Consistently strong efforts all day from Alberta-based drivers Kelly Hoerdt and Jamie Gray landed them atop the standings at the end of Saturday's (June 23) Western Regional Driving Championship (WRDC) at Century Downs Racetrack and Casino near Calgary, Alta.
Hoerdt and Gray now advance to the 2018 National Driving Championship (NDC) at Grand River Raceway in Elora, Ont., on Wednesday, September 26.
Hoerdt, used a win in the fourth leg with Take On Da Boys and two second-place finishes to land atop the standings at tournament's end with 46 points. The veteran horseman has driven over 1,900 winners and has sent over 1,600 winners to post as a trainer in his career.
"The key was getting lucky and driving really good horses for really good trainers," Hoerdt said in the winner's circle following the WRDC. "I thank those guys for participating in this. They don't know who they're going to have on their horses, and it's much appreciated."
Gray, a winner of over 2,400 races in the sulky used a win with Steal The Diamonds in the third leg, as well as second and third place finishes to take runner-up honours overall with 43 points.
Of advancing to the National Driving Championship, Gray said, "It should be fun, and it’s a little bit of a surprise for me."
Not one to turn down the opportunity for a chirp after British Columbia drivers swept the first three races, Gray concluded, "I think we just outdrove the B.C. boys, me and Kelly. That's all I have to say."
Five different drivers were winners in the event. Only Jim Marino of BC was able to get to the winner’s circle twice.
Here are the final standings:
- Kelly Hoerdt 46
- Jamie Gray 43
- Jim Marino 41
- Dave Hudon 39
- Paul Davies 38
- David Kelly 33
- Phil Giesbrecht 20
- Mitch Rey 19
Race-by-race recaps of the afternoon's six tournament races follow. The races were carded as races 3 through 8.
Race 3: Dave Hudon captured the first tournament leg with Itchin To CU ($18.00), gunning the four-year-old Mystery Chase Mare to the lead from post 1 and never looking back en route to a 1:59.3 score. Itchin To CU controlled fractions of :29.2, :58.2 and 1:28.4 before holding clear of pocket rival Centala Cougar (Kelly Hoerdt) in the homestretch while under strong encouragement. Cenalta Shade (Paul Davies) overcame a gapping Tricky Bet at race's midpoint to take third and finish in touch with the top pair.
Race 4: Under patient handling from Jim Marino, Outlawintriguedbyu ($40.10) sprung a major upset to reel in pacesetter Lookslikewemadeit (David Kelly) for a 1:59.4 triumph. The four-year-old daughter of Blue Burner sustained a three-wide push around a stalled Take Me Im Yours (Paul Davies) through the entire far turn before mowing down a clear Lookslikewemadeit in the final yards. Gary Clark owns and trains the six-time winner.
"I was just driving for a cheque, and things just worked out," Marino said of his victory in the second tournament race. "You never know what's going to happen; you need a lot of luck."
Race 5: The efforts of Jamie Gray and Steal The Diamonds to steal the race on the lead were thwarted after a :56.4 first half proved too ambitious, and Paul Davies was able to pick up the pieces from second-over with Sayitlikeyoumeanit ($9.30) in 2:01.3. Steal The Diamonds, who put five lengths on the field heading to the clubhouse turn, was reeled in by Acesndeuces (Phil Giesbrecht) midway on the far turn, but Sayitlikeyoumeanit, now owned and trained by Garry Schedlosky after Davies campaigned him in B.C., lunged late to narrowly reach amid the collapsing pace. The seven-year-old Whatayasay gelding earned his seventh career victory.
Race 6: Kelly Hoerdt and Take On Da Boys ($16.00) continued the procession of longshots emerging from off the pace, circling the field for a 2:00.3 score. After Alot Of Sense (Paul Davies) made a three-wide push up the backstretch to engulf Crash My Party, Take On Da Boys made her sweeping move from astern and took over just inside the eighth pole before drawing clear. Senseless Beauty (Dave Hudon) re-emerged after being shuffled to save second. Take On Da Boys, a six-year-old JK Royal Flush mare, earned her 30th career win.
Race 7: A mid-race duel between Play Day (Phil Giesbrecht) and Tripper (David Kelly) resulted in another imploding pace, and Camita B And E ($28.50) had the last word after numerous leadership changes in the final three-eighths of a 1:59.1 mile. Jamie Gray drove the six-year-old Camystic gelding for trainer Nathan Sobey, while Rock Allstar (Kelly Hoerdt), who took over briefly at the top of the stretch, finished second and propelled Hoerdt into the lead with one tournament race remaining.
Race 8: Jim Marino captured his second win in the WRDC with Jennas Lass ($10.10) in the final tournament race, but it was only enough to lift him back to third in the overall standings. The five-year-old Freedoms Pass mare made a three-wide push around a tiring Awhimaway (Paul Davies) up the backstretch and easily cleared early pacesetter Goldies Mach (David Kelly) en route to the far turn. The Samuel Johnson trainee maintained clearance over the late-rallying Lissoy (Jamie Gray) in deep stretch to ice a 2:00.1 victory, the eighth of her career.
Hoerdt and Gray join Trevor Henry and Louis-Philippe Roy who finished 1-2 in the Ontario Regional , at the National Driving Championship. Four more drivers for the NDC will be determined next weekend at the Atlantic Regional and Quebec / Eastern Ontario Regional.
The Atlantic Regional Driving Championship will be held next at Truro Raceway in Truro, Nova Scotia followed by the Quebec/Eastern Ontario Regional on June 30 at Kawartha Downs, near Peterborough, Ont.
The top two point-earners from each of the four regional competitions will advance to the National Driving Championship on September 26 at Grand River Raceway in Elora, Ont. The winner of the National Driving Championship will join 2017 World Driving Champion James MacDonald in the 2019 World Driving Championship, which will be hosted in Sweden.