Day At The Track

Darling lands four freshmen in Mid-Summer Challenge

04:45 PM 17 Jul 2013 NZST
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Jack Darling
Jack Darling
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CAMPBELLVILLE, ON — As temperatures climb across Ontario, so does anticipation for this Friday’s $400,000 Mid-Summer Challenge at Mohawk Racetrack.

Cambridge resident Jack Darling will start two youngsters in each of the freshman pacing filly and pacing colt Challenges and is looking forward to seeing how his protégés stack up against the cream of the 2013 Ontario Sires Stakes crop.

“It’s a tough bunch,” says the owner-trainer. “I’m interested to see how they match up against those horses.”

In the $150,000 two-year-old pacing filly Challenge, Darling will send Shadow Play daughters Alibi Seelster and Nefertiti Bluechip into the fray from Posts 4 and 6, respectively. Alibi Seelster qualified for the Mid-Summer Challenge with a win in the July 1 Gold Series season opener at Mohawk and a sixth in the July 11 event at Rideau Carleton Raceway. The filly made an error behind the starting gate at Rideau Carleton which mystified her connections, but Darling says she seems ready for battle on Friday.

“We don’t really know why, we’re guessing she couldn’t get over the track,” says Darling of the filly’s miscue. “But she trained good today (Tuesday), and she seems 100 per cent.

“She’s a smart filly, but she’s very aggressive on the track. She doesn’t like to go slow,” he adds.

A $27,000 purchase out of the 2012 Forest City Yearling Sale, Alibi Seelster and regular driver Paul Macdonell of Guelph were also winners in an overnight event at Mohawk on June 14.

Nefertiti Bluechip also scored an overnight win at Mohawk, touring the Campbellville oval in 1:56.1 on June 21. The filly logged a third and a second in the first two legs of the Gold Series to earn her spot in the Challenge and Darling is hoping she is ready for a break out performance Friday.

“She’s a good honest filly,” says the horseman, who offered up $50,000 for the youngster at the Harrisburg Yearling Sale. “She’s been struggling with sickness, but she raced through it and hopefully she can keep getting better.”

Darling’s trainees will square off against eight other point leaders in the fifth race, while nine fillies below them in the standings will battle in the $50,000 Mid-Summer Challenge Consolation in Race 2.

The two-year-old pacing colt Consolation goes postward as Race 3, and the top point getters will line up behind the starting gate in the seventh race. Darling’s duo will occupy the centre of the racetrack in the $150,000 Challenge, with Cluster Hanover starting from Post 6 and Shadowbriand getting Post 7.

Cluster Hanover made an error in his Gold Series debut at Mohawk on June 28 and was placed back to fourth, then delivered a second-place result at the Campbellville oval in the July 8 second leg.

“I really like him. He hasn’t won yet, but he’s been kind of knocking at the door,” says Darling. “His last start he scoped sick. He wasn’t as good as I expected so we scoped him after the race and he was pretty plugged up with mucous. We treated him and he trained yesterday (Monday). He trained good and scoped clean.”

The Badlands Hanover gelding, a $95,000 purchase out of the Harrisburg sale, will have regular reinsman Jody Jamieson of Moffat in the race bike.

While Cluster Hanover has failed to live up to Darling’s expectations to date, stablemate Shadowbriand has exceeded them. The Shadow Play gelding won his division of the June 28 season opener and finished second in the second Gold Series leg, putting him in a tie for top spot in the freshman pacing colt division standings with 75 points.

“He’s kind of surprised me,” admits Darling, who paid a relatively modest $10,000 for the half-brother to $700,000 winner Artriverderci at Harrisburg. “He’s a little bit of an overachiever. “He can’t really go with Cluster training, but he’s been the one who has made money. He steps it up when he gets behind the gate.”

Post time for Mohawk Racetrack’s Friday evening program is 7:25 pm, but Ontario Sires Stakes fans will want to arrive at 6:30 pm for an opportunity to meet and have autographs signed by some of the program’s leading drivers. The first 100 people to visit with the drivers will go home with an Ontario Sires Stakes backpack.

The Mid-Summer Challenge Consolations go postward in Races 2 and 3, while the main events are slated as Races 5 and 7, with the fillies going first for both events.

For complete entries.

For up to date point standings, race replays, and more.

Sandra Snyder

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