Tuesday morning harness trainer Chris Lancaster had just finished jogging Lady Neigh Neigh, one of the favourites in Friday’s $22,500 second division of the Jim Rogers Memorial, when a loose horse collided with the stable star inside Lancaster’s shed row at Northlands Park.
“I had just taken off the jog cart and then bang, the loose horse ran into her,” said Lancaster. “Fortunately she didn’t get hurt but it scared me pretty good. My first thought was I’ve never had a two-year-old filly with that much talent and then this happens. But, like I said, she seems just fine. I jogged her (Wednesday) morning and she seemed full of herself. Just like she always is.”
Owned by Lancaster and Chris Lambie, Lady Neigh Neigh demonstrated her ability when she convincingly won her division of the $22,500 Emerald stakes at Balzac’s Century Downs going wire-to-wire and cruising home by three-and-a-half lengths. “She’s very gifted and that race showed it,” Lancaster said of the good-looking bay filly with a big white blaze that leads to a snip. She’s got a crazy amount of reach. Her stride is flawless and effortless.”
Lady Neigh Neigh hasn’t won since taking the Aug. 6 Emerald but don’t let that fool you. She looked like she was going to duplicate her Emerald performance in her next start, the Aug. 25 ASHA Filly stake. But when she was again alone and on top, Lady Neigh Neigh suddenly broke stride and took herself out of the race. “She just got a little scared and excited and made a little break,” said Lancaster.
Then, in her race after that - a condition pace on Sept. 28 at Northlands - Lady Neigh Neigh had a different excuse when she finished seventh as the even-money favourite. “The second quarter went real slow,” Lancaster said of a fraction that went in a dawdling 32 seconds with Lady Neigh Neigh boxed in with no where to go.
The excuses continued one race later when she finished fourth on Oct. 12. “It was a real sloppy track - the first time she had ever raced in that kind of conditions. She just didn’t handle it. But I’m expecting a big race from her on Friday. She should be real tough in there,” said Lancaster, who drew a favourable post three while the filly that Lancaster expects to pose her biggest threat - Keith Clark’s Western Summit - ended up with the outside seventh post.
“I give Western Summit the utmost respect,” said Lancaster. “Keith is a pronounced trainer of young horses; I’m sure he will have her right on top of her game.” On paper it also looks like Lady Neigh Neigh drew into the easier of the two divisions of the Jim Rogers with Maxsamian and Gin Twist ending up in the first division along with another horse trained by Lancaster, Rockin Mystery.
Maxsamian, winner of both her division of the Aug. 18 Starlet - by four-and-a-half lengths - and the ASHA Filly, also finished second when asked to come from well behind in her division of the Emerald.
Gin Twist, meanwhile, won her division of the Starlet by four-and-a-half lengths as well, and lost her division of the ASHA Filly by a head. In her most recent outing, the Sept. 21 Starburst, Gin Twist, who is prone to putting in steps, broke stride before the start of the race an still finished a quick-closing third as the odds-on favourite.
“I think I got the right shake and avoided those two heavy hitters,” said Lancaster, who is quite a story himself. After working for the likes of Brandon Campbell, Jamie Gray, Kelly Hoerdt, and for the last three years, Rod Hennessy, Lancaster has only been on his own since the start of the current harness meet at Northlands.
To say that he’s gotten off to a great start would be a huge understatement especially given that just last Friday he sent out the winners of three races at Northlands. First he won with favourite Yourlipstogodsears, who triumphed in a photo, then he won with Lissoy in another photo finish and then he capped off the nightcap with Gray Zee, who made a three-wide move to win by a length.
Like Lady Neigh Neigh, Yourlipstogodsears and Lissoy are both owned by Lancaster and Lambie while Gray Zee is owned by David Lamont and Donna Wyse.
“He’s a very good worker. He deserves the break he is getting,” commented Hennessy, who made sure to mention that Lancaster was also instrumental in the development of Cheddar Jack, who won last weekend’s Western Canada Pacing Derby. “He’s very dedicated. He wants to work and learn things. It was just time for him to go on his own,” said Hennessy. “He’s done a great job with Lady Neigh Neigh.”
Lancaster, 27, comes by his training sagacity naturally. “My dad is a farrier at Fraser Downs. My grandfather was a trainer and a farrier down east and my great grandmother was a horse trainer in Ottawa at Rideau Carlton. “I was born into it,” said Lancaster, who was born in Calgary, grew up in B.C. and now lives in Airdrie, just eight minutes from Century Downs.
“My mom, who is a nurse, didn’t want me to get into the horse racing business. She wanted me to go to college. “I’m one of three children. My sister is a nurse and my brother is a heavy-duty operator. I’m the only one who wanted to stay with horse racing. My mom had a strict rule. She insisted that I get my high school diploma first. When I turned 18 I jumped on the first plane out of B.C. and went to Grande Prairie and started working with Brandon (Campbell)."
“I groomed horses for Brandon that summer. Then I worked for Kelly Hoerdt for a year and a half, Jamie Gray for two years and then Rod Hennessy the last three years. I always loved horses and I’ve also always loved the thrill of horse racing. I’ve been very fortunate to work for the trainers I have and I’m fortunate to have great owners like Chris Lambie, who is also from Airdrie.”
Lambie, Lancaster said, is very new to the business. “He and his wife, Tara, have been breeding Hanoverians for the last 20 years and just last year they decided they wanted to take their knowledge of Hanoverians to standardbreds,” said Lancaster, who has eight horses for the Lambies, four of which, like Lady Neigh Neigh, are racing.
“We bought Lady Neigh Neigh out of a sale last October at London, Ontario. Chris, Tara and I picked her out of a video catalogue. We liked what we saw - she had great movement and seemed to have a great personality,” Lancaster said of the daughter of Bettors Delight, a horse who, in just two years of racing, won $2.6 million with victories coming in races like the Little Brown Jug and the Breeders Crown.
“We got an agent to bid on her and got her for $16,000. “It’s a fun time for all of us.”
STOCK REPORT - On Saturday afternoon Northlands will feature two divisions of the Horizon Pace for two-year-old colts and geldings.
Crackle N Burn and Bad Moon Rising are the favourites in the first division. A homebred owned and trained by Rod Starkewski, Crackle N Burn won his division of the Rising Star by 11 lengths, and a division of the ASHA Colt by six; Bad Moon Rising took the other division of the Rising Star by three-and-a-half lengths.
The second division is headed by Outlawgrabbingears, who has won his last four races including a division of the Lonestar by six lengths and a track-record setting performance of the Century Stake at Century Downs in 1:55 2/5; I Ama Rocket, who took another division of the Lonestar by three-and-a-half lengths and who lost by a nose and a neck to Outlawgrabbingears in the Rising Star and the ASHA Colt and Chase Me Forever, who exits a win in a third division of the Lonestar.
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