Well, the stage is just about set for the final weekend of thoroughbred racing for the season at Century Downs in Balzac. We’ll find out Thursday morning about the starting fields for the two stakes races on Sunday. It’ll be the youngsters in the spotlight with the 2 year old fillies competing in the $75,000 Freedom of the City. The 2 year old colts and geldings will get their turn in the $75,000 Canadian Juvenile.
A dozen fillies are nominated for the Freedom of the City. The backstretch chatter over the past week has been about Summerland. Owned by George Gilbert of Vancouver and trained by Philip Hall, the daughter of He’s Tops – Otero – Honour and Glory has four wins from five career starts and earnings of $85,709. Her only blemish came at Del Mar in California when she finished well back in the Gr. 2 Sorrento Stakes on August 5th. But she came back from that to win the Fantasy Stakes at Hastings Park in Vancouver on August 29th. All four of her wins to date have been at Hastings.
She will certainly be a good challenge for her competitors. Among them is likely to be Foolish Blue Moon, one of the stars of Riversedge Racing Stables, which has had a terrific fall at Century Downs. The 2 year old Alberta-bred daughter of Cape Canaveral – These Foolish Things - Captain Blodgit has never missed the board in five lifetime starts. Her only win has come in a maiden special weight and she’s finished third in each of her last two starts, the Sturgeon River on Sept. 16th and the CTHS Sales Stake on Oct. 7th.
A more intriguing challenger might be Notice, Ole Nielsen’s filly, which has spent much of the summer dominating the BC-bred 2 year old filly class at Hastings Park. Notice and Summerland have never met on the racetrack, since Summerland is a Kentucky-bred and, therefore, has not been eligible for the restricted stakes events. Notice counts both the BC and Alberta CTHS Stakes among her three wins and while she’s earned more than $74,000 in six lifetime starts, Summerland would likely be the toughest challenger she has ever faced.
Trainer Greg Tracy is likely to send out Im Evin Im Leavin for owners Wayne Bakke and Nathan and Jodee Hoovestal. The filly was third in the Birdcatcher Stakes at Northlands Park on August 18th and is coming off her first career win in a maiden special weight at Century Downs on Sept. 29th. And we may see Mixed Media in the starting field as well. Al Pitchko’s maiden filly has two seconds and three thirds in six lifetime starts. The Alberta-bred is trained by Rod Cone and is coming off a runner-up share in the CTHS Sales Stakes on Oct. 7th.
The Canadian Juvenile drew fifteen nominations, so racing secretary, Tim Lawson, will have to watch the entry box on Thursday morning because only twelve horses can start. You can bet that Riversedge will be represented with either Smarty River Pants or Purple Storm, or, perhaps both. Smarty River Pants has been a star this season, winning all four of his outings, including the Birdcatcher and the Princess Margaret Stakes in Edmonton and the Premier’s Futurity in his most recent test at Century Downs on Sept. 16th.
Greg Tracy has Thatsafactjack nominated for the ownership trio of Wayne Bakke, Jill Lindell and Nathan Hoines. He’s also prepared to saddle Alberta Bound, which is owned by the Highfield Investment Group. Thatsafactjack was second to Smarty River Pants in the Princess Margaret but has not raced in two months.
Vancouver businessman, Peter Redekop rarely sends anything less than a contender to an Alberta Stake. He’s got Aleutian Harbour in the care of trainer Philip Hall. The BC-bred maiden has not been better than third against west coast competition this year. His best result was in the BC CTHS Sale Stake back in August.
Trainer Rod Cone has nominated Canaveral Bay for owner, Dylan Heppner and Dictionary for Al Pitchko. Traditionally, the fun part of seeing what takes place in the Canadian Juvenile is that it gives the punters an early look at how the 3 year old season might unfold. We’ll see if that’s the case again Sunday.
CTHS Sales Stakes for 3 & 4 Year 0lds…
Riversedge continued its strong season when Strate Remark came through to win the CTHS Sales Stakes for the boys on a beautiful Sunday afternoon at Century Downs. Leader rider, Rico Walcott, steered the winner home to complete his own personal hattrick for the day. The BC-bred Strate Remark earned his second CTHS title of the season. He also won the Hastings Park event on Aug. 24th.
The win once again showcased the partnership that trainers Tim Rycroft in Alberta and Craig MacPherson in BC have developed to give the Riversedge horses a good chance to win in either province.
“It’s not something that’s going to work for every trainer,” Riversedge co-owner, Norm Castiglione, told me. “These two have made it work because they each took on our stable when both were in charge of smaller outfits. They each share in the winnings, regardless of where the horse races. Neither of them feels threatened by the other. And we’re comfortable with the arrangement. In fact, I encouraged them to work together. Fortunately we have enough racing stock to keep them both busy.”
Riversedge also has another asset, a 67 acre farm in Ocala Florida, which the owners bought two years ago. “We have four barns on site and can accommodate just over a hundred horses,” Castiglione told me. “We’ll be shipping all the yearlings down to the farm at the end of next week to get them started in training. We have access to a track which is well maintained. So, we can get a lot done during the winter and be ready to go in the spring.
To the surprise of absolutely nobody, Donnie Schnell’s 4 year old mare, Escape Clause, breezed by the competition midway down the backstretch and came home in a track record time of 1:22 flat for 7 furlongs in the filly portion of the CTHS Sales Stake. The Manitoba-bred is now 8-1-1 in ten outings in 2018. Her career bank account is up to $296,840.
“I knew when she made her push near the far turn that the race was over,” Schnell told me, just outside the winner’s circle. “She is some mare. Now we’ll ship to Phoenix next week. I’m toying with the idea of putting her in a race at Del Mar. The (Kathryn Crosby) is a $75,000 mile on the turf scheduled to be run Nov. 9th. She’s never raced on the grass so that will be a consideration.”
Canada Quarter Horse Cup Finals…
Trainer William Leech had three 3 year olds in the $35,624 Canadian Quarter Horse Derby on Sunday afternoon and two of them finished one-two. Stripsteak sprinted the 400 yards in 19.822 to just eek out the win over stablemate, Truce Copy. Both are owned by Sexsmith businessman, Charles Stojan.
“Yet again, he couldn’t be here,” Leech told me. “His son got married on Saturday so he had to make a choice.”
Northern interests also claimed the Futurity. Grande Prairie’s Janice and Barry Sather’s Singles Cruise survived a photo finish over Timbersknightryder, Papas Coleen, and O Kingsley in the $74,459 finale.
“She’s a daughter of Favourite Cartel which has a very strong record of producing good 2 year olds,” Janice told me. “We bought her out of the Heritage Sale in Oklahoma City last fall. She’s won every stakes race she’s been in, including the AQHRA Challenge qualifier in Grande Prairie. That puts her into the Challenge Cup to be run at Los Alamitos on Nov. 17th. That’s a $135,000 race. We paid a lot for her, but so far, it’s looked like a good investment.”
“And it’s always nice to win this race. We won it four years ago with Cruisinforabrusin and he’s still racing.”
And there’s a postscript to the quarter horse story. Two graduates of the Olds College exercise riders program were competitors in the Futurity. Cory Spataro and Cassandra Jeschke came from Ontario to ride Special Corona Wave and Zoomn Wave, respectively.
“I think Cory was in the 2012 class with, among others, Omar Moreno, who’s gone on to do really well in Toronto,” Cassandra told me. “I’m a little too heavy to ride thoroughbreds but I love quarter horse racing. We both compete at Ajax Downs just east of Toronto. We’re only racing one day a week but we get seven to ten rides every race day. I haven’t won as many races this year as I would have liked, but I have won a couple of stakes events, so that’s exciting.”
“I’m from Ontario, originally, and came out to Olds specifically for the riding program. I had done some three-day eventing, so I knew something about riding. But the time I spent at the college confirmed that racing was what I really wanted to do.”
The Olds College program is financially supported by Horse Racing Alberta. It was set up to train exercise riders to work at the track. In its thirteen years, it has graduated some folks who have done better than just participate.
The WPCA Is Coming to Century Downs...
Last Thursday’s announcement that the World Pro Chuckwagon Association will conduct its final stop of the 2019 season at Century Downs means some changes will have to be made to the facility, changes that may pay a dividend for the thoroughbred meet which will be held there next fall.
“The dates are August 21st-25th next year,” Century Downs general manager, Paul Ryneveld, told me. “It’s after the harness meet ends on August 5th and before the thoroughbreds come to town. We’ll have time to get the thoroughbred surface on the track. We’re not sure yet, but we may try to race Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday at 6:30 PM and then race on the weekend at 2 PM each day. There will be an admission charge because we have the purse to consider and we have some additional costs to incur in order to accommodate the crowds.”
“The WPCA would not have agreed to race at Century Downs with the current seating situation. We will have portable bleachers for the infield and along the racetrack. There will be VIP areas, use of the paddock for a kids area, and so forth. And we’re starting to hear from people who want to be a part of the event. Such things as a market place, trick riders, and other forms of entertainment are all on the table for discussion at this point.”
“It just brings more exposure to where we are and what we do. We are a pari-mutuel racetrack first and foremost.”
“We tend to draw 3-4-5,000 people to each of our performances at other venues,” WPCA publicist, Billy Melville, told me. “We’re a family sport and a lot of our fans will make the trek to wherever we are racing. So, being able to take care of the public, especially the children, who can’t be in the gaming area and need a place to play, is really important to us.”