Wrangler Cash could not have picked a better time to win his first race of 2016. In his tenth start of the season, the 3 year old son of As Promised from the Camystic mare, W Jean, got safely around a problem on the final turn and motored to the finish line in 1:57.1 to win the Alberta Plainsman, Sunday afternoon at Century Downs.
“The pace was really quick and there were a lot of tired horses,” said winning driver, Kelly Hoerdt, who owns the colt in partnership with Blair Corbeil and Dr. Maurice Stewart. “When Mike (Hennessy) had a little problem with his horse (Blue Star Jet) on the lead, we were able to swing around them and take the lead.”
Wrangler Cash held off Blue Star Maverick and Outlaw Turn N Burn to claim the top prize of $28,150. That pushes his seasonal earnings to $38,612 and his lifetime earnings to $117,000.
“He’s nominated to all the 3 year old stakes and he no longer fits in any of the conditional paces,” Hoerdt told me. “I won’t run him in the Open Pace against older horses. So, we’ll get him ready for the Brad Gunn eliminations at the end of this month and go from there. If I need a race to keep him sharp, we can always put him into a qualifier. They do that in Ontario all the time.”
I dare say it will be pretty much the same story for Travis Cullen and Saturday’s winner of the Alberta Princess for 3 year old fillies, Outlawsurshotshark. She’s been very strong at the 3 year old level this season, posting a 9-4-2 log from 15 starts. Her career earnings of $67.670 (she didn’t race as a 2 year old) makes the older fillies and mares Open Pace about the only place she can race, other than the stakes schedule. So it’s likely she’ll concentrate on eliminations for the Ralph Klein which are also set for July 30th.
Monstrous, which has won 2 stakes finals for this class so far in 2016, will follow the same path after finishing second on Saturday. The story of her even being in the Princess is an interesting one and a great tribute to the work of trainer, Darryl Cutting.
“Three days before the eliminations for the Princess (Canada Day), I wasn’t sure we were going to be able to start her,” Cutting told me. “She’d developed a pus pocket in one of her feet and it became infected. Think of the effect of having a rock in your shoe and not being able to get it out. It took us 3 weeks to get her well enough to race in the final. So I was really happy with the way she raced. And I’m not challenging the older mares either. We haven’t been able to train her much while we were dealing with this foot problem. Right now the plan is to race her in eligible stakes and see how she responds.”
Visitors to Century Downs
Mel Worthy and Jody Ward came a long distance to take in Saturday’s card at Century Downs. They campaign a small stable of harness horses in Walla Walla, New South Wales, Australia. That’s on the eastern side of the country, roughly halfway between Sydney and Melbourne.
“They had e-mailed me last fall to say they were coming to the Stampede and could they come by the racetrack,” racing secretary, Jackson Wittup, told me. “I picked them up on Saturday morning and they spent the day with us.”
They had to take cover during a major thunderstorm that hit the area right at the end of the afternoon card of racing, and just after they presented the cooler to Outlawsurshotshark for winning the Alberta Princess (ASHA executive director, Fred Gillis, never fails to find someone interesting to take into the winner’s circle). But it didn’t seem to dampen their spirits one little bit.
Long time Alberta horseman, Kenneth Gunn, was on hand Sunday to watch his 2 year old colt, Senga Nitro, break his maiden in his first pari-mutuel race. The son of Blue Burner from the Falcons Future mare, Nells Sweet Future, beat five challengers to the finish line in 2:02.2.
“We live in Houston now, but we were in Regina visiting family and I hopped a flight and got here in time for the race,” said Gunn, who grew up on the family farm in Lloydminster. “Nitro is a full brother to Senga Naptha, my now 3 year old filly, which has battled through sickness and a broken ankle and hopefully is going to make it back to the races. I had high hopes for her after she broke the track record for 2 year olds last year at Century Downs. That was in just her third race and she suffered the ankle injury in her next start.”
The man in charge of Senga Naptha’s rehabilitation is trainer-driver, Ryan Grundy. His connection to Ken Gunn, itself, is an interesting story.
“I used to have my horses with Rene Goulet,” Gunn told me. “He was headed back to Fraser Downs for winter racing and I wanted to keep my horses in Alberta. So I asked Rene to recommend someone who was local and he suggested I talk to Ryan Grundy. That was five or six years ago and we’ve been together ever since. I like what he’s done with my horses and I trust his judgment. We usually talk once a week – more as required – and he’s done a good job.”
Mark August 14th in your Calendar
The afformentioned Mr. Gillis, has come up with another promotion. Three of the top drivers on the Ontario circuit are coming to drive at Century Downs on Sunday, August 14th.
Jack Moiseyev is just short of 9,800 wins and his horses have earned more than $132 million. Jody Jamieson is a two time winner of the World Driving Championship. He’s got 7,358 wins through Saturday and career earnings of $115.7 million. James MacDonald is the youngster in the group, but is good enough to have won this year’s Ontario regional drivers challenge. He’s collected 1,467 wins through Saturday and his horses have earned $17.8 million.
“We’ve got the baby boomer, the Gen X’er and the Millenial,” chortled Gillis. “ Jack will drive to raise funds for autism. Jody will drive on behalf of breast cancer and James will drive for juvenile diabetes. The new Chair of Standardbred Canada’s board, Joanne Colville, and the new President & CEO, Dan Gall, will be on hand as well. We’ll have an autograph session for the fans before the race card that day and a BBQ for owners following the races. That’s thanks to Century Downs, which, as usual, is right there to help on a promotion. And we’re hoping to arrange for groups representing each of the charities to be on hand too. So it should be a great day.”
the Cullen and Hensley families which are related (trainer Ashleigh Hensley is Travis Cullen’s sister) took Sunday off at Century Downs for a family affair at home in Glenbro MB. Travis planned to drive in 7 of the 8 races on Monday, on the racetrack where he began his career 7 years ago... driver Dave Kelly was under the weather with a stomach virus on Friday night. “The only thing I could keep down was Pepto Bismal,” he told me. It must have worked. Kelly drove 3 straight winners on Saturday afternoon (Crack the Cognac in the 6th; Steal the Diamonds in the 7th; and Top It Up in the 8th). “I’ve only won 3 races on a card once before and that was here, last October,” said Kelly. “And I’ve never won 3 in a row.” For good measure, he added another win on Sunday (Duke It Out in the 3rd)... next Sunday, July 17th, the James Rogers Memorial Pace is set to be a part of the Century Downs card. The special event will salute the life and times of a long time Alberta horseman who passed away in May at the age of 86.