The top Ontario-sired pacers and trotters brought their 'A' game to Georgian Downs for the Innisfil oval's annual Gold Rush card, which featured four record performances on Saturday night.
With close to $1.2 million in purses up for grabs, the 2012 edition of Gold Rush included four $130,000 Ontario Sires Stakes Gold Series finals for three-year-old pacers and trotters along with four $160,000-plus Masters Series finals for Ontario-sired older horses and mares.
Prestidigitator and driver Sylvain Filion kicked off the stakes action with a 1:54 career-best triumph in the first Gold Final for three-year-old trotting colts and geldings.
After settling away third at the rail through early fractions of :28 and :55.1, Filion swung the 3-5 favoured elimination winner three-wide around the parked out Cold Certified (Jason Brewer), also an elim winner, and took over command from early leader and eventual breaker Il Mago (Trevor Ritchie). Prestidigitator raced to the 1:24.4 third quarter station with Reckon Im Ready (Mike Vanderkemp) moving up to apply pressure to the leader into the stretch. Digging in down the lane, Prestidigitator drew off to win by three lengths over that foe. Midfield Magic (Rick Zeron) came on for third.
The time of the mile was just one-fifth of a second off the track record for sophomore trotters.
Prestidigitator paid $3.40 to win. The Kadabra-Shesa Priority colt, who won his divisional Super Final last season, is trained by R. Dustin Jones for owner Ecurie Synergie of Montreal, Que. The Hambletonian eligible is two-for-three on the year and now boasts six wins from 14 starts on his lifetime record with $408,672 banked in purses.
Three-year-old pacing filly Cooking The Books earned her first big stakes victory and a new speed badge with a 1:52 winning effort in her divisional Gold Final.
Looking to protect the rail position, driver Jack Moiseyev fired elimination winner Cooking The Books off the gate, but had Apogee Hanover (Doug McNair) and Katys Jet (Scott Zeron) pursuing two and three-wide to the :27 first quarter. Katys Jet pressed on to take over ahead of Cooking The Books while Apogee Hanover took back into third.
Once on top, Katys Jet carved out middle panels of :54.1 and 1:23.1 before Moiseyev pulled the pocket into the final turn and Cooking The Books swept by. The Mach Three-Gallery Girl miss pulled away down the stretch to win by two and a half lengths while Class Of O Nine (Steve Condren) and Hope For Paddy (Billy Davis Jr.) came on for second and third place honours, respectively.
"I was actually looking to cut the mile, but those horses were coming pretty hard," noted Moiseyev. "As soon as I heard someone coming, I'm came out. I got to stay in as long as I could."
Cooking The Books paid $5.50 to win as the 8-5 favourite. John Kopas trains the winner of three (consecutive) races from nine seasonal starts for Ontario owners Glengate Farms of Campbellville, Helen Biback of Thornhill, and Old Aultsville Stable of Mississauga, Ont.
"Last year she had a lot of bad luck -- she drew outside every time -- and this year we're having a little more luck with post positions and it's paying off," said Kopas of the filly's current win streak.
The victory was the former Grassroots champion's fourth lifetime and pushed her career bankroll to $228,657.
Kopas noted that Cooking The Books will remain in the OSS program this season.
"She's a hell of a filly, but when you hook up with American Jewel and those fillies, that's a whole other level," he said. "It [the OSS] is a pretty good program, despite what Dwight Duncan and some of the other people in the government think."
Miss Paris equalled the track and Canadian record for three-year-old filly trotters with her 1:54.2 score in the next Gold Final.
Daylon Miracle (Dave Wall) and eliminaton winner Circles (Jack Moiseyev) fired off the gate together, but outsider Twin B Sensation (Stephen Byron), the other elim winner, swept by them both and cleared to command at the :28.1 opening quarter. However, Daylon Miracle retook the lead in front of the grandstand and reached the halfway point in :56.3.
As the near perfect Daylon Miracle led the way down the backstretch, Circles advanced first up with the Rick Zeron-driven Miss Paris on her back and then dropped into the pocket. Miss Paris continued to advance and took over command near the 1:25.3 third quarter mark. She was all alone on top turning for home and cruised to the wire to match Cross Of Lorraine's record. Sugar Wheeler (Paul MacDonell) came flying home late to finish a length and half behind in second while Circles settled for third.
"I was a little conc