Three-year-old trotting filly Springtimeinalaska is one of those horses that make trainers abandon their craft in favour of more soothing pursuits.
In spite of showing brilliance on the training track at Kevin Davidson and Catherine Stewart’s farm in Carp, the filly has been reluctant to share her gifts with harness racing fans at Rideau Carleton Raceway. The Ontario Sires Stakes Grassroots program arrives at Rideau Carleton on Friday, July 6 and while Davidson and Stewart believe Springtimeinalaska has the ability to compete against the province’s top fillies, they were reluctant to fork over the $500 starting fee to test their theory.
“We’re kind of going race by race, we decided whatever she did last Friday, if she raced good, because it was here in Rideau we would go into it, but if she misbehaved again then we wouldn’t bother,” explains Stewart. “We told her, ‘You have to make your starting fee. If you make your starting fee you can go in it, if you don’t…’”
Springtimeinalaska must have decided she wanted to take a run at her Ontario Sires Stakes peers, because the fractious youngster delivered a solid 2:01.4 victory in an overnight event at Rideau Carleton on June 29. Although the filly earned $3,500, more than enough to cover her starting fee in this Friday’s Grassroots contest, it was another frustrating moment for Davidson and Stewart, coming as it did on the heels of a race that saw Springtimeinalaska forced to pull up and return to the barn.
“She’s very moody. We tried a special bit on her and she didn’t like the bit; that was the night that she pulled up and came back,” says Stewart of the filly’s aborted June 15 start.
“She was driving Kevin nuts and he sent her to my son Chance Stewart and Chance played around with her for a while and he got her her first win,” Stewart continues.
“She was doing good, and then of course everyone was, ‘Oh she needs this special bit.’ So they went and bought this special bit for her and she showed them what she thought of the bit.”
Springtimeinalaska scored her first win over the Rideau oval on June 1, traveling over a track rated two seconds slower than normal in 2:03.4. Lifetime, the homebred daughter of Angus Hall and $353,696 winner North To Alaska now boasts a record of two wins, three seconds and three thirds in 20 starts, for earnings of $15,604.
Friday’s test will be the filly’s first in the Ontario Sires Stakes program and regular driver Denis St. Pierre will send her after a share of the $24,000 Grassroots purse from post five in the fifth race. Stewart has no idea how the filly will perform, but she and Davidson are committed to their race-by-race strategy for the remainder of the season.
“I think that the next one is at Mohawk, which is a nice track, and we thought we’d like to see her at Mohawk, but I don’t know if we’d take her to the other little tracks,” Stewart explains. “We’re hoping she does well and then maybe make it to Mohawk at least, and then after that we’ll have to decide.”
Stewart and Davidson are familiar with the Mohawk oval, having made their home close to the Woodbine Entertainment Group circuit a decade ago, and Stewart notes that they used to have good success shipping into Rideau Carleton for Ontario Sires Stakes events. Springtimeinalaska’s mother North To Alaska captured a Trillium Series division at Rideau Carleton in 2002 and her then stablemate Incredible Iam won a Gold Final at the Ottawa oval in 2003.
“Years ago when we lived in Toronto, when we came up for a stake race, my whole family is all from the area and they all used to come. Even if they weren’t horse people, they would come to see us, and we did very well, like North To Alaska won here and we had a horse named Incredible Iam, and she won here, so maybe they should all come,” says Stewart with a laugh.
Whether her cheering section is large or small, Stewart and Davidson are hoping Springtimeinalaska arrives at Rideau Carleton ready for battle on Friday.
The three-year-old trotting fillies will open Rideau Carleton Raceway’s Friday evening program in the first race at 6:30 pm. The other Grassroots divisions will go postward as races three, five, seven, nine, 11 and 13.