It has not been a banner year to this point for Hall of Fame driver-trainer, Keith Clark. But the Okotoks teamster may be heating up, just as the stakes schedule moves into high gear. Clark had 6 wins, a second, and a third over the weekend from 18 drives. Included in the wins was Appellate in a non-winners of 3 or $16,500 lifetime. The 3 year old son of Western Terror from the Cambest mare, Dropitlikeitshot, stopped the timer in 1:57.2.
“Yeah, he’ll go in the Brad Gunn eliminations next week (Saturday),” Clark told me. “He’s struggled a bit this summer and we had to re-qualify him last week. But he deserves a shot.” Clark owns the Pennsylvania-bred with long time racing partner, Robert Jones who now calls Stoney Plain home.
A newcomer to Alberta racing, Mid Town Mickey, may also try the Brad Gunn, although his Alberta debut did not go as planned. Owned by Sherwood Park’s Trevor Melnyk, the 3 year old son of Mach 3 has been racing primarily in Ontario this season, where he logged a 1-2-1 record from 7 starts.
“The problem has been that he’s been pacing in 1:59 in Ontario and the class he has raced in is going a lot quicker than that,” trainer Anna Glide told me. “I’m glad we got him out here before the Stake although I wasn’t happy with how he raced Sunday. It was the first time J-F (Gagne) had a chance to drive him and the horse didn’t like the track surface at all. It’s very different from what he’s used to racing on in Ontario. We’ve got a week to see if we can get him straightened out. But I believe the owner will decide to put him in the Brad Gunn since he’s paid up for the race.”
The Brad Gunn salutes the late proprietor of Gunnholme Stables of Lloydminster, one of the cornerstones of Alberta breeding in the 20th century. It’s for 3 year old colts and geldings, owned, foaled or bred by Albertans. The pot is $20,000 for eliminations to be held on Saturday and a final worth $70,000 to be staged on Sunday, August 7th. The duo of Blue Star Jet and Blue Star Maverick from the Rod Hennessy barn are likely to be in the field, although Maverick was no better than 8th in a non-winners of 4 on Sunday afternoon. The outside post (PP-8) might have been the problem.
Outlaw Turn N Burn tuned up for the Gunn by winning the race in which Blue Star Maverick was 8th. Duke It Out (4th), Wrangler Cash (5th), Classy Artist (6th), and Prairie Mystic (9th) also were in the field and are eligible for the Brad Gunn. Wrangler Cash, which won the Alberta Plainsman final on July 10th is almost certain to be a starter next Saturday and Classy Artist’s trainer, Rod Starkewsky, told me he’ll likely enter his colt on Wednesday morning for the eliminations.
The 3 year old fillies also face eliminations in the Ralph Klein Stake on Saturday afternoon. Diva’s Dragonfly tuned up for that event by scoring in a non-winners of 6 on Saturday afternoon. That was one of Keith Clark’s wins on the weekend and Clark was very impressed with the way the former Alberta 2 year old champion performed. Clark stepped in for regular pilot, Jamie Gray, who was away at a wedding in Vancouver.
Jet Blue Burner and Outlawsurshotshark, both from the Travis Cullen barn, have already won stakes events in Alberta this year and are likely to be in the entry box on Wednesday morning. So is Monstrous, which has the Bev Sears, a division of the Wild Rose and a division of the Alberta Princess to its credit. Trainer Darryl Cutting has to be careful with this one, but indicated Monstrous has had some time off since July 9th and should be ready for Saturday.
What a Class of 2 Year Olds…
Meanwhile, the talk of the backstretch on Sunday was the impressive display put on by the 2 year old fillies on Saturday afternoon. It was no surprise that Serge Masse’s Last Time to Play won the first division of the Emerald Filly Stake, broke the track record for the class, and set a new lifetime mark of 1:57. The track record stood for about half an hour until Outlaw Fireball, a Jean-Francois Gagne purchase from Outlaw Stables just a week ago, matched that time. Twenty minutes later, Keith Clark and Nightime Chase shattered that mark, finishing the third elimination of the Emerald Filly in a sparkling 1:56.1. Of particular note is the fact that Outlaw Fireball and Nightime Chase are both Alberta breds. More than one horseman with a 2 year old filly told me the class just got a lot tougher. In fact, the non-winners of 2 class will be a little more competitive, although I suspect a lot of these fillies will be raced lightly and will be pointed toward the next stakes event. The Alberta breds, if they have been kept eligible, will prep for the Alberta Starlet Stake set for August 7th.
The 2 year old colts and geldings got their turn in the Century Bet series on Sunday afternoon, and while the results were good, there wasn’t quite the same level of chatter about performance. We have to remember that these are youngsters, still growing, still learning how to race, and with a lot of maturing still to do. Serge Masse’s Da Magician put up a new lifetime mark of 1:57.4 in winning the first division while Senga Nitro stopped the timer in 1:58.3 to win the second division for owner, Ken Gunn, and driver-trainer, Ryan Grundy. Next up for this group will be the Alberta Rising Star divisions on August 7th
If you take in only one day of racing at Century Downs this season, better make it August 7th. The Starlet and Rising Star divisions for 2 year olds along with the finals of the Brad Gunn and the Ralph Klein for the 3 year olds, are going to make for a terrific day of harness racing.
Pace Under Saddle Event Coming Up
Last year’s event with about 15 participants turned out to be very popular, both with the public, and with a number of women who work in the backstretch who took part. Trainer Kim Schneider won last year’s event with Melody’s Gun and she’ll be back to defend her title this year. At the moment, it looks like she’ll face 18 challengers.
“Everybody has to go through gate school and pass the test to be able to start,” organizer, Janice Lea told me. “All the horses are retired standardbred race horses. I’ve got eleven of my own horses in the event including Dragon Wyck, which won about $100,000 during his racing career.”
Janice, who runs JKL Riding Stables when she’s not leading the post parade at Century Downs, says eliminations will take place the weekend of August 13th & 14th and the top two riders from each elimination will come back in the final which is set for August 27th. All the girls are raising money for various charities. So it promises to be a fun day for a number of great causes.
Briefly noted… a reminder with the Civic Holiday on Monday, August 1st, harness racing action will be Saturday, Sunday and Monday in the coming week with post-time at 1:10 PM each day. This week only, there will be no Friday night racing.