Ancaster resident Pat Lang has worked with a long list of superstar horses, but the trainer puts three-year-old trotting gelding Sweet Soul David — who makes his bid for the 2021 Grassroots Championship this Saturday, Oct. 9 at Woodbine Mohawk Park — in a category of his own.
“He’s a very special horse. I always say to people, the characteristics of a human being that you would love, he has them all. He’s kind, he’s gentle, he’s compassionate, he has tremendous integrity because he never changes, and he has courage,” said Lang. “He’s got all these things that you would want in a human being, and he goes out and he wins, so yeah, he’s a special horse.”
The son of Kadabra and A Sundae On Sunday was bred by Lang, Matthew Harrison of Port Perry and Denis St. Pierre and Tiffanee Staley of Guelph, ON. When it came time to name the young trotter, St. Pierre asked the partners if they could choose a name that honoured his son David, who died in a traffic accident a few months after the colt was born in 2018.
Although St. Pierre would sell his share in the gelding, he stepped into the race bike last summer and drove Sweet Soul David to victories in the elimination and final of the Balanced Image Trot at Hanover Raceway. Lang said the winner’s circle celebration was an emotional one as the group embraced each other and the horse that seems to channel all the best qualities of his namesake.
Those wins would be the only ones on Sweet Soul David’s two-year-old resume as he battled the top colts in the Gold Series program through to a ninth-place finish in the Super Final. This season Lang and his co-owners Simon Swindells of Little Britain, Garth Bechtel of Meaford and Paul Kleinpaste of Orangeville, ON decided the Grassroots level was the best place for the gelding, and he proved them right, notching four wins and one second in five regular season starts and an effortless two-length score in last Friday’s Semi-Final.
“The great thing about Sweet Soul David is he never gets beat by a horse that’s not better than him. Most horses, the odd race they’ll go out and get beat by somebody that’s just, it just shouldn’t happen, but with him that never seems to happen,” said Lang. “If he gets beat, it’s because the horse that beat him was better than him. That’s pretty rare.”
Sweet Soul David and regular reinsman Louis-Philippe Roy of Guelph, ON will line up at Post 6 in Saturday’s $60,000 Grassroots Championship. The race is slated as Race 9 on the Woodbine Mohawk Park program and Lang is anticipating a full-scale battle between the top colts.
“Everybody says to me, ‘Well Pat, you said he’d trot in 1:53’. And I say, ‘Yeah, he will if somebody forces him to, but he certainly won’t if you don’t him force him to’,” said Lang of the easy-going trotter. “We’ll see on Saturday, he’s in against three really good horses that are, on paper, as good or better than him. It’s going to be a really interesting race.”
Of the Grassroots finalists, only The Prince, who won the other $20,000 Grassroots Semi-Final, has clocked a sub-1:54 mile this season. The Chantal Mitchell trainee won his Sept. 20 Grassroots Leg in 1:53.4. Sweet Soul David’s personal best is 1:55, logged July 11 over Rideau Carleton Raceway’s five-eighths mile oval.
“Everybody thought he was a half-mile track horse, and of course it seemed that way because he could leave so fast. He’s almost unbeatable on a half mile track, yes, but to his credit he won three races on a half, two on a five-eighths and now I think he’s got three wins on a seven-eighths,” said Lang of the gelding’s 18 race career. “So in actual fact he can win on all size tracks, but he does have an advantage on a half because he’s so good gaited and so quick.”
Whether Sweet Soul David can add another win over Woodbine Mohawk Park’s seven-eighths mile oval to his resume or not, the gelding’s connections and far-flung supporters are confident that the trotter will have all his best qualities — courage, honesty, integrity — on display Saturday.
Complete entries for Saturday’s Grassroots Championship are available here and fans can download a program and watch the live stream on the Woodbine Mohawk Park website. Post time is 7 pm and the championship races are featured in Races 2 through 5 and 7 through 10.
(Photo of Sweet Soul David and driver Louis-Philippe Roy courtesy New Image Media)
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