From photo finishes to commanding displays of talent to glimmers of future stardom, Friday’s Prospect Series Finals at Grand River Raceway gave fans a full eight-race serving of excitement.
The Elora oval’s leading driver, Colin Kelly, captured two of the $15,000 Finals, guiding three-year-old pacing filly Always Watching to a commanding 1:54.1 victory and getting a picture perfect pocket trip with three-year-old trotting colt Insanity that allowed the colt to sneak up the inside lane and nab the favourite at the 2:00.1 finish.
“The mare (Always Watching), she’s just been awesome. Right from the first time I drove her she’s been really good. She’s big and she’s strong and she just loves her work. She does everything so easy and effortless you don’t even realise you’re going that much,” said Kelly. “The trotter (Insanity), that’s the first time I’ve ever sat behind him. He’s nice, he does everything right, trots great, but he just got a sweet trip.
“Grand River does such a great job and there was a good crowd there tonight, even for it being a little cool,” added the Guelph, ON resident. “And everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. It was great to see.”
Kelly drove Hes Watching daughter Always Watching to the win for trainer Ben Wallace of Puslinch and his co-owner Noblock Racing Stable of Collingwood, ON. Lady Katie B and Im Chiara finished five and three-quarter lengths behind the heavy favourite in second and third. (Replay: Always Watching)
Michael Timpano trains Muscle Mass colt Insanity for Wendy Warren-Timpano of Phelpston, ON and Seaspray Stables Ltd. of Nanaimo, BC. The colt got a head in front of favourite Johnny Ping at the wire and Arch Hall rounded out the top three. (Replay: Insanity)
Driver Jason Ryan of Guelph also picked up a pair of wins, opening the Prospect Series Finals with two-year-old trotting colt Sir Ballykeel and bringing them to a close with two-year-old pacing colt Rivercruise.
Fan favourite Sir Ballykeel delivered an off-the-pace effort to claim the 2:01.4 victory over Promise For Life and local colt Arch Ruler, who is owned by John Holding of Kitchener and Morley Bosomworth of Elora, ON. Sir Ballykeel’s win had a little extra meaning for Josh McKibbin, who trains the son of Il Sogno Dream and Ballykeel Majestic for owner/breeder Ballykeel Racing Inc. of Tillsonburg, ON. (Replay: Sir Ballykeel)
“I trained his mom with my father Terry (McKibbin) for her last couple races and I trained his older brother too, so it’s kind of nice to see him coming along,” said Belwood, ON resident McKibbin. “It was a nice finish to his year.”
Rivercruise battled to a head victory over Messiah in the two-year-old pacing colt Final, stopping the teletimer at 1:58.2. La Playa Deo was third and pacesetting favourite Im King Conn faded to fourth. Ryan drove the Betterthancheddar son to his first lifetime win for trainer Paul Reid and owner/breeder Norah Parks of New Lowell, ON. (Replay: Rivercruise)
Trainer Otis Hall of Ayr, ON sent out a pair of half-siblings in the three-year-old pacing colt and two-year-old pacing filly Finals. Last year’s division champion Sauble Attack could only manage a fourth-place result in his test, but little sister Sauble Amber emerged victorious in hers.
With Cambridge resident Anthony Haughan in the race bike, Sauble Amber went straight to the front from Post 5 and never looked back, sailing home two and one-quarter lengths the best in 1:57.3. Favourite Mara Lou finished second and Shezis A Beauty was two more lengths back in third. (Replay: Sauble Amber)
“Amber is a sweetheart. She’s still got some growing to do obviously, a lot of them do, but she doesn’t really do anything wrong, she’s just a nice horse to have around,” said Hall, whose Nasussito Racing Inc. bred and owns the Betterthancheddar – Ambrosia Seelster daughter in partnership with his parents Sauble Hill Farms of Tara, ON. “I actually like her better than him (Sauble Attack), and he’s had a great year, but I think she’s got a brighter future than he does. I think she’s a touch better than him, but time will tell right, you just never know.”
Sauble Attack and Haughan revved up in the stretch of the three-year-old pacing colt Final, but Dragon Teen had the bigger gear. With owner/trainer Donnie Rankin, Jr. of Amherstburg, ON in the race bike, Dragon Teen sprinted from fifth to first in the stretch to get a nose in front of pacesetting favourite P L Oliver and Snap Call at the 1:57.1 finish. (Replay: Dragon Teen)
Like Sauble Amber, Molise picked the perfect time to score her first lifetime win, going gate-to-wire in the two-year-old trotting filly Final for trainer/driver Rick Zeron and owner/breeder John Donato of Oakville, ON. The Kadabra miss stopped the teletimer at 2:06.1, one and one-quarter lengths ahead of favourite Tioga Sunshine. Okeeheelee, owned by trainer/driver Wayne Henry of Arthur, ON, was third. (Replay: Molise)
“I am very happy with her tonight. She’s a big filly, very lanky, and I just had to take my time with her. She’s just starting to come around, unfortunately it’s the back part of the year, but John Donato who owns the filly said to me ‘As long as she’s a three-year-old, I really don’t care about her two-year-old year, let’s just get her through’,” said Zeron. “I think she’s going to be a serious player at three years old. Hopefully, anyway, anything can happen.”
Favourite Stonebridge Nitro scored her fourth straight victory in the three-year-old trotting filly final, hitting the wire in 2:01.4, three-quarters of a length in front of 2020 Prospect Series champion Radical J J and Denise. Flamborough resident Robert Shepherd piloted the Muscle Mass filly to the win for trainer/lessee Melissa Lamoureux of Cambridge, ON. (Replay: Stonebridge Nitro)
Complete results from Friday’s races are available here and replays can be viewed on Grand River Raceway’s YouTube channel.
(Photo of two-year-old trotting filly Prospect Series champion Molise and (left to right) Bud Thorpe, caretaker Daphne Sullivan, owner/breeder John Donato and trainer/driver Rick Zeron courtesy Tiffany Chantel Photography)
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