The pacers are tuned up, the weather is finally warming up, and it’s time to launch the 2018 stakes calendar for harness racing at Century Downs. The program begins this coming weekend with the Moores Mile for 3 year old fillies on Saturday and the inaugural Norm Kennedy Memorial for 3 year old colts and geldings on Sunday. Both are open stakes. The owners of 27 colts and geldings and of 19 fillies have made the payments to keep their horses eligible. Each race carries a $40,000 purse, although that money will be split if enough entries on Wednesday require one or the other of the races to be run in divisions.
While Mother’s Day is Sunday, it will be the boys who run that day. The fillies will get their turn on Saturday afternoon. A bunch of them took the opportunity for a trial run this past Saturday. Kelly Hoerdt finished third with Blue Grotto against older mares in Saturday’s opener, then scored with Cuzdmagicdragon in a field full of Moore’s Mile eligibles in the 7th race. He had both of them listed as probables for this Saturday.
Ginger Beer, which is co-owned by Keith Clark, John Hind, and Doris McDougall, won the 6th race, in which five fillies eligible for the Moore’s Mile took part. Hot Kiss was the runner-up, giving the Hoerdt barn a possible three entries in the Moore’s Mile. The harder questions will have to be addressed by the trainers of those horses that didn’t make the board. Was it a bad race, on what was a really nice afternoon in Balzac? Have they shown enough this season that they deserve another shot? Or are they just not quite ready for prime time?
No Mo Fo Jo finished second to Cusdmagicdragon and trainer, Nathan Sobey, says she will be in the Moore’s. “She was a $45,000 buy out of the Harrisburg sale in November of 2016,” Sobey told me. Diane Bertrand bought her out of an auction in Ontario last November, and sent her to Fraser Downs. She made six starts there, including a win in an elimination of the Penny Bath Memorial. She got parked 3-wide in the first half of the final which went in a scorching :55.4. No horse could keep up that pace, especially on the outside, and she dropped back. But we certainly think she’s good enough to be in the Moore’s field.”
You Talk Too Much and Maid in Alberta finished third and fourth behind No Mo Fo Joe and just in front of Bearcat Josi, which earned a cheque by finishing fifth. It was her first start of the season for owner Derek Stout and trainer Doug Stout, She has not raced since finishing third in the Super Finals for 2 year old fillies last October at Northlands Park in Edmonton.
“She had a good year last year,” said trainer Doug Stout, of the pacer which posted a 4-1-2 record in 8 starts and cashed cheques worth $54,627. “I’ve had some good luck with members of the family. I raced her mother, Barona Josi and she was pretty good as a 2 year old in her day. She managed to overcome a broken sesamoid bone. Then at 3, she had a spiral fracture in one leg and that pretty much ended her racing career. But she’s walking good today and she’s become a good broodmare for me. I’ve gotten four foals out of her, all by Mystery Chase. They’re all fillies. I told Jim Rhodes, the breeder, to turn the mare and the sire around next time as I’d like a colt, just for a change. Maybe point them in a different direction and see if that helps!!!” When the laughter died out, Stout told me he’s booked an appointment with Barona Josi for Mystician this spring.
On the boys’ side, Outlaw True Grit was an also eligible from the Rod Starkewski shed row but did not start on Sunday afternoon. That means he’ll have had a bit of a rest before the Kennedy, although that wasn’t the original plan. Still, it might work out just fine. The challenge for Kennedy hopefuls is an Ontario-bred named Boiling Oar. He shipped in from Fraser Downs following an impressive showing in winning the Keith Linton final in 1:55 (closing quarter :28) on April 13th. He has not raced since. The gelding, which is owned by Richard Manes’ JJJ Stables out of Prince George BC, is three for three with $62,500 made so far this year.
“If he races well here, we might look to move him to Ontario and try him in the Ontario Sire Stakes,” trainer, Jim Marino, told me. “Otherwise we’ll probably keep him here for the open stakes on the Century Downs calendar.”
Marino’s participation in next week’s program is up in the air at the moment. He was shaken up in Sunday’s second race when his horse, Sooters Blues went down on the final turn. The report was a sore knee and a cut on his chin.
The two races of note on the Sunday program were Race 3, with six Kennedy eligibles and Race 5 with five eligibles. Gonna Funku Up (trainer Rod Starkewski), and Mortgage My Villa (Nathan Sobey) finished one-two. Peace Out Posse (Kelly Hoerdt) was fourth, Flood Zone (Keith Clark) was eighth and Spikes Revenge (Dave Lamont) was sixth. Jet Juice broke stride off the gate and will have to go through qualifying, so he won’t be a starter in the Kennedy. The rule is a horse has to be qualified to race before it can be entered in a race. Entry takes place on Wednesday morning and the next scheduled qualifier is not until noon on Saturday.
In Race 5, Cheddar Jack (Rod Hennessy) gave a fine performance in winning in 1:55. Freedoms Rescue (Glen Lutz) finished second. Those two, for sure, are headed to the entry box for the Kennedy. Keith Clark has It’s a Great White which finished fourth and is a likely starter next Sunday. Shaker Tank (Dan Sifert) is another possible, although he was seventh on Sunday. Hennessy had hoped for more from Marlons Magic which finished ninth in Race 5. So, that will be one of those decisions by the veteran trainer, who must decide if his horse is better than he showed on Sunday afternoon.
And there were a couple of other Kennedy eligibles in Race 8. Custards Laststand might give the Hoerdt stable another contender. He was in the winner’s circle after a 1:56.2 trip around the track. Workin Them Angels finished third, just two lengths off the lead for trainer, Blaine Chappell.
At any rate, it looks like a good start to the stakes schedule this coming weekend. And with a chance to tour the barns starting at 11 AM on Saturday and with Mother’s Day to be celebrated on Sunday, it would seem that Century Downs is the place to be for the whole family.
“I thought I was retired…”
That’s what Sanford Campbell had to say when I visited with him early Sunday afternoon. The 66 year old Maritimer is the youngest boy in a family of ten children. He got into racing as a youngster, raced in the Maritimes and in Maine and New York, before coming back to Sackville Nova Scotia. Along the way he dabbled as a restauranteur. He reportedly makes a mean bowl of chowder. In October of 1980, he moved west to Alberta. He’s lost track of how many miles he’s jogged over the years, but he has not lost either his love for the sport or his willingness to get up early to get at the chores.
I was up at the farm at 4:45 this morning,” he told me. “It was so quiet and so beautiful as the sun came up. I’ve taken on more chores since my son, Brandon, stepped back from the business in the fall. But my daughter, Amber, helps out on the weekends and I’ve got a really good assistant in Thomas Miller. We’ve got about ten horses racing at the moment, although all the stalls I have at the farm are full. I’ve been fortunate to have three or four good owners who give me good stock to work with. After that, it’s all about putting them into the right races where they have a chance to win.”
Campbell has been doing that very well this spring. Through Sunday, he has a 13-6-6 record from 39 starters. He’s the leading trainer on the grounds. His most recent win came in the final race on Sunday when Tim Hurtins scored from Post 9 with Jamie Gray at the controls. It was Gray’s third win of the afternoon. Kelly Hoerdt actually drove four winners on Sunday, so if he can keep up that pace, he’s got a shot to be in the regional driver’s challenge. Dave Kelly continues to lead the driver’s standings with 17 victories and that’s a number and a name to watch as we get a little closer to Sunday, June 10th. That’s the final day to qualify before drivers are selected to compete on behalf of Century Downs in the west regional driver’s challenge to be staged on June 23rd.
Stollery Day at Bedrock…
Kelly Hoerdt and Peter Giannakopoulos have announced that Sunday, June 10th, will be their day to honour and raise funds for the Stollery Children’s Hospital of Edmonton.
“We had more than 1,000 at the farm in Beaumont last year,” Hoerdt told me. It’s wonderful for those children and their parents who can get away from the hospital for a couple of hours and join us. It’s been Peter’s project. I just supply the venue. His restaurant caters all the food. A lot of horsemen come by to help out and we get good support from the local teams for raffle items. All we need is some good weather.”
If you’ve never been to Bedrock, I can attest that there is lots to see. If you’re looking for something for the family to do that day, you could not do better – and you’d be helping a good cause. The fun starts at 10 o’clock.
After a few weeks away from racing to tend to his ailing father, Tyler Redwood was back in the bike on the weekend. He showed up at Century Downs early Friday morning, caught a few catch drives and picked up wins with Take On Da Boys on Saturday and with Starface on Sunday. Dad, by the way, is making slow but steady progress in his recovery. He was well enough to visit the backstretch on Saturday afternoon. “It’s like a tonic for him,” his son told me. “I’m happy to be back after a winter at Fraser Downs. I haven’t got any horses of my own, right now, so I’ll just catch drive and do some shoeing. I didn’t want to take on any horses because I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do the work they need and deserve.”…..Kelly Hoerdt had the quickest trip of the season so far, when he guided Appelate into the winner’s circle in Sunday’s first race in a snappy 1:53.3.