Day At The Track

Pacing fillies wrap up their regular season

04:16 AM 13 Sep 2011 NZST
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Ontario Sires Stakes

With 125 points earned through her first four Grassroots harness racing starts, Angel On The Wing has already assured herself of a berth in the post season, but trainer Larry Fitzsimmons would love to see the three-year-old pacing filly wrap up the regular season on a high note this Thursday at Hiawatha Horse Park.

Angel On The Wing captured her first two Grassroots starts, in a personal best 1:54.3 at Mohawk Racetrack in the May 23 season opener and a 1:56.3 effort at Grand River Raceway on June 15, but faltered in her July 30 provincial outing at Georgian Downs when she suffered a bout of tying up, or azoturia, which is characterized by stiffness in the hindquarters and decreased performance.

“She got tying up on me there a couple of starts,” explains Fitzsimmons. “In July there, when it was so hot, she’d get hyper and tie up.”

Once cooler weather arrived Angel On The Wing’s symptoms seemed to ease, and Fitzsimmons is hoping she can finish up her Ontario Sires Stakes career without another bout. The daughter of Bo Knows Jate heads into Thursday’s start off a runner-up showing in Grassroots action at Clinton Raceway on Sept. 4.

Through 27 sophomore starts Angel On The Wing has posted a total of seven wins, five seconds and five thirds for earnings of $63,699, and Fitzsimmons says the daughter of his former race mare Angels Uprising — a winner of $309,187 in her five year career — knows what her job is when she arrives at the racetrack.

“She’s a really, really nice-mannered mare,” says the London resident, who conditions the homebred filly for his wife Linda Fitzsimmons of London, William Coward of Turkey Point and Richard Dalby of Tillsonburg. “She can get a little bit hyper on the track. She can leave fast, but you’re better off coming from behind.”

Fitzsimmon’s grandson Nicholas Steward will steer Angel On The Wing from Post 6 in Thursday’s ninth race, as he has for most of her starts this season, and the veteran horseman says the young reinsman has done a creditable job handling the filly.

“My grandson Nick drives her most of the time,” notes Fitzsimmons. “He’s still only 20, he started driving when he was 18, and he really has been doing good.”

Among the horses Steward and Angel On The Wing will face in Thursday’s ninth race are division leader Epoxy Queen, who will be handicapped by the outside Post 9, third-ranked Montenegro from Post 2, and Kin Pace Champion Chappies Girl from Post 5.

Steward and Angel On The Wing will be looking for a solid outing to set them up for the Sept. 24 Grassroots Semifinals at Mohawk Racetrack. The top 20 point earners will compete in two $30,000 Semifinals, with the top five finishers from each Semifinal returning to the Campbellville oval for the Oct. 1 Championship.

Once her Grassroots season comes to an end, Angel On The Wing will enjoy a well-deserved vacation and, if all goes well, follow a trail blazed by her mother over a decade ago.

“I’ll turn her out for at least six weeks, try to keep her fresh, and then maybe race her in January or February,” explains Fitzsimmons. “Her mother won the Damsel, she raced in the Sires Stakes and then we got her ready for the Damsel, and hopefully we can do the same thing with this filly.”

Angel On The Wing and her peers will wrap up their regular season in Races 4, 6, 8, 9, and 11 at Hiawatha Horse Park on Thursday evening, with the Sarnia oval’s first race rolling in behind the starting gate at 6:30 pm.

Thursday’s program is the final opportunity for Sarnia fans to qualify for the Ontario Sires Stakes (OSS) program’s Win The Thrill contest. By entering a ballot in the designated Win The Thrill race on Thursday, fans can win a Hiawatha Horse Park betting voucher and a shot at the Grand Prize — a share in the Standardbred Breeders of Ontario Association’s (SBOA) New Owner Mentoring Program.

The Grand Prize winner will be drawn during the Oct. 1 Grassroots Championships at Mohawk Racetrack and will join eight other group members, and owner-mentor Brian Webster, in the purchase and ownership of an Ontario-sired yearling that will be trained by Tony O’Sullivan in hopes of competing in the 2012-2013 OSS campaign.

More information about the Win The Thrill contest and the SBOA New Owner Mentoring program is available at www.ontariosiresstakes.com and www.standardbredbreeders.com. Ballots and details are available in the official Hiawatha Horse Park program.

Sandra SNYDER

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