Sportswriter filly Maniana stars in Grassroots
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Bob McClure continued his winning ways at Grand River Raceway on Monday evening, winning four of six Grassroots divisions for the three-year-old pacing fillies.
The Elora oval's leading driver, McClure kicked things off in the first $18,000 division, going gate-to-wire with fan favorite Barbaras Shadow. The Shadow Play daughter paced under the wire in 1:55.4, one-half length ahead of Im In Luv, who was well ahead of third-place finisher More Than Many.
"She raced good. She got the front real easy, she got a real easy half and then she just had to pace home hard," said McClure. "She did everything you asked of her and she was really well brought along."
The Elora resident piloted Barbaras Shadow to her second win of 2016 for trainer Rick Zeron of Oakville, ON and owners Hutt Racing Stable of Paoli, PA. McClure had watched Zeron guide the filly to her first win, in an overnight event at Georgian Downs on July 5, so he had a fair bit of confidence in Barbaras Shadow heading into the race.
"I actually raced against her in Georgian Downs," McClure explained. "I raced against her and I followed her in the two-hole, so I watched her pretty closely knowing the Grassroots was coming up. She seemed to be strong through the wire there and she did everything right."
In the second Grassroots division, McClure climbed aboard the first of four fillies he would drive for trainer Dave Menary. Westsluckycam got away last from post 8 and McClure thought he was well out of contention, but sharp early fractions came back to haunt pacesetter and fan favorite This Day Forward, and Westsluckycam was able to sprint down the stretch to a nose victory. This Day Forward settled for second, with Life Groove a head back in third.
"Grand River is not an easy place to make up a lot of ground and pass horses, but she really earned it," said McClure. "She did it the hard way to get her nose out in front, because she had to do a whole lot of work on the outside and she didn't get a winning trip."
Menary conditions Westsluckycam for Jerry Clark of Finksburg, MD. Through 18 sophomore starts the Camluck miss has seven wins, two seconds and four thirds for earnings of $59,170, but Monday's victory was her first in Ontario Sires Stakes action.
McClure did not hit the board with his second Menary-trained mount, Rosy Outlook, finishing seventh behind Ladyhardt, Dewar N Soda and Glorious Delight. Jack Moiseyev teamed Vintage Master daughter Ladyhardt to the 1:56.3 score for trainer Howard Okusko Jr. and M And L of Delaware LLC of Wilmington, DE.
One race later, however, McClure and Menary were back in the winner's circle with Maniana, who delivered a commanding five and one-half length victory in 1:54.1. Heavenly Bet and Startled paced into second and third behind the fan favorite.
"I don't know if in any division she would have got beat today, because she made front fairly easy and she was gone," said McClure of the Sportswriter daughter, who started her season at the Gold Series level. "I got after her a little bit up the backside and kept her attention coming home, but she went the mile, I think, in 1:54.1 and had a lot left at the end. She was very strong."
W. J. Donovan owns Maniana, who had been winless in five starts heading into Monday's contest. The filly was a Gold Series regular at two, posting a record of one win, three seconds and one third in 10 starts for earnings of $95,760.
Fan favorite Killean Finale won the fifth Grassroots division in 1:56.4 for driver Jason Ryan of Guelph, trainer Nick Gallucci of Brantford, ON and owner Paul Tolmazoff of Bedford, NS. The win was the Sportswriter daughter's fourth of the season, but her first in Ontario Sires Stakes action. Tahiti Seelster and Noone To Depend On rounded out the top three.
The last division saw McClure team his third Menary trainee to victory, as Free Show sprinted down the stretch to a one-half length victory over Selling The Dream and Specialcelebration in 1:56.1.
"She was probably the best filly of all of them. She had to really step out from the eight-hole and she made front, and that's saying a lot at Grand River, because that is the dreaded eight-hole," noted McClure. "And the cover, Sports Expert, she didn't take me near as far as I wanted to, and I was very lucky to get out in the last turn, but when I got out I actually thought that those two front horses were gone and away from me. I thought I had been taken out of the race completely, and then when she saw daylight she just snapped into a high gear and took off. I mean if the wire was 10 feet further I think she'd have won by two lengths. She was just flying at the wire."
Hutt Racing Stable also owns Free Show, who seems to have a special affinity for Grand River Raceway. The Badlands Hanover daughter swept her elimination and the final of last year's Battle of the Belles and she won her only Gold Series trophy at the Elora oval last September. Monday's victory was the filly's first in seven sophomore starts and boosts her lifetime earnings to $228,623.
Monday was not the first time this month McClure has posted a multiple win night at his local oval. The reinsman also captured five races on the track's July 1 program and is poised to match last year's career best totals.
"To be honest last year was such a great year, I had a lot of fun, I drove a lot of good horses, a calibre of horses I hadn't driven before, and if I could maintain last year I would be happy," said the 25-year-old driver, whose mounts earned $2.1 million in 2015. "Obviously you always want to move forward, onward and upward, but last year I was really fortunate and I wouldn't be disappointed to match last year honestly."
McClure will have his next opportunity to drive some of Ontario's finest racehorses when the two-year-old trotting colts arrive in Elora next Wednesday, July 20 for their second Grassroots event. (Ontario Sires Stakes)