It’s being called the Mid Summer Classic by Century Downs. That’s the headline for the August 7th card of harness racing at the Balzac track. And, as I said last week, if you only see one day of harness racing in Alberta this year, this might be the day to be on hand. Two stakes finals for the 3 year olds: the Brad Gunn for the colts and geldings; and the Ralph Klein for the fillies. Plus, multi divisions of the Alberta Starlet and the Alberta Rising Star for the 2 year olds which are nominated to the Alberta Sire Stakes.
“I think we’ll get a couple of divisions for the boys,” racing secretary, Jackson Wittup, told me. “And I won’t be surprised if we get three divisions for the fillies. There are a lot of them on the grounds and several showed pretty well last week in the Emerald Filly.”
There are 159 2 year olds paid up for the Starlet and the Rising Star. Not all of them are ready to start on Sunday, but those that are show signs of being able to set new standards for the class. No fewer than ten fillies broke or tied the old track record of 1:57.4 during last week’s Emerald Filly Pace. The old mark was held by Jet Blue Burner, and was set last Sept. 25th.
It will be a day that has acquired some added significance for driver-trainer, Ryan Grundy. The 35 year old Manitoba native, who now calls Red Deer home, took advantage of some misfortune by Divas Dragonfly in Saturday’s 6th race to upset the field in an elimination of the Ralph Klein Stake for 3 year old fillies owned, sired, or foaled in Alberta. Senga Naptha went off a odds of 45-1 and paid $97 for a $2 ticket.
“I knew Jamie (Gray) had the favourite (Divas Dragonfly) so the plan was to follow them off the gate,” Grundy told me. “There was lots of traffic through the first half mile and as we got into the backstretch, I decided to take her outside and find some racing room. Then after the incident and when Jet Blue Burner made a break on the final turn, she had enough left to finish. I was just trying to get to the final, so the win was a bonus.”
The “incident” was a claim of foul against the 3-5 favourite, Divas Dragonfly, lodged by Tyler Redwood, the pilot of the #6 horse, One Big Hottie.” After reviewing the videotape, the judges upheld the claim of foul and Divas Dragonfly was placed 8th. That takes her out of Sunday’s $70,000 final. It also made Apple Blossom Time a finalist by finishing 4th in the elimination. Owners William and Diane Neish of High River, trainer Glen Lutz, and driver, Brandon Campbell will be in the Klein final - at the moment.
However, Meadowlark Farms owners of Divas Delight, has appealed the judges’ decision. A hearing is to be held within the next couple of days. An outcome has to be determined so that entries can close on Thursday morning at 9 AM and the race can go ahead as scheduled on Sunday afternoon.
Cenalta Artistry and Jet Blue Burner are the other finalists from the first elimination. Jet Blue Burner broke stride briefly on the final turn but recovered to finish 4th in her elimination. Travis Cullen re-qualified her on Sunday morning, so she will be in the final. Outlawsurshotshark (1:56.1), Monstrous, Brighten Your Life, and Somewhere a Place are the 4 finalists from the second elimination. Monstrous, which has not been worse than second in eight starts this year, pushed her earnings for the season closer to the $50,000 mark with a runner-up share in the race. She has a chance to claim her 4th stakes win of the season next Sunday.
Back to Grundy. He also has a 2 year old that might be close to the pace in Sunday’s Alberta Rising Star. Senga Nitro, the son of Blue Burner out of the Falcons Future mare, Nells Sweet Future, is 2 for 2 in his young racing career and is coming off a win in a division of the Century Bet Stake on July 24th. He also has a 2 year old filly, Shesamysterytome, that is one of the fillies to break the old track record for 2 year old fillies.
As for the 3 year old colts and geldings, there wasn’t as much drama, but there was some good racing in the eliminations. Its Eds Idea (1:55.1), Blue Star Maverick, Wrangler Cash and Make It Big came through the first elimination. Outlaw Turn N Burn (1:55), Blue Star Jet, Appellate, and Duke It Out, qualified for Sunday’s $70,000 final from the second elimination. It means the Hennessy barn was able to get both of its fine 3 year olds, Blue Star Jet and Blue Star Maverick into the final.
Cullen Has a Busy Sunday
On the final day of July, Travis Cullen got Jet Blue Burner qualified to race in Sunday’s final of the Ralph Klein. That afternoon, he won 5 of the 9 races on the Century Downs card to claim the lead for most wins by a trainer in Canada. And while he was racing in Balzac, representatives were at the Meadowlands Mixed Summer Sale, chequebook in hand. On behalf of various ownership interests, mostly from Manitoba, Cullen added a 4 year old gelding, Paparazzi Hanover, and a 6 year old gelding, Darcee N, to his stable. Paparazzi Hanover was a $190,000 buy at the Harrisburg yearling sale 3 years ago. He’s put together a 7-6-5 mark from 43 lifetime starts, including a 2-3-2 log from 17 starts this year. He has a lifetime mark of 1:50.3. Darcee N has earned $121,031 from 57 lifetime starts, including 12 where he got his picture taken in the winner’s circle.
“I’m not sure yet what we’re going to do with them.” Cullen told me. “We may bring them out here. We may leave them with a friend of mine to race in Ontario. They’re both eligible for the Cup & Saucer in Charlottetown in late August. That’s another option. But I think we got two good horses to add to the stable and that’s been my goal all along.”
Marketing Harness Racing
ASHA executive director, Fred Gillis, realizes the revenue streams have to be increased in number and in size if the sport is to grow in Alberta. To that end, he’s out talking to potential sponsors, offering the harness racing stakes program and the attention it draws as a worthy brand. Moore’s Clinic, which serves the racing industry from its location just south of Century Downs, has agreed to a multi-year deal to be the second sponsor Gillis has recruited. The first is Century Bet which sponsored the 2 year old colts race last weekend. Century Bet is the agency that runs the Alberta south teletheatre network. There’s at least one more deal pending and Gillis is looking for more.
“We’ve got 36 stakes events plus the Super Series,” he told me. “So there’s lots of product available. I’m looking for multi-year sponsors but I’ll certainly take a single year deal if a company or an individual wants to try out a sponsorship and see if it delivers value.”
Speaking of marketing, Century Downs is encouraging people to dress in their Derby best for a chance to win a half day rental to Banff in a Lamborghini on Sunday. Crystal McGrath is providing the live music and shuttle service from downtown will be available, departing the Craft Beer Market at 12 noon and Calgary Tower at 12:30 PM and returning to downtown after the racecard.
Pacing for Charity
Three of Canada’s best drivers will be on hand the following Sunday, August 14th, to Pace for Charity. At 56, Moiseyev, who’s from Ashbury Park New Jersey originally, now races out of High Stakes Farm, located just north of Mohawk Racetrack in Campbellville, Ontario. Through Saturday, he’s just crossed the 9,800 win plateau (9,802) and his horses have earned more than $132 million at the races.
Jody Jamieson, 45, was the runner-up at this year’s Ontario regional drivers challenge. He’s won the Canadian title 5 times and the world title twice. Through Saturday, he’s had his picture taken in the winner’s circle 7,381 times. His horses have earned $18.2 million…….and counting.
And the youngster in the group, 30 year old James MacDonald, beat out Jamieson by 1 point in the Ontario regional challenge. They’ll represent the province at the nationals in London, Ontario, on Oct. 14th. Brandon Campbell and Jim Marino, who finished first and second respectively in the west regional at Century Downs in mid June, will be there as well.
Jack will drive for Autism. Jody will drive in the interests of Breast Cancer and James will compete on behalf of Juvenile Diabetes. All 3 men are donating their fees to those respective causes. All 3 local chapters of those organizations will be invited to take part in the activities that day.
Briefly Noted… Good to see Phil Giesbrecht back in the sulky, 5 and a half weeks after breaking his right ankle in a racing accident. “It’s still stiff and sore,” he told me, “but I didn’t need surgery and I healed up pretty quickly. Good thing too. I was bored out of my mind. Phil returned to the races on Saturday and finished 4th in the 8th race with Showmesomeemotion… there will soon be a new resident in Carl Archibald’s shed row. The veteran conditioner has inked a deal to acquire Real Buzz from Ontario based trainer, Luc Blais. “He’s a 3 year old by No Pan Intended out of a Real Artist mare,” Archibald told me. “He’s only had 1 lifetime start but he went a mile in 1:59 and paced the last quarter in :28.4. I watched him when I was in Ontario a week ago. He’s really smooth. You could set a glass of water on his back and he wouldn’t spill a drop. He fits as a maiden, so we’ll get him off the truck on Saturday and see how he shipped and then put together a plan.