As the weather gets a little colder and the fall harness meet resumes next weekend at Northlands Park, there is action on other fronts. A number of horsemen who raced in Alberta this year, have decided they prefer a warmer climate and have re-located to Cal Expo in Sacramento. The list includes Quentin Schneider, Richard Remillard, Ryan Grundy, Gary Clark, Rene Goulet, and Gord Empey.
Gary Clark already has a win, getting his picture taken with Real Buzz in the opening race of last Friday night’s card. Grundy has won with both Shesamysterytome and with Justabitcrazy. Goulet scored with Cenalta Call Girl on the Saturday program.
They’ll try and make some money in US dollars and build on the relationship between California and Alberta horsemen. There have been a number of conversations involving officials from California, Fraser Downs and Alberta Standardbred about what it would take to put together a series that would start in California, continue in BC and wind up in Alberta. There is some interest, but the pieces needed to make something like that a reality, aren’t yet in place. The past couple of years a handful of California horsemen have come to the ASHA yearling sale to buy horses, which is a tribute to the relative strength of the Alberta breeding program. It would be nice to see those horses, at least a couple of times, racing in the province and not lost completely to the racing scene here.
Speaking of yearling sales, I counted eleven horses which were purchased by Alberta interests at the annual Harrisburg Sale which wrapped up on Friday evening in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Two are going to Keith Clark’s barn in De Winton, three were bought by John Glen of Sherwood Park, a couple others were purchased by Meridian Farms of High River, and five are now owned by Blair Corbeil of Beaumont. Sadly, the Corbeil horses are not coming back to Alberta, at least not right now.
“I’ve been coming to this sale for twelve years and this is the toughest it’s ever been to get good horses,” Corbeil told me. “Anything that looked good was expensive. I paid $25,000 for a 3 year old filly, Rockn Opium, which I had owned in partnership and which I now own outright. She’s been racing in Toronto so we’re going to leave her with trainer Jennifer Bongiorno. Her brother, Joe, drives some of Ron Burke’s horses on the Ontario circuit and I’ve been very impressed with their work.”
Jenn Bongiorno just took out her trainer’s license in June, but already has 15 horses to work with. She and her brother are fourth generation in the business. Their great uncle is harness racing legend, Stanley Dancer.
“There’s a Betterthancheddar colt that’s going to Ron Fellows’ stable in Toronto. The others are going to Ron Coyne’s stable in New Jersey. I also had six horses in the sale that I was able to sell.”
John Glen picked up three yearlings. He got an American Ideal colt called American Risk, a Betterthancheddar filly called Rue Hanover, and an American Ideal filly named Quantum Blue Chip.
“I’m sending the two American Ideal yearlings to Clark Beelby down in Florida,” Glen told me. “Rue Hanover will go to Gord Remmen in Toronto. We’ll see how they train down in the spring and then decide what to do with them. I kind of rolled the dice on Quantum Blue Chip. I’m hopeful that she can develop into a good racehorse but certainly she could also be a broodmare prospect longer term.”
“Anytime you buy a horse it’s a gamble. I like the breeding on these three but it will be next summer before we know exactly what we have.”
Glen, whose family is in the automotive business in western Canada, was in Vancouver when I caught up to him on Sunday morning. He had an interesting story to tell, though, about a Saturday evening trip to Fraser Downs.
“I’ve raced there for years,” he told me. “It was great to see the grandstand really packed on Saturday night. It was BC Breeders Day and it drew a crowd. There was a weather delay part way through the card but almost nobody left. It tells me that people want to come to the races. They’re not content simply to sit at home and watch them on their computers.”
“I’m anxious to see if that happens in Alberta. Yes, the machine gaming is important, but so is the fan experience of coming to watch live racing. Fraser Downs has a tiered level of seating that provides great viewing of the racetrack. I hope that will be part of both Century Mile and Century Downs when those facilities are completed.”
Glen has three horses racing in Toronto at the moment. Two of them are trotters, so there’s no chance they will find their way to Alberta. The third is the mare, Buttermilk Hanover.
“Rod Boyd has her and she’s been racing in non-winners of $15-20,000,” Glen told me. “They go for purses of $20,000 and race every week. So, it doesn’t make any sense to bring her out to Alberta where she’d have to race in the Open class for half that money.”
“I didn’t buy anything at the ASHA yearling sale in September, so at the moment, I’m not sure what I’ll have for the Alberta circuit for 2018. We’ll see what these yearlings do as they get ready to start their racing careers and then make some decisions based upon what they show us.”
Meanwhile, two yearling buys are headed to Keith Clark’s farm in De Winton. Armycaptin Hanover is a yearling son of Captaintreacherous. Three Grand is a son of Mach Three. Clark echoed John Glen’s thoughts on their potential, saying “we’ll see what they show us when we get them here and into training in the spring.”
Meridian Farms added a 2 year old filly, What A Feeling, at a cost of $5,000. She went through the Lexington Select sale in October of 2016 for a price of $15,000 US. “I think we got a steal with this one,” Meridian farm manager, Terry McIsaac, told me. A daughter of Bettors Delight, out of the Art Major mare, All The Buzz, she’ll be turned loose on the Alberta scene next summer. Meridian also added to its broodmare band, picking up the 10 year old Jk Sure I Can. She made nearly $160,000 during her racing career including a win in the Ladyship Stake at the Meadowlands as a 3 year old. She’s currently in foal to Sportswriter.
McIsaac will be pleased to know that Sportswriter sired three of the four winners of $100,000 stakes races on Saturday at Fraser Downs. Scardy Cat in the Betty Millbank Memorial for 2 year old fillies, Yoga Pants in the Mary Murphy Breeders for 3 year old fillies and Millbanks Bart in the Robert Murphy Memorial for 3 year old colts and geldings, are all products of the Ontario based stallion. And it was a good day for Rick Mowles JJJ Stable from Prince George, BC. We saw a lot of his horses during the summer meet at Century Downs. He won three of the four $100,000 finals on Saturday and finished one-two with Scardy Cat and with Dali Double in the Betty Millbank Memorial.
Ima Dude, driven by Brandon Campbell, finished runner-up to Millbanks Bart in the Robert Murphy Memorial.