from the Ontario Sires Stakes
Milton, ON — Two years ago Louis-Philippe Roy watched the Super Finals on television, having made just four starts in the 2016 Ontario Sires Stakes program. On Saturday (Oct. 13), when the very best in the province once again gather at Woodbine Mohawk Park for the C$1.8 million season finale, the reinsman has a starter in all eight races and will be looking to secure his first Lampman Cup title as the program’s leading driver.
“What I find special is that I got a drive in all eight races and all eight horses are from different trainers,” said Roy. “I think it kind of proves how much support I had from all the trainers here in Ontario through the year.”
After a breakout season in 2016 that saw him top the driving ranks at both Rideau Carleton Raceway and Hippodrome Trois-Rivieres and garner the Future Star title at the O’Brien Awards, Roy made the move to the Woodbine Entertainment Group circuit. The move not only served as a rocket-launcher for the Mont-Joli, Quebec native’s career — he would finish 2017 as one of the top three drivers in all of Canada — it gave him the opportunity to drive a wide variety of young horses for the first time since he climbed into a race bike as an 18-year-old on the Quebec Fair Circuit.
“Last year I got a lot of experience because, especially the 2-year-olds, when you start driving them early in the season it’s quite different than the older horse,” explained the now 28-year-old. “So I think last year I got a lot of experience and this year I kind of proved that I adjust my driving style to whatever horses, and whatever are the needs for the horses, especially for their development.”
Last season Roy finished in the top 10 among Ontario Sires Stakes drivers, appearing in 120 races and driving 21 winners, 11 second-place finishers and 13 third-place finishers to earnings of C$777,308. With that experience under his belt, Roy made a serious commitment to the program in 2018, even giving up his spot in the National Driving Championship to steer 3-year-old pacing filly Shower Play in a Sept. 25 Gold Series event, and that dedication has paid off. Heading into Saturday’s season finale the reinsman has made 150 OSS starts and produced 33 wins, 20 seconds, 15 thirds and earnings of C$1,313,507. He sits atop the Lampman Cup race with 372 points, 21 points ahead of two-time winner Trevor Henry and 23 ahead of five-time winner and reigning champion Sylvain Filion.
Among Roy’s Super Final mounts are three division point leaders, freshman pacing filly Better Single, 2-year-old trotting filly HP Titania Runner and 3-year-old pacing colt Jimmy Freight, and six of the eight head into Saturday night’s test off wins in their most recent Gold Series start.
“I will be disappointed if I don’t win one Super Final this weekend because I think I’ve got a lot of good chances, maybe not big favorites, but a lot of horses that can do it,” said Roy, who recently purchased a townhouse in Guelph, Ontario. “So I sure hope to get my first Super Final win on Saturday.”
Jimmy Freight was the heavy favorite in all four of his Gold Series starts this season and that is unlikely to change in spite of the colt’s outside post. Roy will steer the Sportswriter son from post nine for trainer Richard Moreau and owner Adriano Sorella and is hoping the division leader can maintain his flawless record in OSS action.
“I would have liked for sure to be inside of Backstreet Shadow because Yannick (Gingras) raced him on the front I think the four times he drove him,” said Roy of Jimmy Freight’s stablemate, who will start from post five. “Jimmy can do it from wherever, he doesn’t really mind, but it sure is a little more work going from the post nine and trying to figure a trip.”
In addition to Backstreet Shadow and Gingras, Roy expects The Downtown Bus and driver Tim Tetrick to be tough from post four. The driver also anticipates that the C$225,000 contest, slated as race 10 on Saturday’s program, will serve as an impressive closing act for the 2018 OSS season.
“Jimmy Freight, like a few months ago, was, I would say, the king of the division and you couldn’t expect almost anybody to beat him,” said Roy. “But the way The Downtown Bus and Backstreet Shadow have been racing lately I think is going to give us a good show for the last race.”
Roy also expects the 2-year-old pacing colts and trotting colts to serve up an exciting show for fans. With the favorites in both divisions drawing advantageously, the talented youngsters will be free to show off the full range of their skills.
“Stag Party (post one), Bronx Seelster (post five), Bettor’s Wish (post six), they all drew good positions,” said Roy of the freshman pacing colt contest, where he will steer Bettor’s Delight son Keystone Concrete from post three for trainer Rob Fellows, his wife Yolanda Fellows and her co-owners Arpad Szabo and Blair Corbeil.
“Dream Nation, the whole year, has been very good and especially lately, the last two starts. He keeps improving a little bit, but I also know it’s a good class of 2-year-old trotters this year that they have in Ontario,” said the driver of his 2-year-old trotting colt mount, who will start from post four. “And the two other ones that I think are two of the best, Forbidden Trade (post two) and Okeanos (post five), they both drew good too. All of us three drew good, so I think it’s going to be a good race.”
Roy steers Archangel gelding Dream Nation for trainer Jacques Dupont and owners Les Ecuries Dorleans Inc., Ecurie CSL, Gestion C. Levesque 2005inc and Marc Camirand.
Dupont and the owners of 2-year-old trotting filly HP Titania Runner (post five, race six), Claude Hamel and Michel Damphousse, are people that gave Roy opportunities to drive stakes horses when he was still developing his skills on the Quebec Fair Circuit, so a Super Final win with either of those horses would be especially meaningful for the driver.
“They’ve been with me for a longer part; I’ve been racing for them in Quebec in stakes races,” said the reinsman. “All the times you win with, like I would say smaller connections, it makes it a little more, not more exciting, but more rewarding.”
Roy’s other shots at Super Final glory will come with 3-year-old trotting filly Collateral Beauty from post seven in race two, 3-year-old trotting gelding Barney Mac from post seven in the seventh race, and 3-year-old pacing filly Big Thong from post two in race nine. Roy had expected to drive Fan Hanover and Simcoe Stake champion Shower Play in the sophomore pacing filly final, but her connections chose not to enter when she did not train as well as expected earlier this week.
“Rene (Dion) called me on Tuesday morning when it was time to put her in and said he wasn’t going to put her in because she wasn’t exactly how he expected her to be,” explained Roy. “He didn’t want to take any chances. He wanted to make sure she was 100 percent before they race her again.”
In spite of the filly’s absence from his roster of mounts, Roy is hopeful that he will be able to strike ‘Driving a Super Final Champion’ off his bucket list on Saturday.
Woodbine Mohawk Park’s Saturday (Oct. 13) program gets underway at 7:10 p.m. and the eight C$225,000 Super Finals will go postward in races two, three and five through 10.