Shedrow A in the backstretch at Century Downs was a quiet place on Sunday morning. Trainer Rod Starkewski was busy shoeing Getup Gideon, his 2 year old colt who had an appointment that afternoon in the first division of the Alberta Shooting Star Stake. Getup Gideon finished 4th, ensuring a spot in the championship race for the class at Super Finals Saturday, Oct. 29th.
But Rod didn’t mind stopping his work for a few minutes to talk about the smallest member of his racing stable – and the perpetrator of one of the biggest upsets in the history of Alberta standardbred racing. That came last Saturday when 146-1 longshot, Outlawburntpopcorn, stunned a field of 3 year old fillies to win the Alberta Marquis and move into 4th spot in the standings. That puts her into the $80,000 championship Super Final on Saturday, Oct. 29th.
“I was standing by the fence in the backstretch as the horses came around the final turn,” Rod told me. “She was second to last on the final turn. I saw Dave Kelly starting to move her up. Then I heard track announcer, Murray Slough, calling her name in the stretch. I thought maybe we could get a cheque but she just kept passing one horse and then another and another. When I watched the race a little while later, I saw she won by about a length and a half. I couldn’t believe it.”
The daughter of Blue Burner from the Artsplace mare, Pure Movement, paid a record $295.10 for a $2 ticket. She earned $28,000 for the win, moving her into 4th place on the money list for 3 year old fillies..
The reaction far and wide was amazement. At her farm, Outlaw Stables near Falun, breeder Connie Kolthammer, could hardly believe what she was watching. “I was about three feet off the ground and screaming at my monitor,” she told me. I think Dave (driver Dave Kelly) could have heard me if he hadn’t been a little busy.”
For Kelly, it was the first stakes win of his young driving career. “Rod told me just to do the best I could with her,” said Kelly. I tried to follow Phil Giesbrecht and Glamorgal leaving off the gate. But Keith Clark had Funkmeister and was trying to control the pace and I got behind him. I thought I was out of luck. I managed to get her to the outside after the ¾ pole and she started to move and just kept going. We came home in :30.3, the fastest last quarter in the field. Everybody else was in the :31-:32 second range. She was still going strong at the wire.”
“And I was shocked at the odds. I once won a race in the Maritimes with a horse called Delicate Cam. I think it paid $97.30. That was the biggest longshot I had ever won with……until Saturday.”
Outlawburntpopcorn has been racing for Fun For Fans Stable and has made some money for a number of charities this summer. Spokesman, Fred Gillis, who bought the filly for the stable and organized the charities which participated in racing this summer, was as surprised as everybody else.
“She’s just a little thing,” he told me. “She’s like her mother who wasn’t very big either. She’s raced OK this year although she faded a bit in August. The rest of her class improved and passed her. I talked to Rod and we decided to put her into conditional claiming ranks to see if we could sharpen her up. I always say you can’t win if you’re not in the race. But I don’t think any of us expected this.”
The prize money helps to clear off all debts and expenses and provides a financial framework for the stable for 2017. ‘Popcorn will go to Edmonton for the month-long meet starting Nov. 18th and will race for the Stollery Children’s Hospital. Anything she earns will go to that worthy charity. Between now and then, however, she’s got another date with the starter at Century Downs. Maybe she can earn another cheque on Super Final Saturday, Oct. 29th.
Starkewski to be Busy at Super Finals
Outlawburntpopcorn’s stunning performance means Rod Starkewski and his wife, Jackie, will be a little busy on Oct. 29th. They expect to have ten different horses and nine different ownership groups represented among the eight races.
“Let’s see, we’ve got Keep on Burning for Norm Kennedy, Retro’s Mystery for Robert James, and our own Getup Gideon for the 2 year old colts race,” he told me. “Then we’ve got Lil Bit O Jingle for Kurt & Kathy Schmidt for the 2 year old filly stake. We’ve got Classy Artist which I co-own with Tony Chan for the 3 year old colts championship. We’ve got Outlawtriggerhappy which I own with Clauzette Byckal and now Outlawburntpopcorn for the 3 year old fillies. And then in the consolation events, we’ve got Astrid The Axe for the 3 year old fillies. She’s owned by Dion Burlock. We’ve got Queen of Thrones for the 2 year old fillies which is owned by Wayne Stecyk. And we’ve got Trustee which Tony Chan owns for the 3 year old colts stake. I think that’s nine different ownership groups. That’s pretty good, eh? I’m really proud of that.”
ASHA and Century Downs are teaming up to throw a reception for all participants on Friday evening, Oct. 28th. “Nobody’s lost anything at that point,” Fred Gillis told me. “Everybody will be in good humour and looking forward to Saturday. It’ll be a good party to celebrate the season.”
The draw for post positions will take place on Wednesday morning, Oct. 26th. The championship races will go with fields of eight with no horses drawing in, in the event of a late scratch. The four races are worth $80,000 apiece. The consolation finals which are worth $15,000 apiece, will likely include an “also eligible” horse which would start in the event of a scratch.
Brandon Campbell to Represent Canada Next Year
It took some consistent driving and a little prayer in the final race last Friday night in London, but Brandon Campbell won the Canadian Driving Championship and the right to carry Canada’s colours in next year’s World Driving Championship which will be staged at 5 different sites across the country.
“I managed to get a win and four seconds out of eight drives on the night, “ the 33 year old horseman from Calgary told me. “I was sweating a bit in the final race. My horse attacked the gate off the start and used up so much energy he didn’t have anything left for the stretch. I was worried James MacDonald was going to beat me but he couldn’t finish in the top two which would have given him enough points to be the overall winner.”
“It’s my third try to win this event, so I’m glad I finally managed to get it done. I want to thank Fraser Downs which gave me a chance to represent them at the west regionals which I won in June here at Century Downs. I’m grateful to Paul Ryneveld who put up $2,000 to be donated in my name to Pretty in Pink cancer which is my designated charity. And now I get to represent my country next year. I’m told I get new colours and a new helmet in red and white. It’s pretty incredible.”
The world series begins at Century Downs next August 13th and will bring together drivers from 11 different countries. It will continue with series at two different tracks in Ontario and one in Trois Rivieres Quebec, before finishing at Red Shores in Charlottetown on August 25th. The finals will be held as part of the World Trotting Congress which is taking place in PEI at the same time.
Meanwhile, Campbell is busy moving his stable to Fraser Downs for the winter campaign. He’ll take Skade and American Passion, his father, Sanford’s older mares, along with the open pacer, Sterling Cooper, to the coast next Monday. There, they’ll get into a more active racing schedule than will be available as the Alberta season winds down.
Century Downs has added one more card of harness racing to its schedule, Friday, Nov. 11th, starting at 12:10 PM. The earlier starting time acknowledges the shift to standard time which is to take place on Nov. 6th. It also gives the horsemen another day of racing while Farm Fair and Canadian Finals Rodeo wrap up in Edmonton. The Northlands Park meet, which will include the Western Canada Pacing Derby and the Northlands Filly Pace, begins on Friday evening, Nov. 18th.