Harness racing brothers Benoit and Mario Baillargeon qualified two sophomore trotting fillies for this Friday's Gold Final at Western Fair Raceway, and Mario says both fillies have a legitimate shot at carrying home a share of the $130,000 purse.
“They’re both real nice fillies,” says Baillargeon, who piloted both Pretty Crafty and Oh Sweet Baby in their respective eliminations. “I think Oh Sweet Baby is the better one right now, but they’re both well-mannered fillies and they should both get some money.”
The elder Baillargeon selected elimination winner Oh Sweet Baby as his mount for the Gold Final, handing the drive on Pretty Crafty over to Sylvain Filion. Filion will steer Pretty Crafty from Post 6, while Oh Sweet Baby gets the trailing Post 8.
“It’s not really a good post, but I think Sylvain Filion will drive her and he drove her last year so that’s a plus right there; he knows the filly a little bit from last year,” says Baillargeon of Pretty Crafty, who is owned by Richard Thompson and Robert Watson of London and Mike Bartram of Ingersoll, ON.
“He probably drove the filly more often than me. Last year I never sat behind her and this year I qualified her and raced her twice, so he probably knows more about her than I do, and he knows what he’s doing,” adds the Milton, ON resident. “I think the trick is to put her right on the gate and after that she’s pretty honest. She’ll probably come from off the pace this week, but I think she’ll get some money.”
Pretty Crafty arrived in Benoit Baillargeon’s barn after her former trainer Darren McCall returned to his native Australia in January. The conditioner qualified thedaughter on May 2 and gave her one prep race before last week’s Gold Elimination. Starting from Post 1 last week, Pretty Crafty delivered a steady effort to finish second to Lukes Sophie in a 1:59.1 clocking.
Oh Sweet Baby also benefited from Post 1 in her elimination, sailing along on the front end to a 2:01.2 triumph. Baillargeon was pleased with thedaughter’s effort in her first sophomore start and expects her to be a key player on the provincial scene this summer.
“I wish Oh Sweet Baby had maybe another start under her belt, we only have one qualifier and one race, but the fractions were good for her last week and she come home in 29 seconds, which is a very good quarter in London,” notes the reinsman. “She’ll probably be a little better this week, but I think you’ll see the real Oh Sweet Baby in about three weeks or a month; in a month’s time she’ll be at her peak. We’re expecting a lot from her this year.”
Richard Berthiaume of Pointe-Aux-Trembles, QC owns Oh Sweet Baby, who captured the season ending Super Final in her freshman campaign and earned $243,530.
Oh Sweet Baby will follow Lukes Sophie away from the starting gate in Friday’s fifth race, with the other elimination winner, Extraordinaire, getting Post 4.
The trotting fillies will battle in the first of two $130,000 Gold Finals on Western Fair Raceway’s Friday evening program, with the provincial stakes stars warming up the London crowd for the track’s signature race, the $300,000 Molson Pace in Race 10. The other Gold Final features the lightning fast sophomore pacing fillies, and goes postward as Race 9.
Elimination winners Village Janus and Camille will line up from Posts 3 and 5 respectively, with both fillies looking for their first Gold Final title. Last season Village Janus captured the Battle of the Belles Final at Grand River Raceway, but could not find her way to the winner’s circle in Gold Series action, while Camille concentrated on the Grassroots program, capturing the year-end championship at Western Fair in October.
Trainer Rodney Duford of Essex and owner-breeder Larry Pollard of Harrow, ON tested Camille in stakes company at Woodbine Racetrack in early May and the filly’s 1:52.4 victory in the Princess Series Final convinced them she was ready to step up to the Gold Series level.
“We thought — when we were looking up the stake schedule there — that we needed a place to start her out and so we put her in the Princess,” recalls Duford. “We thought, we’ll see how she comes out of that which way we go (Gold or Grassroots). She won the Princess so I guess she made up our mind for us.”
Duford says that the full sister to $1.5 million winner Chancey Lady is the ultimate professional, spending all her time eating and sleeping, and notes that a child could put the daughter ofand Art Of Design through her paces.
“She’s kind of a boring thing to have in the barn. We always kind of laugh about it, because she never does anything, just eats and sleeps,” he says with a chuckle.
Duford expects the early pace to be lively on Friday, and hopes driver Jason Brewer can carve out a come from behind trip for Camille. In addition to Village Janus, the inner half of the starting gate also boasts former Gold Final winners Monkey On My Wheel from Post 1 and Lauren from the trailing Post 8.
Western Fair Raceway’s May 27 program gets under way at 7:05 pm, with an outstanding line up of racing highlighted by four City of London Series Finals, two Gold Finals and capped off by the $300,000 Molson Pace.