Ontario's top 2-year-old pacing colts and geldings opened an action-packed night of stakes racing at Woodbine Mohawk Park on Saturday, Sept. 4, competing in two C$100,000-plus Gold Series divisions on a card worth more than C$1.9 million.
Fans sent two-time Gold Series winner Stonebridge Helios off as their top choice in the first C$101,400 division, and the strapping son of Sunshine Beach did not disappoint. Driver Bob McClure eased the colt away from post four and settled in fourth as Bob Loblaw led the field to a 27 second opening quarter, then sent Stonebridge Helios to the lead on the way to the 54 4/5half. Macho Phil mounted a challenge heading by the 1:24 2/5 three-quarters, but Stonebridge Helios pulled away to a one length victory in 1:52 2/5. Bootlegger Charlie and Coligny Hanover, also by Sunshine Beach, closed well for second and third.
"He really raced well. Bob (McClure) had to go to plan B off the gate there, and he was used pretty hard 'til the half, and then Jody (Jamieson) came hard, and he looked like he won comfortably enough. I'm sure if you asked the horse he'd think he was tired, but it looked good from where I was standing," said trainer John Pentland, who shares ownership of the colt with John Fleischman and breeder Angie Stiller. "I was impressed that off a three week lay-off he could come back and race that well."
After debuting in the Ontario Sires Stakes program with a second-place result in the Grassroots season opener, Stonebridge Helios has been undefeated in Gold Series action, winning at Woodbine Mohawk Park on July 16 and Aug. 14. Through five career starts the colt boasts a record of three wins and two seconds for earnings of C$162,125, and he sits atop the Gold Series standings with a perfect 150 points.
Provided he remains happy and healthy, Stonebridge Helios will make his next start in the Sept. 11 Champlain Stakes at Woodbine Mohawk Park, finish off the Gold Series regular season at Flamboro Downs on Oct. 3, and then return to Woodbine Mohawk Park for the Ontario Sires Stakes Super Final on Oct. 16.
"There's not a lot left on his plate, but that race (Champlain) and the Super Final are the two I am looking forward to," said Pentland, noting that his staff have been critical to the colt's success. "Everybody in my stable is treating this horse like he's royalty, and it's kind of fun. It's just a fun year having a horse like this. We've been down this road before, luckily, and it's always a thrill. Keep throwing it at me, because I tell you it ain't ever going to get old, it's a thrill."
In the second C$100,600 Gold Series division, Magical Arthur stormed away from post six and hit the quarter in 27 4/5. On the way to the 56 second half, driver Sylvain Filion yielded to favorite Betterhavemymoney and James MacDonald, and Magical Arthur shadowed that colt briefly before stepping to the outside heading by the 1:25 three-quarters. A big finishing kick propelled Magical Arthur past the favorite and on to a 1 3/4 length victory in 1:52. Camealongway closed to be second, leaving Betterhavemymoney to settle for third.
"He's actually getting real good at the right time of year, I guess is what most people would say, right," said trainer Anthony Beaton. "It didn't look like he was going to get there, but then all of a sudden it was like he shook the gears again. He hit the right gear at the right time anyway, and he mowed down Nick's (Gallucci, Betterhavemymoney) horse there, which is a very nice horse too."
The win was Magical Arthur's third straight over the Woodbine Mohawk Park oval. The Artspeak son earned his first win in the Aug. 16 Grassroots Leg and then captured his Nassagaweya division on Aug. 28. The Nassagaweya was the only open stake event on the gelding's calendar, so he will enjoy a bit of downtime before the Oct. 3 Gold Leg at Flamboro Downs.
"He's probably earned the right to a few days off and maybe get a little freshening up. He still seems to be pretty fresh anyway, but it never hurts to freshen up a little, right, and get ready for Flamboro," said Beaton, who trains Magical Arthur for owner/breeder David Lumsden.
"I've been super impressed with him, I've been impressed with him all along, but I've been just super impressed the last three starts with him," added Beaton. "I'm just hoping things keep going forward, and he keeps getting better and we can have a real good year by the end of it."