A heartwarming story was unveiled Monday afternoon at Century Downs. Prince Sharka, the now 8 year old stallion, who was badly injured in a racing accident at Northlands Park last December, has made it back to the races.
“We weren’t sure he’d ever make it back to the races,” driver-trainer, Nathan Sobey, told me. “Heck, we weren’t even sure he’d survive that night.”
Sobey was at the controls when Prince Sharka got caught up in a racing accident last Dec. 3rd. Miraculously, no horses were lost in the accident but Prince Sharka was the most seriously hurt. He had severe blood loss as the result of several contusions and the first two veterinarians on the scene told Sobey the horse probably should be put down so that it did not suffer. Then, Dr. Jordan Cook came on the scene. She had worked with Prince Sharka all season and said she would try to do what she could to save him.
“I was having dinner in the clubhouse and watching the races when the incident occurred,” she told me. “I never go anywhere without my medical bag. I ran down to my truck to get it and went to the backstretch. I was at his stall when they brought him from the track. I could see he was badly cut but he was standing and his eyes were clear.”
For the next five hours, Cook, with help from a number of backstretchers, sewed up the wounds and stabilized the horse. Prince Sharka spent six weeks standing crosstied in a stall at Northlands and wearing bandages. Early in February he was moved south to Calgary where Sobey was preparing his other horses for the start of the meet at Century Downs.
“We walked him a lot and got him back into a cart for some light jogging,” Sobey recalled, “We got him up to five miles a day and he seemed to handle it fine. We got clearance from the medical folks so we moved him up to Olds College where he bred six mares, five of which are in foal. Then we brought him back to Century Downs and gradually increased his training. He qualified last week in 1:55.2 and went the first half mile in :57 and change. I was going to put him into another qualifier but he handled this one so well and everybody else in the barn said let’s put him into a race and see how he handles that. So that’s what I’ve done.”
“I’m anxious to see how he does, but he’s come so far since last winter. He’s brave, he’s tough and he knows how to race. It’s just a matter now of seeing if we can get him back into racing shape.”
Sobey was exactly right on that point. Prince Sharka finished 7th in the 8th race on Monday with Mike Hennessy at the controls. The time was 1:54.4, which was awfully good for a horse in its first race in 9 months. While there wasn’t to be a winner’s circle picture on this day, I dare say the odd photo was taken in the backstretch. And maybe a tear or two from the people closest to him, who wondered if he would ever race again.
Prepping for the Super Finals…
The 2 year old Alberta sired colts and fillies began their pursuit of qualifying spots for Super Final Saturday on the weekend. The fillies got their turn on Saturday with Maid In Alberta and Noisy Nora winning the two divisions of the Alberta Starlet. On Sunday afternoon, Outlaw True Grit, Freedoms Rescue and Custards Laststand each won a division of the Alberta Rising Star and put themselves into the early lead in the standings.
The weekend’s races are the first stage of qualifying for the Super Finals to be held at Northlands Park on Oct. 28th. Two year olds earn points based upon performance, so the five division winners headline the leaderboards at the moment. The next two qualifiers go September 9th for both sexes at Century Downs. The final chance to get into the Super Finals will be the Alberta Stardust and the Alberta Shooting Star set for Northlands on Oct. 13th and 14th.
The 3 year olds took centre stage on Monday afternoon in the ASHA colt and filly stakes. These aren’t qualifying races for Super Finals but they are still added money events that are important to owners. Da Magician (Serge Masse), Senga Nitro (Ryan Grundy) and Retros Mystery (Keith Clark) were 1-2-3 in the first division for the colts with Da Magician crossing the finish line in 1:54. Ima Dude (Brandon Campbell), Getup Gideon (Phil Giesbrecht) and Outlaw Blue Ice (Mike Hennessy) were the top three in the second colts division in 1:53.4.
On the 3 year old fillies side, Campbell got Cardinal Rule to the finish line in 1:53.4 in the first division, ahead of Outlaw Fireball and Wedding Dance. The second division went to Grinandchaseit (Campbell again) with That’s It (Mike Hennessy) and Outlaw Imahotvixen (Jamie Gray) following behind in 1:55.3.
The 2 year olds which are Alberta owned, sired, or foaled in the province, get their turn in the spotlight this coming weekend. The fillies will headline Saturday’s card while the colts get their turn on Sunday.
For the first time in his career, Mike Hennessy has crossed the 100 win plateau in a season. The special moment came on August 13th when he piloted Tapman to the finish line at Century Downs. The next goal is 600 career wins. He’s at 586 at the moment.
And Sunday was a big day for veteran driver, Bill Tainsh. He scored with four different horses including wins with Outlaw True grit and with Custards Laststand in divisions of the Alberta Rising Star Stake. He also finished first with Kokanee Seelster and Hez So Foxy. The four-spot gives Tainsh 2,590 career wins as a driver. He’s currently fifth in the standings at Century Downs with 35 wins from 306 starters this season.
The career numbers are pretty impressive. Tainsh was ASHA Driver of the Year in 2005 when he finished with 125 wins. Between 1996 and 2008 he had thirteen seasons with at least 100 driving wins. The only season he missed the century mark was 2001 when he finished with 99 driving wins. In all, his horses have earned more than $17.1 million. Pretty good indeed for a guy marking his 30th year in the business in 2017.
Brandon Campbell drove four winners on the Monday card. He won with Ima Dude in the second of the ASHA colt stake and followed up by winning both divisions of the ASHA Filly with Cardinal Rule and with Grinandchaseit. He closed out the 10-race card by romping home with Southwind Jaden.
And while we’re talking about excellence, it’s to be noted that trainer Bob Watt has compiled a .472 UTRS percentage thanks to a 9-2-1 record from 21 starters this season. His son, Brad, piloted Whisper Well to victory Sunday afternoon in a non-winners of $22,000 lifetime.
It’s also good to see Gary Clark back in action. The veteran teamster from Sexsmith Alberta has missed two months following a motorcycle accident. He has rebuilt a modest stable of four horses at this point and managed to claim a third place share with Got Tone in a division of the Alberta Starlet on Saturday afternoon.
Charitable Work Continues…
The recent Festival of Racing at Century Downs has generated some much needed and much appreciated financial assistance for a number of charities in the area. Century Downs General Manager, Paul Rynevald, tells me that three events, the bowling tournament, the golf tournament, and the Friday night Gala, combined to generate about $20,000. As well, the eleven drivers who took part in the World Driving Championship races at Century Downs, donated their driving fees to the Alberta Adolescent Recovery Centre. That amounted to nearly $2,700. Dreams Take Flight and a women’s shelter in Airdrie are the other beneficiaries.
Rynevald was in Charlottetown last week for the World Trotting Conference. He spoke to delegates about the Century Downs Racing Club which allows fans to share in the ownership of a small stable as a way of introducing the sport and the business to newcomers.
“I really enjoyed the experience,” he told me. “It gave me a chance to meet racing people from all over the world and to see what the possibilities for business opportunities might be with other racing jurisdictions.”
ASHA and Century Downs have added an extra day of racing to the calendar on Thursday, Sept. 7th at 4:10 PM. The meet continues Friday afternoon, Sept. 8th at 4:10 PM and concludes on Saturday, Sept. 9th at 1:10 PM. The annual yearling sale is set for Sunday, Sept. 10th at the Olds Regional Exhibition Megadome starting at 10 AM. A total of 71 yearlings are to be auctioned that day and catalogues are now available from the ASHA office. You can also find pedigrees online on the ASHA web site. ASHA will stage a day of racing at Enoch on Sept. 17th at 1 PM before moving into Northlands for the start of the fall meet on Sept. 22nd.