Trainer/driver George Ketros sent Royal Leaf for the lead and never looked back to post the faster mile of the two $8,000 Pop-Up Series opening preliminaries at Georgian Downs on Sunday (June 5).
Ketros landed the three-year-old Cantab Hall gelding on the point from post six to a :29.2 first quarter with Laugh Now sitting the pocket. From there, Royal Leaf faced little pressure as he coasted to a 1:00 half and to three-quarters in 1:29.1 before sealing the deal and stopping the clock in 1:58.3 while finishing 2-3/4 lengths better than Laugh Now. American Blizz K closed to finish third and Arch Adam faded to fourth.
Owned by George Ketros, Royal Leaf won his first race from three starts this season and his third from six overall. He has banked $10,500 and paid $8.30 to win.
Crew Chief took over the lead after the half and kicked clear of his competition to take the other Pop-Up Series split in 2:02. Driver Anthony MacDonald settled the three-year-old Trixton colt in the pocket behind 7-5 favourite Tymal Shamrok to a :30.2 first quarter and through a 1:02.4 half. As the tempo quickened into the backside, MacDonald circled Crew Chief to the top, clicked three-quarters in 1:31.4 and separated from the field. He spun for home and then crossed the beam five lengths better than King Kactus in second while Tymal Shamrok faded to third and Top Down recovered from a break at the start to take fourth.
Conditioned by Dominic Gladu for owner Stephen Palermo, Crew Chief broke his maiden in his first start, earning $4,000. He paid $8.10 to win.