After nine harness races on the main track, the thoroughbreds would take over with action on the turf course - the only one of its kind in Western Canada.
"Every horse should get the opportunity to race on the turf," said Andy Stronach of Pan Am Racing Stables. "Some horses are bred to run on the grass and it's nice to have the option to do that here in Alberta." Stronach was on hand to race his own Wilko Beer in this year's edition of the Alberta Derby.
"We took over the Alberta Derby after Calgary had stopped racing," said track owner Bob Allen. "This year we have Adena Springs on board as the race sponsor and we've got a nice field of three-year-olds competing. We're very happy with the large turnout of race fans today to witness what should be a great horse race on the turf."
And the field of nine Derby starters would not disappoint.
The first call would go to Abeel, a son of Cause To Believe, out of Amarillo Rose by Devils Bag, ridden by Nela Mohammed. The handsome grey would lead throughout before feeling heavy pressure from the filly Wise (Lara for Cone) around the final turn... After turning away the filly, Abeel would then have to fend off a fast closing Marry Me Next (Munoz for Brown) who came from way back to mount a serious challenge in deep stretch. Abeel, as the even money fave, would hold on to win the one mile test in 1:40 flat, with Marry Me Next second and Wise holding third.
Trainer Russell had been confident about her starter prior to the post parade. When asked if she'd be interested in discussing Abeel's chances at that point - she quickly replied "I'll let my horse do all the talking!" And that he did... It was all Abeel doing it well in the 82nd Running of the $20,000 Alberta Derby. "We're very happy with him today," mentioned Russell, in the winner's circle, following the win. "He raced awesome!"
On the under card the Beulah Mae Stake would go to Silver Wabbit - now two-for-two lifetime, on the turf, after scoring last weekend in Lacombe. Owned by John Hansen and trained by Rico Martens - Silver Wabbit would roll gate to wire, to score at 4/1, over Hey Italian Lady (Mangalee) and Lady Melbourne (Blakeley).
The Commodore Allen Memorial Stake would go to an upset winner in Just Gone at 8/1. After sitting last throughout jockey Richard Mangalee would have his mount flying, in the late stages, to storm home a winner for owners DHA Racing Enterprises and trainer Dee Davies. We Taught Ed (St Hill) was a game second while pacesetter Just Another Bob (Munoz) would stay for third.
In harness racing action Who Doesnt, with trainer/driver Travis Cullen in the sulky, would make it seven straight wins, at the Open Pace level, beating the best there is for aged pacers in Western Canada. Revoler (Campbell) would cut the mile and finish a game second, while Blue Star Admiral (Tainsh) completed the top three.
Racing resumes, at Alberta Downs, this coming weekend with 1:15 PM start times on Saturday and Sunday.