Day At The Track

Ducharme to start eight in Sire Stake finals

01:08 AM 26 Oct 2019 NZDT
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Without A Warning, harness racing Life Is A Feast, harness racing Crystalline, harness racing
Without A Warning and driver Shawn Gray
Tom Melanson photo
Life Is A Feast and driver Howard Parker
Tom Melanson photo
Crystalline and driver Shawn Grey
Tom Melanson photo

Plainville, MA --- The finals of the $1.8 million Massachusetts Sire Stakes (MASS) will be held at Plainridge Park on Monday (Oct. 28) where 2 and 3-year-old harness racing trotters and pacers of both genders will compete in eight $100,000 divisions to claim state champion status.

Trainer George Ducharme, who hails from Walpole, Massachusetts located just a few miles from Plainridge, holds the distinction of having eight starters in the 2019 edition of the MASS which is the most of any other conditioner taking part. But that isn't surprising as Ducharme has been participating in this series for a long time and has much success to show for it.

Here is a look at the roster of starters Ducharme will be bringing to The Ridge, followed with his comments on each.

2-year-old filly trotters:

Without A Warning (RC Royalty-Concentration) 1:57.3 ($136,160) is the current co-holder (with Bag O Chips) of the MASS stake and Plainridge track record for her age, sex and gait. She is three for three in the stake this year and looks to make it four in a row in the final. Her biggest effort during her freshman season was a third place finish behind Hypnotic AM in the $225,000 New York Sire Stake final at Batavia Downs in September.

"She is a real good filly. She was good enough to make the New York final and now that she's come here she's won a few races and has gotten brave. She is definitely one of my better 2-year-olds. She will be back racing in New York next year and also has some Grand Circuit dates on her schedule as well."

Greyscale (Credit Winner-Global Beauty) 2:02.1 ($18,340) has yet to hit the board in the MASS but has improved her finish position each week.

"She's struggling a little. She's an immature filly that just needs a little time and hopefully she'll be a little stronger next year."

2-year-old gelding trotters:

Life Is A Feast (Royalty For Life-Luau Hanover) 1:55.4 ($63,475) is the current holder of the MASS stake and Plainridge track record for his class. He has two wins and a second in the series and is the leading point-getter in his division.

"I had a little trouble with him early because he's a big, growthy colt. But he's got lots of speed and lots of potential going forward. He's been very good at Plainridge and hopefully he can continue being good for one more week."

Double Dealing (RC Royalty- Heather Spur) 2:02.2 ($26,280) is a brother to the 2017 MASS 2-year-old trotting filly champion Bag O Chips (Sierra Kosmos-Heather Spur) 1:55.1 ($212,820) and has hit the board in all three preliminary legs of the MASS this year.

"Joe Di Stefano trained him down and they sent him up to me and I finished him and he has improved every week since I've had him. And I think he's going to be a useful race horse as time goes on a little more."

3-year-old filly trotter:

Crystalline (Chapter Seven-Royalty Free) 1:55.4 ($121,186) is a full sister to the 2017 MASS 3-year-old trotting colt champion Hashtagmadeyalook (1:55.4, $231,402) and is the current MASS stake record holder for her division. She has two wins and a second leading up to the final and will be on top of her game this weekend.

"She's just a nice, honest filly. She gives you everything she's got every week and you can't ask for any more than that. That's a pretty even bunch she's in with and all three of those fillies have been knocking heads each week, so it's whoever gets the best trip and is good that day."

3-year-old gelding trotters:

Simple Kaos (RC Royalty-Ksenia) 1:54.3 ($199,820) was the 2018 2-year-old male trotting champion in the MASS last year and had come back at three just as good. He has been racing aged trotters for most of the season and that's paid dividends as he is undefeated in three tries in the MASS and makes him the top point earners in his division as a result.

"Kaos has been good all year. We just raced him in overnights until the MASS started he seems to be peaking at the right time. He's been very good the last three weeks."

Jake G's Champion (RC Royalty-Super Starlet) 1:57.1 ($94,899) is a full brother to the 2018 MASS 3-year-old trotting filly champion Ithinkthatsmine (1:56, $215,135) and he has hit the board in all three of his MASS starts this year.

"He's a solid trotter and goes where he can go each week. He's not a Grand Circuit horse but a good New York horse and he obviously fits well in these MASS stakes."

The Fixer (Trixton-Give You My Word) 1:54.1 ($90,323) has also been on the board in all three of his MASS starts as were both of his stablemates in this division.

"I got him in the middle of the summer, made a couple little changes on him and he win in 1:54 at Vernon and he's turned out to be a nice little horse. He's not a superstar, but he's a good race horse."

Five of the eight horses from the Ducharme stable (Without A Warning, Greyscale, Double Dealing, Crystalline and Jake G's Champion) were bred and are owned by Ray Campbell Jr. as Campbell and Ducharme have been a racing team for over 35 years.

Campbell started his breeding operation with his father back in the 1980's and has kept a small but effective band of between six to ten broodmares over that time, producing crop after crop of successful Massachusetts Standardbreds.

Campbell raises the yearlings and then turns them over to Ducharme to break, train and race. It's a formula that has worked well for them for decades, producing both state and Grand Circuit champions.

The pinnacle of both their careers was winning the 2013 Hambletonian with Royalty for Life (RC Royalty-Bourbon N Grits) 1:51.3 ($1,620,166). He was bred by fellow Massachusetts resident Al Ross, who co-owned Royalty For Life with Campbell and Paul Fontaine. Ducharme trained him from day-one and made him the champion he became. Royalty For Life is the sire of 2019 MASS starter Life Is A Feast.

Ducharme predicts great things for the Massachusetts Sire Stakes moving forward and says it gets more competitive each year.

"Everywhere I race people are asking me about the MASS program and this year there are 12 MASS eligible yearlings in the Harrisburg Sale. Some big names have been involved now with Andy Miller having been here for a few years and Tony Alagna and Blake Macintosh are here this year; the program is really starting to take hold. People have taken notice and now the breeders are taking notice so that will help keep the program strong in the future," said Ducharme.

Seven of the eight MASS finals are on the regular betting program Monday, carded as race one through seven with post time for the first race at 2 p.m. The eighth event goes as a non-betting race to be held before the main card with a post time of 1:30 p.m.

Notice for starters in MA SIRE STAKES

The connections of starters in the Massachusetts Sire Stake finals that will be held at Plainridge Park on Monday (Oct. 28) should be advised that all stake horses MUST be checked in and physically on the grounds no later than 8 a.m. Monday (Oct. 28) morning. 

By Tim Bojarski, for the Standardbred Owners of Massachusetts
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