A path that began on Canada Day takes another big step towards its final goal this Saturday with the finals of the Alberta Marquis and the Alberta Maverick for 3 year olds. Horses foaled, sired, or owned in the Province have been accumulating money through the Alberta Princess, Alberta Diamond, and the Alberta Marquis for the fillies and the Alberta Plainsman, the Alberta Marksmen and the Alberta Maverick for the colts and geldings. Following Saturday’s final of the Marquis the top eight qualifiers will advance to the $80,000 Super Final on Oct. 29th. Same for the fillies who are racing in the Marquis final. The next best eight in each of the filly and colt divisions will line up in $15,000 consolation finals on the same program.
Ladies first. Ba Bye Ceia Later leads the fillies class by about $4,200 over Outlawsurshotshark. Monstrous, Outlawtriggerhappy, and Divas Dragonfly round out the top five. All are in Saturday’s Alberta Marquis final, virtually assuring themselves a place in the Super Final. Glamorgal, Funkmeister, Outlawburntpopcorn and Astrid the Axe have all qualified for the Marquis final as well and need a good cheque to push into the top eight for the Super Finals. Cenalta Artistry didn’t make the Marquis final but has $10,933 in earnings and should be OK for the Super Series. Same for Top It Up which is 7th overall but not in the Marquis final. Apple Blossom Time holds down the 8th and final spot in qualifying for Super Finals and is in a little more vulnerable position if one of the outsiders from the Marquis has a big day.
On the colts side, Wrangler Cash, Classy Artist, Outlaw Turn N Burn, Blue Star Maverick and Blue Star Jet are the top five in qualifying for the Super Finals and all five are in Saturday’s Alberta Marksmen final. So is Prairie Mystic, which holds down the 8th and final spot on the money list at the moment. The two outsiders who need a big finish in the Marksmen are Make It Big from Rene Goulet’s barn and Flamingbluestar, which races in the colours of Brandon Campbell.
Make It Big has come back very well this season after an accident in 2015. “He was warming up for a race last year, got spooked by something and fell,” Rene Goulet told me. “He suffered a big cut on his right front knee and missed a bunch of time. He’s come back well and really tries hard but he’s not very handy, especially if the track is loose. And try as he will, he’s never beaten Wrangler Cash or Turn N Burn or Blue Star Maverick. Where they might pace in :55, the fastest he’s ever gone is :56. It will all come down to post position and a little bit of luck.”
Flamingbluestar is another story. The Sanford Campbell-trained gelding has a 3-1-4 record from 17 starts this year. He’s 11th on the money list in the class, so he’s going to need a real strong finish in Saturday’s Maverick final to push his way into the top eight for Super Finals.
Comings & Goings
Ontario horseman, Nick Boyd, showed up Sunday afternoon at Century Downs. He had come out to a cattle sale in Olds in his capacity as Vice-President for Ontario and for Canada of the Blonde D’Aquitaine breed. During his time at the cattle show, he took a break and strolled over to the racetrack. There he ran into trainer, Joe Ratchford, who is stabled there.
“Before I knew it, Joe asked me if I’d brought my racing gear,” Boyd told me. “When I said I could get it, he phoned Jackson Wittup (Century Downs racing secretary) and got me 5 drives. And wouldn’t you know it, the second race I drove, I got Joe’s horse, Iwontdothatagain, around wire to wire to win it in 1:57.2. And it paid $110.90 to win as a 50-1ongshot.”
“Nothing to it,” drawled Ratchford, as he headed to the test barn with the winner!
Boyd used to be a full time trainer with a stable of up to 25 horses, stabled mostly at Kawartha Downs in Peterborough, Ontario. Now he’s a cattleman but still drives a bit at Kawartha. Ironically, he missed Saturday night’s season finale due to his roadtrip to Alberta. He did manage to collect reserve champion status with his 2 year old heifer at the cattle show. And at least he’ll have some extra jingle in his jeans to take back to Ontario.
Meanwhile, Brandon Campbell is headed west with his first shipment of horses, along with driver, Travis Bowman. Both are getting ready for Thursday’s opener of the Fraser Downs season. Bowman will stay. Campbell will be back and forth until after the Super Finals at the end of this month. But on the truck Monday morning, among the racing stock, was the 2 year old Ima Dude, which finished second in the Horizon Pace on Saturday at Century Downs. He’s a BC bred and is eligible for the Robert Millbank Memorial which goes on Friday night.
“He’s been racing well and he’s built up some nice form,” Campbell told me. “I suspect some of the horses he’ll be in against haven’t raced much, if at all, so I like his chances.”
Campbell also has to juggle a roadtrip to London Ontario on October 14th where he’ll be one of eight drivers competing in the National Driver’s Challenge. The winner represents Canada in the world event which will be staged at five different Canadian tracks in August of 2017, beginning at Century Downs.
“I’ve been to this thing a couple of times, so I’m in it to win this year,” Campbell told me. I have to be there the day before which will be a challenge because we’ll already be into the stakes season at Fraser Downs and I still have part of my stable at Century Downs. And I’ll have to put in some time getting ready for the draft for the October 14th card. They do it like an NHL draft. It’s a conference call. Each of us will get to pick first for one of the eight races. After that, when it’s our turn we’ll need to select the best of whatever is left. Each of us will have one drive from each post position on the starting gate. So there’ll be some homework to do once the entries close. They’ll send us some form charts and the draft will go from there.”
Also westbound is the 2 year old filly, Badlands Palace, owned by Cochrane businessman, Don Richardson. Badlands Palace is another BC bred and is targeted for the Betty Millbank Memorial which is part of Thursday’s Opening Night card at Fraser Downs.
“Don’s got Wedding Dance and Triple Thick Shake here and both of them should get to the Super Finals,” trainer, Harold Haining told me. “So, it makes sense to send Badlands Palace out to Paul Davies who will keep her busy with BC’s two year old filly stakes schedule.”
Triple Thick Shake, by the way, was an upset winner in Saturday’s second division of the Neal Adler Memorial for 2 year old fillies at Century Downs. The daughter of Mystery Chase was steered home to victory by Gerry Hudon.
Century Gaming Not Wasting Any Time in Edmonton
It’s only been a week since Century Gaming beat out three competitors to become the preferred owner and operator of a racing license for the Edmonton market. But already, co-CEO, Erwin Haitzmann and Operations Vice-President, Andreas Terler, have flown into the capital to take charge of early preparations. Both were at the G2E Gming Convention in Las Vegas when they got word their bid had been accepted. They also came to Edmonton to celebrate their successful acquisition of the Apex Casino in St. Albert. Monday, they were to begin interviews for professional engineering staff to deal with site examination, an environmental report and the start of the paperwork that needs to get to the board at Edmonton International Airport and the County of Leduc before development and building permits can be issued.
Meanwhile, Century Downs General Manager, Paul Ryneveld, has been on the road, presenting some details to horsemen’s groups about what the project will look like. He met with thoroughbred folks in Edmonton Thursday, briefed the ASHA board of directors Saturday evening at Century Downs and was in Lethbridge Sunday to showcase the plans to the Alberta Quarterhorse community.
“We’ll be able to take some of the concept plans for Century Downs and apply them to Century Mile,” Ryneveld told me. “We’ve got a ceremonial sod turning planned for Wednesday afternoon at 3 o’clock at Red Tail Landing Golf Club which is immediately east of our new property. We hope we can be into the ground by next spring and are projecting a late summer opening date in 2018 for Century Mile. We’re pleased to see that there are plans for at least one new hotel, and a business centre just south of our site. And there’s a new indoor mall that is an Ivanhoe Cambridge property that is already under construction. So we’ll have lots to offer in the area for visitors from near and far.”
“The Edmonton building will be 50% larger than the Century Downs complex. The third floor patios and clubhouse will be completed and there will be covered outdoor seating at Century Mile. I hope, at some point in the near future, we’ll be able to complete what still has to be done at Century Downs. But it will be nice to have Century Mile completely finished with more than four days to train staff before we open up to the public.”
Century Gaming has asked the horsemen’s groups for representation to a committee looking to incorporate best ideas into the new design. “That pleases me,” driver-trainer, Kelly Hoerdt, told me. “I certainly have some ideas about barns and paddocks and such, and I’m pleased to see the developer is prepared to listen to us in the planning stage, rather than try and change things after the facility is built.”