Friday, 15 March 2024 19:31

Celebrating Harness Racing's Finest: Shark Week, Hennessy, Stout, and Arsenault Among Honorees

Rod Hennessy. Doug Stout. Shelly Arsenault. Shark Week. Scott McGinn…

On and on goes the list of harness racing’s best from last year who were recently honoured just as a new season began this past weekend at Calgary’s Century Downs.

Hennessy was named Horse Person of the Year for the fourth time.

Stout was given the Breeder Award of Recognition.

Arsenault was the Ron McLeod Award winner for her lifetime contributions to Standardbred Racing and her hard work, dedication and passion.

The phenomenal Shark Week was, of course, Horse of the Year.

McGinn, who won 10 times from just 15 starts, was named The Rising Star.

The rest of the individual winners announced last week were all equally deserving.

“I honestly believe I was given the Award because I kept Shark Week in Alberta,” Hennessy said of the sensation who he brought for himself and Lorne Duffield for just $6,000 as a yearling. “I’ve never seen a horse that wants to pace fast like he does.

“Getting this Award was more than just winning races."

Shark Week, who has won 16 races in a row, has now won $348,475.

The only comparable horse in Western Canadian racing history is Keith Clark’s legendary As Promised, who won 17 races in a row in Ontario and 18 in a row in Alberta.

“When you can mention As Promised and Shark Week in the same breath… Well, that’s pretty good,” said Hennessy.

“Shark Week has developed quite a following. There’s even a Shark Week Fan Club and two of their members attended the Awards dinner.

“When he paced in 1:49 2/5 in Calgary on June 3 to become the first horse in history to pace faster than 1:50 in Western Canada that was one of the highlights of my career.

“And to have my son, Mike, driving him that will always be a great memory.”

Given all that Hennessy has accomplished that says a very big mouthful.

After all, Hennessy, 70, has won 1,701 races as a trainer and another 2,831 races as a driver in a 54-year career that started when he was just 16.

“I’ve been around forever.”

In all horses trained by Hennessy have won $16.5 million and $15.7 million as a driver.

“That’s pretty decent out here,” Hennessy understated.

“Another great memory and highlight of my career was when Roarin Snortin paced in 1:59 2/5 in 1980 to become the first two-year-old to pace in under two minutes in Alberta.

“I had a really, really good year last year. I won a lot of races with a lot of different horses,” he said of Shark Week, ByBy Baby ByBy, who was named Alberta’s champion Alberta-bred two-year-old filly, and Blue Star Mercury, who easily won the Western Canada Pacing Derby to name just a few.

Stout’s Breeder Award of Recognition was equally well deserved.

Stout has won 689 races as a driver and 565 races as a trainer.

Moreover, Stout has won $1.2 million as a driver and $3.8 million as a trainer.

“If I had saved all that money I’d be happier but I didn’t,” laughed the personable Stout, who was Alberta’s leading driver several times.

But, as Bret Litke wrote in the Awards Night program there is - as is the case with Hennessy - much more to Stout than just winning races.

“There is another key aspect to Doug Stout's tenure in harness racing that not only adds to this illustrious resume but puts an exclamation mark on it: his work as a breeder,” wrote Litke.

“In fact, it was the breeding aspect of the business where Stout originally got his first taste of harness racing. At a young age, his Father, Mr. Septimus Stout, purchased a broodmare and from there, a lifelong connection to the business was born. Partnered with his Dad, Doug bred a number of quality racers, including two strand-out pupils in Moon Maid and The Hood.”

“Over the decades, Stout has been involved as a partner or as a sole breeder for a star-studded lineup of horses,” wrote Litke. “One of the most fruitful combinations included Stout's partnership with Nealie and Roy Oliver of Nealies Stable, which was a powerhouse breeding stable in the 1970s and 80s. That partnership was responsible for the legendary Nealies Ten Spot.”

“Nealies Ten Spot won the 1989 Nat Christie. He should have won the Derby too but (driver) Jerv Clifton dropped his whip at the top of the stretch. He wound up losing by a nose with Jerv unable to do anything.”

Nealies Ten Spot won just under $400,000.

“In more recent years, Doug has partnered with his son Derek, operating a small but steady breeding operation that is producing great results,” continued Litke. “From his racing stable, Stout has graduated such great racehorses as Baron Josie, Bearcat Josie, Blue Star Beauty, and Jessies Girl into broodmares.

“Those broodmares in turn have started, and will continue, to produce even more quality racehorses in the province.

“The successful results of Stout's re-investment into the breeding side of business are perhaps no more apparent than with Blue Star Beauty. Originally a $2,000 2010 ASHA Yearling Sale purchase, she went on to win $311,108 in 24 wins over 99 starts.

“Upon her retirement from racing, she has produced two stellar foals for the Stout stable, Jessies Girl and Kioti.

“Jessies Girl made $137,828 in her racing career before entering Stout's broodmare ranks, while Kioti became an overnight sensation in 2023, winning 11 of 19 races with a blistering best time of 1:51.1 at Track on 2.

“For his several contributions to the breeding industry of Alberta harness racing over the past 50 plus years, ASHA is extremely proud to present the 2023 Breeder's Recognition to Doug Stout.”

“I guess the oldest guy around should win one of those awards,” said the self-effacing Stout.

“My dad bought a broodmare in foal when I was 16. That was 58 years ago and I’ve been involved in breeding and racing ever since.”

That broodmare was Gail Direct, who produced Moon Maid, who Stout said was the first winner of the Stewart Fraser Memorial.

“She beat Native Stream and Smoky Affair and a bunch of other nice horses,” said Stout.

As for Arsenault, she does a little bit of everything at the track in addition to training an eight-horse stable.

“I do whatever needs to be done to keep the show going,” said Arsenault. “Whatever it takes to get the show ready for the next day.”

“In every backstretch, there's always one person who is ever ready to offer assistance regardless of the situation,” wrote Jocelyn Giesbrecht in the Awards Night program.

“(Shelly) is known for her exceptional work ethic and kind, helpful nature. When she's not tending to her own stable of racehorses, you can find her inspecting horses in the paddock before races, helping collect race numbers, or supporting the race office by diligently coordinating with trainers to finalize their driver selections on entry day.

“Apart from her primary responsibilities in the backstretch Shelly also serves as a dedicated volunteer Board member on the Breeders Committee. From entry day, to race day, and in the committee meetings in between, Shelly’s tireless efforts go a long way into supporting several people in our backstretch and helping our racing product be the best that it can be.”

“My parents - Jim and Helen Zurawel - bought a yearling filly when I was 12,” said Arsenault in a tale similar to Stout’s beginnings.

It wasn’t long before Shelly started going to the track and took a job in the racing office taking entries.

In 2010 she started training working with her partner Don Monkman Jr., a very successful and long time trainer/driver.

The first horse she trained was NF Star Power in 2010. He won 17 races and was second 25 times and third 38 times.

As well as training, she is still working in the race office identifying horses.

Asked what she likes most about horses, Arsenault had the perfect answer: “What’s not to like?”

As for horse racing itself Arsenault said “You are always chasing the next good one. There’s always something exciting and new every day.”

Arsenault and Monkman have had several ‘next good ones.’

“The best horse I took care of was Momas Son Byrne,” she said of the horse that is still racing in Ontario after being sold in 2022.

Momas Son Byrne has won 18 races and $289,515. He has won in 1:49.

“Don and I broke, raised and foaled him.”

Then there is Balanchine, who won just under $800,000 while winning 62 of 285 races.

Racing until 2016, Balanchine was brought to Alberta by Monkman as a yearling in 2005.

“He was a very nice horse,” said Arsenault, of the horse who won the Premiers’ stake as a two-year-old and then captured the $84,000 Silver Bucket Stake in 2007 pacing in 1:53 2/5.

Then, like Momas Son Byrne, he too was sold.

Arsenault said she was surprised to win the Ron McLeod Award.

“I’m not at all about limelight. But I have to say it made me feel good.”

Arsenault and Monkman have three broodmares, who are all ready to produce babies in about a month.

She also has a two-year-old half brother to Momas Son Byrne - Momas Work of Art that she is high on.

“He looks good,” said Arsenault hopefully.

As for the other award winners ByBy Baby Bye was voted the Champion Alberta-sired Two-Year-Old filly; Outlaw Guns N Roses was named Champion Open Two-Year-Old filly.

Those two engaged in some of the best duels of the year including one of the races of the year when they battled down the entire stretch with the lead exchanging hands three times with ByBy Baby ByBy winning in the final strides in a race that went in a two-year-old filly track record of 1:52 2/5.

The Two-Year-Old colt or gelding Champion was a tie between Come On Santana and Grey Horizon. Both won five of their eight starts.

They too had some epic clashes including the Super Finals where Come On Santana won by a length and a quarter.

G TS Skyla was the Three-Year-Old Filly Champion winning six in a row and 10 of her 15 starts including the $80,000 Shirley McClellan, the $100,000 Gord and Ila Rumpel and the $55,100 Princess.

Virtual Horizon was the Champion Three-Year-Old colt or gelding Champion with 13 wins - all consecutive - in 16 appearances including the $114,250 Ralph Klein, $90,000 Moores Mile, the $56,000 Plainsman, $59,000 Marksman and $59,000 Maverick.

The only thing that probably kept him from winning the Western Canada Pacing Derby was when he drew the outside eighth post position.

The Champion Aged Mare went to Stash the Cookies, who won eight of her 25 outings.

The Champion Claiming Filly or Mare was Metaki, who was in the top three in 24 of her 30 starts; the Champion Claiming Colt or Gelding was Captain Fireball, who won half of his 24 starts.

Brandon Campbell was once again the Champion Trainer and Driver.

Jodi Loftus, George Rogers and Raymond Henry were Owners of the Year.

Meridian Farms and Bill and Denise Andrew were Breeders of the Year.

Emma LaForce was named Caretaker of the Year.

The Fastest Boy was, of course, Shark Week. The Fastest Girl was Daisy Corvette, who paced in 1:51 4/5.

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Read 3022 times Last modified on Friday, 15 March 2024 19:40
More in this category: « 2024 ASHA Awards Night Winners