Take For Cash for instance. In three starts this year he has defeated a total of two horses. And yet, it would be absolute folly to ignore his chances in the Alberta Breeders’ Handicap - one of seven stakes races on the annual Alberta Fall Classic races restricted to Alberta-breds this Saturday.
“We definitely haven’t seen the best of him yet this year,” said trainer Dale Greenwood as nuzzled the nose of his pony inside his shedrow at Northlands Monday morning, “He’s had his issues this year.” That’s for sure. For starters For Cash tied up in his last start, the Fred Jones, said Greenwood of an ailment when a horse’s muscles - usually the hindquarters - cramp and seize up. “He was so sore after his last race that we couldn’t even cool him out. He could hardly walk.”
While not for certain Greenwood suspects that For Cash did the same thing in the race before the Fred Jones - the Spangled Jimmy. What is for sure is that For Cash was not For Cash, a horse that has logged a record of nine wins, six seconds and eight thirds in his 31 career starts for earnings of $451,834.
One of those wins came in the 2013 $200,000 Zia Park Derby in New Mexico when, after only having one horse headed during the early going, he unleashed a scintillating charge sweeping to a half-length victory at odds of 16-1. That year For Cash also won the Fall Classic’s Beaufort.
Last year was another banner season as For Cash won the Fred Jones and the Westerner stakes - the latter by four very easy lengths after vying for the early lead with Killin Me Smalls and then pulling away.
“Best horse I’ve ever trained. You don’t get many Derby winners,” said Greenwood, who almost won another Derby - the 2002 Canadian Derby at Northlands - with Sweet Monarch, who ran second to Lady Shari in a one-two finish for the fillies. Greenwood, 62, should know. Training for 36 years, Greenwood has consistently been one of Northlands leading trainers. But like For Cash, this hasn’t been one of them.
“A lot of seconds, a ton of thirds but not very many wins,” said Greenwood, who has sent out five winners at Northlands from 47 starts at Northlands. Eight times he has run second; 16 times he has been third. “As far as reaching the winner’s circle it’s been my worst year ever,” said Greenwood, who grew up with horses. “My dad, Bill, was mostly in to chuckwagon racing but he always had a few race horses - mostly on the ‘B’ circuit but also a couple of the ‘A’ circuit in Calgary and Edmonton.
For a short time Dale also drove the chucks winning at Bonnyville and Wainwright. But then came an offer from Ben Janko to train his string of nine thoroughbreds. Unfortunately, that didn’t last very long; Janko died from liver failure in January of 1983 at the age of just 49. “I was just new - just getting started,” said Greenwood, who also ran a trucking business. “And here I was all on my own. It was pretty scary.”
Gradually Greenwood started picking up new clients and, more importantly, started winning races. Soon he was one of Alberta’s top trainers.
Owned by Lyle and Phylis Farkash, For Cash was always cut out to be a champion. After all, For Cash’s dam is Punching, who is also the mother of 2012 Canadian Derby winner Toccetive, who followed up that Derby win with a victory in the Speed to Spare which was more than enough to make him that year’s Alberta Horse of the Year.
Toccetive, however, hasn’t been the same since those two wins. Like For Cash, Toccetive has had ‘issues.’ “We shipped Toccetive to Phoenix and somehow he tipped over in the van badly damaging a suspensory ligament. He hasn’t won a race since that Speed to Spare.”
As well as For Cash and Toccetive Punching, a big mare that stands 17 hands high who won four of her six starts - all allowance races - is also the dam of two other foals owned by Lyle and Phylis: a two-year-old that bucked its shins but looks to be very promising and a baby by Shackleford, winner of the 2011 Preakness whose first foals are this season’s two-year-olds.
For Cash hasn’t started since tying up in the July 16 Fred Jones. But don’t let that dissuade you either. “It would have have been nice to get him a race before this - it would have been nice to have a tightner under his belt - but I think he should be fine,” said Lyle. “We didn’t want to run him against monsters in stakes races for aged horses but there just weren’t any other races.”
There aren’t any ‘monsters’ in the Alberta Breeders’ Handicap with the likes of Killin Me Smalls and Blue Dancer neither Alberta-bred and therefore not eligible.
On paper it looks like Centrefire, who won the July 1 Sales Stakes; Water Wagon, who defeated Centrefire last month and then just missed - by a rapidly diminishing head - on Sept. 3 against R. Valentino - a race in which another Alberta Breeders’ opponent, Keene On Demand, was another neck back in third and Xtreme Denigray, who won his last start coming from far back, appear to be For Cash’s main rivals.
“For Cash has been training up to this race very well,” said Lyle. “He’s ready to go; he’s back on track.” Greenwood concurred completely. “He had a nice six furlong work in 1:18 and change 10 days ago and then he worked five furlongs very nicely in 1:00 3/5 last Friday.”
While Lyle was in the cattle business, his wife’s family has been involved in thoroughbred racing since the late 1930s with her grandfather, Rex Ireland, instrumental in getting ‘Red’ McKenzie into the sport, and her father, Reg, both heavily invested in thoroughbred racing making them one of the longest standing racing families in Alberta racing.
“Phylis is the one who got me into horse racing,” said Lyle. “What started out as a hobby has turned into a work load. But it’s something we both really get a lot of enjoyment out of. “Of course once you win a big one the expectations get higher and higher.” The expectation this Saturday is the Alberta Breeders’.
Ignore For Cash at your own peril.
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