Colleen Haining’s cellphone buzzed just before 11 o’clock Sunday morning. It was a text from Jody Jamieson to say he had arrived at Calgary International and inquiring, “where do you want me?” A few minutes later another text arrived saying… ”Sorry, I missed my flight…!” That was from Jim Macdonald. A few moments later, Colleen’s cellphone buzzed again. “I’ve changed my mind…” (signed) Doug McNair.
When you’re the lady in charge of a multitude of details for a charity promotion, you’d best have a sense of humour. All 3 of them were safely in town and en route to Century Downs. And they put on a good show Sunday afternoon, driving eight races apiece and raising nearly $8,000 for three separate charities in the Pacing For Charity promotion.
Jody Jamieson has long had a connection with Autism Canada. James Macdonald teamed up with Juvenile Diabetes. Doug McNair was the star performer on the day winning five straight races and putting new lifetime marks on three of his horses. He competed on behalf of Perky in Pink, representing cancer research. It’s pretty easy to see why he’s one of the rising stars in the sport of harness racing. It was his first trip to Alberta. He’d never seen any of the stock he drove and could only have a quick look at each form before the race. But it seems, he’s a quick learner.
Some of Alberta’s regular horsemen – Jim Marino, Ryan Grundy, Jamie Gray, and Harold Haining – also got into the spirit of the event and helped the cause a bit. All three organizations were represented at the track. As well, Perky in Pink got about a thousand dollars as the June recipients of revenue from the Fun For Fans Stable. And, Malica Miles won a trip to Las Vegas thanks to the sale of tickets on behalf of Perky in Pink.
All in all, a good day, with community chapters of charities benefitting from the harness racing industry.
Meridian & Brad Gunn Finals on Canada Day
Next up is Saturday’s finals of the Meridian and the Brad Gunn breeders series for fillies and for colts and geldings. The boys went through two eliminations on Saturday with four horses from each advancing to the final. Da Magician (1:55.1) and Outlaw Blue Ice (1:54.4) were the two winners. The other qualifiers are Mateo, Wabash Cannonball, Retros Mystery, Getup Gideon, Senga Nitro, and Cold Case. One more starter will be drawn when the draw is held on Wednesday morning to make up a 9-horse final.
Trainer Rod Starkewski will have 2 of his performers in the $60,000 final, Retros Mystery and Getup Gideon, which looked the best he’s looked this season in cruising to a runner-up share behind Outlaw Blue Ice. Kelly Hoerdt also has a couple of pacers in the final, Wabash Cannonball and Cold Case.
The one surprise was that Brandon Campbell’s Ima Dude simply wasn’t feeling well and finished fifth in its elimination. And Town Speaker, supple-mented to the stake by Kelly Hoerdt, has yet to find his rhythm at Century Downs. He finished behind Ima Dude in the second elimination.
On the girls side, a deep field of eligibles required three eliminations to determine the nine finalists with the top three horses in each elimination heading to Saturday’s $60,000 finale. Cardinal Rule was an upset winner in the first elimination in 1:56.1 for driver, Jim Marino, and trainer, Blaine Chappel. Outlaw Fireball and Outlaw Imahotvixen also advanced to the final. Fireball was coming off a win in the Alberta Princess final on June 3rd. Vixen has been a steady performer this spring for veteran conditioner, Joe Ratchford.
From the second Meridian elimination, Wedding Dance, perhaps the best three year old filly on the grounds to this point this season, got the job done in 1:55.2, which tied its lifetime mark. Steady Breeze and Take Me I’m Yours also advanced. And from elimination #3, That’s It gives the Hennessy barn a spot in the final (1:56.1). Single Minded and Pickles On Top are the other qualifiers. Kelly Hoerdt has some decisions to make since Steady Breeze and Single Minded are both his. Same story for Jean-Francois Gagne, who qualified Outlaw Fireball and Pickles On Top.
All in all, a lot of owners will be biting their nails between now and Wednesday morning when the draw is held for the two finals. Post position is crucial although several of the qualifiers had outside posts in the eliminations and managed to make it into the Canada Day finals.
Speaking of Canada Day, note race times for the three day holiday. Saturday’s card begins at 5:10 PM and will be followed by a fireworks display. Sunday and Monday’s matinees will both start at 1:10 PM with the Monday post time being 3 hours earlier than usual to accommodate what’s likely to be a larger crowd than usual with so many folks having the Monday off.
Speaking of time changes…
Keep this in mind for Saturday, August 12th when the first round of the World Drivers Championship takes place at Century Downs. Pilots from 11 different countries will be taking part in a series of five races in the first leg of the championship.
We’ll be starting at 5:10 PM that day,” Century Downs General Manager, Paul Ryneveld, told horsemen at Sunday’s paddock meeting. “The reason is that it will be 7:10 Sunday morning on the east coast of Australia. Those folks love to bet and I’m sure they’ll be watching with interest to see what their man, Shane Graham, can do. New Zealand gets to send two drivers, the 2015 world driving champion, Dexter Dunn, along with Mark Purdon. Canada will be represented by Century Downs regular, Brandon Campbell. The Aussies bet about five times what Canada bets in a year and most of their racing is in New South Wales, which is the state on the southeast side of the country. So I think we’ll have some good pools for bettors and that’s why we decided to change the start time.”
There will be five races, each of them a mile and a sixteenth and each of them with eleven competitors: nine across the first row and two trailers. It’s going to be interesting to see which horses are entered in the races and how they react to a much more crowded racetrack. Organizers will sweeten the pot a bit, guaranteeing every starter $400 and adding $2,000 to the purses for each of the races. It’ll be interesting to see how much interest across North American is focused on the worlds. Woodbine Entertainment Group has already agreed to carry the races across its extensive network. So, save your pennies and be prepared to come and be a part of a very special event, Saturday, August 12th at 5:10 PM at Century Downs.4
Oh, by the way… Kavola, a 3 year old filly owned by Norm Kennedy of Calgary, broke her maiden on Monday afternoon. Kennedy has struck a deal with 15 year old Jacob Cutting, who is doing on the work on the horse even while he studies to take his trainer’s exam. 1:58.4 was the time for the winner with Rene Goulet steering the pacer into the winner’s circle… Blue Star Admiral, which comes from Alberta harness racing royalty (Camystic – Movin Uptown – As Promised) won for driver and co-owner, Tyler Redwood on Monday afternoon. Admiral was promptly claimed by Keith Clark and Archie Benekos… Outlaw Blue By You, which races for the 94-member strong Century Downs Racing Club, was also a winner on Monday afternoon, pacing the mile in 1:57.4 with Mike Hennessy at the controls… Ozone Blue Chip, which had an equipment issue and finished well back in the North American Cup, made the final of the Max Hempf Memorial this Saturday night at Pocono Downs. The purse is $500,000. Alberta Standardbred President, Blair Corbeil, is one of the owners. Fear The Dragon and Downbytheseaside will be the two favourites. Ozone Blue Chip has drawn Post 6 and will be driven by regular pilot, Brett Miller.