Baillargeon steers two Grassroots winners at Hanover

HANOVER – Driver Mario Baillargeon earned his second straight Grassroots double at Hanover Raceway on Saturday (Aug. 14) afternoon, steering Muscle Up The Gold and Gala Halo to victory in two-year-old trotting filly action.

“They had this track impeccable today,” said Baillargeon, who also scored two wins in Grassroots action at Kawartha Downs last Saturday. “It was nice footing. They had the track real, real good for the two-year-old trotting fillies.”

Baillargeon took advantage of the track conditions in the first $21,450 division with Muscle Up The Gold, going straight to the front from Post 7 and putting up fractions of :31, 1:03.3 and 1:34 on the way to a two and three-quarter length victory in 2:04. Elisabetta finished second, Opas Faith was third and fan favourite Da Royal Miracle made an early break and finished fifth.

“She was a little green when I first started her at Mohawk (July 27), because she didn’t train with much company all winter, but now every start she’s more mature,” said Baillargeon, who has now piloted the filly to one win, one second and one third. “She’s a very handy filly, don’t miss a beat. She’s not real big, but she’s very honest and she’s got a big heart. She tries hard and she is very sure-footed, and with two-year-old fillies that’s probably the key.”

In the first three Grassroots Legs the filly has tallied one seventh, one second and one win for a point total of 77. Baillargeon drives the Muscle Up The Goal daughter for trainer Kevin Benn and his co-owner Dennis Chadwick of Napanee, Ont., who are also fond of the diminutive trotter.

“We really love her, she isn’t big, but she’s slick gaited, and she’s a little tough,” said Benn. “When they’re small they’ve got to have a little feist to them.”

Baillargeon also went gate-to-wire with Gala Halo in the third division. From Post 3 the filly trotted to a :30.1 quarter, 1:03.1 half and 1:33.3 three-quarters before cruising home a six and one-half length winner in 2:04.2. Complete Life finished second and favourite Stella Alpha was promoted from fourth to third when Real Good Tan was found to be in violation of the breaking rule.

“She’d never been on a half-mile track and I looked at her before I went on the track and I said, ‘Geez, she’s a big filly.’ So I gave her a little score down, but she was as flat as, you know I could have put a glass of water on her back, so I said we’ll try to get around the one and the two,” said Baillargeon, who was making his first appearance in the filly’s race bike. “And we came down at the corner and I turned around and we had five lengths on the field, so there must have been some breakers, but she went around them four turns like a pro really, for never being on a half-mile track.”

The Acton resident engineered the win for trainer Rick Zeron of Oakville, Ont. and Hutt Racing Stable of Malvern, Pennsylvania. With one win, one second and one fourth in Grassroots action, the Archangel daughter currently leads the two-year-old trotting filly division with 83 points.

In the other two Grassroots divisions first-time Ontario Sires Stakes starters Global News and Lune Duharas emerged victorious.

Starting from Post 4, fan favourites Global News and driver James MacDonald delivered a confident front-end effort, sailing through fractions of :30.4, 1:02.3 and 1:33 on their way to a two and one-half length win in 2:04.1. Tioga Sunshine finished second and Okeeheelee was third.

“The main thing is, she wants to do it, and you can work with that,” said trainer Blake MacIntosh. “She tries every week and she wants to trot. She wants to do it as much as any horse I’ve had in a long time.”

MacIntosh shares ownership of the Archangel daughter with Stuart McIntosh of Essex, Ont. and Hutt Racing Stable. The St. George, Ont. resident was sufficiently impressed with the filly’s first lifetime start that Global News may be back in Hanover next Saturday for the Balanced Image Trot eliminations.

“I think we might race her in the Balanced Image next week, just because she trots the turns so well. It’s going to be tough, but it’s a place to race, she hasn’t had much experience and she could use a little experience,” said MacIntosh. “Hopefully she’ll show some more speed next week and just keeping getting better.”

Unlike her peers, Lune Duharas reeled in fan favourite Allisonann Hanover in the stretch in the afternoon’s final Grassroots division. From Post 4, the Muscle Mass daughter and driver Louis-Philippe Roy sat third as Allisonann Hanover reeled off fractions of :29.4, 1:01.1 and 1:31.2 and then sprinted down the stretch to a 2:04 victory. Allisonann Hanover was two and one-quarter lengths back in second and Epic Thrill was another length back in third.

“She’s a nice filly, still green, and she did it really easy today,” said Roy, who made the trip to Hanover just to drive Lune Duharas. “I’m excited to drive her again in the Quebec Finals on Sept. 12.”

Bred and owned by Haras De L’Estrie and trained by Denis Gueriel, both of Dunham, Quebec, Lune Duharas made her career debut in the July 23 leg of the Coupe de l’Avenir at Hippodrome Trois-Rivières, finishing second.

Lune Duharas will miss the next Grassroots Leg, which goes postward Sept. 13 at Woodbine Mohawk Park, but can catch the final event on Sept. 21 at Flamboro Downs. The top 10 point earners from the five regular season legs will compete in the Grassroots Semi-Finals at Woodbine Mohawk Park on Sept. 30, with the top five finishers from each semifinal advancing to the Oct. 9 Grassroots Championship.

Ontario Sires Stakes action returns to Hanover Raceway on Sept. 4 when the Grey County oval will host the fourth Grassroots Leg for the two-year-old pacing fillies.