MILTON, OCT. 8, 2020 – When two-year-old pacing gelding Second Bruiser steps in behind the starting gate in Saturday’s $75,000 Grassroots Championship at Woodbine Mohawk Park, he will be looking to make good on a prediction owner/trainer Vernon Cochrane made eight months ago.
“I said from the very start, like the first month I had him, I was like this is the best horse you’ve ever had in your life,” said Cochrane of that late winter conversation with the gelding’s owner/breeder Stefan Piekos of Palgrave, ON. “Until they actually prove it on the racetrack then you kind of wonder, like ‘I’ve heard this before’, but he’s shown natural ability from the start. There was never anything that could train with him or even come close to him. He’s always been like a three or four year old against babies. His last start, James (MacDonald) came in and said to me, ‘He’s a man against boys’ and that’s pretty much what it comes down to.”
In their Oct. 1 Grassroots Semi-Final driver James MacDonald and Second Bruiser romped to a five and one-quarter length victory in 1:51.4. It was the gelding’s third straight win in Grassroots competition and his third time halting the Woodbine Mohawk Park clock at 1:51.4. MacDonald will steer the Believeinbruiser son from Post 8 in Saturday’s ninth race and his connections are hoping the gelding can wrap up his brief season on a successful note.
“He’s just had so many health issues through the year that it was a struggle to get him there and we’re just happy to salvage what we’ve salvaged out of the year. He’s going to be shut down after Saturday and that will be it,” said Fergus, ON resident Cochrane. “We’re going to stake him up to a lot more next year. He was never paid into anything as a yearling. I mean he was a homebred and obviously the breeder wasn’t expecting that kind of animal from him.”
Win, lose or draw on Saturday, Second Bruiser has already proven that Cochrane’s early season prediction was correct and given the partners something to look forward to in 2021.
Trainer Thierry Vandenplas started looking forward to Saturday night’s three-year-old trotting colt championship when Ripped And Ready sailed home a four and one-quarter length winner in his Oct. 2 Semi-Final, touring the Woodbine Mohawk Park oval in a personal best 1:55.1.
“He kind of impressed me a little bit last Friday. I think now Jody (Jamieson) starts to know him pretty well and we had a little bit more luck this time,” said Vandenplas. “It’s going to be tough, because you’ve got a lot of good horses that maybe didn’t have a nice trip last week and everybody is going to fight hard Saturday.”
The Semi-Final win was Ripped And Ready’s third in Grassroots action this season. In 10 sophomore starts the Muscle Mass son has only missed the top three on one occasion, finishing fourth from Post 9 in the Sept. 10 Grassroots leg at Woodbine Mohawk Park. Jody Jamieson will make his sixth appearance in Ripped And Ready’s race bike on Saturday, lining up at Post 5, alongside reigning division champion Lovedbythemasses, who gets Post 4 in the sixth race.
Vandenplas trains Ripped And Ready for owner/breeder Dr. Ruth Irving of Russell, ON and said neither the trip to the racetrack nor the post are cause for concern with the colt.
“I think when it’s a nice and big track like Mohawk, the track is so nice and you’ve got so much time to make your move, I’m not worried about the position,” said Brinston, ON resident Vandenplas. “He travels well, that’s not a big problem for him. He’s a nice horse to work with, calm and everything. As soon as he hits the trailer he knows he’s going to go for business so he gets a little bit more anxious, but as soon as he’s back from the races he just comes back to his normal life and he’s pretty nice to work around.”
Owner/breeder George Millar said three-year-old pacing colt Bettorbuckleup is also a nice horse to work around. The Bettors Delight colt is one of the horses the 70 year old Millar regularly jogs and trains over the track at his Stouffville, ON farm.
“I’ve trained Buckle probably more than anybody has trained him, I like him,” said Millar, who entrusts the majority of the colt’s care to trainer Nick Gallucci. “There’s nothing you can’t help but like about him, he’s just a nice little colt.”
Bettorbuckleup may be easy going to work around, but he displayed killer instincts in the Oct. 2 Semi-Final, getting up in the final strides to catch favourite Mayhem Hanover by a nose in 1:50.4. The thrill of watching the colt make a final-stride surge to win had Millar replaying the race until the wee hours.
“That was probably one of my most exciting races in the past year,” said Millar. “I was still all excited and watching the replay for another hour and a half. I think I got to bed about one o’clock.”
Bettorbuckleup and driver James MacDonald will make their bid for a second straight win from Post 3 on Saturday. Rivals Mayhem Hanover, the reigning division champion, National Sport, the other Semi-Final winner, and The Wild Card, the division point leader, will be lined up to his right at Posts 6, 7, and 8 in the seventh race.
In addition to Bettorbuckleup, Millar will also be watching homebreds Cyclone Sister and Cantstoplying compete in the two-year-old pacing filly and pacing colt championships. Shadow Play daughter Cyclone Sister gets Post 1 in the fifth race while Sunshine Beach gelding Cantstoplying will start from the trailing Post 10 in the ninth.
“You never know how things are going to work out,” said Millar. “To me it’s exciting just to have a bunch of homebreds like that — Buckle’s not a homebred — but having them competing at that level and making it to the Sires Stakes Final is great.”
The Grassroots Championships go postward in Races 2 through 9 on Saturday’s program. The evening’s first race rolls in behind the starting gate at 7 pm. Fans can download a program and watch the live stream on Woodbine Mohawk Park’s website.
(Ontario Sires Stakes)