Wednesday, 11 January 2017 09:05

His name is Justabitcrazy

Written by Curtis Stock
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Ryan Grundy in the bike at Century Downs Ryan Grundy in the bike at Century Downs

But that is a misnomer. Given the seven-year-old harness horse’s remarkable improvement it should be something like Nowthisisreallycrazy. When Ryan Grundy leased the bay gelding from breeder Cory Vickers in May of 2015 Justabitcrazy was racing against $4,000 claimers. And to say he wasn’t doing very well even at that level would be a vast understatement.

Yet, on Saturday, with five wins in his last six starts, he will once again compete against $20,000 claimers. “I can’t explain it,” said Grundy, who eventually purchased Justabitcrazy in a private transaction. “I didn’t change any of his equipment or anything. I just raced him the way he came to me. “I don’t know what his training regimen was before I got him but I trained him the same way I train all of my horses,” said Grundy, who has 11 horses in his care. “Why he’s gotten so good I can’t say but he’s a cash machine now. I send him out and he always comes back with some cash.”

It isn’t just that Justabitcrazy is winning. It’s the way he’s doing it. He’s not just coming home on top, he’s coming home at his own leisure. Take his last two starts for instance. In his last appearance this past weekend, Justabitcrazy had only one horse headed midway down the backstretch after a first quarter in a soft 29 seconds and the half reached in a moderate :58 1/5.

“When I saw the fractions I was a little worried that he might not get there especially with Somewhereinmexico in front,” said Grundy. “Somewhereinmexico is a tough horse to catch -  especially after those kind of fractions.”

There was, however, no reason to panic. Getting a second-over trip behind Premium Attraction, Justabitcrazy tipped three wide turning for home and won by a very easy two and a half lengths in 1:56 1/5. Moreover he came home in a most impressive :28 3/5 last quarter on a freezing cold night - the fastest final panel the horse has paced since a warm June day last year.

As good as that race was, the horse’s previous outing - on New Year’s Eve - was even more convincing. Parked well past the opening quarter, Justabitcrazy finally wrestled the lead away after an opening panel in a rapid :27 3/5. Undaunted and hounded most of the rest of the way, Justabitcrazy kept on going and won by open lengths again - this time stopping the clock in 1:55 1/5.

“He always paces the home stretch hard and on his own,” said Grundy. “Sometimes during the mile I have to ask him to keep up or get going but when he turns for home he always kicks into another gear.

“When he opened up midway down the stretch there was no doubt he was gone.” Justabitcrazy’s fastest mile of his career came on Dec. 3 when he won in 1:54 flat. “He’s just gotten better and better,” said Grundy, a nephew of former local trainers and drivers Brent and Glenn Grundy. Justabitcrazy improved almost immediately after Grundy took him over. But then that wasn’t exactly hard to do considering the horse’s past history.

When Grundy first got Justabitcrazy some 20 months ago the horse was coming off two very lacklustre races - finishing eighth by 17 lengths and seventh by 18 lengths against $4,000 company. Both times the horse was unable to pace in under two minutes.

“Nathan Sobey is a good friend of mine and he told me that Justabitcrazy’s previous owners were looking to either lease or sell him,” said Grundy. “They didn’t want to take him to Balzac (Century Downs). “Nathan told me to give it a try and see what I could do with him. I had just come back from California and I was looking for some horses to fill out my barn. I didn’t ask a lot of questions; I just gave him a shot.”

The first time Grundy sat behind the horse, Justabitcrazy didn’t win but he did pace three full seconds faster than he had in those two previous outings. Then, in his next start, he did win. And, after a second and a couple of thirds, he won back-to-back. Still, those wins only came against $4,000 company.

“I tried him against $7,500 claimers but he didn’t win. And when I tried to race him again in that class the races didn’t fill. Rather than have him sit in the barn I entered him in a few condition claiming races,” Grundy recalled.

While it was impossible to tell back then, those races were the turning point in Justabitcrazy’s career as the horse won three in a row against that class. “Those three races seemed to be the jump start.” Justabitcrazy’s life against bottom claimers were over. Probably forever.

“He’s been a really good horse for us,” understated Grundy. “I put him into a race and he brings me home a pay check.” First, second or third in 21 of his 37 races last year, Grundy did have one heart-pounding moment with Justabitcrazy. On April 17 of last year, Justabitcrazy went down in a spill at Century Downs.

“The horse in front of me went down and I couldn’t avoid him; we hooked wheels. I must have flown through the air 15 feet and Justabitcrazy did a summersault.” Remarkably, neither Grundy nor Justabitcrazy were injured. “In fact,” said Grundy, “He won his very next start. “Overall he’s been a very low maintenance horse. He just really likes his job.

“Now if he’s within a couple of lengths of the lead at the head of the lane they’re going to have a hard time beating him. “Every race he just gets more and more confident,” said Grundy, 35, who grew up in the business alongside his grandfather, Art Grundy, in Manitoba. “When I was two or three-years-old I would sit beside my grandfather on a jog cart. I had my first horse when I was just five years old.”

Moving to Alberta in 2002, Grundy arrived with just one horse. To make ends meet he would catch-jog horses and do odd jobs making “just enough money to stay alive.” Then he went to work with Jamie Gray for three years where he said he “learned so much. “Eventually I just branched out on my own,” said Grundy, who has been his own boss for the last eight years.

Enjoying his best year by far in 2016, Justabitcrazy isn’t the only really good horse in Grundy’s barn. He also has Senga Nitro, who was probably last year’s top two-year-old for Ken Gunn after winning six of his eight starts while winning over $100,000 by virtue of winning all of the Alberta-sire stakes including the Alberta Super Final.

In one of those Sire Stakes, Senga Nitro set a track record for two-year-olds winning in 1:55 4/5 over a track that was only rated as ‘good’ and a fifth of a second faster than the mark shared by Blue Star Jet and Wedding Dance.

“Senga Nitro was the star of the stable. Well, at least he was. But he’s on his winter break and now this guy has come along,” said Grundy nodding at Justabitcrazy, who was just getting set for his morning jog.

Almost every horse gets better as they get older. But then they usually peak when they get to four or, maybe, five years of age. But to suddenly ‘arrive’ as a seven-year-old? That’s a whole lot more than Justabitcrazy.

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Read 1047 times Last modified on Wednesday, 18 January 2017 21:39