As the calendar turns to July, the Alberta Sire Stakes for 3 year olds are set to get underway at Century Downs. Fifty fillies and forty-two colts and geldings are eligible for the Alberta Princess and Alberta Plainsman series respectively. Owners have nominated their horses and made sustaining payments and will be looking to recover at least some of that money beginning Friday when the eliminations in both series are to be held.
“I anticipate we’ll get enough for three divisions in each series,” racing secretary, Jackson Wittup, told me. “We have $15,000 set aside for the eliminations in each series. The top three finishers (assuming 3 eliminations) in each race will come back a week later for a $50,000 added final. Entries are set to close on Tuesday morning.”
While the eliminations for each series will be held on Canada Day, the final for the Alberta Princess is set for Saturday, July 9th. The Alberta Plainsman title will be decided on Sunday, July 10th.
Monstrous will be one of the favourites in the Alberta Princess. The 3 year old daughter of Allamerican Navajo is owned by Sherwood Park chiropractor, Warren Fuller and trained by Darryl Cutting. She’s made over $28,000 this season in just 5 starts, including a great win in the Bev Sears final on May 14th. Outlawsurshotshark might be the best of the class right now. She’s earned better than $37,000 this season for owners Travis and Ron Cullen of Airdrie and Don Byrne of Edmonton. She’s never been off the board, posting an 8-3-2 log in 13 lifetime starts, all of them this season.
The other potential favourite is Divas Dragonfly, the top 2 year old Alberta filly last season. Owner-trainer, Carl Archibald, has nursed her back to good health following surgery in March. The daughter of Mystery Chase has earned a modest $6,366 in 4 starts this season and has 2 seconds and a third on her card.
“I think she’ll be better against her peers,” Archibald told me. “We’ve had to race her in non-winners of 6 this spring and that’s tough going against those older mares. She loves to race and she’s coming along nicely so I think the timing of the Alberta Princess couldn’t be better.”
Then there are fillies like Jennas Lass, which have been on the edge of stardom all spring. Sam Johnson owns and trains this 3 year old daughter of the late Freedoms Pass from the Jennas Beach Boy mare, Presidential Jenna.
“I bought the mare from Gordon Bryan a few years ago,” Johnson told me. “She was modestly raced (13 lifetime starts, 1-3-0 and earnings of $8.761). But Gordon paid $27,000 US for her at the Harrisburg yearling sale in 1999. And I really liked her breeding and I felt she crossed well with Freedoms Pass. That family has produced several winners including Battle River Storm, Jennas Pass and the last one from that family, President Elect, which is now a yearling. That mare has produced foals which have won a little more than a half million dollars at the races.”
Jennas Lass finished fifth in each of the Wildrose and the Prairie Girls series. She was a runnerup last Friday night against non-winners of 2 in 2:00.4. But Johnson will put her into the Alberta Princess on Tuesday morning and see what happens.
On the boys side, Mike Hennessy is optimistic about a barnful of horsepower. He’s got 3 horses primed for the Alberta Plainsman. Blue Star Jet is lightly raced this season but has won twice in 5 starts, including a win in the Gord Rumpul final on June 12th, in his last start. So perhaps the rest has done him so good and he’ll be ready for action on Canada Day.
Blue Star Maverick is owned by Lorne Duffield of Edmonton, who also has a piece of Blue Star Jet. Maverick has been solid this season with a 4-3-1 log in 13 starts and earnings of more than $25,000.
“The one I think might surprise, though, is Red Tornado,” Hennessy told me. “My Dad (Rod) and Lorne own this one too. I think he’s one of the fastest 3 year old Alberta breds on the grounds. He’s paced the mile in 1:55.4 and he’s made the board nine times in 12 starts this year.”
We’ll see how the eliminations divide when the draw is conducted on Tuesday morning. The name of the game is to make the final. There’ll be lots of interest in the outcome on Friday afternoon.
Campbell & Marino Win Regional Drivers Challenge
Two of the qualifiers from Fraser Downs rose to the top of the standings at the west regional drivers challenge at Century Downs on Sunday afternoon. Brandon Campbell with 3 wins topped the eight competitors with 69 points. Jim Marino picked up a win and 3 seconds and finished as the runner-up with 61 points. They’ll advance to the national finals at Western Fair in London on Friday, Oct. 14th.
“I’m really pleased,” said Campbell in a post-race interview. “I had to try and be patient with horses I’m not really familiar with. I was a little concerned when my horse went down in the stretch in the 9th race and with the final result still in doubt. But I won the final race and that was enough to put me over the top. And my horse in the 9th (Hotel Motel) is alright.”
Marino was happy to earn a spot in the national final as well, although he’s a bit concerned about what will happen to his stable.
“We start the meet at Fraser Downs on Oct. 1st and get right into the stakes schedule,” he told me. “I’m going to have to get to London, drive in the nationals and find someone else to drive my horses at Fraser Downs for a day or two while I’m gone. But that’s the way it goes. I signed a contract to compete in the nationals and I’ll be there.”
The winner in London will represent Canada in next year’s World Driving Championship. The first leg of that series is set for Century Downs on Saturday, August 12th, 2017.
New Research Funding to Benefit Alberta Sport Horse Community
Dr Renaud Leguillette is the new Chair of the brand new Equine Sport Medicine department at the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine. The $1.5 million program will allow researchers to study the entire equine industry in the province with the goal of improving the health of horses in all aspects of the sport community.
“I’m particularly interested in how horses are breathing and how their hearts are adapting to exercise and training, “ Dr Leguillette told me. “We want to make sure things are safe for these horses so that they can train and compete at their optimal level, without getting injured.”
Contributions from the Calgary Stampede, Moore Equine Clinic, and horse owner, Linda Atkinson, formed the base of the money raised to support the Chair.
Briefly noted… congratulations to Bedrock Stables of Beaumont which played host to more than 1,000 visitors a week ago Sunday and raised more than $20,000 for the Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton. The numbers were up substantially over the previous year, which was the first year Kelly Hoerdt and his staff put on the event… great to see injured driver, Phil Giesbrecht, able to take part in, and contribute to a successful staging of the regional drivers challenge. Giesbrecht had qualified to drive in the event but broke his ankle in a training accident on the Tuesday before the regional. He’s confined to crutches and to a motor scooter for at least six weeks and Gerry Hudon came off the “also eligible” list to drive in Giesbrecht’s place. Giesbrecht, though, spent the afternoon as an analyst and even handled some of the interviews with race winners. He did a bang-up job!