Saturday, 25 February 2017 21:00

The best and only getting better

Written by Curtis Stock
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Tajmeallover and J.F. Gagne at Century Downs (t. Marjorie Dumont) Tajmeallover and J.F. Gagne at Century Downs (t. Marjorie Dumont) Coady Photo

As consistent as a metronome, Tajmeallover, who was named Alberta’s 2016 Horse of the Year at Saturday night’s harness awards dinner, won 14 of her 27 starts while finishing second five times and third on six occasions meaning she was only worse than third twice all year. Owned by driver Jean Francois Gagne, Peter Van Seggelen, Carl Warnaar and Ron Tillafaugh’s Tapron Holdings, the now six-year-old pacer earned $114,285.

Unstoppable as weeds or wrinkles, Tajmeallover was also easily named Alberta’s aged champion mare. Trained by Marjorie Dumont, Tajmeallover equalled her lifetime mark of 1:53 2/5 while winning the late November $50,000 Lady Elements stake final at British Columbia’s Fraser Downs when she opened up five lengths at the top of the stretch and then it was ‘Bye Bye’ as she coasted home by three and a half lengths.

Campaigning hard all year, at one point she won five straight at Balzac’s Century Downs and eight out of nine outings at Century Downs, Northlands Park and Fraser Downs. Given her breeding Gagne said chances are she is only going to improve as she was sired by Tajma Hall, whose offspring Gagne said “all getter better with age - just like (Tajma Hall) did himself.”

In 2008 - at the age of 10 - Tajma Hall set Northlands track record - which still stands - of 1:50 3/5 in 2008 making him the fastest 10-year-old in history to pace a record mile over a five-eighths mile track. “She hasn’t reached her full potential yet,” Gagne said earlier this year of Tajmeallover. “She has so much desire. She’s always asking me. It’s not me asking her. She’s going too fast for that to happen. “She just loves to race.”

Recalling her win in the Lady Elements Final, Gagne said Tajmeallover “killed the middle half of that race,” which saw her pace the third quarter in a blistering :27 3/5. Loved by bettors, Tajmeallover was favoured 13 times in a row at the end of the season. “She just loves to race,” said Gagne describing how Tajmeallover begs him to open up her stall door and take her to the races.

“Sometimes when I bring in the trailer and I’m not taking her with us she expresses signs of frustration. She’ll paw at the ground and turn around in circles. “She gets very upset when I have to leave her behind.”

Other 2016 champions announced were Outlaw Fireball as the year’s top two-year-old filly; Da Magician as the champion three-year-old colt; Monstrous as 2016’s best three-year-old filly; Blue Star Jet as the province’s top three-year-old colt and Audreys Dream as champion aged horse.

The champion fillies and mares claimer was Runway Model while the top male claimer was Justabitcrazy.

In individual categories, Travis Cullen, who now races in Ontario, was named Horseperson of the Year, top driver and top trainer. Cullen won 197 races as a trainer in Alberta and 197 times as a driver completely dominating everyone else.

Caretaker of the year was claimed by Brinsley Brooking-Lutz; Rod Hennessy and Lorne Duffield were named the year’s top owners; Outlaw Stables the top breeder; Dr. James Rhodes was given the Breeders Award of Recognition, Chelsea Chase the Ron McLeod Award of Recognition recipient and Chris Lancaster took home the Rising Star trophy.

Other awards went to Senga Nitro as the champion Alberta-sired two-year-old colt and Outlaw Turn N Burn as the province’s three-year-old male sire stakes champion.

Serge Masse took the trophy for drivers with under 200 starts; Brandon Campbell took the award for trainers with under 200 starts.

Owned by Ashleigh and Ed Hensley, Audreys Dream was the equivalent of Tajmeallover in the aged male division. In Alberta Audreys Dream won 10 of 16 starts - all in a row in Open Paces.  In one of those victories Audreys Dream won by a staggering nine lengths. Now racing in Ontario, Audreys Dream has won his last two outings at Woodbine in 1:50 3/5 and then in 1:50 1/5.

Outlaw Fireball won five of her nine starts last year for the same connections as Tajmeallover including stakes wins in the Emerald and Starlet. She was a perfect four-for-four in Alberta-sire stake races.

Da Magician, owned, trained and driven by Masse won five of his 12 outings - four of them stakes: the Century, ASHA Colt Pace and Horizon before concluding his 2016 season with a win in the Dan Ingram at Fraser Downs.

Monstrous, owned by Warren Fuller, was first or second in 13 of her 16 starts with victories in the Bev Sears Final - when she was still seventh at the head of the stretch - the Wild Rose, the $70,000 Ralph Klein and the $80,000 Super Series Final at Century Downs. In total, Monstrous won $129,999.

Blue Star Jet was as consistent as Monstrous finishing first or second in 12 of his 21 starts. Second to Appellate in the Western Canada Pacing Derby, Blue Star Jet took the Gordon Rumpel and the $70,000 Brad Gunn Final - the latter by seven lengths.

Congratulations to all.

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