Lynn Chouinard had a dream. That one day, there would be a new racetrack in the Calgary market. “It took awhile and there were times I thought we’d never get there,” he told me Sunday, just a few minutes after his 2 year old homebred colt, Remarkable Vintage, won the $60,000 added Canadian Juvenile at Century Downs.
Chouinard was one of the original investors in United Horsemen of Alberta back in 2002. Other investors came and went. A handful have been lost over the years. But Chouinard hung in there through the peaks and valleys of a development process that survived only because of the dedication and determination of a few like-minded souls.
“In fact, I’ve never been to the track,” he told me. “I watch all the races in which my horses are involved, at home on my computer. But I’ve never been to Century Downs. I’m hoping to be able to make it to the facility this coming weekend.”
Chouinard was watching on Sunday afternoon and liked what he saw from Remarkable Vintage. “He’s out of our own stallion, Schramsberg, from a broodmare we bought some years ago named Prospective Miss,” Chouinard told me. “We didn’t have much luck with the mare. She lost a couple of foals before she dropped Remarkable Vintage. Then she had some medical problems and had to be put down. But she’s left us with a good young colt and I hope we can have some fun with him going forward.”
While Chouinard was home watching the race, I was standing with trainer, Ron Grieves, watching a replay of the race on a Century Downs television screen.
“He’s a homebred with a lot of speed, Grieves told me. “We hadn’t planned to go to the lead with an outside PP-7. I was a little concerned when I saw early fractions of 22 seconds and 45 seconds. I though, good heavens, he’ll be leg weary in the stretch and he’ll get passed. But he didn’t.”
“I give Shannon Beauregard a lot of credit for what this horse has done so far. She did all the early work on him. In fact, she got hurt in a fall from the horse during a morning workout back in early October. He’s a very high strung animal. He’s come on very late in the season. We raced him in his first start just a week ago and he broke his maiden with Larry Munoz aboard. I was happy Larry took the ride. He’s particularly good with high strung horses because he knows how to get them to relax.”
“This horse was afraid of everything which is why it’s taken awhile to get him to the races.”
He wasn’t afraid of anything on the track during the race, including the runner-up, Regal Max, which pushed him hard until the final strides. Shimshine finished third and Kirwan’s Mountain came in fourth. Weekend Wizard, which won a 2 year old stakes event at Hastings Park in Vancouver last Sunday, shipped to Century Downs midweek but didn’t have enough to keep up with the leaders in the Canadian Juvenile.
On Saturday, the favourite, Suzette, owned by Brad Auger and Don Danard, and trained by Greg Tracy, continued her strong season, capturing the Freedom of the City for 2 year old fillies going seven furlongs. It was her third win in four starts and pushed her career earnings to date over the $59,000 mark.
Rico Walcott rode Suzette to victory on Saturday and added five more wins on the Sunday card. He’s running away with the riders’ title at Century Downs, heading to the final weekend of the fall meet. Walcott has 30 wins from 97 starts at the meet, 18 more than his closest pursuers. His horses are closing in on $280,000 in purses won. The trainers’ title will go down to the final weekend with Greg Tracy and Craig Smith atop the standings with 14 wins apiece. Tracy’s horses, though, have earned more money… in looking through Sunday’s program, I came across She’s Italian, a great racehorse in her day and now a productive broodmare. The multi-stakes winner, which compiled an 11-6-4 record in 23 lifetime starts, posted career earnings of $316,717. Sunday, her 3 year old daughter, Go She’s Italian, finished 5th at the $15,000 claiming level. She’s owned by T & C Cattle Co. Her 7 year old son, He’s Italian, won the tenth race, a $3,000 claiming sprint for Go For The Roses Stable. Max Gibb bred and campaigned She’s Italian, and still owns her.
“Italian by Marriage has made about $60,000,” he told me. “He’s Italian has made about $85,000 after that win on Sunday. She’s It Again has earned about $80,000 and Go She’s Italian has made about $25,000. So, they’ve got a ways to go to catch what Mom made during her racing career! And she continues to be a productive mare. She has a yearling and a foal at the farm and she’s in foal again to Gayego, one of Lynn Chouinard’s stallions at Bar None Ranches.”
It’s a good news story in Alberta racing and we need more like it: good racing stock that will be productive as breeding animals. All with the goal of increasing horse supply for racing and improving breeding lines in the province. But that’s a story for another day.