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Favorites Windsong Soprano and Elusive Desire scored in two of the three $35,000
eliminations for the upcoming Elegantimage stakes for 3-year-old trotting fillies, and second choice Celebrity Juliet prevailed by a neck in the third at Mohawk Friday night.


Race #1 was the first Elegantimage elim, which pitted 3-5 favorite Windsong Soprano against Raising Rachel once the other favored lass, Seaside (Jody Jamieson) made an early break to take herself out of contention. Steve Condren sent Windsong Soprano promptly to the front to take over from Graceful Sister (Rick Zeron) before the half in :58.1, while Raising Rachel (Jack Moiseyev) rode along comfortably in third.


Graceful Sister yielded to Raising Rachel as the field entered the far turn, but Rachel had quite a bit of work to do on the front end with Windsong Soprano having opened up a five-length lead by that point.


Through the stretch, Raising Rachel chipped away at that lead, but couldn’t pass her rival, with Windsong Soprano stopping the timers in 1:55.1 three-quarters of a length to the good. In a photo, Jersey AS (Trevor Ritchie) was awarded third money over Nessa Rose (Luc Ouellette).


Windsong Soprano, a daughter of Windsongs Legacy, is now three-for-three this season for trainer Bob McIntosh and Lothlorien Farm of Cheltenham, Ontario. The effort boosted her bankroll past the $400,000 mark and gives her connections the advantage of choosing her post position for the final.


“She can be a little rambunctious sometimes, so we’re trying to teach (Windsong Soprano) that when I press the button, I want her to go, not when she wants to press the button,” said Condren. “She’s better chasing, but she came home a good last quarter and I just had to ask her to keep her mind on what she was doing.”


In the second Elegantimage elim (race #3), favoured Yursa Hanover and Rick Zeron took command from longshot Get Chipped (with Pennsylvania pilot, Charlie Norris) just past a :29.0 first quarter, with Celebrity Juliet and Trevor Ritchie well back in sixth. Selfish Princess and Sylvain Filion gave chase, and managed to collar Yursa Hanover as the field passed the ¾ mile marker in 1:27.2, but she herself was then collared by a hustling Celebrity Juliet coming second-over from the back-field in the final strides, finishing in 1:55.4. Selfish Princess hung on for second, with Keep The Spirit and Randy Waples popping up for third.


Staffan Lind conditions Celebrity Juliet, a daughter of Cantab Hall owned by Celebrity Farms of New York, NY. This was her first win, and second start, of 2009; last week she was second to Windsong Soprano in the Casual Breeze stakes at Mohawk.


“She was a little tighter tonight; she was just coming off a qualifier last week and before that she hadn’t raced since last November,” said Ritchie. “She certainly needed that trip last week. I wanted to race her from off the pace tonight; she seems to like following horses and then passing in the lane. I drove her once last year and she kicked through the lane real strong, so I figured if she got any sort of a trip tonight she’d likely do the same.”


Last year’s OSS Superfinals winner, Elusive Desire, didn’t disappoint in the third and final Elegantimage elim. Sent off at 3-2, she brushed to the front for Paul MacDonell as the field passed the half-mile marker in :57.2, putting early pacesetter Celebrity Deville (Trevor Ritchie) into the pocket spot. Elusive Desire stayed on top through the stretch, fought off a late challenge from Celebrity Deville, and stopped the timers in 1:54.3, a new lifetime mark by a full three and one-fifth seconds. Kandor Hanover stepped up for third for linesman Randy Waples.


MacDonell commented, “We were a little bit careful with her starting out this year. She got a little aggressive toward the end of (last) year, wanting to race off the front. When they come back (from a winter off), you don’t like to show them that speed early, you try and rate them a little bit and keep them quiet as long as you can. Tonight we were able to race her a little bit down the backstretch, and she responded.


“She does it so easy, and she’s confident in her gait, that’ll take her a long way,” he added.


This was the first score of 2009 for Elusive Desire, who is trained by Mike Keeling for P. C. Wellwood Enterprises, Charles Armstrong, and Robert Fasken.


The $600,000 (est.) final of the Elegantimage Stakes is scheduled for Saturday, June 27 at Mohawk, on a card which also features North America's richest harness race, the $1.5 million Pepsi North America Cup.  (WEG)