There is no more devoted fan of the sport of thoroughbred racing than Calgary businessman, Don Danard. It is a rare day that you don’t find Don and his wife, Susan, at the races. So where were they on Monday afternoon when a horse in which Don has a half interest was running in one of the richest races of the season? Why, in California of course. For a wedding, apparently. Good for them.
“Actually, I think Don was in Las Vegas,” trainer, Mel Snow, told me. “I know he planned to watch the race so I expect to hear from him shortly. He really wanted to see the horse run in Alberta so we came over and gave him a chance.”
What he would have seen was a good solid showing by the 4 year old BC-bred, Driller. Ridden by Sheldon Rodrigo, the son of Texas Wildcatter made a strong move on the final turn and came home ahead of Alberta-owned, Sir Bronx. Hey Bro, Don Schnell’s fine 6 year old from Winnipeg was third.
“I was really concerned about the muddy track, but he handled it fine. The track crew did a great job under difficult circumstances to create a good racing surface. Sheldon had him close to the pace heading into the clubhouse turn which is right where I wanted to be. I knew when Sheldon asked him for more heading into the final turn that he had a good chance to win it.”
“It’s what’s made this a great race,” said Bob Cramer, head of the Alberta Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association (ATOBA). Three horses, one from BC, one from Alberta, and one from Manitoba, putting on a show for a good purse. Even on a cold day, we drew a good crowd.”
“I raised this horse, he’s a homebred,” Snow told me. “I had had a couple of horses with Don over the years. When Driller was still a yearling, I phoned Don and told him, this guy’s an athlete. That’s all Don needed to hear to take a half interest.”
Driller now has five career wins from twenty lifetime starts. It’s his second win this season in what is likely to be his last start of the season.
“There’s really nothing else for him now,” Snow told me. “We’ll turn him out and let him have a good rest. He’s earned it.”
The supporting feature on the Thanksgiving Monday card was the second running of the Lynn Chouinard Founders Distaff. Escape Clause made it look easy over a muddy track, winning what is likely to be her only start at Century Downs. The 4 year old Manitoba-bred was much the best against nine challengers. It was her seventh consecutive win and some of the other trainers who watched, were nodding their heads in approval.
“She’s a special horse,” trainer, Donnie Schnell, told me. “It doesn’t matter what the track is like, she just goes out and does her thing. I’m very lucky to have had the chance to train one horse like this in my career.”
“The one thing I’d like to do is take her to Santa Anita and run her at a little longer distance. Not against the best there, but against a good field. I think she’d do pretty well at a mile and a sixteenth, or perhaps a little longer. It’s one of those things, I’d just like to know.”
It can’t be ruled out. The Schnell stable is headed for Phoenix at the end of the Century Downs meet and it’s not that far a ship from Phoenix to Los Angeles.
Escape Clause added $30,000 to her bank roll and now has earned better than $346,000. And she’s only a 4 year old. She’s won 16 of 23 lifetime starts, giving further emphasis to Schnell’s claim that she is, perhaps, the best horse he’s ever trained.
The CTHS Sales Stakes for 2 year olds led off the holiday cards of activities on Sunday afternoon. Notice, a 2 year old filly by Stephanotis, was much the best in her race against six challengers. With Rigo Sarmiento aboard, she drew off to win by 11 lengths in 1:27.3 for the 7 furlong distance.
“That’s her second Sales Stakes win,” said a smiling Mark Cloutier, who trains the talented filly for owner Ole Nielsen. She won the BC Sales Stakes at Hastings Park back on August 24th. We took the blinkers off her and I think it’s helped her to relax. She’s not very big but she’s a racehorse. That’s her third win to go along with two seconds in six lifetime starts. She’s nearing $100,000 in earnings already. So she’s earned a rest and I think the plan is to take her home and turn her out.”
The colt race was won by another BC-bred, Purple Storm, who made the day an adventure with his free-spirited attitude. He tried to sit down in the gate, which meant the field of nine had to reload before the race could start. Once the gates opened, he took his time getting himself going before taking an interest in what was going on as the field moved down the backstretch. Then he showed his talent, going five-wide at one point before drawing off to win by two lengths.
“I had to work for that one,” jockey Rico Walcott, told trainer, Tim Rycroft in the winner’s circle.
“We’ve got a few things to work on with this one,” Rycroft told me. Craig MacPherson has done most of the early training with this horse because he’s been on the west coast. Craig’s done a good job with him. But we need to see if we can get his attention a little earlier than he showed today.”
The colt is owned by Norm Castiglione and Robert Vargo’s Riversedge Racing Stables of Okotoks. “Both trainers have really worked hard to bring this colt along,” Norm Castiglione told me. “We’ve got a lot of horses spread between Tim’s operation here in Alberta and Craig’s stable at Hastings Park. I’m really pleased with the communication that goes on between them. It’s the way you hope things will work but I’ve learned never to take it for granted.”
“We schooled this horse in the gate all week to work on his behavior. But it’s only his second lifetime start, so obviously, the lessons haven’t all sunk in yet. We’ve got some options for the Canadian Juvenile on the final day of this meet at the end of the month. Maybe we should think about putting him in that race and keep working on some of these lessons he needs to learn.”
Earlier on the Sunday card, the trials for the Canadian Quarter Horse Cup Derby were held. Jd Wagon Boss, owned and trained by Buckey Stockwell, led the first qualifier in 20.925 seconds for the 400 yard sprint.
“I got this guy privately from a breeder in Oklahoma because I’ve had other members of this same family and I’ve always liked them,” Stockwell told me, before hurrying off to saddle Walters Cartel for the second qualifier. He got to the paddock just in time to see Walters Cartel get away from the pony boy and run his own race, a complete gallop of the Century Downs racetrack.
“The vet examined him and pronounced him fine,” said Stockwell, “other than being a little winded. So, we were allowed to run him in the elimination.”
Walters Cartel wound up sixth behind the winner, Bringonthewave. This one had won the Alberta bred Derby back on Sept. 22nd. He’s got a chance for another big payday when the top ten quarter horses come back to race in the final of the Canadian Quarter Horse Cup Derby on Oct. 22nd.
From the Sales Ring…
Edmonton businessman, Blair Corbeil, was an active participant at this year’s Lexington Select Yearling Sale for harness horses in Kentucky. He came away with six head, five of them colts by Captaintreacherous, Bettors Delight, Sportswriter and Muscle Mass. The filly, Southwind Bayou, is by Sportswriter. It’s not clear at this point if any of them are coming back to Alberta. Prices ranged from 16,000 to 33,000 for the six new additions to the Corbeil racing operation. There were more than 100 horses sold as well in the mixed sale, although none of them went to Alberta buyers. Sometimes, thse sales produce new breeding stock for the province. We’ll see what happens at the London Ontario sale next week and at the big Harrisburg sale in Pennsylvania the first week in November.
Just 3 weekends of racing left on the Century Downs calendar for the thoroughbreds and quarter horses. Racing resumes on Saturday afternoon with the first post at 1:15 PM.