ASHA officials are pleased with the initial numbers from last Monday’s card of harness racing at Century Downs. More than $72,000 was wagered on the product, including the local audience and teletheatre network, as well as off track wagering from various sites in Canada and the United States.
“It was a better number than we usually get on (say) a Friday evening,” ASHA executive director, Fred Gillis, told me. “I think we’ll have more to offer as we get into the summer months and we have more horses available to race. We can’t do anything to the stakes calendar but when we start writing races for 2 year olds it will give us more to offer to the public.”
The idea is to grow an audience for Alberta product on a day when many racetracks are dark. The 4:10 PM post time makes it an attractive product in eastern time zones and a mid afternoon entertainment on the west coast.
The numbers were slightly better at $75,995 on May 8th.
Justin Currie Stable
It’s always good to see new young trainers coming into harness racing. They’re a bit like athletes. You want to see them come into the game with some good owners and a little horsepower that gives them a chance to be successful if they work hard and learn.
He’s only 25, but Justin Currie has been training horses for the better part of a decade. He was fortunate to grow up in a family which is involved in the sport. His father, Brett and his mother, Angel, have been involved in breeding and developing standardbreds for some time. Justin played some football during his high school years but decided he was too small to contemplate a college career or a shot at the pros. “And I always wanted to train horses,” he told Standardbred Canada in an article written about him in 2010.
He’s done alright too, thanks in part to a horse named Mystic Maiden, which was bred by his parents and which he took on in 2009. All Mystic Maiden did was produce a record of 27-3-2 from 41 lifetime starts with earnings of more than $241,000. She achieved those numbers primarily at Fraser Downs, with a couple of months spent at Mohawk Raceway in 2011. Included in her racing career was a victory in the Western Filly Pace at Northlands Park in Edmonton on Nov. 26th, 2010. Mystic Maiden is now a broodmare at the family farm near Abbotsford BC, where she has produced 3 foals. One of them is the un-raced 3 year old filly, Promissory Note, which is owned by Keith Clark of Dewinton and Archie Benekos of Calgary. The most recent foal is Trust Fund by Trust the Artist. The sire is owned by Kelly Hoerdt, Blair Corbeil and Mike McAllister of Beaumont, AB.
This spring at Century Downs Currie currently has four horses in his stable. He sent 3 others to Running Aces track in Minnesota where his friend, Justin Annifinson, is campaigning them. “They just fit the conditions a bit better there,” Currie told me. “I can always bring them back here. In the meantime, I’ve got Mateo and I’ve got a 2 year old colt named Blue Star Trooper, which I got out of the ASHA yearling sale last fall. I’ve got Mateo for Christine Cutting and Jim Marino. Jim and I are good friends. I helped him out after he got hurt in a racing accident and he paid me back by giving me a chance to train this horse. Mateo was third in an elimination of the Keith Linton Memorial at Fraser Downs last month and he finished second in the final. He’s paced in :53 and I’m hoping he’ll do well in the Alberta Sire Stakes this year.”
What’s New at the Hoerdt Stable?
When I ran into Kelly Hoerdt Sunday morning, he was on his cell phone, trying to arrange transport for his latest acquisition. “I just bought a horse called Town Speaker out of the Meadowlands sale,” he told me. “I think he’ll fit nicely into the Open Stakes races including the Ralph Klein on August 7th here at Century Downs and the Western Canada Pacing Derby at Northlands Park in late September.”
The price wasn’t cheap: $45,000 US. The son of Well Said, out of the Big Towner mare, Town Feather, was un-raced as a 2 year old but has compiled a 5-2-2 log from 11 starts this spring, while racing mostly at The Meadows in Pennsylvania. Town Speaker has earned just over $40,000 US. He has a mark of 1:55.1.
It’s been a good spring for the stable. Hoerdt, Rod Hennessy and Brandon Campbell are leading the UTRS standings at better than .400. Hoerdt trained four winners on Saturday’s card. He also won both the filly open pace with That’s Extra on Saturday and the open pace for colts and geldings on Sunday with Get Thereovernight. Joe Ratchford and Greg Manning are doing very well too although neither has started near as many horses. Sanford Campbell helped his numbers on Saturday by training 3 winners as well. Three wins by Mike Hennessy on Monday afternoon have the 33 year old teamster back on top of the driver’s standings. Hennessy has 28 winners unofficially from 120 starters. That’s two more than Brandon Campbell who has 26 winners from 119 starters. Veteran conditioner, Rod Hennessy leads the trainer’s standings with 21 wins through Monday from 82 starters. Kelly Hoerdt is next with 20 trips to the winner’s circle.
In the meantime, Hoerdt and his staff are getting ready for their annual Open House, coming up on June 11th at Bedrock Stables in Beaumont. It’s an event for the Stollery Children’s Hospital and it’s one of a growing number of charitable events being staged by Alberta’s standardbred community.
Outlaw Blue By You finished third for the Century Downs Racing Stable in Sunday afternoon’s 6th race. The winner was DBLK Oadie which posted a new lifetime mark of 1:58.4 in just its fourth lifetime start. On hand in the winner’s circle was Leela Aheer, The Wildrose MLA for Chestermere-Rocky View, who has become a fan of harness racing. The race saluted the charity, Autism Speaks, and Aheer has a history of supporting that charity.
“I had a wonderful day,” she told me. “I got to jog Johnny Gun in the morning and I spent some time in the backstretch with Harold and Colleen Haining who have become good friends. I’ve got a lot of horsepeople in my riding, so I wanted to learn something about this industry. The people are wonderful, and so are the horses.”… J-F Gagne qualified Outlaw Fireball on the weekend. Alberta’s top 2 year old filly last year is being prepped for the Alberta Sire Stakes 3 year old season which gets underway with the Alberta Princess Stake on May 27th… Century Downs scored another promotions coup last Friday night. More than 600 turned out to watch nearly 200 chihuahuas take over the racetrack. There wasn’t any pari-mutuel wagering on the event but the winning canines each got a doggy package to a kennel while their owners won trips to Mexico. I don’t know if it’s a fair balance but everybody seemed to be happy… the winners for this year’s Name That Foal contest will be crowned on Sunday afternoon at Century Downs. The contest is seeking a name for Hare Canada’s foal, a filly by Mystician. The contest is sponsored by ASHA and by Meridian Farms… the standardbred community will gather to celebrate the life of Don Byrne on Tuesday, May 23rd at 2 PM. The celebration will take place in Edmonton at 18333 Lessard Road.