On two cool and damp race cards at Century Mile, two anything but dreary symphonies were played out. Friday night Rockin Mystery won the $44,500 Final of the Marquis for three-year-old fillies; two afternoons later Outlawgrabbingears took the $45,400 Maverick Final for three-year-old colts and geldings.
Both did it the way gophers like to dig; both races were as one-sided as an avalanche; both left from outside posts sailed to the top and won as they pleased opening up around the final turn and disappearing down the stretch. Both were odds-on-favourites. Rocking Mystery paid $2.90 to win; Outlawgrabbingears returned $3.60.
To say they won comfortably would even be a gross understatements. They both could have gone around the track 100 more times and nothing would have changed; the other horses were just scenery - garnish on a big plate of filet mignon. Watching them win was like watching Michelangelo paint the Sistine Chapel: two works of art.
Part poetry, part power, asked if Rockin Mystery’s two-length win was as easy as it looked, driver Dave Kelly said “It sure felt like it. I never even asked her. She won well in hand. “She’s one of the nicest horses I’ve ever driven. You can drive her with two-fingers. I’ve driven her six times and she’s been ultra-impressive each time. She’ll pace a quarter of a mile in 27 seconds and it feels like she’s going in about 30 (seconds). She’s intelligent that way.”
After getting the first quarter in :28 1/5; Rockin Mystery’s victory was over at the half-mile pole when Kelly eased on the breaks and paced the second quarter in a leisurely :29 2/5. You could have called off the hounds right then. Giving Rockin Mystery a soft fraction like that was like giving Connor McDavid another leg.
Rockin Mystery paced her third quarter in :27 1/5 - opening up enough daylight that you could have built a Costco between her and the rest of the field. But then what did you expect? After all, the Marquis was the 10th stake leg or Final that she has won in just two years of racing.
“In her Marquis elimination win Chris (trainer Lancaster) asked me to race her from off the pace,” said Kelly of a win which marked Lancaster’s 100th career win. “I sat in third for a while and then moved her out down the backstretch. Again, I never asked her. She does did it all on her own.”
Friday’s win was Rockin Mystery’s 11th in 27 starts and brought her career earnings to over $200,000. It should have been more. A month ago Rockin Mystery appeared to have notched another easy victory crossing the finish line by an eased-up length and a quarter in the $125,000 Don Byrne Memorial. Instead, Rockin Mystery was disqualified for starting in front of the starting gate.
“Since the middle of March she’s only been out of the top two twice. Once in that disqualification and once when she was sick,” said Lancaster, 28, who since he went out on his own as a trainer last September has a sterling log of 102 wins from 388 starts.
“She’s a freak. For being a chubby, little Alberta-bred she can sure move. She shouldn’t be as good as she is. She’s a heavy hitter. A real gritty filly that will take on all comers. She can go to the top or she can come from off the pace. But, once she makes the front you have to really work hard to try and get by her.”
Lancaster trains Rockin Mystery for owners Blair Miller and Rod Therres, who bought her at the Alberta Yearling Sale for $16,000. Ironically, Lancaster was the underbidder.
“I went to $15,000 on her for Chris Lambie (who also own Lady Neigh Neigh who was moved up to the win in the Don Byrne) and myself. There was just something about her that caught my eye. You could just tell that she was going to be a superstar. Rod was her first trainer in B.C. Rod gave her to me to train when she came to Alberta this spring for the Alberta-sired stakes races."
“She’s been a great horse to have. It’s been a privilege to have been able to train her here in Alberta. “You know you have a sports car in her. The lines are her gas pedals. You can give her head and she’ll relax. You can shut her down and then start her right back up again. She’ll idle and then when you want to put her back into gear she’ll respond."
“She’s a push button start. Like I said, she’s a freak. She’s cool, she’s calm and she’s collected.”
Lancaster gives special credit to Rockin Mystery’s groom, Brinsley Brook-Lutz. “She looks after her. She’s been a great close friend for a long time. This year she needed a job and I hired her. She did a great job all summer. “I couldn’t do it without people like Brinsley and my owners.”
Then there’s Outlawgrabbingears, the toed-out, hip-sticking-out horse trainer/driver and co-owner Paul Davies called a ‘skinny, ugly horse’ in this space last week, who is everything Rockin Mystery is and more. While Rockin Mystery won in 1:54 2/5, Outlawgrabbingears stopped the clock in an electric 1:51 2/5 - just a fifth of a second off the track record set by another Chris Lancaster trainee Jewels Dragon in the elimination leg of the Western Canada Pacing Derby.
”He’s quite the animal,” said Davies, who owns Outlawgrabbingears with Nicole Davies and Deborah Pinel. “If I had asked him a little more I’m sure he could have at least tied the track record. When he won the elimination last week in 1:52 1/5 I shut him down more than this week. But there was still more left in the Final. And the track wasn’t super fast. It was a little cuppy on the inside. On a warmer day and with better track conditions I know he could have gone more. I was off the rail for most of the first turn.”
Like Rockin Mystery, Outlawgrabbingears also went wire-to-wire. But unlike the :29 2/5 breather Rockin Mystery enjoyed, there were no soft fractions in the Outlawgrabbingears four and three-quarter length victory. The first quarter went in :27 3/5, the half in :56 flat and three-quarters in 1:24. For good measure, while never really asked, Outlawgrabbingears then went his final quarter in :27 2/5.
In other words all four of Outlawgrabbingears quarter-mile fractions were all in :28 2/5 seconds or better. “I wouldn’t say I was surprised he went that fast but I was impressed,” said Davies, who also took another horse he trains - seven-year-old Open pacer Sabine Pass - to an identical 1:51 2/5 mile one race before the Maverick Final.
Eighth and last after three-quarters of a mile Sabine Pass came his last half in just under 55 seconds to win by a stirring five and a half-lengths. Outlawgrabbingears came his last half in :55 2/5 seconds and remember he’s just a three-year-old.
Now a winner of $242,585, the Maverick was Outlawgrabbingears 16th win in just 25 starts. All 16 victories have come in stakes eliminations or Finals for a horse Davies bought privately off of Connie Kolthammer for $22,500 last spring. Rockin Mystery and Outlawgrabbingears will now get ready for the Nov. 2 Super Finals - four $75,000 races for two- and three-year-olds at Century Mile.
After the Super Finals, Outlawgrabbingears is headed to Ontario’s Mohawk Raceway and be put in the care of Davies’ father-in-law John Cecchin. “He’ll get a couple of months off and then train him towards some aged-horse stakes. I’d love to keep him here but there are no stakes races for aged horses out west. After the mile he paced on Sunday it’s hard to say how good he can be. I’m guessing he can go in under 1:50.”
STOCK REPORT - There were five other stakes on this past weekend’s cards.
On Friday’s card, favourites came through again with Keith Clark’s Snow Shark paying $2.80 to win the first division of the Stardust for two-year-old fillies in 1:56 2/5 and Rod Hennessy and Lorne Duffield’s Blue Star Dreaming returning $3.90 to win the second division in 1:55 3/5. On Sunday there were three divisions of the Shooting Star for two-year-old colts.
Just Mac, also trained by Lancaster, was the fastest winning in 1:54 4/5 by half a length over favoured Dontpokethedragon; favourite Criminal Record - trained, driven and co-owned by Kelly Hoerdt - went in 1:55 2/5 and Trip Hammer - driven, trained and co-owned by Nathan Sobey - came from off the pace to win going away in 1:56 3/5.
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