Now that the west regional drivers championship is out of the way, Kelly Hoerdt and Jamie Gray can get down to business and compete for some major money on Canada Day in the finals of the Meridian Farms and Brad Gunn Breeders Stakes. Hoerdt got through to the final of the Meridian with the 3 year old filly, Blue Grotto. He’ll also have Custards Laststand in the final of the Brad Gunn.
The question will be is he well enough to drive. Hoerdt took a pebble near his right eye while training a horse on his farm track at Bedrock Stables last Thursday. He drove six races in the drivers challenge on Saturday, but booked off his horses on Sunday. He’ll have a decision to make about competing this weekend.
Hoerdt won the drivers challenge with a win and two second place finishes among his six drives. This despite four horses that started from Post 7 and another which was on the outside in Post 8. The only horse with an inside post, Shes All Mine, broke stride from Post 2 and finished 8th.
This will be Hoerdt’s second time going to the national finals. He last competed in 2009 when he won the west regional at Fraser Downs while having his own horses in Alberta. By the time the nationals were held in the fall, he’d moved his stable to Fraser Downs for the winter racing season. Some of his own horses were used but Hoerdt could not drive any of them. He finished fourth in the nationals that year.
“I want to thank the trainers at Century Downs for participating in the event on Saturday,” he told Standardbred Canada. “I drove some good horses for some good trainers. The trainers don’t know who they’re going to have on their horses at the time of entry and I appreciate their willingness to be part of this event.”
Meanwhile, Jamie Gray continues to do all the things that got him into the drivers challenge in the first place. First of all, he earned enough wins to qualify as one of the competitors. Then he managed to beat out all but Kelly Hoerdt by accumulating enough points in six races on Saturday to finish second overall. And he had the last laugh in the winner’s circle when he told racing secretary, Jackson Wittup, that….. “I think we just out-drove the BC boys, me and Kelly. That’s all I have to say!”
It’s all he had to say to a microphone but it wasn’t all that Gray had to say on the weekend. Saturday, he finished third with Bearcat Josi in one elimination of the Meridan Breeders Stakes. That will give him at least one assignment on Canada Day when nine fillies compete in the final. Sunday afternoon, he qualified his two 3 year old colts, Exit Smiling and Yankee Up for the Canada Day Brad Gunn final. Exit Smiling was second behind Outlaw True Grit in one Brad Gunn elimination. Yankee Up had a harder time with the racing surface but still finished fourth in the other elimination.
$100,000 on the line…
Barring any injuries, here are the finalists for the Meridian Breeders. The top four finishers from each elimination advanced to the $50,000 final. Custard Lite (trainer Gord Abbott), Pez Dispenser (J-F Gagne), Maid in Alberta (Harold Haining) and Roaring Home (Keith Clark) qualified from the first elimination. Ginger Beer and You Talk Too Much (Keith Clark), Bearcat Jose (Doug Stout), and Blue Grotto (Kelly Hoerdt) qualified out of elimination #2. The two fifth place finishers, Duannes Horizon and Betterbegoodtome, both of which are trained by Sanford Campbell will go into a draw with one of them making the starting field and the other drawing “also eligible” status.
The injury bug has hit Keith Clark, however, and there is the question of whether he can even drive one horse on Sunday. The Hall of Fame horsemen was shaken up in a spill on Sunday afternoon and booked off his drives after the first race. He’s got a bad shoulder and while he won’t require surgery, he’s not likely to be well enough to get back in a racing bike for a few days.
Fortunately, his brother, Bobby, won one elimination of the Meridian with Ginger Beer. Nathan Sobey stepped up and did a good job to get It’s a Great White into Sunday’s final of the Brad Gunn. However, Sobey also qualified his own horse, Mortgage My Villa, for the final so that’s where his priority will be.
The field for the Brad Gunn final, which is also worth $50,000, will include Outlaw True Grit (trainer Rod Starkewski), Exit Smiling (Jamie Gray), Custards Laststand (Kelly Hoerdt), Mortgage My Villa (Nathan Sobey), Cheddar Jack (Rod Hennessy), It’s a Great White (Keith Clark), Freedoms Rescue (Glen Lutz), and Yankee Up (Jamie Gray). Again, the two fifth place finishers, Screen Test and Shaker Tank, both of which are trained by Dan Sifert, will draw for the ninth spot on the starting gate. The loser of the draw will be the “also eligible.” The draws for both stakes finals are to take place on Thursday morning.
In summary, there are going to be some really good catch drives available on Canada Day with Kelly Hoerdt and Keith Clark possibly sidelined because of injury and Jamie Gray having two horses in the Brad Gunn final.
What is Serge Masse Up To?
The veteran trainer has been out shopping and has already earned a dividend with a maiden 3 year old filly named Liberty Elle. The daughter of Sportswriter out of the Camluck mare, Tipsy Tater, has been racing in Ontario and is a step or two slower than the elite class on that circuit. But she did just fine in her first start at Century Downs on Sunday afternoon, breaking her maiden in the fourth race of the day in 1:59.4 including a :29.4 last quarter. She’s been pacing in the mid 1:50’s in Ontario.
“I just got her and I haven’t had much of a chance to work with her,” Masse told me. “She’s got some steering issues that we’ll have to address and we might have to change shoes on her. But she showed a nice step in the lane, coming from behind to catch Shes On A Roll just before the wire.”
“Masse also picked up a 3 year old gelding, Better Watch Out. “I was in the right place at the right time on this one,” Masse told me. I knew a guy who was part of a partnership that was dissolving and they wanted to sell the horse. He’s been racing on the U.S. eastern seaboard tracks and actually broke the 1:50 barrier at the Meadowlands. That’s a mile track, of course, so I’m not sure that he can go that fast here. But I got him for the Ralph Klein in August and he’ll likely fit into the stakes program at Fraser Downs next fall.”
Better Watch Out scored a win in his first start at Century Downs beating a field of non-winners of 3 in 1:56.4. And Masse also scored with the 10 year old veteran, Lizard King, on Monday afternoon, winning in 1:55.3 at the $16,000 claiming level.
Mona Roy had quite the weekend. She contributed most of her stable to Saturday’s drivers challenge. Procrastinatinpeat finished seventh in his race while Awhimaway was disqualified in the eighth race. On Sunday, however, Gary Clark and You Name It put in a spirited sprint down the outside in the stretch to win at the wire against $16,000 claimers. The 45-1 longshot paid $100.60 for a $2 ticket and earned Roy a very nice winner’s cheque… Brandon Campbell showed some guts on Sunday afternoon when he was involved in the same incident where Keith Clark was hurt. Campbell came right back in the next race to win with American Passion in 1:56 flat with a last quarter of :28.3… and Sabine Pass got around the track in a sparkling 1:53.3 with Paul Davies at the controls on Monday afternoon. That’s one of the quickest trips of the season at Century Downs. It comes on a racing surface that is still settling in after extensive work on it last week.