Not that there's been a lot of competition - have your put your head out of the door recently Sparky? - but there's no doubt that the hottest thing in Edmonton these days is Tajmeallover, a five-year-old pacing mare that is ruling the roost in Alberta. Ignoring the frigid weather Tajmeallover, who races again Friday night at Northlands, has now won seven of her last eight starts.
None were as impressive as her latest appearance last Saturday where she broke the hearts of the boys stepping away from mares-only races. On a track fittingly listed as 'frozen,' Tajmeallover won as easily as Usain Bolt would win a 100-meter dash against Homer Simpson carrying Krusty the Clown on his back. Still fourth at the top of the lane, driver and co-owner Jean Francois Gagne didn't even so much as jiggle the reins and Tajmeallover still won by two and a half lengths.
"Monstrous performance," marvelled track announcer and assistant race manager Matt Jukich after she beat the best in Alberta including Western Canada Pacing Derby winner Appellate. "She blew them away." The final quarter in the 1:56 3/5 mile went in 28 seconds flat. But theres no telling how fast she would have gone if Gagne would have turned her loose.
"I was pretty happy with that effort," understated Gagne, whose wife, Marjorie Dumont, is listed as the trainer. "Tajmeallover is something else."
Is she ever.
A juggernaut, Tajmeallover's only loss in her last eight starts came at British Columbia's Fraser Downs when she was second - in the slop - in the Lady Elements elimination leg. But when it came to the $50,000 Final of the Lady Elements it was a different story. This time it was once again all Tajmeallover as she opened up five lengths at the top of the stretch and coasted home to equal her lifetime mark of 1:53 2/5.
"She likes to come from out of it," said Gagne. "But at the end of the day she's very versatile. She can go both ways." "In the Lady Elements Final she just killed the middle half," he said of making a move just before the half-mile pole to take a lead she would never relinquish. The half went in :56 1/5; the three-quarters was reached in 1:23 4/5 meaning Tajmeallover had paced that third quarter in a blistering :27 3/5. "She's full of speed."
"And the thing is I think she's only going to get better," said Gagne which isn't exactly good news to the rest of the horses in Alberta. "She hasn't reached her full potential yet." It's to the point where you start feeling sorry for everybody who races against her. "She has so much desire," said Gagne. "She's always asking me. It's not me asking her. She's going too fast for that to happen. "She just loves to race."
On Saturday - when she will be back racing mares only - racing secretary Jason Teague has assigned her the outside starting position to try and level things out a bit. "Not that it's likely to make any difference," Teague readily admitted. No. Not likely at all. Right about now you could tie a heavy plow to the back of Tajmeallover's sulky, make her start backwards and blindfold both her and Gagne and it wouldn't matter.
Not that it's been much different ever since Tajmeallover first poked her head through a bridle. Owned by Gagne, Peter Van Seggelen, Carl Warner and Ron Tillafaugh, Tajmeallover has won 13 of her 25 starts this year. Last year - her first full year of racing - she won 14 of 21 starts. Last year she was only out of the money twice; this year she has only been out of the top three twice as well.
"I remember the day we first qualified her as a three-year-old," said Gagne. "It was late in the year at Lacombe. Peter was there. She paced in 1:59 2/5 which was plenty fast but what was more amazing was that she went her last quarter in :28 2/5 without really being asked. I was just holding on to her trying to slow her down.
"I turned to Peter and said 'I think we've got something here. I think we're in business. I think we've got something special here.'" He was right, of course. But then Tajmeallover always had the license to be a good one.
For starters there's her dam Watch Over Me, who won $281,767. Named Alberta's two-year-old filly of the year in 2005, Gagne said Watch Over Me was also on her way to being the three-year-old filly of 2006 after winning the $75,000 Golden Garter Final by five lengths and the $74,000 Alberta Rose by four lengths. After winning her Compass Rose elimination in 1:53 3/5, she drew the outside seventh post for the $83,000 Compass Rose Final, got parked through a brutal first quarter in :26 4/5 and ended up second in what was her first loss after eight straight wins.
Watch Over Me then won her Northlands Filly Pace elimination in a career best 1:53 2/5. "But then she got sick on me and we had to shut her down for almost three months." As a broodmare Watch Over Me has produced Watch My Luck, who was B.C.'s three-year-old filly of the year last season, and Watch and Pray, who won over $100,000.
As well as having that great maternal side to her, Tajmeallover's paternal side is hardly a slouch either given that her sire is the great Alberta champion Tajma Hall. Trained, driven and now co-owned by Gagne, Tajma Hall set Northlands track record - which still stands - of 1:50 3/5 in 2008. Remarkably, Tajma Hall did it as a 10-year-old making him the fastest 10-year-old in history to pace a record mile over a five-eighths mile track.
The winner of the Western Canada Pacing Derby and many other top races, Tajma Hall, a son of Cambest, went on to win $764,254 and stands at Gagne's farm in Westaskiwin. Gagne, 46, was very patient with Tajma Hall and he has done the same thing with Tajmeallover. "As a young horse she was very flighty. She would see a butterfly, stop and turn around toward the traffic. We just took our time with her and she matured on her own. I never pressured her. I would never do anything to break her heart. I trained her down as a two-year-old in July and then I turned her out with broodmares until the following spring."
Unraced as a two-year-old, Tajmeallover only made four starts as a three-year-old. "Sometimes race horses are good early but don't make it late. I always believed in her. I let her be immature. There's one thing about Tajma Hall colts and fillies is that they all get better with age. Just like he did himself."
"We let her tell us when she was ready and now we have a solid race horse." Now Tajmeallover is ready all of the time. "She just loves to race."
Gagne said that Tajmeallover relishes racing so much that when he pulls the horse trailer up to his stalls at Wetaskiwin, Tajmeallover is just begging for him to open up her stall door and put her in the trailer and take her to the races. "Sometimes when I bring in the trailer and I'm not taking her with us she expresses signs of frustration. She'll paw at the ground and turn around in circles. She gets very upset when I have to leave her behind."
A former Board member of the Alberta Standardbred Horse Association, Gagne, 46, graduated from the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières (UQTR) with a degree in medical biology. But, given that his father, Michel, and his grandfather, Romeo, were both heavily involved in harness racing, there really wasn't much question of where Jean Francois was headed. "Right out of university I bought a couple of harness horses. It was only supposed to be for fun and take a break from school. But here we are today."
"I don't know if it was in the blood or what but once i started craving it I couldn't get it out." Now, Gagne gets everything out of his horses. Especially Tajmeallover: the Queen of the Prom and almost inarguably the best horse in he province.
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