Bruce Richardson picked up the catch drive on Friendly Amigo in Friday night's $130,000 Gold Final at Grand River Raceway, and the Arthur resident gunned the three-year-old trotting filly away from Post 6 and around the harness racing half-mile oval to an Ontario Sires Stakes record.
After struggling to earn a pay cheque through her last three starts, Friendly Amigo was sent to the post as the sixth choice on Friday, but Richardson opted to ignore the public's opinion of his mount and used her early speed to establish a three length lead before the :29.2 opening quarter. The pair continued to lead the field of trotting fillies to the :58.2 half, and were still two lengths ahead of their peers by the 1:27.1 three-quarters.
The front end effort was similar to the one Friendly Amigo put forward in the elimination round, when she led the field by as much as five lengths through slower fractions and then faded to finish fourth behind Simply Stirling, but this week thefilly was clearly back on her game. Although pocket sitter Ill Wait For You did her best to catch Friendly Amigo in the stretch, the pacesetter dug hard to the wire and earned her first Gold Final victory by a head in a track and Ontario Sires Stakes record 1:56.4.
Zorgwijk Java and Elmira resident Jim McClure rounded out the top three, with long shot Mets Inn earning the fourth-place finisher's share and fan favourite Cuddler settling for fifth.
Richardson engineered Friendly Amigo's Gold Final triumph for trainer Blair Burgess and owners Robert Burgess of Campbellville and Karin Olsson Burgess of Milton. The victory was the filly's second of the season through 15 starts and boosted her sophomore earnings to $180,181. The mile also peeled one-fifth of a second off the filly's personal best.
Friendly Amigo has been battling the best fillies in the province since May, capturing a Gold Elimination at Mohawk Racetrack on July 31, and finishing second in a May 24 Trillium division, a split of the June 12 Casual Breeze Stake, and the Canadian Breeders Championship Elimination and Final on July 17 and 25. Since her July 31 Gold Elimination win, however, the filly had struggled, making a break in the Aug. 7 Gold Final, and then fading in the stretch of her Standardbred Breeders of Ontario Association Elimination and last week's Gold Elimination.
Friday's return to form boosted Friendly Amigo up the division standings in to second, 17 points behind Cuddler, who had lowered the Grand River Raceway track record in last week's elimination round with her 1:58.1 effort.
Friendly Amigo's 1:56.4 score demolished Cuddler's mark and peeled three-fifths of a second off the former Ontario Sires Stakes record of 1:57.2, set by Pure Ivory at Western Fair Raceway in 2006 and matched by Carolyn AS and Movin Over at Flamboro Downs in 2007.
Friendly Amigo will take one last run at Gold Series glory on Oct. 3, when the three-year-old trotting fillies wrap up their Ontario Sires Stakes career at Kawartha Downs.
Ontario Sires Stakes thrills continue at Grand River Raceway on Monday evening, when the talented two-year-old pacing colts battle in five Grassroots events.
RESULTS (Including Post, Horse, (Sire), Driver/Trainer, Pay Outs, Race Fractions):
(Races detailed below are only those featuring locally owned horses. For complete results please go to: http://www.standardbredcanada.ca/racing/results/data/r0904grvrn.dat.)
RACE 9 $130,000
6 - Friendly Amigo () Br. Richardson/B. Burgess $31.60 $9.40 $2.90
2 - Ill Wait For You () T. Ritchie/D. Creighton $2.90 $2.50
1 - Zorgwijk Java (Armbro Ricochet) J. McClure/R. MacLean $3.50
Exactor 6 - 2:
Triactor 6 - 2 - 1:
Superfecta 6 - 2 - 1 - 8:
:29.2, :58.2, 1:27.1 and 1:56.4 For more information please contact Sandra Snyder at 519-656-2017 (Tel./Fax) or firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit www.ontariosiresstakes.com for up to date point standings and more.