The Alberta Sire Stakes for 3 year olds resumes this weekend with the fillies getting their turn in eliminations of the Alberta Diamond on Saturday afternoon and the colts and geldings in action on Sunday in the Alberta Marksmen. Fifteen thousand dollars is set aside for each sex with the finals coming up the following weekend for $40,000 apiece.
Of at least equal value is the opportunity to accumulate enough money earned to qualify for the Super Finals Nov. 17th at Century Downs. The top eight in each of the male and female 3 year old groups will make it to the championship round where the purse will be $80,000. The next eight will go to the consolation final worth $15,000 apiece. After the Diamond and the Marksmen this month, there will still be another chance to qualify when the Alberta Marquis (fillies) and the Alberta Maverick (colts & geldings) is staged at the end of October.
The immediacy of building up enough money to qualify for Super Finals can’t get in the way of actually being sound and competitive in the Super Finals. Which is why we will not see Exit Smiling, which leads the colt division, in the second leg of qualifying – the Alberta Marksman – in the next two weeks.
“He’s got a little bit of a leg problem,” trainer Jamie Gray told me on Sunday morning. “We’re getting it looked at. I don’t think it’s anything really serious and I’m fortunate that the horse is leading the standings after the first leg. But he’s too good a colt to take a chance on running in the Marksman. And there’s still another event if he needs to earn some additional money to make it to Super Finals. To say nothing of some other races on the agenda like the Ralph Klein next month. So we’ll take a little time with him and make sure he’s sound. It’s a bigger picture than just one race.”
“The bonus is I get to drive my other colt, Yankee Up, in the Marksman. He’s 4th on the list in money won at the moment. I hope I can get him a little higher in the standings and give him a chance to just about guarantee himself a spot in the Super Finals with a strong effort over the next couple of weeks.”
Fifteen horses earned cheques out of the Alberta Plainsman series last month. Four others took part in that event but finished out of the money. It will be up to trainers to decide if they think their horses are capable of being competitive at this level in the Alberta Marksman. That decision will have to be made by the time the entry box opens on Wednesday morning.
There was one colt that wasn’t ready for the Plainsman last month that looks like he’ll be a factor in the Marksman. Mystery Coz put on quite a show on Sunday afternoon at the non-winners of 3 level. Joe Ratchford’s pride and joy was in 9th place and trailing the field at the half mile pole with Clint Warrington at the controls. But the duo came the last half mile in :58.4 and the last quarter in :27.1 to finish third.
“Clint told me it was like driving a Porsche,” said Ratchford. “After the half, he just accelerated so smoothly and just kept gaining ground on the leaders. I was very pleased with the trip and I’d say as long as he comes out of the race alright, you’ll see him in the Marksman.”
Mystery Coz showed a lot of promise as a 2 year old but then ran into a couple of injuries that delayed his development. Perhaps now, though, we’ll see just how good this Mystery Chase son really is.
Another possibility is Tap The Keg from Rod Hennessy’s shedrow. He wasn’t ready for the Plainsman either.
“He’s been good for a start or two at a time,” said Hennessy, who owns the pacer with long time supporter, Lorne Duffield. “But he’s still learning how to race and breathe properly at the same time. We spent some money on him ($34,000) at the yearling sale two years ago. So it would be nice to see him get on a bit of a roll.”
Tap The Keg has a third place finish to show for six starts this season. He was 4th on Sunday against non-winners of two. That race was won by Ryan Grundy with In For The Chase in 1:56.1. In For The Chase is 9th in the standings for 3 year old colts, so he’s another one who’s name will likely be in the entry box on Wednesday and who will be looking to improve his chances of making it to Super Finals.
On the filly side, Keith Clark might be ailing as he recovers from a shoulder injury. But he’s got a barn full of horsepower. Roaring Home (1st), Ginger Beer (5th), and Born A Dragon (9th) each earned cheques in the Alberta Princess series. They’ll be looking to keep improving in the Alberta Diamond. So will the dozen horses which earned some money in the Princess. Four others which were shutout in the Princess may try again this weekend.
Nice Aint My Colour is another one looking to move up in the standings. The filly is 4th after the first leg of qualifying for the Super Finals. But she was a steady 4th in Sunday’s non-winners of 4. Trainer Jamie Gray turned her over to Ryan Grundy for the trip while Gray drove Ima Keepsake to a runner-up finish in the same race.
New racing careers begin…
While the focus to date has been on the 3 year olds, racing secretary, Jackson Wittup, will be pleased to see the first of the sophomores getting to the starting gate. Five colts and two fillies are the first of their age group to be approved. Lady Neigh Neigh, a $16,000 yearling buy out of the London Select Sale last fall, might see her first pari-mutuel action as early as this weekend. She led the Saturday qualifiers in 2:02.
Several more two year olds are set to qualify this coming weekend. Included in the list is Crackle N Burn, a son of the late Alberta stallion, Blue Burner, and a former award-winning mare named Cracker’s Hot Shot.
“There’s a bit of a story with the mare,” Jackie Starkewski was telling me on Sunday morning. “Rod and I got her basically for nothing, when (the late) Mike Brady signed her over to us and asked us to give her a good home. As a baby, we had to get Carl Archibald to dig her out of heavy snow in a pasture with a bobcat. Her nutrition program left a lot to be desired. But once we got her healthy and improved her diet, it was like she was reincarnated. She was really good at ages 2 and 3 and won more than $187,000 before heart problems forced her into retirement from racing. This will be her first foal to get to the races. If he’s as tough as she was, it’ll be fun to watch.”
Meanwhile Jim and Bev Mohorich were in town on the weekend. Jim, who drove 509 winners in a long career that ended in 1990, has spent the past sixteen years as a technician for Standardbred Canada. The couple cover British Columbia to northwestern Ontario, branding and registering new foals.
“I think we’ve got about 185 registered so far this year, and we’re not done yet,” he told me. The numbers are down a little bit in BC and Alberta, I think. I guess breeders are being a little hesitant about buying more mares or breeding them every season until they see if the industry is going to get a bit stronger. It’s hard to blame them. There are a bunch of costs that a breeder incurs before you see a dime in return. Veterinary bills, in particular, aren’t going away.”
The business model is an ever-present challenge in this province. Yes, the expectation is that when Century Mile comes on stream next year, there will be an improvement in the financial stability of the industry. But it’s going to take a year or two for the cash flow to develop to the point where it can be reflected in purses and in breeders’ bonuses. Within that time period, races still have to be filled because full fields are the best attraction there is for the punters. The process to develop today’s three year olds began more than three years ago. That’s how long it takes to breed, foal, and develop a race horse. It isn’t always possible to fill a gap with buys from other jurisdictions, particularly when there’s a shortage of race horses across North America. So, the industry needs more breeders and it needs the folks who have been long time breeders to stay involved. It’s easy for me to say because I don’t have to worry about the bills.
Outlaw Stables proprietor, Connie Kolthammer, has made a couple of sales of 2 year olds lately. Dan Leblonc picked up Outlawdancwthedevl, an un-raced 3 year old gelding which has been slow to develop.
“I’ve had him about a month now,” Leblonc told me. “I’ve had some steering issues with him that we’re trying to get sorted out. If he can learn to do the turns properly, maybe we can get him to the races.”
Driver-trainer, Paul Davies took one look at another Outlaw product, Outlawgrabbingears, and made an offer on the 2 year old right away. The 2 year old son of Smart Shark, out of the Artsplace mare, Grand Slam Woman, has shown some promise in training, although he has yet to qualify.
“I like the fact that he’s paid up to a number of racing series in both Alberta and BC,” Davies told me. “And I really like the way he paces in workouts. So we’ll see if he can do it in a race.”
Still loves it after all these years…
Garry Schedlosky is a lifer in the harness racing industry. Last Monday at Century Downs, he sent out his 2,000th starter as a trainer. Sayitlikeyoumeanit was up against eight other starters at the $4,500 claiming level. It’s the only horse in his barn, at the moment, and it’s typical of the kind of stable Schedlosky has run for most of his life.
“I grew up on a farm near Humboldt, SK.,” he told me. “My dad, Steve, was into horses a bit, racing mostly in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. I learned to do just about every job that had to be done on the farm and I’ve never really done much else. I drove a lot of horses for dad and I had a public stable for awhile. I’ve had the chance to race all over Canada. I’ve had primarily cheaper horses. I’ve never had one that won a stake. But it’s been fun to try and be in tune with an animal and see if you can bring out the best in that animal. I’ve never lost that. I suppose I’ll keep doing it as long as I’m around.
You go through the Standardbred Canada records and you find a number of multiple winners among the horses that Schedlosky has had his hands on. Brittanyann, Triple B Tyson and March Storm were among the horses that did well when harness racing had a place at Assiniboia Downs in Winnipeg. Armbro Mecca won three times at Edmonton in April, 1996. Glinz Grant was another steady performer under Schedlosky’s guidance. The horse compiled a 35-33-26 record in 194 career starts, many of them while in Schedlosky’s hands. He’s also had horses like Just Dirt, Airforce Hanover, B Anne and Landsweeper which have found their way to the winner’s circle.
As a driver, Schedlosky has 1,293 wins from 9,865 starters. He’s still hungry to drive and picks up the odd catch drive at Century Downs in addition to handling his own horse. And he’d look at adding to his stable if he could find an owner or two who has the confidence of investing in the industry and providing him with some racing stock.
“I’ve got one guy in the Yorkton area who’s called me a couple of times,” Schedlosky told me. “I think if the racing scene in Alberta continues to improve, we might see him get a horse or two. I don’t know if I want to have a big stable anymore, but I could handle four or five horses.”
Winkwinknudgenudge pulled off a rare double on the weekend. He won a maiden claimer on Saturday in 2:01.1 including a :29.1 last quarter. Twenty-four hours later he came back out and did it again in exactly the same time, though on Sunday, he had to survive a photo finish with Jk Pure Gold (Nathan Sobey) to claim the winner’s cheque. $4,450 in earnings in 24 hours is pretty good for a $7,500 claimer… Dan Sifert does not drive a lot of horses but he showed on Sunday he still knows how to get to the winner’s circle. He guided his own Sudden Storm to the wire in 1:57. It’s a new lifetime mark. The five year old was second the week before with Sifert in the sulky. Sifert has only driven in four pari-mutuel races this year… Kelly Hoerdt has re-set the date for the big fund raiser at Bedrock Stables in Beaumont in support of the Stollery Children’s Hospital. The new date is Saturday, Sept. 8th… weather and a revised stakes calendar forced postponement of the event, originally scheduled for Sunday, June 10th… Iwontdothatagain won the Open pace In a snappy 1:52 on Monday afternoon including a :27.1 last quarter. It’s one of the best times of the year but still was just a fifth of a second off the track record set on Sept. 9th, 2017 by Kokanee Seelster… With a win on Monday, Jamie Gray has taken over the lead in wins by drivers with 36. He’s one ahead of Phil Giesbrecht who took the weekend off for his wedding to Jocelyn Hudon, and two ahead of Paul Davies… among the trainers, Rod Hennessy and Sanford Campbell share the lead with 24 wins apiece, followed by Kelly Hoerdt with 21 and Gerry Hudon with 19… racing resumes Saturday and Sunday afternoons at 1:15 PM and next Monday at 4:25 PM at Century Downs.