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J Shark and Donau were not heavily supported by the betting public on Saturday evening at Woodbine Racetrack, but both sophomore pacers found the winner’s circle in the first round of the Valedictory Series.

JJ Shark, sent off at odds of 21-1, captured the first $20,000 division for driver Randy Waples.

The son of Cams Card Shark settled in fourth in the early going as Bjs Guy (Rick Zeron) took control of the race before the opening quarter in :26.4. Curious Phoenix (James MacDonald) was in the pocket with Eight Ten Eom (Scott Zeron) sitting third.

Bjs Guy continued to lead the field of seven past the half in :55 and three-quarters in 1:23, before Curious Phoenix angled out of the pocket to battle with the tempo-setter.

Turning for home, Curious Phoenix overtook the leader, but couldn’t fight off a late challenge from Waples and JJ Shark, who pushed by in the final strides to score the one and a half length victory in 1:52.1. Bjs Guy stayed for third.

“I didn’t really know the horse. He raced up here in the summer and did well,” Waples said following the win. “He won a leg of the Summertime Series at Mohawk and that’s a pretty good series, so he’s certainly got some speed to him. Some of his lines look very good and he’s just a beautiful horse to drive.”

Trained by Peter Hamilton, JJ Shark increased his career bankroll to $53,406 for owners Joseph Hemmingway, Valerie Sutton and Sandbur Farms. The brown gelding has crafted a 7-0-3 record from 18 starts this season. He paid $45.20 for the win.

In the second and final division, Donau and Luc Ouellette found the wire first at odds of 7-1.

Post time favourite Boxcar (Randy Waples) was the quickest off the gate to lead his five rivals past the opening station in :27.2. Instant Thrill (Sylvain Filion) was in the pocket with ER Room (Mike Saftic) sitting third.

Boxcar continued to lead his rivals past the half in :56.4, but Donau was challenging, first-over, past three-quarters in 1:25.1.

Turning for home, Boxcar began to tire and surrendered the lead to Donau as he powered his way to a half-length victory over Instant Thrill in 1:54.3. ER Room finished third.

“I had to move him because I was going to get locked in,” Ouellette said following the win. “I would of liked to wait a little longer along the rail, but he responded very well with his effort. He raced really well in his last start and Riina [trainer Riina Rekila] said he would be good tonight.”

With the victory, Donau increased his lifetime earnings to $61,190 for owner Overseas Farm Ltd. The son of American Ideal now has a 3-0-2 record this season from 17 starts. He paid $17.80 to win.

The second leg of the Valedictory, which is for sophomore pacing colts and geldings who are non-winners of $50,000 lifetime as of October 31, is scheduled for Monday, December 17.

The $60,000 final is slated for Woodbine’s Boxing Day card (Wednesday, December 26), which will have a special 1 p.m. post time.

(With files from WEG)