Dundas, ON — A few raindrops did not put a damper on the 2019 Ontario Sires Stakes season opener Sunday (May 19), as the province’s top 3-year-old colts impressed fans gathered at Flamboro Downs for the Dundas oval’s signature Confederation Cup program.
Both the trotting and pacing colts opened their sophomore season Sunday, with the trotters competing in a trio of Gold Series divisions and the pacers duellng in five Grassroots races.
Only For Justice set the tempo for the evening in the $53,478 first race, cruising along on the front end to a 1:56.3 Gold Series victory. Fan favorite, and last year’s division champion, Forbidden Trade was three lengths back in second and Archway was well back in third.
“That’s a big mile here tonight, a real fast back half,” said driver Chris Christoforou. “He’s very good gaited and good on the turns, he’s a nice horse.”
Christoforou piloted Only For Justice to the win for trainer Dany Fontaine and owner-breeder Ecurie Gaetan Bono Inc. The win came in the Justice Hall son’s first start of the season and was his second lifetime victory in Gold Series action. The gelding also captured a Gold event on the half-mile track at Grand River Raceway as a 2-year-old.
“Last year, I’m not sure, but I think he might have had the season record on a half-mile track for a 2-year-old gelding,” said Christoforou, referring to Only For Justice’s 1:57.3 score at Grand River Raceway. “I’d like to see him progress through the year, see what happens. He’s got a good gait and he’s very easy to maneuver, he does what you want. So far, so good.”
The second C$53,478 Gold division went to Magical Journey and driver Stephen Byron, who hit the wire a half-length ahead of Northern Cavalier and driver Michael Vanderkemp, matching Only For Justice’s 1:56.3 clocking. Jumpshot and driver Daniel Dube rounded out the top three, all of whom took advantage of an early break by favorite Dream Nation.
“He raced great,” said Matt Bax, who shares ownership of Magical Journey with his father, trainer John Bax, Gaelic Stable and Gordon Wright. “We knew that he was really good in the turns, and he’s good off the wings, so Steve was going to probably try to get him closer to the front — half-mile racing, if you have that ability you’re going to go for it — and Steve gave him a great drive.”
The win was the second of the season and the first in Ontario Sires Stakes action for Kadabra son Magical Journey, who made three Gold Series starts and three Grassroots starts at two.
“At the end of the year he was really starting to figure it out, when we put him away he was strong, so that’s translated into this year,” said Bax. “He’s a little taller, a little stronger, a little smarter, a little bit of everything.”
The $54,070 third Gold division went to Southwind Avenger, who battled to a one length victory over pacesetter Cool Clifford, hitting the wire in 1:55.4. JMR Pinarello was well behind the leaders in third.
Trevor Henry crafted the win, from the outside post eight, for trainer Richard “Nifty” Norman and owners Melvin Hartman, David McDuffee and Little E. The E L Titan son also won a division of the season opener at two and never finished worse than third in six Gold Series starts during his freshman campaign.
The sophomore trotting colts will continue their Ontario Sires Stakes Gold season on June 24 at Woodbine Mohawk Park.