Often, I’ve looked through a harness racing program and come across the name, Doris McDougall. I’ve never met her. But she’s been one of Keith Clark’s longstanding supporters. “I think she and her late husband, Bob, have been with me for better than 20 years,” Clark told me on Sunday. She’s invested in a lot of horses that I’ve had over the years and some of them have done really well.”
The list includes Blue Star Treasure, which made about $370,000 while in their hands. It includes Travelin On which was one of the stars of the Alberta scene in the mid-1990’s. The partnership acquired the horse in 1995 during its 3 year old season. It includes First Class Horse which won horse of the year honours in Alberta in 2015 and won just about every stakes event for which it was eligible that year.
“And we’ve had some good mares over the years,” Doris told me on Monday morning. “Fiddles Hot won several stakes for us in the early ‘90’s. And we still have Best Promise which is now a broodmare. I could give you some more names but I’d have to run around and look at some of the pictures and some of the trophies I have in my house.”
And the partnership, which now includes Doris, Clark, and John Hind, appears to have another rising star by the name of Roaring Home. The 3 year old romped to a 4 length win on Saturday in the final of the Alberta Princess, covering the mile track in 1:55.3. The same partnership also owns Ginger Beer which finished sixth in the same race.
“I’ve enjoyed it over the years, very much,” Doris told me. “Bob and I started out with Keith and I’ve stayed with him in the years since Bob passed in 1997. I don’t usually go to the sales. But I read the catalogues beforehand and when Keith calls and asks if I want anything, I’ve done my homework. Usually I have about a dozen horses with him. But it’s a business. They have to pay their way. I’m not in it just to say I love it.”
In that regard, she thinks very much like Keith Clark. The opportunity to sell First Class Horse as a 4 year old was too good to pass up. Both of them realized that racing him at the open pace level in Alberta wasn’t going to be as lucrative as selling him to a larger racing jurisdiction. First Class Horse is still racing in Pennsylvania and in New York and has logged better than $425,000 in winning purses in his career.
Meanwhile, another partnership is paying a nice dividend for driver-trainer, Jamie Gray. Earlier this year, ASHA executive director, Fred Gillis brought together two first time investors in the industry, Geoff Smith of Edmonton and Natasha Peiskar of Calgary. They made it to the winner’s circle on Sunday afternoon after Exit Smiling took the final of the Alberta Plainsman. Not even a cold wet day could dampen their spirits.
“I had Exit Smiling and Yankee Up in the final so I was pleased about that,” Gray told me. “I decided I’d drive Exit Smiling because he’s a little more difficult to handle. I’m the only one who has driven both of them so I had to make a choice. I had named Jim Marino to drive Yankee Up but he booked off and I put Dave Kelly on him. I don’t know what happened. I do know Yankee Up got a cheque for a 5th place finish. So at least both of them are in the top eight for Super Finals after the first leg of qualifying. That’s the goal for both of them this year is to be in the championship final on Nov. 17th.”
Next up for both sexes is the Alberta Diamond for the fillies and the Alberta Marksman for the colts and geldings. Both are set for mid July. The final round of qualifying will be the Alberta Marquis for the girls and the Alberta Maverick for the boys at the end of October.
Out of a small shedrow…
Brian Gray has plied his trade for years on the prairie racetracks. He’s never had a lot of horsepower but he’s always done the best he could with what he had. Right now he’s got four horses in his stable, including Double Loop, which he acquired at the ASHA mixed sale on May 25th.
“Dave Lamont and I both bid on the horse and I thought Dave had it. I made a deal with Dave and acquired the animal for $1,500. On Sunday, he paid for himself winning against non-winners of 2. So, if I sold him to you right now for $1, I’d still be ahead.” I declined with thanks, meaning Gray still has a chance to put a few more dollars on Double Loop’s balance sheet going forward.
“It’s brought me back together with one of my old owners, Alfred Labas,” Gray told me. “Alfred’s retired from farming now, near Yorkton Sk. He’s been calling recently to ask if I could find him a racehorse, just so he could have a little fun in retirement. He was real happy on Sunday afternoon.”
With Sunday being the end of qualifying, the four teamsters from Century Downs for the west regional on June 23rd have now been determined. Phil Giesbrecht and Jamie Gray (24 wins apiece), Dave Kelly (20 wins) and Kelly Hoerdt (18 wins) will be the Alberta representatives. Dave Hudon, Jim Marino, and Paul Davies, who’s actually third in the drivers’ standings at Century Downs at the moment, will represent Fraser Downs. The eighth competitor will be Michel Rey from Manitoba.
Marino drove a couple of races on Saturday. It was his first starts since hurting his knee in an accident a month ago. Rey, who will be making his Alberta debut in the west regional, is an eleven year veteran of the sport in Manitoba and says getting to the west regional has been a long time goal. He serves on the board of Manitoba Harness Horsemen. When not at the races, he assists in his family’s cow-calf operation.
“The plan is to have each of the drivers race from each hole on the starting gate, one through eight,” Century Downs racing manager, Jackson Wittup, told me. “I hope we can make that work which means we’ll need enough horses to fill eight races that day.”
The winner will represent the west at the national driving championship at Grand River Raceway in Elora, Ontario on Sept. 26th. The winner of that event will carry the Canadian colours at the next world drivers championship next year in Sweden. James McDonald of Canada is the current world driving champion.
From the breeding shed…
Both Outlaw Stables of Falun and Meridian Farms of High River, two of the biggest standardbred breeders in the province, have pretty much finished with foaling for this season. Each farm reported 19 live foals. Meridian farm manager, Terry MacIsaac, tells me that he’s been busy ferrying semen to the airport for mares in diverse parts of North America. Connie Kolthammer has some decisions to make about Outlaw Stables. She lost her best stallion, Blue Burner, unexpectedly back in March.
“I haven’t decided yet what I’m going to do,” she told me Sunday during a rare trip to Century Downs to drive in a race. “I’ve finished foaling and I’m about done for this season with breeding mares. I’ve got a bunch of 2 year olds to get into training, although the rain the past couple of days hasn’t helped my farm track. Beyond that, I just need to decide what I want to do in the future. I’ve not made that decision yet.”
Sanford Campbell continues to insist he’d like to retire. So far, his retirement consists of adding a dollar or two to his bank account. He continues to be leading trainer for the season at Century Downs with 20 winners from just 83 starters. Kelly Hoerdt has moved up into second spot with 16 wins, one more than Rod Hennessy. So, the “mature” members of the trainer’s guild, continue to set the pace in showing the youngsters how it’s done.