Monday, 12 June 2023 22:14

Shark Week Shatters Records, Becomes First Harness Horse to Pace Under 1:50 in Western Canada

Shark Week with driver Michael Hennessy at the finish post at Century Downs on June 3rd Shark Week with driver Michael Hennessy at the finish post at Century Downs on June 3rd Photo by Coady Photo/Caitlin Fancy

He beat his opponents. He beat the clock. He beat his daddy’s record. He beat history.

On June 3 Shark Week did it all becoming the first harness horse in history to pace in faster than 1:50 in Western Canada when he stopped the tele-timer at in a sensational 1:49 2/5 at Calgary’s Century Downs.

“I’ve never seen a horse that wants to pace fast like he does,” said trainer Rod Hennessy, who also owns the sensational five-year-old with his longtime owner Lorne Duffield. “He absolutely loves going fast.

“He’s one fast mother. He’s an amazing pony right now.” No doubt. What’s scary is that Hennessy thinks Shark Week can go even faster. “I may be wrong but I think there’s more left in the tank,” Hennessy said with a knowing grin.

Hennessy’s son, Mike, who does the driving, wouldn’t dispute that. “I never touched him - he did it all on his own.”

Mike said another reason why Shark Week can go faster is that “the middle half wasn’t super quick. That’s because it didn’t need to be.” But the first and last quarters were ‘super’ quick.

Shark Week paced his opening quarter in 26 2/5. Then he came home in 26 4/5. “You just don’t see that very often,” said Rod. “He was just flying down the stretch.”

Maturity is the word Rod used to describe why and how Shark Week was able to set the Western Canada record. “He’s a lot stronger now. And, he had bad ulcers when he was younger. We changed medications and it’s worked. We’ve been able to keep them under control.”

The week before Shark Week posted the Western Canada record he paced in 1:50 1/5. No horse had gone faster than that in Western Canada either.

But Mike said he could have gone faster that day too. “I had horse left that day. He paced his last quarter in 27 4/5. If I realized he could have paced in 1:50 or better I’m pretty sure he could have done it. He’s just getting stronger and stronger.”

Shark Week has won 9 of his 13 starts this year and 15 of his last 19 races. One of his losses - on March 25 - came when he had a flat tire.

Another, on April 29, came when - for whatever reason - he was simply disinterested. “He just never got into the race,” said Rod. “He drew the eight hole and he never had any pace. No reason. Just one of them days.”

Other than that it’s mostly been win, win, win.

Consigned by breeder Meridian Farms, Shark Week was bought for just $6,000 at the 2019 Alberta Yearling Sale, Shark Week has now won $264,475.

“I’m sure a lot of people are kicking themselves now,” laughed Rod, who has won 2,190 races as a trainer and 2,831 races as a driver.

Sired by popular Vertical Horizon, who paced in 1:49 3/5 and won $860,588, Shark Week won his record-setting victory by eight and three-quarter lengths. It was simply no contest. Instead it was just a race against the clock and Shark Week won that race too.

It’s obvious and an over simplification. But Shark Week is clearly getting better. He won in 1:52 3/5 four starts ago. Then he won in 1:51 2/5. That was followed by his 1:50 1/5 mile. Then, of course, it was his record 1:49 2/5 romp. “He’s getting stronger and stronger,” said Rod.

When a horse comes along in Alberta like Shark Week the question is usually where does the horse go now?

Rod, however, said Shark Week isn’t going anywhere. “I hope he stays here for a long, long time. He’s not going anywhere that I know.”

Before Shark Week paced in 1:50 1/5 the fastest horse in Alberta was the amazing Tajma Hall way back in 2008 when that horse paced in 1:50 3/5 at Northlands which was a five-eighths of a mile track.

Redstone Arsenal, who is also owned by Duffield, also paced in 1:50 3/5 last October at B.C.’s Fraser Downs, also a five-eighths of a mile track. That was one fifth of a second faster than Outlaw C My Shadow who took his mark at Fraser in March of 2022.

“Shark Week is a very natural athlete.” Mike said Shark Week is a very easy horse to drive.

“He doesn’t pull. He’s super handy. He can start and stop on a dime. And he loves to rock and roll. He knows what his job is. I give him his cues: to go and go for it or to wait. He knows what is happening. He’s an amazing animal. I’ve driven a lot of nice super stars. But nothing close to him.”

Rod agrees with his son about Shark Week’s easy way of going on the track. But off the track is a different story. “He’s a nice horse to drive but that’s about it. He’s very hard to work with especially in the paddock. He jogs a lot but he hardly ever trains.”

Rod said there is one place that Shark Week would be even better than in a race. “He’d be great at a buffet table. He likes to have four feed tubs in his stall. He has one tub with alfalfa cubes. He has another tub with a special feed for his ulcers. He has a third tub of oats and then a fourth tub with mixed feed. On top of that he has a hay bag which he nibbles on. He’s a scrounger. He goes from one tub to another. He eats all day but just a little bit at a time.”

“Maybe a horse like him can revitalize harness racing here. He’s good for the sport,” said Rod of the horse that has never left Alberta. “The entire grandstand was excited when they announced the time of his last race. The whole paddock and the barn area let out a roar too. That’s how much this horse is liked by everyone.”

“I was very excited myself. I was pumping my fist at the finish line. It’s amazing. Truly amazing.”

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Read 3039 times Last modified on Monday, 12 June 2023 22:32