Exit Smiling missed out on two of the biggest harness races of the summer, the Ralph Klein Memorial and the Western Canada Pacing Derby. But he may still be the top race horse in the province. And he’s set to prove it in Super Finals 2018 coming up on Saturday, Nov. 17th at Century Downs.
The 3 year old son of Vertical Horizon – Nice Yankee – Artscape put on an impressive show on Sunday afternoon in the final of the Alberta Maverick Stakes. With Jamie Gray in the bike, Exit Smiling let It’s a Great White and Peace Out Posse duel through a blazing half in :58.2. Then, midway down the backstretch, Gray hit the accelerator and Exit Smiling responded, rolling past the leaders and stretching the lead to nine lengths by the finish in 1:55.2.
“The race was over by the time he got to the ¾ pole,” said a delighted Fred Gillis who shares ownership in the colt with Geoff Smith, Natasha Peisker, and Gray.
“We had him wearing a hood earlier in the season,” Gillis told me. “We switched to earplugs during the summer. I’d bet Jamie released them down the backstretch and when he pulled them and urged the horse to move, Exit Smiling responded very nicely.”
The 3 year olds raced through a series of qualifying stakes events including the Alberta Plainsman, the Alberta Marksman and the Alberta Marquis en route to the Super Finals. Even with time missed because of injuries, Exit Smiling led all colts and geldings with $53,350 in eligible earnings. Freedoms Rescue, Yankee Up, Custards Laststand, Screen Test, Mortgage My Villa, Paradise Hill, Captain Terminator, and Tap The Keg are the other qualifiers for the $80,000 finale. Outlaw True Grit, Spikes Revenge, It’s a Great White, In For The Chase, Peace Out Posse, President Elect, Snap Test, Daddys Eyes, and Blue Star Trooper will line up in the $15,000 consolation final.
On the fillies side, Jamie Gray held the lines and did a masterful job of steering Bearcat Josi to Saturday’s win in the final of the Alberta Marquis. The daughter of the late Blue Burner out of the Brandons Cowboy mare, Barona Josie, put up a 1:58 clocking on a heavy track on the first day of the fall-winter meet. The win pushed her into the lead in the standings with $34,559 earned this season. Touch wood, she’s been pretty durable, coming through the Alberta Princess, and the Alberta Diamond before finishing up in the Alberta Marquis.
“Her biggest problem this year has been a bunch of outside posts,” Gray told me. “she just missed in the Don Byrne Memorial Northlands Fill Pace, where she finished second. Saturday, by the time she got to the head of the lane, she had used a lot of energy on the track. But she had enough to hold the lead. She raced really well.”
“Part of a great family,” trainer, Doug Stout, told me on Sunday morning. “Barona Josie paced in :54 as a 2 year old and won about $140,000 for us. Bearcat Romi, our 2 year old filly, has made the consolation final in that class. We’ve got Bearcat Abigail who’s a yearling, and Bearcat Mathilda who’s a weanling at the farm. All fillies. And Barona Josie is back in foal to Mystician. We faced her in a different direction this time when we bred her, so maybe this time we’ll get a colt.” (still the best one-liner out of the backstretch this summer!).
Roaring Home, Hot Kiss, Custard Lite, Born A Dragon, My Day, Maid in Alberta, Cusdmagicdragon and True Horizon will fill out the rest of the championship heat for 3 year old fillies on Nov. 17th. Ginger Beer, Nice Aint My Color Blink and Gone, Duannes Horizon, Outlawstormywether, Paperback Thriller, Rare Gem, Smile A Mile and Blue Blew On By will be the entries in the consolation final.
As for the 2 year olds, points were used rather than dollars earned to determine the Super Finals eligibles. Beginning in August, fillies competed in the Alberta Starlet, the Alberta Starburst, and finished up with the Alberta Stardust on Saturday. Gin Twist, owned by Don Richardson of Cochrane, finished second behind Rockin Mystery in the Stardust final but earned enough points to finish atop the standings for the class. Rockin Mystery went wire to wire for her third win in a row. Jedi Tricks, Lollipop Yacht, Maxsamian, Western Summit, Mrs Suhwiggens, Rockin Mystery, Cayley Skye and Mrbssweetpea fill out the rest of the class for the $80,000 Super Final. Cenalta Glory, Raging Chihuahua, Bearcat Romi, Casey N Grinegan, Outlaw Hawaiifiveo, Bim Bam Boom, Emily H, Spring Sunrise, Crystal Dragon and Queenoftheriver will on be in the $15,000 consolation final.
Jedi Tricks is an interesting story – at least it’s interesting to me after I had a chat with co-owner and driver-trainer, Doug Chappell, on Sunday morning.
“I’m a Star Wars fan, so that’s why Jedi appears in her name,” Chappell told me. “Charlottes Trick is her mom, so I took Trick from that.”
“I’ve been training horses since 2007 and started driving in 2009. I had to take a couple of years off for personal reasons. This is the first stakes winner I’ve had. And we only paid $1,000 for Jedi Tricks at the ASHA yearling sale last year. She’s made about $25,000 to this point. So it’s been a nice reward for some hard times and a lot of work. She’s had three seconds and two firsts in her last five starts, so she’s peaking at just the right time.”
Meantime, Paul Davies fine 2 year old colt, Outlawgrabbingears finished atop the standings in the colts & geldings division with 150 points earned across the Alberta Rising Star, the Alberta Lonestar and the Alberta Shooting Star series. He looks to be the horse to beat in the Super Finals. But he’ll have to earn it against the likes of Crackle N Burn which won a division of the Shooting Star on Sunday, and I Ama Rocket, which chased Outlaw Grabbingears home in the other division. Chase Me Forever, Go Nine O, Bad Moon Rising, Senga Savannah, Kootenay Lager, and HF Thegreatpumpkin will fill out the field for the championship mile. Crash Dive, Rock N Roll Dragon, Tap Tap Boom, Loaded Deck, HF Shadow Racer, Thunder Alley, HF Jessie James, Budgie Smugler and Trick Shot will make up the field for the consolation final.
One postscript to Super Finals Day on Nov. 17th. Mrs Suhwiggens, Raging Chihuahua, Custard Lite, Nice Aint My Color are all at Fraser Downs in Langley BC this week for BC’s Breeders Classic Day on Sunday. So they’ll all have a busy time, racing on the 11th, then shipping back to Alberta, and racing again on the 17thif their respective interests decide to go that route. The money is good but there’s only so much an animal can do.
Career Start #300…
It is rare that a horse can stay healthy, keep its legs strong, and make 300 starts in harness racing. At least it seems that way to me. But we saw it happen on Sunday afternoon when BJS Bequia moved to the starting gate in a $20,000 claimer against five challengers.
“We just got him in July to be a stallion,” co-owner Shannon Crump told me. “Our son, Kelly, found him in Minnesota. “We were looking for a son of Rocknroll Hanover to put into our breeding operation down at Standard. He’s earned about $720,000 and has a mark of 1:50.1. And he’s raced against the likes of Outrageous Art and Vertical Horizon, both of which are now in Alberta as stallions. We’ve got a few mares that we think will cross nicely with him next spring and we’re looking for some more.
In fact, Outrageous Art was in the field Sunday in BJS Bequia’s latest start. He finished second while BJS Bequia was sixth in 1:57.4. Pretty respectable time for an 11 year old, especially on a brand new racing surface which has yet to settle in.
Saluting the Veterans…
Century Downs and Alberta Standardbred have come together to do something good for veterans in our community. Many veterans have been hurt by the loss of the Veterans Food Bank. Between now and Sunday, Nov. 11th, Century Downs is accepting non-perishable food items on behalf of the Veterans Association Food Bank. Bring your food donation to customer service and receive a racing program in exchange.
As well, drivers Jamie Gray and Harold Haining will contribute a portion of their drivers’ earnings to the cause. ASHA is set to match whatever Gray contributes, so that will help a little more. Gray is off to a good start this month with his wins in the finals of the Marquis and the Maverick Stakes on the weekend.
This is the 100th anniversary of the Armistice which was signed Nov. 11th, 1918. Canada continues to send its men and women to serve in any number of peacekeeping operations around the world. It is unconscionable that any of them should have to live on the streets and fend for themselves after their service. Please do whatever you can to make sure those folks feel like someone cares.
A reminder that this coming weekend, there will be racing on Sunday, Nov. 11th and Monday, Nov. 12th. Some folks will have Monday off for Remembrance Day. Monday is usually a stronger day for simulcast than is Saturday, so that’s why Century Downs has chosen to go with this schedule. Post time will be 12:45 PM.