Monday, 30 May 2016 10:53

Claiming Box full at Century Downs

Written by Peter Watts

It’s been awhile since the claiming box has been as full as it was last Saturday, but that was one of the highlight stories of the week at Century Downs. No fewer than 5 horses changed hands on the day, and trainer Sanford Campbell, was in the middle of the action.

“Back in the ‘90’s I trained horses for about a year and a half for Ray Henry and Tommy Arvine,” he told me. “Tommy’s a retired school teacher and is out of the business. Ray runs a number of booths at flea markets in Calgary and is keeping busy at that. He got out of the business after racing stopped at Stampede Park, but he’s gotten back into it this spring. And he tells me he’s not done just yet.”

Back in, in a big way, indeed. Two weeks ago, he claimed Premium Attaction for $20,000, only to lose him a week later to Gerry Hudon. He took the proceeds from that sale and put it toward American Passion, which had already been claimed earlier this spring from Gerry Hudon by Greg Manning. Then on Saturday, he haltered the 4 year old mare, Take on Da Boys out of Rod Hennessy’s shedrow.

“I like the horse, I’m just not sure why she hasn’t shown better this spring,” Campbell told me. “But Ray has given me a free hand to put a stable together for him. So, we’ll give her a week off and see if we can get her going.”

As a 3 year old, Take on Da Boys was one of the stars of Alberta racing, winning three Alberta Sire Stakes events last fall and piling up more than $102,000 in earnings. But she has been sluggish this year with just a third place finish in 9 starts and earnings of $1,656. She was sixth in a $7,500 claimer on Saturday.

The Henry/Campbell duo also claimed the 6 year old mare, Skade, out of Saturday’s 5thrace, a $15,000 claimer. Skade was second behind Ashleigh & Ed Hensley’s Balinska Hanover in that outing.

“I’ve got some people looking into what might be available in Ontario,” Campbell told me. “I’d like to see if we can find a fresh horse or two for this circuit. And if this keeps up, I’m probably going to have to hire some help and there’s not much of that around either.”

Interested parties can apply to the Campbell shedrow at Century Downs.

Sobey Shows Promise with Prince Sharka

Now in his fourth season competing on the Alberta circuit, Nathan Sobey is slowly building a resume as a promising driver. He’s got 15 wins so far this season, and he nearly got another one on Sunday afternoon when newcomer Prince Sharka just missed in a $20,000 claimer, losing to Who Doesn’t in a photo finish.

“My uncle owns this one,” Sobey told me. “He’d been racing in Ontario and Uncle Trevor (Easter) didn’t think he was being handled very well. So he shipped him out to me. I only had a chance to train him once before Sunday, so I was pretty pleased with the way he raced. I think when I get him a little more fit, he’ll be a good competitor at this level.”

Sobey, who’s 24, was born and raised in Edmonton and never took much interest in racing until he was 17.

“The family hails from Prince Edward Island but my mom and dad were both in the military and were based in Edmonton when I was born,” said Sobey. “They’re retired now and have a small farm up near Morinville, not far from where (veteran driver-trainer) Jamie Gray is based. I started out working for Jamie. Then I got out of the business and worked construction. Since I’ve come back, I’ve been training a few horses with Gerry Hudon.”

“I’ve always like to watch and analyse races, and I’m not afraid to ask questions. The veteran guys here have always been willing to help me learn.”

One of those veteran guys is John Baxter, who works now with Kelly Hoerdt, but who’s been a fixture on the Alberta racing scene for decades.

“Nathan shows some promise,” says Baxter, who’s been driving for more years than Standardbred Canada’s records show – but who is officially credited with 2,301 wins. “A driver has to be a good handicapper, and not for betting purposes. John Campbell is the best I know. At age 61, he’s still competitive. He won 4 races last Friday night at the Meadowlands. He told me once that you have to know what you’re racing against and which horse is the one to beat. Then you have to position yourself so that you’re not blocked in during the race, and that you’re in position to challenge. A lot of races are won or lost off the gate, and you have to keep your horse in a competitive spot so it can challenge for the lead when the time is right. I think Nathan is learning how to do that and if he keeps paying attention to those kinds of details, he’s got a chance to do well.”

ASHA Sale Sunday, Sept. 11th at the Olds Megadome

A total of 71 horses are listed for this year’s ASHA sale. Pedigrees are available on the ASHA web site and the catalogue will be printed and ready for distribution later on this summer. Prominent breeder, Bill Andrew, is making available Hip #19 for the Caring is Cool program, which has been started to help not-for-profit and charity groups raise funds for their organization. The yearling, “Cool Jay” will go into the auction with proceeds from its sale being donated to those groups participating in the program. Airdrie Victims Services, Autism, Didsbury Volunteer Fire Dept., Olds & District Christmas Angels, and the Olds Hospice Society are this year’s honourees.

There are also 3 yearlings which are being raised by members of the 4-H program under the guidance of Michele Aschim and Colleen Haining. The 4-H participants got their yearlings at Christmas and learn hands-on skills with the horses as part of their training. They’ll share in the proceeds of the yearlings when they are sold.

Briefly noted…Veteran driver-trainer, Rod Hennessey, recently collected his 2,800th career win with the 4 year old Royal Renegade. Hennessy’s career began in 1970 at the age of 16 and took him over racetracks in Grande Prairie, Teepee Creek, Peace River, Westlock, Lloydminster, Enoch, Red Deer, High River and Lethbridge, as well as Calgary and Edmonton. He’s also driven harness horses at Los Alomitos, and in Deleware, New York and Ohio and once finished 4th in an elimination of the Little Brown Jug with “I Win.” Those 2,800 victories began when Standardbred Canada started keeping records in 1977. When I asked him what became of the $15,457,974 in career earnings, he just laughed and said, “I think I’ve still got the $74!”… with 4 more wins on Sunday, Travis Cullen now has 795 victories as a driver, in just his 7th season.

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