It’s been a busy time at Century Downs in Balzac the past few days. A lot of 2 and 3 year olds appeared on the racetrack as horsemen look for indications that the pacers are ready and able to take part in some big stakes races that are just ahead. The most immediate answers had to come from the 3 year old filly group because the entry box opens for them on Wednesday morning with the Lady Luck eliminations set for Sunday, July 30th.
“I’m hoping we’ll get a couple of eliminations,” racing secretary, Jackson Wittup, told me. “We’ve certainly got a couple of horses in Outlaw Fireball and Wedding Dance that have been really good in this category this year. But I suspect that with $25,000 available in the eliminations and $75,000 in the final, there will be lots of interest.”
I would guess that Stylomilohos will be one name in the entry box. The 3 year old daughter of Alberta sire, Mystery Chase, won a non-winners of six on Sunday afternoon with Brandon Campbell at the controls. Stylomilohos is in the top 8 group for the Super Finals at the moment and while the Lady Luck isn’t a qualifier for that event because it is an Open Stake, there is that purse to consider. Co-owner Rod Hennessy tells me That’s It will be a starter. Serge Masse has a decision to make about Last Time To Play. The filly has struggled this season at Century Downs but paced her best mile of the year in finishing second to Stylomilohos on Sunday afternoon.
“I’d have to supplement her to the Lady Luck so I wanted to see how she raced before I made up my mind,” Masse told me.
Other owners have some thinking to do as well. Outlaw Imahotvixen (Joe Ratchford), Sideline Secrets (Allan Goertzen), Burn My Villa (Diane Bertrand & Robert Gilhespy) and JK Ellem Enoh (Bryan Brook, Brad Walker, Diane Harries) finished 1-2-3-4 in a non-winners of 2 on Saturday afternoon. All four horses have previously taken on the favourites in stakes competition. Assuming they’re all healthy, they might try again. Same story for Kelly Hoerdt. Alexas Princess finished third behind older horses on Saturday in 1:57 with a :29.4 last quarter. Steady Breeze was 6th in her most recent outing on Sunday afternoon against non-winners of 6 company. She too has been a stakes performer, including a third place showing in the final of the Meridien Breeders on Canada Day. Alexas Princess would have to be supplemented to the race which is another consideration. Yoga Pants, from Jim Marino’s barn, is another probable starter. She hasn’t raced since winning the Penny Bath Memorial at Fraser Downs on April 22nd, but she qualified on Saturday morning in 1:57.1.
By no means are these the only possibilities. We’ll see what owners and trainers think about their chances when the entry box opens.
As for the colts, they get another weekend of racing before owners and trainers have to make up their minds about entering the Ralph Klein. That race is part of the Mid Summer Classic program on the Civic Holiday, Monday, August 7th. In turn, the Mid Summer Classic is Day 2 of the Festival of Racing Week at Century Downs. The Festival ends on Saturday, August 12th with the opening leg of the World Drivers Challenge, featuring Team Canada representative, Brandon Campbell.
Serge Masse’s Da Magician is almost certain to be in the field for the Klein, even though Masse would have to supplement him to the field. Da Magician finished third behind older horses in his most recent start on Monday afternoon, pacing the mile in a respectable 1:55.3. Mateo and Senga Nitro have been good in the Alberta Sire Stakes; Mateo, in fact, has been terrific. It’s a smaller list of eligible horses – just 21 – than the fillies but there’s nothing stopping anyone else from stepping up if they feel their horse has a shot at a cheque. Getup Gideon and Retros Mystery, both from Rod Starkewski’s barn are other possibilities. Both have been earning good cheques in the Alberta Sire Stakes to this point in the season. Both would have to be supplemented to the Ralph Klein. Ima Dude is another possibility, although owners Jodi Loftus, Tim Kane, and George Rogers would have to pay the supplementary fee to get their horse into the field as well.
The owners of 2 year olds are also gearing up for Mid Summer Classic, when the Emerald Filly and the Century Bets Stakes are to be part of the card. Keith Clark has 9 two year olds working their way toward the starting gate. Snap Test scored from PP-4 on Sunday in a great finish, getting past Dream Chase in the final strides. The horse is owned in partnership with two of Clark’s longtime owners, Doris McDougall and Archie Benekos. You Talk Too Much, which Clark owns with Robert Jones, picked up a second place finish on Saturday afternoon. The winner, Paperback Thriller, is another two year old, owned by Lorne Duffield and Rod Hennessy. Tap The Keg from the same stable was a winner on Sunday in 1:59.2. Freedoms Rescue, owned by Bill and Dianne Neish of High River, was second and Screen Test, owned by Bill Andrew and Dan Sifert was third, so you have to figure that all of them are looking at the August 7th program and wondering if their horse has a chance to get its racing career off to a flying start with a stakes victory.
Just off the truck…..
A truck arrived at Century Downs on Saturday evening with four new racehorses, just what racing secretary, Jackson Wittup, wanted to see. It means some potential new starters in various classes that adds more options for the punters and pushes the horse supply issue in the right direction.
Ludwig Hanover joins Carl Archibald’s Meadowlark Stables. “He’s paced miles in 1:54 in Ontario,” Archibald told me. “He just hasn’t been quite good enough to make the board in stakes company there. I’ll be trying him out in training on Wednesday morning and we’ll see if we can get him ready for the August 3rd holiday weekend. He’s been racing at Mohawk and has a second in six starts on his card.”
Ask For Me is a 3 year old filly heading to Rod Hennessy’s shed row. She’s paced in 1:56.3 at Mohawk and has a win in 19 starts in her career. She has career earnings to date of $18,100. Like Ludwig Hanover, she’s proven to be a step slower than the best in her class in Ontario. We’ll see how she does once she’s ready to race in Alberta.
Truce Seelster was unloaded and walked over to Jim Marino’s barn. The daughter of Mach Three was a $50,000 buy at the Forest City Sale 2 years ago. Unraced as a 2 year old, she has a win, a second, and two thirds in five outings this year.
Blissfull Misty is the latest acquisition of Regina horseman, Rick McAllister. Trainer Jamie Gray will see what he can do with this 3 year old daughter of Vintage Master, out of the Blissfull Hall mare, Blissfull Maddie. She too is a maiden, although she’s paced her best mile in 1:57.2
The Packwood Grand folks are gearing up for a big day Saturday at Century Downs.
“We expect to have just over 1,500 racing fans on hand again this year,” executive producer, Tyler Rygus, told me. “We’ve moved it away from Canada Day because we thought a lot of folks might have other plans to mark Canada’s 150th birthday. But it’s proven to be a popular promotion. It allows our crowd to get dressed up for a party and take in a day at the races. The folks at Century Downs have been terrific to work with. We’ll have about 400 VIP guests and box holders in the infield. The rest of our party will share space on the tarmac with regular racing fans. We’ve still got some tickets available, although all of the VIP packages are gone.”
“We’ll have our own “Styles Stakes” to award shopping sprees at Cross Iron Mills to the best dressed men and women. We’re working with our partner, Calgary Jewelry, and sponsor, Longines, to produce an award for the winning driver of one specific race. Longines is the official timekeeper of the Kentucky Derby, and since the whole idea is to recreate that kind of atmosphere, it’s appropriate that Longines be involved.”
“And, when our group was at the track last year, it was the day that Century Downs set its own record for pari-mutuel wagering on a race card. So, we’re going to do what we can to show our support for Alberta harness racing. The long range weather forecast looks good. It should be a fun day.”
Check out @packwoodgrand on Instagram for more details.
I referred to Christine Cutting as Christine Cushing in last week’s column. My apologies, and I have fired my proof reader! It’s really hard to get good help!... I also failed to include Chief Saratoga among the list of horses in Ricky Schneider’s stable. All the Chief has done in 2017 is post a 10-1-5 log from 29 starts and earn $26,535. He’s probably been the best performer Schneider has had and he’s certainly among the top earners among the condition claimers... the Fun For Fans stable will add Little Warriors to the list of organizations it helps when harness racing moves to Northlands Park in September. Little Warriors is a Canadian charity which is committed to the awareness, prevention, and treatment of child sexual abuse. It runs the Be Brave Ranch, a long term treatment centre, in the Edmonton area… through Monday, Mike Hennessy continues to lead the drivers’ dash standings with 68 wins. Brandon Campbell is next with 62 and Kelly Hoerdt is third with 50, including 3 wins on Monday. Hoerdt is leading trainer with 57 victories. Rod Hennessy is next with 38 and Keith Clark is third with 26.