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Play The Bell triumphs in return to OSS action

“She raced well. That was a big mile in the mud out of Post 9.”

(Photograph of Play The Bell, Azure Seelster and Neon Moon courtesy of New Image Media)

Play The Bell’s Grassroots win at Woodbine Mohawk Park on Friday evening was impressive — digging deep to hang on by a nose in the driving rain — but given what the three-year-old pacing filly has been through in the last month it was positively inspiring.

“When we scratched out of the Gold in London (May 26) it was because she got colitis on the day of the race,” explained trainer Casie Coleman. “She was in Guelph University for five or six days and I wasn’t sure which way it would go at first, then she snapped out of it.”

A Gold Series regular at two, Play The Bell had started her sophomore campaign with a fourth-place finish in the May 19 Standardbred Breeders of Ontario Association Stakes, but Coleman felt the filly was not ready for the kind of fast mile that the Gold fillies are expected to deliver in their $125,000 contest on Saturday night at Woodbine Mohawk Park.

“We decided to go to the Grassroots as she wasn’t ready for the Gold with just the one fast mile we could put into her,” said the Cambridge resident. “She raced well. That was a big mile in the mud out of Post 9.”

Play The Bell and driver Bob McClure powered away from Post 9 and led the field of nine through fractions of :27, :56.1 and 1:24.2. Pressured hard in the stretch by pocket-sitting Azure Seelster and fan favourite Neon Moon, Play The Bell found something in reserve and kept a nose in front to claim the 1:53.2 victory over a track rated one second slower than normal. Azure Seelster settled for second, with Neon Moon a head back in third.

Coleman shares ownership of Shadow Play daughter Play The Bell with her partners in the West Wins Stable of Cambridge, Mac Nichol of Burlington and Calhoun Racing Ltd. of Chatham, Ontario. So long as she bounces back well from Friday’s start the winner of $211,599 is expected to be back in the Gold Series for the third leg at Woodbine Mohawk Park on July 20.

Unlike Play The Bell, Lady Bubbles will be sticking with the Grassroots when it heads to Grand River Raceway’s half-mile oval for the third leg on August 6. The Sportswriter daughter picked up her second straight Grassroots win in the first $18,800 division on Friday, contested over a dry, fast track, and would love to make it a three-peat.

“She should be good there if she gets a good draw,” noted trainer Mark Steacy of Lansdowne, Ontario. “She has been a real pleasure so far this year. She always gives a great effort. She has a big heart for a little horse.”

Guelph, Ontario resident James MacDonald piloted Lady Bubbles to the victory, which saw her hit the wire in a personal best 1:53.1, a neck ahead of the fast–closing Sharks Summrshandy. Startistic Wonder crossed the wire third, but was placed back to fifth due to a late break which elevated Askmysecretary to the third spot.

The win was the third of the season for Lady Bubbles and her fifth in Ontario Sires Stakes action; she was a three-time Grassroots winner at two. Hudson Standardbred Stable Inc. of Hudson, Quebec bred and owns the winner of $86,055.

Driver Louis Philippe Roy captured the other two Grassroots divisions, piloting Katniss S BG and Saulsbrook Beauty to their first-ever Ontario Sires Stakes victories.

In the second division Roy sent Katniss S BG to the front from Post 7, yielded to favourite Lifelong Dream through the central panels and then fired back to the front in the stretch, reaching the wire two and three-quarter lengths the best in 1:53. Lifelong Dream settled for second and Hey Sweetie was third in the last division contested before the track was downgraded from fast to good.

Puslinch, Ontario resident Richard Moreau trains Mach Three daughter Katniss S BG for owner-breeders Sylvain Descheneaux and Gaston Bibeau of Sorel-Tracy, Quebec.

“She is a perfect size mare owned by people from home who raised her,” said Moreau. “Thanks to Louis, everybody is happy.”

Roy made Saulsbrook Beauty’s owner-breeders happy with a come-from-behind steer from Post 7. Saulsbrook Beauty circled around the leaders in the stretch to claim a three-quarter length victory in a personal best 1:55.3 over the rain-soaked oval. Mittany Nicole was second and Shadow World completed the top three.

Brain Lee trains the Shadow Play daughter for Saulsbrook Stables Inc. of Windsor, Nova Scotia and Louis Willinger of Louisville, Kentucky.

Ontario Sires Stakes action continues at Woodbine Mohawk Park on Saturday, June 23 with two Gold Series divisions for the three-year-old pacing colts (Races 2 and 9) and one for the three-year-old pacing fillies (Race 6). Saturday’s program gets under way at 7:30 pm.

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