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Ashlake To Put Best Foot Forward?

When two-year-old trotting filly Ashlake lines up behind the starting gate at Georgian Downs for Friday night’s $24,000 Grassroots test, her connections will be holding their collective breath.

In four previous starts the daughter of Angus Hall and Candidcamerakosmos has only made it out of the first turn unscathed on one occasion. She made early breaks in three Gold eliminations -- at Flamboro Downs on July 16 and at Mohawk Racetrack on August 2 and 19 -- before finally logging an unblemished mile in a division of the Champlain Stakes at Mohawk on September 2.

“She’s learning; she's green. I think there’s probably still some potential there that has not yet been realized,” said Gilford, Ont. resident Dalt White, who shares ownership of the filly with trainer John Bax’s Parkhill Stud Farm of Peterborough, Ont., Venture K Stable of Lindsay, Ont. and Harry Locke of Oshawa, Ont. “I’m still hopeful.”

In spite of the filly’s struggles, White and his partners have seen glimpses of Ashlake’s potential this season. In a June 25 qualifier at Mohawk, the filly cruised to a six-length victory on the front end, hitting the wire in 2:02.3. After having made breaks in her first two Gold elimination efforts, she was forced to re-qualify on August 14, and once again she logged a steady winning effort, as she stopped the clock at Kawartha Downs in 2:03.1.

“There are a lot more ups and downs with trotters, but it is rewarding,” explained White, who was introduced to harness racing by his father.

“My Dad has been bringing me to harness racing since I was probably too young to understand what was going on,” said the owner. “He is a longtime fan.”

White shared his father’s interest in standardbreds, but had always been interested in the ownership aspect of the industry. He finally took the ownership leap with a friend in 1996. Since then, White’s involvement has expanded to shares in seven or eight horses, primarily trotters, with the acquisition of Ashlake marking his first foray into yearling ownership.

Bax selected Ashlake out of the Harrisburg Yearling Sale last November, as he made a final bid of $52,000 for the filly, and her owners would love to see her recover a piece of her purchase price on Friday.

Thornton, Ont. resident Stephen Byron will steer Ashlake from Post 3 in Friday’s third race, which will be the filly’s first crack at the Grassroots program. The second of eight $24,000 Grassroots divisions, Race 3 is loaded with former Gold Series starters. In addition to Ashlake, Luvumeanit (Post 2), Magic Wheel (Post 3), Ally Oop (Post 4), and Honey Thorn (Post 8), all made their last OSS appearance at the Gold Series level.

Friday’s contest is the second last of the Grassroots regular season, and trainer Per Henriksen would like to see Althea M add a few extra points to the 25 she earned with a runner-up finish in the September 6 event at Dresden Raceway. The Norwood, Ont. resident will steer the daughter of Ken Warkentin--Rebeccas Message from Post 2 in the fifth race for his partner Steve Organ of Aurora, Ont.

“I trained her mother, she set a track record up at Georgian Downs one time as a four-year-old,” recalled Henriksen. “When we were done racing her (owner Dale Hein) asked me what to breed her to in Ontario. I said breed her to Ken Warkentin.”

The resulting foal was Althea M, who Henriksen and Organ purchased from Hein on August 31, just in time for the Dresden start. Henriksen says Althea M reminds him a great deal of Rebeccas Message, and hopes the filly can follow in the footsteps of her mother, who earned $102,123 during her racing career.

The veteran conditioner will also harness Miu Miu BI, who will be making just her second lifetime start from Post 6 in the sixth race.

“She’s not really ready to go down the pike or anything,” noted Henriksen, who trains and drives the filly for owner-breeder M Biasuzzi Stable Inc. of Fort Pierce, Florida. “She had a little bit of an attitude problem, but she’s getting better.

“I think they’re both going to be wonderful fillies next year.”

Georgian Downs will send its first race into the hands of the starter at 7:25 p.m. on Friday evening. The two-year-old trotting fillies will battle for Grassroots points and purse money in Races 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10 and 11.