This Sunday, June 18th is Father’s Day, and what better way to celebrate than by taking Dad to the races. Century Downs has put together a Father’s Day brunch starting at 12 noon. And ASHA has put together a Legends of Harness Racing event to celebrate the day and the men who have contributed a lot of great memories to the industry. Here’s a list of who’s expected to line up behind the starting gate.
John Baxter – John last drove in a pari-mutuel race in 2014 but you can find him on the racetrack every morning jogging horses. In a career that began in Ontario in 1969, Baxter won 2,301 races in 9.912 drives. His horses earned just over $7.6 million in purses.
Sanford Campbell – the veteran Maritimer won 464 races from 3,377 starts during his days in the bike. Nowadays he confines his driving to morning jogs around the track. He’s having a decent season as a trainer at Century Downs, compiling a 15-8-9 record from 48 starters through Sunday, June 11th. As a trainer he’s won 880 races from 4,925 starters through Sunday.
Bobby Clark – Bobby last toured the Century Downs track on May 24th, 2015, directing First Class Horse to the winner’s circle in the final of the As Promised Pace. All in all, Clark won 1,366 races from 10,595 starters and collected purses of more than $6.9 million.
Fred Gillis – Fred will slip out of his executive director’s chair at the ASHA office to take the reins on the racetrack Sunday. Another prominent driver from the Maritimes, Gillis last drove a competitive race in 2008. His career numbers include 1,570 winners from 13,252 starts. His horses earned more than $8.2 million in purses.
Daryl Litke – Daryl last toured a racetrack in pari-mutuel competition in 2010. During his career, he won 1,288 races from 10,219 starters and piled up better than $4.4 million in purses won.
Don Monkman – Don’s last pari-mutuel drive was at Northlands Park in Edmonton, Dec. 23rd, 2016. And he won that race with Lone Ride for trainer, Shelly Arsenault. Over the years he went behind a starting gate to race, 20,448 times and was first to the finish line in 2,780 of those races.
Joe Ratchford – it’s been awhile since Joe took part in a pari-mutuel race – 1999 in fact. But he hasn’t forgotten what to do when he gets behind the gate, and if he uses one of his own horses, he’ll have a leg up on what to do from a strategy perspective. Joe won 685 races from 5,550 drives during his competitive career in a bike. He’s having a really good 2017 as a trainer with a small stable, posting a 10-6-6 log from 48 starters, through Sunday.
Pat Tracey – Like Joe Ratchford, Tracey’s last pari-mutuel start was awhile ago, 2001 to be exact. Tracey won 30 races from 488 starters.
There won’t be any prizes other than a winner’s circle photo for these guys on Sunday afternoon. But I’d suggest that fans hang in close along the rail as the horses go by the grandstand. There may be some chirping worth hearing! And if there’s a cold beverage involved following the race it’ll be fun to hear how the stories of the past have changed since they were told last year.
Meanwhile at the “real” races…
We’re a couple of weeks away from the resumption of the stakes schedule at Century Downs. The next two features are open stakes for 3 year olds: the Meridian Farms Breeders for the fillies and the Brad Gunn Breeders for colts and geldings. Eliminations are set for June 24th with the finals part of a big Canada Day card of harness racing on July 1st. By the way: first post on Canada Day will be at 5:10 PM with a holiday fireworks display to follow.
It looks like Badlands Palace has re-discovered an interest in competing. The 3 year old daughter of Badlands Hanover, owned by Don Richardson of Cochrane, was a star at 2, posting a 3-5-1 log from 13 starts and building a bankroll of $33,800. But she faded badly during a brief winter campaign at Fraser Downs in Cloverdale BC.
“I don’t know what it was,” Richardson told me on Sunday afternoon. “She just seemed to lose interest in what she was doing. Harold (trainer Harold Haining) has worked hard with her this spring, tinkering with equipment and trying to get her excited about her job. The last few starts she seems to have gotten excited about being a racehorse again.”
Badlands Palace made just her fifth start of the season on Sunday afternoon and made it a winning one with Brandon Campbell in the bike. The duo got to the finish line in a new mark for the horse of 1:57. A smiling Richardson emerged from the winner’s circle to say that Badlands Palace has likely done enough to ensure the entry fee will be paid for the Meridian.
Monday’s card at Century Downs included three of the stars from the Serge Masse stable. Its Eds Idea took on a group of older mares in the opening race of the afternoon and finished second, photo’d out at the wire by 15-1 longshot, Royal Renegade. Still, it was her first start in awhile after she earned a well deserved rest following a busy campaign at Fraser Downs. Same story for 3 year old star, Da Magician, which came up a wee bit short to Jim Marino’s Premium Stock in the 4th race. Da Magician posted a respectable time of 1:53.2 in what is a tune up for the Brad Gunn. Then in the 10th and final race of the day, Masse could do no better than 6th with Last Time to Play, his hope for the Meridian Farm Breeders. Last Time To Play covered the mile in 1:58.2 and again, it was her first start since coming off a rest following the Fraser Downs meet. The race was won by Kelly Hoerdt’s Alexis Princess in 1:57.4. Those two are likely to meet up again in the Meridian eliminations in a couple of weeks.
And Kelly Hoerdt reports his latest acquisition, the 4 year old mare, Senseless Beauty, arrived safely at Bedrock Stables on Monday morning. Once she’s ready to compete, she’ll be a welcome addition to the field of open mares which is going to be a fun class to watch as the summer progresses.
Gary Clark Sidelined…
As usual, the harness racing community pitches in when one of its own needs a helping hand. Driver-trainer Gary Clark went off course with his motorcycle during an outing last week. He’s in hospital with broken ribs and some damage to his spleen. He’s likely to be on the sidelines for a couple of months. Trainer Kyle Howard has taken over stall cleaning duties and Harold Haining and Jamie Gray are helping to keep the Clark horses in training. The Century Downs Racing Club has acquired Clark’s interest in Make Some Smiles which will provide a little cash flow while the veteran recovers. Make Some Smiles most recently competed in the non-winners of 2 level where she finished 5th. Trainer Carl Archibald will take over her conditioning on behalf of the Racing Club.
There was no fault involved in the accident. Clark has been a rider for years and was properly dressed and equipped. It’s just one of those things that can happen when 2 wheels and gravel are involved. Everybody’s hoping his recovery will be rapid and complete.
North America Cup Saturday Night at Mohawk
ASHA President, Blair Corbeil, will be taking a special interest in Saturday night’s 34th edition of the North America Cup at Mohawk Raceway in Campbellville, Ontario.
Ozone Blue Chip finished third in one of last Saturday’s eliminations and qualified for the $1 million final on June 17th. Corbeil shares ownership in the 3 year old colt with Ron Coyne Stables of New Egypt, New Jersey, and with Chris Mazzone of Palm Harbour Florida. Ozone Blue Chip paced the mile in 1:50.1 which included a :27.3 last quarter. Brett Miller was at the controls. The duo finished behind Huntsville (1:49.1) and Classic Pro (1:50) but made the final and now has a chance to add to his bankroll.
Hoerdt’s Work for the Stollery a Success…
No numbers available yet but it was another successful day at Bedrock Stables in Beaumont on behalf of the Stollery Children’s Hospital.
“Lots of familiar faces and lots of new ones,” owner Kelly Hoerdt told me. He and one of his Standardbred owners, Peter Giannakopoulos, have organized the event over the past three years.
“It was an overcast day but our jogging track dried out enough by noon that we were able to take youngsters out in the jog carts,” said Hoerdt. “One little guy jumped in and I asked him if he’d ever done this before. Oh yes, he said. I did it last year and I did it the year before too.”
Some donated silent auction prizes, free pizza, and a day in the country, all for a worthy cause. What could be better!