By the time you read this, Ed and Ashleigh Hensley will have packed up their eight horse stable and pointed their truck and trailer in the direction of Stephensons Training Centre just north of Hamilton. The couple arrived at Century Downs in February and made a big impact on both the entry box and the winner’s circle. Ed drove 57 winners in 242 races and Ashleigh trained 50 winners from 219 starters. At the same time, they got to spend some time with Ashleigh’s family (Ashleigh is the sister of leading driver-trainer, Travis Cullen). But all good things must come to an end.
“We’ve got 20 stalls at Stephensons,” Ed told me. There’s a handful of racetracks within 90 minutes of the training centre. I’ve got 8 horses of my own to take with me. That includes Audrey’s Dream which dominated the Open class at Century Downs this season, winning ten in a row at one point and never finishing worse than third in 16 starts. Travis is sending Darcee N and we’re getting Paparazzi Hanover which raced Saturday night in the Gold Cup & Saucer in Charlottetown. They’re the two horses he bought a couple of weeks ago in New Jersey. I’ve bought a couple of trotters and a pacer in New Jersey as well. So we have some horsepower to start.”
There has been some resentment of the success the Cullen and Hensley stables have enjoyed this season. Cullen, who is closing in on 200 victories in 2016, was non-committal when asked if he was planning to follow his sister and brother-in-law to Ontario.
“I’ve got horses eligible for the Super Series at the end of October,” he told me. “If we can keep them healthy, it seems silly not to prep them for that day. I may send a couple of others with Ed and Ashleigh. And then after the Super Series we’ll decide what is next. We still have the Northlands Filly Pace to consider with Outlawsurshotshark. But that’s not scheduled until mid November.”
Meanwhile at the races…
The weekend’s stakes events involved 2 and 3 year old Alberta owned, sired, or foaled horses. Saturday, Pickles on Top was one of four winners on the day for driver, Ed Hensley, who got the job with Travis Cullen driving in Charlottetown. Wedding Dance won the other filly division and set a new track record of 1:56 for 2 year old fillies. Gerry Hudon was at the controls for that one for owner, Don Richardson and trainer, Harold Haining. On the colts side, Da Magician for Serge Masse, and Mateo for owners Christine Cutting and Jim Marino were first across the finish line in the two divisions.
Sunday’s card featured the top 3 year olds. Blue Star Jet for the Rod Hennessy barn and Wrangler Cash for Kelly Hoerdt’s Bedrock Stables won the colts’ divisions. Divas Dragonfly for Meadowlark Stables and Outlawsurshotshark won the filly divisions with Outlawsurshotshark finally getting the best of the multiple stakes winning filly, Monstrous, in a close finish.
The outcomes are a reminder of how and why the Alberta Sire Stakes program is an important consideration for owners. More than $1 million is invested in this program annually. Owners of Alberta-breds acquired through private sales or through the annual yearling sale, qualify for these series of races which are scattered across the racing calendar throughout the season. This year’s sale is set for Sunday, Sept. 11th at the Olds Regional Exhibition Megadome. There are 71 yearlings listed in the catalogue which is now available in print or online at www.asha.ab.ca.
Cullen Treated Royally in Charlottetown
It was the second time that Travis Cullen has driven in the Gold Cup & Saucer in Charlottetown, the highlight race of Old Home Week, which is one of the big events of the year in the Maritimes.
“I didn’t get to go fishing, but I drove a couple of horses each day of the races,” Cullen told me. We were invited to so many parties and treated so well. I had a chance to spend some time with some of the other drivers including Jody Jamieson who’s a really good guy. I think if my horse, Paparazzi Hanover, had made the consolation final, we could have won it. But he made it into the championship race which went off just after midnight Saturday, Atlantic time. He might have been a bit overmatched and we finished sixth in the final. But at least, I had a chance to drive him. I think he’s got more in him. We’ll see how he does when he gets back to Ontario and Eddie and Ashleigh get to work with him.”
“I’m tired, though. We left Charlottetown early on Sunday morning and were back in Calgary by 11 AM MT. I had six drives on the Sunday card. So I think I’ll sleep pretty good (tonight).”
Sunday was a good day for Meadowlark Stables proprietor, Carl Archibald. He sent out his newest acquisition, Real Buzz, to break his maiden in just his second lifetime start. Then he harnessed Divas Dragonfly to win an division of the ASHA 3 year old filly stake in a new lifetime mark of 1:55.2… other new marks on the Sunday card included Wrangler Cash’s win in the second division of the ASHA colt stake in 1:54.3; Tolly Ho in a non-winners of 2 in 1:56 for owner-trainer-driver, Kim Dressler; and Lizard King in a $10,000 claimer in 1:54.2 for owner-trainer, Rod Starkewsky.
Pacing Under Saddle
The final of the Pacing Under Saddle charity event is set for Saturday afternoon, August 27th at Century Downs. Eight riders – Amanda Barron, Janice Lea, Kayla Hepburn, Alina Macleod, Evelyn Sabraw, Kelly Kay, Jaline Monkholm, and Amber Lynn Fawcett – will compete aboard retired harness horses in an event that has proven to be popular with the public. Each rider has raised funds for a charity, so there’s a community benefit to this event as well.
A reminder: Check your racing calendar for the schedule at Century Downs from Labour Day to Nov. 6th. Standardbred racing will continue on Friday, Sept. 9th at 5:45 PM and Saturday, Sept. 10th at 1:10 PM. The yearling sale is on Sunday, Sept. 11th. After that, racing will be staged on Saturday and Sunday afternoons at 1:10 PM through Nov. 6th. ASHA has 14 approved dates to race at Northlands Park in Edmonton starting in mid November, but those dates are tentative. Edmonton City Council has a vote scheduled for Wednesday, August 31st on an Edmonton Northlands proposal for its Vision 2020 plan. The result of that vote will impact Northlands’ plans for the immediate future of horse racing in the capital.