As the calendar turns to April, some storylines are emerging at Century Downs, home to Alberta harness racing in 2016. Travis Cullen has 55 wins through April 3rd – far and away the leading driver and trainer on the grounds. He has about 30 racehorses and he’s won at least one race each with more than a dozen of them. Having said that, two of his most consistent performers were beaten on Sunday. Rain Gauge, a 9-year-old, $4,000 claimer, had strung together 9 straight wins before finishing third behind Lizard King (David Kell) and Dash Point Hanover (Kelly Hoerdt). Then in the next race, Outlaw Gunpowder, which had also strung together a 9-race winning streak, was beaten by a Kelly Hoerdt trainee, Get Thereovernight, driven by Bill Tainsh. So, the Cullen wins are not automatic, and the quality of opposition is getting stronger as the season moves into high gear.
Cullen’s brother-in-law, Ed Hensley has made his way north from Pompano Park in Florida to try the Alberta circuit this spring. He and his wife, Ashleigh, brought 14 horses with them. So far, the stable 11 wins to its credit.
Mike Hennessey has made his way back to the Alberta track and has taken on much of the driving for the Hennessey Stable. He’s second leading driver in the early going with 14 wins and mornings find him hard at work in the backstretch. His father, Rod, says it’s good to see his son back in racing, doing something he loves, and doing it well.
Gerry Hudon’s stable has produced a record of 8 wins, 8 seconds, and 17 thirds in the early going. The stable is stationed at Century Downs and the owner reports he’s a lot less fatigued this year, not having to make the commute from just north of Edmonton, two or three times a week. The horses confine their comments to the racetrack but the results speak for themselves. After all: would you want to stand on a trailer for 4 hours and then be expected to compete in a race?
Hudon also has charge of two fillies who compete for the Century Downs Racing Club. Warrawee Rap, a 3-year-old daughter of Mach Three has lost two photo finishes in her first two starts for maiden fillies. Southwind Luna is set to qualify in mid April. The Racing Club has close to ninety members, each of whom made a one-time investment of $250. It might be a Guiness Book of World Records photo if we all show up the day one of the fillies makes it to the winner’s circle. A bleacher may be necessary!
These, then, are a few of the storylines so far this spring. A few more will soon be added. Eliminations for the Prairie Girls and the Prairie Boys series for Alberta owned, sired, or foaled, 3 and 4 year olds, go the post on April 16th and 17th. Horses which have earned more than $20,000 lifetime are excluded. Fifteen fillies and twenty colts have been nominated to the two series.
Briefly noted… Owner Blair Corbeil has succeeded the retired Norm Kennedy as President of ASHA. Kennedy remains on the board as a Director. Kelly Hoerdt takes on the role of driver-trainer representative… our sympathies to the friends and families of Jim Rogers and George Sears, both long time contributors to Alberta standardbred racing, whom we’ve lost this spring. They will both be missed…