The excitement level is building this week, heading into Saturday’s Super Finals day at Century Downs. A total of $380,000 will be won by the top 2 and 3 year old Alberta bred pacers in one of the highlight days of the 2018 racing season. All of these horses have had to qualify to be part of the festivities. The qualification period started early in June and lasted through last weekend.
Three of the eligibles raced in the BC Breeders Stakes on Sunday at Fraser Downs and were being brought back to Alberta by driver-trainer, Rod Hennessy on Tuesday. Mrs Suhwiggins finished second behind The Blue Yak in the $100,000 Betty Millbank Memorial for 2 year old fillies. She’s 6th in qualifying for Saturday’s 2 year old championship stake at Century Downs. Custard Light was second and Nice Aint My Color was 5th in the Mary Murphy Stakes for 3 year old fillies and both of them will be on the truck as well. Custard Lite is 4th in the standings for the 3 year old fillies stakes here. Nice Aint My Color is currently 11th but could move up if horses which are ahead of her in qualifying, for whatever reason, do not run in the final. If she doesn’t make the championship race, Nice Aint My Color will be in the consolation final on Saturday.
Everybody else is training and horsemen are doing everything they can to make sure their charges will be ready for Saturday.
Rod Hennessy has spent a lot of time on the road in the past week. He was in Harrisburg, Penn., a week ago to do a little shopping at the annual yearling sale. He came away with Major Mac, a son of Art Major, for $22,000, Glorys Dreamer, a son of Bettors Delight for $16,000, and Alexa’s Queen, a daughter of Roll With Joe for $13,000. They are being trucked west this week, along with a 2 year old called Big Sky Boom, which has been purchased by Century Downs for its racing club in 2019. Century Downs race track superintendent, Don Monkman, made the purchase.
“I got a text from (Century Downs general manager) Paul Ryneveld on Tuesday morning, asking if I was going to the sale,” Monkman told me. By Thursday I had looked at the catalogue and was on my way to Harrisburg – via Denver and Washington because it was the only way to get there in time for the last day. Friday morning, I walked into the sale with an idea to bid on a few horses. This was the one we wound up with.”
“He’s by Somebeachsomewhere out of a Rocknroll Hanover mare, so he’s pretty well bred. He’s had nine starts in Pennsylvania and has paced in 1:55.4. He won his last start on Oct. 31st.”
“And the last two times he’s raced, he was driven by Dexter Dunn,” chimed in racing secretary, Jackson Wittup. “Racing fans here may remember that Dunn was one of the competitors in the world driver’s challenge at Century Downs last June.”
The market place was pretty robust over the five days with more than $53.5 million changing hands. By that standard alone, Alberta horsemen did well to find good horses they could afford.
Alberta-based horsemen found themselves prominently placed on the leaderboard as the Cal-Expo winter harness meet got underway Saturday in Sacramento. Ricky Schneider with Mystery Dragon and Gary Clark with Outlawintriguedbyu came away with victories on the opening night of racing. Clark also had three third place finishes with Got Tone, Rocket Power and Budgie Smuggler. Outlawintriguedbyu beat out another Alberta based horse, Cenalta Artistry, which is owned and trained by Gordon and Helen Empey. The Empeys also collected a second with Cenalta Eclipse and a 4th place share with Cenalta Cougar on opening night.
Next Monday, driver-trainer Nathan Sobey, is off to California with at least 15 head. It will be his first try at California racing but given the success other Alberta horsemen have had their in recent years – people like Rene Goulet and Ryan Grundy – it’s not a surprise that Sobey would want to try his luck on the California circuit.
Meanwhile, Jean-Francois Gagne has moved a number of horses east to a training farm near London Ontario. He’ll campaign his three older mares, Tajmeallover, Watch My Luck and Outlaw Fireball wherever he can find races for them. He’s also taken Outlaw Turn N Burn, Mt Sterling Mafia and Pez Dispenser.
“I’ve been thinking about it for two or three months,” he told me. “It’s all about finding races for the horses and they just can’t get enough starts in Alberta. The only times they race are against each other. So, we’ll try this and see how it goes. London will race four days a week and Mohawk, Flamboro Downs and Georgian are all within driving distance. I’m not sure how long I’ll stay but Marjorie and the boys are with me. I’ve left a couple of hands at home to look after the farm. And, for the moment, I’ve left No Time At All, Pillage N Burn and Pickles on Top at the farm, although I may decide to ship them here when I get settled and see what the racing looks like.”
More on the Lamont-Wyse Stable…
Dave Lamont and Donna Wyse might someday have the same problem Gagne has. Oh to dream! At the end of July they acquired a 4 year old gelding from Calgary breeder, Geoff Martin. All Young Drunk Punk has done since then is pile up eight wins and close to $25,000 in earnings. His most recent outing was Sunday when he won in 1:56.2.
“We got him for $10,000 and we’re having a good time with him,” the owners told me. “He’s out of a good family. He’s by Bettors Delight out of the Badlands Hanover mare, Benear. The mare paced in 1:49.3 and made almost $320,000. She’s had seven foals and three of them have paced in 1:50 or better. So, we’ll race him here as long as we can. Unless the phone rings of course. And at some point, we might need to look at moving him just so he can find races.”
The Lamont-Wyse stable currently has six horses at the races. They scored twice on Sunday with Young Drunk Punk and with Blink and Gone and just missed with Take On Da Boys. And they’ve picked up a 4 year old mare named Hot A Rena. She had been in a number of stables over the course of the summer.
“I really like the look of her,” Lamont told me. “I’m anxious to see what she can do for us.”
Hot A Rena has just two wins and three seconds in 20 starts this season. She’s earned just over $15,000 lifetime at the races. But Lamont is counting on her having something left in the tank.
A big four win day for driver-trainer, Jamie Gray, on Sunday afternoon at Century Downs. It’s another bonus for the hard-working horseman who’s had a good year on the Alberta circuit.
“I think it was three years ago we went a whole season and only had one winner from the horses we owned,” his wife, Shelley, told me. “So, this has been great.”
Gray is leading the way among driver-trainers who are contributing a portion of their earnings this month towards the Veterans Food Bank. Fred Gillis, is matching whatever Gray contributes and is challenging others in the Alberta harness racing family to get involved for a great cause.