Some pretty happy owners at the races this weekend at Century Downs. Grande Prairie’s Charles Strojan claimed both the Century Downs 770 with Free Thought and the Canadian Quarter Horse Cup Futurity with True Copy on Saturday. He followed that up with a runner-up share with Toughie in the Century Downs Classic on Sunday afternoon. Toughie couldn’t get past Cruisinforabruisin which hung on over the final strides for owner-trainer Janice Sather.
Janice Sather was at home in Beaverlodge awaiting the birth of a grandchild. But she was able to watch the race on her computer and obviously was very happy with what she saw.
“Cruisin is a homebred,” she told me. We had both the grandma and the mother and both of them were good racehorses. Cruisin always seems to be the underdog. But he’s made over $180,000 in his career and I think all but one of his 39 lifetime starts have been made in Alberta. So that’s pretty good because we don’t get to race for a lot of money right now. He got a pretty good start Sunday and in a 400 yard race, you can’t afford to be left behind.”
“He’s earned a good rest and he’s on his way back to the farm on Monday.”
On the thoroughbred side, the fledgling Alberta Thoroughbred Owners & Breeders Association earned high marks for helping to make Sunday’s Harvest Plate feature the first $100,000 race to be offered at Century Downs. Owners were treated to a meal in the second floor clubhouse and an afternoon of racing. Century Downs came through with special menus for the occasion to give patrons a choice on a meal. To a person, the owners expressed their appreciation to Bob Kramer, Jim Haggan and ATOBA for the hospitality. And it didn’t hurt that the feature carried a bigger purse thanks to Bob Kramer’s fund raising efforts.
“I’m just thankful everything went off as well as it did,” Bob Kramer told me outside the winner’s circle. “And we’ve added some new members to our Association this weekend,” added Jim Haggan.
The interests of Hemlock Channel were especially happy with the day’s outcome. C & H Duggan Farms and Shot in the Dark Racing Stables own the 8 year old gelding, which is quite a story as trainer, Greg Tracy, related it to me.
“I was watching a $10,000 claiming race at Woodbine in Toronto last year,” Tracy told me. “There were five horses claimed out of that race and there were five claims on Hemlock Channel. We had to win two shakes to get the horse. He looked sharp in the paddock and Rico (Walcott) gave him a great ride.”
“I was a little further back than I wanted to be in the early going,” Walcott told me. “I knew there’d be some early speed and that there were at least five horses that could win it. But I got him settled into the race and when I asked him for more as we got to the ¾ pole, he responded.”
“I thought he was a little wide on the track the first time past the grandstand,” Tracy told me. “But I trust Rico’s judgment. He’s a big horse and he needs room to run. I was certainly pleased that he didn’t get caught up in the traffic.”
The win was worth $60,000, which is a pretty good return on a $10,000 investment. Hemlock Channel has now earned more than $427,000 from 36 lifetime starts.
The supporting feature on the card was the $50,000 added Founders Distaff. Longtime Alberta owners, Brian and Janet Alexander, who race under the Almac Stable banner, won it with Tara’s Way. Brian was on hand in the winner’s circle. Janet was in Cape Breton but was able to watch the race on her computer.
“Janet picked this horse out of the Keeneland yearling sale three years ago,” Brian told me. “We had been racing her at Woodbine but she wasn’t fussy about the synthetic surface on the track, so we brought her out to Alberta. She won the City of Edmonton at Northlands this summer and she won the prep for this race two weeks ago at Century Downs.
A $45,000 US buy in Keeneland, Tara’s Way added another $30,000 to her career earnings on Sunday. The filly has now earned better than $155,000 Canadian.
Two Year Olds in Spotlight This Coming Weekend…
Nominations are in for the $60,000 Freedom of the City for 2 year old fillies to be run this coming Saturday and for the $60,000 Canadian Juvenile for 2 year old colts to be run on Sunday at Century Downs. Nine fillies and fourteen colts made the nominating payments.
A lot of horsemen have been impressed with Suzette, which is owned by Brad Auger and Don Danard. It is trained by Greg Tracy.
“She started her racing career in Vancouver,” Tracy told me. “She won for $16,000 at Hastings Park. We brought her to Alberta and she won the Bird of Pay Stakes at Northlands. She’s a June foal and hasn’t had a lot of racing experience. But she’s making good progress and (touch wood) has stayed sound. She’s not very big either, at this point, but she’s putting in some good works in the mornings. She’s out of a top 2 year old freshman sire, Overanalyze. So we’ll give her a chance and see what she can do.”
Shimshine is an early favourite for the Canadian Juvenile and I went to veteran conditioner, Elige Bourne to learn more about this 2 year old chestnut gelding which is owned by Walter Petroniuak’s White Pine Ranch out of Wildwood AB.
“He came out a consignment of horses owned by Wally Pugh and Andy Stronach,” Bourne told me. “Dale Saunders bought him and then I claimed him from Dale. We weren’t really sure what we had, although I had liked the looks of him and had been following his progress. But he’s won two stakes and four straight races for us. We thought he would probably do better coming from off the pace in races, as he did in the Birdcatcher when he started from Post 8. But he had the lead with half a mile to go in the Premier’s Stake at Northlands and managed to hold off Regal Max in the stretch. It helped to have Rico Walcott on board that day and Rico will have him in the Juvenile.”
Action in the Sakes Ring…
Alberta harness owners have been busy at the sales over the past six weeks. Sixty-seven yearlings went through the sales ring at the ASHA sale in September. We told you about Greg Martin’s $250,000 buyback of one of his own yearlings at the Lexington Select Sale. Last week, Rene Corbeil and Diane Bertrand went shopping at the London Select Yearling Sale and came away with five youngsters. Diane acquired Lady Neigh Neigh, a daughter of Bettors Delight. She also picked up the filly Freya Seelster, the daughter of Sunshine Beach in which she owns a share.
Corbeil made three purchases in London. Two of them are trotters: All Wrapped Up and HD. Both are sons of Archangel and will start their racing careers in Ontario. The third is No Bettor Parade, a son of Bettor Delight, which is being shipped to Kelly Hoerdt’s barn at Bedrock Stables in Beaumont, AB.
“No Bettor Parade has a decent pedigree but he wasn’t the biggest horse in the sale which explains in part how we came to acquire him,” Corbeil told me. “It’s a business and you have to be careful what you spend at these sales if you’re to get your money back racing these horses in Alberta. I think a lot of us look for good horses that are, perhaps, a step or two slower than the elite sire class horses in some of the bigger racing jurisdictions.”
“I’ve noticed this fall that the Lexington, Goshen NY, and London sales prices were quite strong. The slot programs in Ohio are creating a potentially bigger market in that state, although at the moment, the market is under-served with good stallions and mares. Delaware, Maryland, even Massachusetts show potential for market strengthening thanks to the slot machine programs in those states. And we still have the big sale in Harrisburg, Penn., in November, which traditionally has been a strong sale. I know I’ve got six horses of my own going to that market and we’ll see if we can replace them with some promising yearlings.”
“As for 2018, I’m optimistic that we can get through the year without too much damage to our purse structure. I’ve been impressed with Century Casinos as an operator. It’s a company that knows how to make the racing and gaming business work. Once Century Mile opens in Leduc next summer and we can get the slot program up to speed both at Century Mile and at Century Downs, we should be in good shape going forward.”
Farewell to Norm Kennedy & Joe Carbury…
Two good friends of horse racing in Alberta left us last week. Joe Carbury was the longtime voice of the Calgary Stampede and regularly called thoroughbred races at Stampede Park. Norm Kennedy was a harness owner and director of both ASHA and of Horse Racing Alberta.
“Norm was on the board when I joined ASHA about 12 years ago,” Blair Corbeil told me. “With his business background which included 42 years of service with Scotia Bank, he was a great guy to have on our board. He always had good ideas to share. He put in the time and was a passionate supporter of harness racing in the province. The industry always came first for Norm. It wasn’t about passing a set of rules where he stood to benefit. He served for a time as treasurer of ASHA. He knew how to read the numbers and what they meant. It’s a big loss.”
The native of O’Leary, PEI, was 78 when he passed away last Monday. Up until the end of the summer harness meet at Century Downs, he was a regular fixture along the fence, watching his horses come down the stretch. As the summer moved along and his health became more fragile, he took steps to make sure those horses were in good hands.
A celebration of life was to be held Monday afternoon at Willow Park Golf Club where Norm was a long time member. The family has asked that memorial tributes be directed to the Chinook Hospice. In Norm’s memory, a tree will be planted at Fish Creek Provincial Park.
Joe Carbury lived 91 years before his passing last Tuesday. His distinctive voice and colourful race call was enjoyed by all who ever heard him. I recall my own introduction to Calgary in 1978. I had been at the Stampede and was on my way back to Edmonton, listening to the radio in the car as Joe described the action in that evening’s Rangeland Derby. You felt like you were right there with him. It is the hallmark of great play by play announcers of sports events. And he was the same way when he called an Alberta Derby or a Stampede Futurity.
A celebration of Joe’s life will be held at Foster’s Garden Chapel, 3320 4th St., NW on Thursday afternoon, October 26th at 2 PM.