Libertys Best Star makes his debut in the Grassroots harness racing program on Thursday evening (August 11) , carrying his five race win streak at Rideau Carleton Raceway into the second $24,000 Grassroots division.
“He went a couple big miles there in 1:55 and change and had to do all the work, so we kind of thought, with a trip off a helmet, he could maybe pace in 1:53 and a piece or 1:54, so he might be good enough to compete in the Grassroots,” says trainer-driver John MacDonald, who conditions the gelding for Barry Martin and James Gillis of Sydney, NS.
“If he does good in this one we’re going to — I’m not sure if I’ll keep him here and truck him up or send him up there to a trainer — but he’ll be going to the next few Grassroots, if he looks like he’s okay.”
Libertys Best Star arrived in MacDonald’s barn in mid-June after being prepped by Kenny Arsenault in Charlottetown, PEI. Arsenault raced the gelding three times before sending him west, with Libertys Best Star accumulating one third, one win and one second over the Charlottetown half-miler.
In his first start at Rideau Carleton Raceway, on June 30, the son ofand Dream Of Liberty delivered a runner-up finish against a group of non-winners of one race or $7,500 lifetime and that is the last time he was bested. Since then the gelding has posted five straight victories, culminating in his 1:55.2 score in a non-winners of $15,000 lifetime class on Aug. 7.
“Kenny Arsenault trained him as a two-year-old and only gave him a few starts. He needed time to mature so they just turned him out, and then he did a really good job bringing him back at three and sent him to me ready to go,” notes MacDonald. “He’s medium-sized, he’s really nice gaited, doesn’t wear much equipment, he’s really nice to be around.
“He’s still pretty green,” adds the horseman. “Although he’s got a few starts now, he still doesn’t know exactly how to race yet. He’s been stuck on the front a few times and he’s really lazy on the front, he needs to learn a little bit more.”
The Russell resident will steer Libertys Best Star from Post 3 in the fourth race Thursday, matching wits with a field of six Grassroots veterans, but a quick assessment of the competition has MacDonald optimistic about the gelding’s chances of fitting in with the province’s best.
“I looked briefly there, he looks like he’s got a pretty good division if he can step up a little bit, but we think he can,” says the trainer-driver.
MacDonald, whose partnership with Martin and Gillis extends back half a decade, is enjoying having Libertys Best Star in the barn, saying the gelding is an easy keeper with a lively personality.
“He feels really good all the time, he’s always playing, always biting around the barn,” explains the trainer. “Even if he just raced, the next day, you know a lot of horses are tired, and he’ll bounce out of the stall and try to bite you, he’s just a really, really playful horse.”
MacDonald will need to be lively himself on Thursday night as he will drive three other Grassroots starters in addition to Libertys Best Star. In the first $24,000 split he will team Ultimate Luck, a recent 1:51.1 winner at Mohawk Racetrack, from Post 1 for trainer Sifroi Melanson; in the third division he will steer Mach It Big from Post 1 for trainer Carl Jamieson; and in the final division he sends former Gold Series competitor Dreamfair Kovu after a share of $24,000 from Post 7 for trainer Patrick Fletcher.
Post time for Rideau Carleton Raceway’s Thursday evening program is 6:30 pm, with the lightning fast three-year-old pacing colts flexing their Grassroots muscles in Races 2, 4, 7, and 10.