario Sires Stakes. I think he will be a player this summer.\"
Sipwiththepres did not have much luck in the post position department and will start on the extreme outside of the starting gate in the field of ten that includes several Pepsi North America Cup eligibles. Regular pilot Rick Zeron will be back in the driver\'s seat. (WEG)