Two months to go until Super Finals Day, Oct. 29th, at Century Downs. But the countdown to qualifying for Alberta’s top 2 and 3 year olds is already underway. Winning qualifying races, earning as much money or as many points as possible, and, above all else, keeping horses healthy, is on the minds of every trainer on the grounds.
The 3 year olds are back in the spotlight on Saturday, Sept. 3rd with eliminations in the Alberta Diamond Stakes for fillies and the Alberta Marksmen Stakes for the colts and geldings. The expectation is that there will be 3 heats for the girls and 2 heats for the boys with the top horses coming back on Sept. 10th in the final. Two heats in each would mean top four from each elimination would go to the final. Three heats would provide nine starters for the final.
“We’ve already had the first leg of qualifying,” racing secretary, Jackson Wittup, told me. “That was on July 1st with the Alberta Princess for the fillies and the Alberta Plainsman for the colts. We still have the Alberta Marquis for the fillies and the Alberta Maverick for the colts to come on Sept. 23rd and 24th. The finals for those two events go the following week. After that, the top eight horses with the most money earned in the three legs will go to the Super Series championship final on Oct. 29th. The next eight top money earners will advance to the consolation final the same day.”
The 2 year olds for the Super finals will be selected in a similar way, except that points earned will be the determining factor, rather than dollars earned. The points earned will follow a 50-25-12-8-5 format for one through five finishes in the qualifying races. The 2 year olds started with the Alberta Starlet and Alberta Rising Star series on August 7th and continue with the Alberta Starburst eliminations for the 2 year old fillies on Sept. 16th and the Alberta Lonestar eliminations for 2 year old colts and geldings the next day.
It’s not necessary for each horse to participate in each of the legs. But, obviously, the Super Finals fields are determined by the most money or the most points accumulated. So, the more a horse can race, the better the chances of being in the big money events on Oct. 29th.
A look at the first leg of the 3 year old fillies series shows that Jet Blue Burner, Monstrous, and Divas Dragonfly were elimination winners of the Alberta Princess on Canada Day and that Outlawsurshotshark won the final on July 9th. So, those four would be atop the leaderboard heading into Saturday’s Alberta Diamond eliminations. Among the colts, Blue Star Jet, Outlaw Turn N Burn and Prairie Mystic took eliminations of the Alberta Plainsman and Wrangler Cash won the final. So we’re likely to see all of those names in the entry box on Wednesday morning.
Saturday will be a busy day in the Hennessy shedrow. Trainer Rod Hennessy reports he expects to have 3 colts and 2 fillies ready to answer the starter’s call.
“I think we’ll have Blue Star Jet, Blue Star Maverick and Red Tornado for the Marksmen,” he told me. “Jet’s got to get back in the picture. He had a problem in the final turn of the Plainsman final and finished last in that one. It’s a competitive group. He’s done well since then, winning the Brad Gunn and the ASHA Colt Stakes. But he needs to get going Saturday if we’re going to get him into the Super Series final. I think Maverick will be OK too. He got a second in the Plainsman final but he was only 6th in his last start in the ASHA Colt. And I’ve always liked Red Tornado. He’s maybe not quite as good as the other two but he tries hard. So we’ll put him in and see what happens. Maybe we’ll get lucky.”
“For the fillies, we’ve got Ba Bye Ceia Later and Just Becoz. Ba Bye’s had some time off after winning an elimination of the Alberta Princess and finishing 4th in the final. Just Becoz won her last outing last Friday night against $6,000 claimers. So maybe she’s getting better.”
News From the Campbell Barn
This past weekend was a pretty good weekend for Brandon Campbell, a welcome relief after having his farm operation disrupted by all the rain.
“We probably had about 12 inches of rain earlier in August,” he told me. “We had to move a bunch of horses back to the racetrack while I fixed some of the drainage problems around the barn. But it meant we got some training into them while we were at Century Downs and that seemed to pay off on the weekend.”
In 3 days, Campbell won 10 races. Three of them came with horses he also trains: Regina Beach in Saturday’s 7th race, along with Total Rhythm in the second race and Medicine Hat in the 9th race on Sunday. He also catch drove 7 winners including Apple Blossom Time in the 8th race on Saturday. That one, trained by Glen Lutz, and owned by William and Dianne Neish of High River, is likely to be in the entry box for Saturday’s Alberta Diamond. Campbell tells me he thinks the connections of Witch Doctor along with Sam Johnson’s 3 year old filly, Jennas Lass, will be interested in the Diamond as well.
Meanwhile, Brandon’s dad, trainer Sanford Campbell, has been busy investing Ray Henry’s dollars in new racing stock. The latest acquisition from Ontario is Chalk Player, a 3 year old son of Camluck from the Western Ideal mare, Lassommyhrt. He’s posted a lifetime log of 1-2-5 in 24 starts with earnings of $44,566. He finished third in his last start in an Ontario Sire Stakes event at Kawartha Downs in Peterborough on August 13th. He paced that mile in 1:53.1 with a last quarter of :27.4.
“Ray wants a horse for the Western Canada Pacing Derby in November, and we can use him in the Open Stakes as well,” Sanford told me. Which reminds me that nominations for the WCPD and for the Northlands Filly Pace are due at Standardbred Canada by Thursday, Sept. 1st.
Back in the Game
The name Brent Bodor, may be familiar to racing fans who played the ponies at Stampede Park and at Northlands Park twenty or so years ago. He was out of the game for awhile, working for the City of Calgary. But he’s never lost his love of horses, and with the encouragement of his wife, and the financial support of his brother-in-law, Sandor Jaszai, he’s making a modest return to harness racing. He currently has four horses: Witch Doctor, which won last Friday night, and Outlaw Good N Ready. He just claimed B R Money Matters from Alvin Jensen’s barn and that one finished third in a $7,500 claimer on Sunday afternoon. He’s also got Cheer for Court, which he bought from Keith Clark last fall.
“I’ll see how it goes,” he told me. “I’m not about to give up my job with the City. But I’ve always loved horses. I think we’ve gotten Outlaw Good N Ready back in form. It’s got a bit of a crooked leg and it was banging the leg on the other knee with every stride. And with Cheer for Court, if she doesn’t race, we can always use her as a brood mare. I’m anxious to see what happens in Edmonton so far as the business is concerned.”
Another Charity Event
A dozen World Pro Chuckwagon Association drivers have approached Colleen Haining at ASHA about doing something for ailing Alberta horseman, Tim Blair. The longtime truck driver has a close association with all types of racing in the province. He was diagnosed with ALS, Lou Gehrig’s Disease, early last year. His friends in the WPCA want to help. Jerry Bremner, Colt Cosgrave, Norm Cuthbertson, Cody Fraser, Rick Fraser, Jason Glass, Chad Harden, Codey McCurrach, Jim Nevada, Vern Nolin, Grant Profit and Doug Thomsen have all committed to driving Standardbreds in exhibition races. The program is set for Saturday, Sept. 10th at Century Downs. There’ll be a number of silent auction items as part of the day’s activities. And with the finals of the Diamond and the Marksmen series on the agenda, it promises to be a great day to be at the races.
with 5 winners on Sunday afternoon, Travis Cullen now boasts 196 driving wins, which ranks fourth nation-wide, and a season-leading 181 training wins so far this year. Outlawsurshotshark is one of his and you can bet her name will be in the entry box for this Saturday’s eliminations of the Alberta Diamond.
Racing this coming holiday weekend will be Saturday, Sunday, and Monday afternoons with post time at 1:10 PM.
And remember that the ASHA yearling sale is set for Sunday afternoon, Sept. 11th at 3:30 PM at the Olds Regional Exhibition Megadome. There will be no racing at Century Downs that day. Previews go Saturday evening, 6-9 PM and Sunday morning starting at 10 AM before the sale. Check out www.asha.ab.ca for details.