(Photos of Travis Henry and Sheza Chunkymonkey and Jody Jamieson and St Lads Neptune courtesy of New Image Media)
A fierce late summer storm caused a delay in Monday night’s Ontario Sires Stakes program at Mohawk Racetrack, but the rain did not dilute the efforts of the freshman Grassroots competitors.
The second of three divisions of two-year-old trotting fillies went to post during the worst of the rain, just after racing officials had downgraded the Mohawk surface from “fast” to “sloppy”, but the conditions did not faze Sheza Chunkymonkey as she picked up her second Grassroots trophy.
Starting from Post 4 trainer-driver Travis Henry settled Sheza Chunkymonkey in fourth as Small Budget hit the quarter in :29.1. As Small Budget tussled with favourite Magical Lady through the :59.4 half, Henry sent Sheza Chunkymonkey up the outside and the Majestic Son daughter was threatening the favourite by the 1:30.1 three-quarters. Hugging Magical Lady’s shoulder as they turned for home, Sheza Chunkymonkey slogged down the stretch to a one-half length victory in 2:03.1. Magical Lady settled for second and Princess Stephanie closed well to be third.
“Nobody likes the mud, but she’s big and she got through it fine,” said Henry of the filly’s rain-soaked victory.
Henry conditions Sheza Chunkymonkey for his wife Maddi Henry of Embro and Princeton Farms Inc. of Princeton, ON and the horseman admitted the filly’s size has not always been a strong point.
“She was very overweight, to the point where we thought she was in foal, that’s where she got her name,” recalled Henry, adding that he considered giving up on the hefty filly during the earliest days of her education. “Maddi trained her down, because I wasn’t a big fan. She just wouldn’t pay attention and would make breaks for no reason.”
In five career starts Sheza Chunkymonkey has been flawless, finishing no worse than fourth, and with two Grassroots wins and one fourth the filly has 108 points and is currently tied for top spot in the division standings.
The other two-year-old trotting filly Grassroots trophies went home with Ladydini and Ms Miller.
Ladydini earned her first-ever win in the first $19,150 division with a come-from-behind 2:00.1 effort for driver Rick Zeron of Oakville, trainer Scott McEneny of Waterdown, ON and owner M And L Of Delaware LLC of Wilmington, DE. Billie Holiday was second and Dalliance Seelster finished third behind Kadabra daughter Ladydini.
Ms Miller earned her second Grassroots win with a 2:03.1 score over Warrawee Trip and Stonebridge Rhyme. The Southwind Lustre daughter was driven to the win by Louis-Philippe Roy for trainer Joe Pereira and owners William Johnstone and William Gillan of Thorold, ON.
In two-year-old pacing colt action, St Lads Neptune extended his win streak to four with his second Grassroots victory. The Mach Three son and driver Jody Jamieson started from Post 7 and sat just off the pace through the :27.4 quarter and :58 half clocked by Durham Town. Sent after the leader heading for the 1:27.2 three-quarters, St Lads Neptune opened up a six and one-half length lead in the stretch and hit the wire in 1:57. Howmac Dancer was second and Durham Town settled for third.
“Neptune has always shown ability, and to this point I haven’t even stretched him out yet,” said Jamieson. “I think he’ll be in the Metro (Sept. 16) next, so that’ll be about as tough of a test as he’ll ever see.”
The Moffat, ON resident drives St Lads Neptune for his father, trainer Carl Jamieson of Rockwood, and Thomas Kyron of Toronto, ON. The gelding got off to a late start, making his debut on July 29, after battling sickness early in the summer and he also missed an August 11 start due to sickness.
“He’s had health issues all summer. My dad’s whole barn was sick in July and half of August,” explained Jamieson.
Monday’s win boosted St Lads Neptune into fourth spot in the Grassroots division standings. The top 10 point earners from six regular season events will compete in the $50,000 Grassroots Championship at Mohawk on Sept. 30.
Lightly rated Wild West romped to a seven length victory in the third $19,850 pacing colt division, recording his first lifetime win in 1:57.1. Northern Rebel finished second, Letjimmytakeover was third and favourite Lucky Michael was fourth.
“He has one good kick to him, so I was hoping the flow would take him to where he needed to go, and it did. He paced home handily,” said driver Phil Hudon, who tipped the gelding out three-wide at the three-quarter marker. “I drove him a few starts back (Aug. 8) and was first up with him early. He raced well then, but I thought if I used him late it would be more beneficial, and it was.”
Guelph resident Hudon piloted the Badlands Hanover son to the win for trainer Chad Milner of Campbellville, ON and owner James Crawford of Erieville, NY.
The other two Grassroots divisions were captured by Mach Three sons Pretty Handsome and Gold Rush, both making their debut in the Ontario Sires Stakes winner’s circle.
Pretty Handsome and driver Jonathan Drury reached the finish in a sharp 1:53.2 before the track was downgraded by three seconds. Notabadgame finished second and Lucky Match was third. Drury crafted the win for trainer Andrew McCabe of Guelph-Eramosa Township and owner Glenview Livestock Ltd. of Wallenstein.
In the last division Gold Rush sprinted from ninth at the half to first, pacing under the wire three and one-quarter lengths ahead of favourite Atomic Seelster and When You Dance in 1:57.1. Campbellville resident Chris Christoforou, Jr. piloted Gold Rush to the win for trainer Gregg McNair of Guelph and his partner Robert Chapple of Chatham, ON.
Both the two-year-old pacing colts and two-year-old trotting fillies make their last Grassroots start on Sept. 12, the fillies at Flamboro Downs and the colts at Mohawk.
Ontario Sires Stakes action continues at Mohawk Racetrack on Tuesday evening with three Grassroots divisions for the three-year-old trotting fillies. The first division goes postward at 7:30 pm.