Anyone who ever saw As Promised on the racetrack marveled at how easily he paced and how he always seemed to know just how fast he had to go to be first to the finish line. Of course, veteran teamster, Keith Clark, might have had something to do with that as well over the years.
Well, Counter Strike and Travis Cullen never saw As Promised, at least not live. But their performance Sunday in the As Promised final was reminiscent of the great pacer. The duo began a surge from deep in the pack in the backstretch, took the lead on the final turn, and cruised home in a snappy 1:55.1. And just like the great star, who won 71 of his 104 lifetime starts, Counter Strike continues to dominate at Century Downs. The win was his 11thin 12 starts in 2016 as a 4-year old and pushed his seasonal earnings over the $65,000 mark. It also pushed Cullen past the 100 win mark for the season and it’s only mid May. The young teamster actually reached 100 wins with Broadview Bridge in Sunday’s 7thrace. It was the second start for the Bridge since being claimed from eastern interests at the end of April. Broadview Bridge clipped more than 4 seconds off his previous best time for the mile in the process.
The other weekend highlight came on Saturday afternoon when Monstrous lived up to her name with an amazing stretch run to nip the favourite, Balinska Hanover (Cullen) at the wire in the final of the Bev Sears stake. It was a fabulous finish. Owner Warren Fuller wasn’t on hand in person, but quickly texted the word “awesome” to trainer, Daryl Cutting.
“The race set up just the way I wanted it to,” Cutting told me. “With Balinska Hanover drawing Post 8, I knew there would be some early speed. I told J.F. (Gagne) not to abuse her because there’s a lot of racing to be done this year. But it worked out perfectly and she did really well in the stretch run to the wire.”
No stakes action on this weekend’s calendar but with the Victoria Day holiday, live racing will go Saturday, Sunday and Monday afternoons with first post at 1:10 PM. Next on the stakes calendar are the Wild Rose, an open stake for 3 year old fillies on June 11thand the Gordon Rumpel for the boys on June 12th. Monstrous will certainly be a candidate for the Wild Rose. She’s likely to be joined by last year’s 2 year old filly of the year, Divas Dragonfly, and by Senga Naptha, both of which qualified this past Sunday. Diva’s Dragonfly underwent surgery in March to remove bone chips from her hocks. She has made steady progress under the guidance of owner-trainer, Carl Archibald.
“She’s grown a bit during the time off and looked really good in the qualifier,” Archibald told me. “We’ll probably train her a bit this week and then put her in another qualifier on the weekend. I’ll maybe give her a start in a race before the Wild Rose. We’ll see.”
Meantime, Sunday was the final day of qualifying for the regional drivers challenge to be held at Century Downs on Sunday, June 26th. The top four drivers from Century Downs this season are Travis Cullen (102 wins), Phil Giesbrecht (32 wins), Mike Hennessy (29 wins) and David Kelly (16 wins). They’ll be joined by 3 qualifiers from the Cloverdale BC winter meet: Jim Marino, Paul Davies and Brandon Campbell, along with Don Howlett, representing Manitoba.
Briefly noted... Ed Hensley made a triumphant return to racing on Sunday afternoon, 4 weeks to the day after an accident cost him three broken ribs. He went wire to wire with Audreys Dream in the Open Pace in 1:52.4 and came right back in the next race to finish second with Drake. He just missed in that one as Pablos First (Giesbrecht) came on fast in the lane to finish in 1:55.2. “I felt fine,” Hensley told me. “Pulling straight back on the reins isn’t a problem.”