Wednesday, 05 October 2016 17:11

It’s All About The Numbers

Written by Norm Castiglione
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With only nine race days left in the 2016 Northlands Thoroughbred meet we will lead this week off by bringing all interested parties up to date on the numbers achieved thus far.  For the first 62 days of the meet, wagering on our live product totaled $17,158,274 compared to $18,429,490 last year for a drop of $1,271,216 or (6.9%).  The breakdown of wagering on and off track with comparative numbers follows:

2016 Wagering On Track $4,718,191
2015 Wagering On Track $5,332,313
Decrease (11.5%) $(614,122)
2016 Wagering Off Track $12,377,083
2015 Wagering Off Track $13,097,177
Decrease (5.5%) $(760,094)

Payments made to Horsemen in 2016 total $7,327,727 or $118,200/day compared to $7,373,081 or $118,920 for the similar period last year. The breakdown is as follows:

Overnites $4,617,867
Participation/Starters Fee $101,040
Stake Races $1,790,700
AB Bred Owners Bonus $700,920
Wintering Incentive Bonus $117,200

As most know the HBPA implemented a Winter Bonus Program in 2016 which was not in place the previous year.  We have recently formally announced that a Program with similar terms and conditions will be offered for 2017. Even with an estimated year to date drop of $57,000 in wagering commissions coupled with an additional expenditure of $117,000 the 2016 purse payments are within budget. The number of races that have been carded to date total 479 vs 489 for the same period last year. This year’s average number of starters totals 6.83 starters per race compared to 7.21 last year. 


With little action at the Park for the second week in a row we needed to look to other racing circles to come up with sometime of note to write about.  Before we head there though, Northlands has a good Stakes Program scheduled for Thanksgiving Day, Monday October 10 to heighten one’s interest.  The four (4) Stakes – Harvest Gold Plate, and Duchess of York for older horses and the Freedom of the City and Canadian Juvenile for 2 year olds attracted 51 nominations in total – a very good number.

There was however, one horse that was conspicuous by his absence on the list of nominees which makes the widely anticipated meeting between the premier 2 y o colts and geldings on the grounds – the very fast Fall At Last and undefeated Norm’s Big Bucks will not happen now. Information re: Fall at Last gathered from a very credible source who wishes anonymity (Part owner Don Danard) indicated that the horse has done enough running this year and is turned out.  The owners anxiously await a return to the races next year for his 3 year old campaign. As the great gentlemen Trainer Horatio Luro whose feats included training Northern Dancer, once said “you cannot squeeze the lemon dry”. We would think that Xtreme Lyra who defeated Fall at Last in his last start will take up the challenge of trying to run down Norm.

We did note that Killin Me Smalls fresh off a repeat win in the Premier’s at Hastings last Saturday is nominated for the Harvest Gold Plate. We know not of what matter this horse is made of since he seems to be getting better with age and there appears to be no wear and tear on the 6 year old body. Case in point - he won the Westerner at Northlands on Aug 20; came back with a 5f work on Sept 2; shipped to Hastings where he placed 5th in the Sept 10 Randall; ships back to Northlands and works 5 f in a minute flat on September 24; ships back to Vancouver and wins the G3 $100,000 Premier’s on October 1 and is now nominated for the Harvest Gold Plate. I guess one could make the case that he will have a long winter off.  All things being equal I believe we could be looking at a repeat winner of Horse of the Year in Alberta.

There were other successes registered by Alberta connections this past weekend at Hastings.  Local Jockeys Rico Walcott and Keishan Balgobin booted home Snuggles and the aforementioned Killin Me Smalls in two 100 granders. You have to give credit to “super-agent” Bob Fowlis who always seems to get live mounts for his guys in other jurisdictions. Owner Don Danard’s C U at Eau Claire easily bested three rivals in the $50,000 3 y o Filly Sales Stakes.

In horse racing it’s all about timing so when HBPA Manager Mat Monaco noticed a call on the cell coming from Kentucky late last week, the thought was - who wants to sell or buy something?  Sure enough a Bloodstock agent was looking for contact info for Red Smith owner and trainer of the 5 y o Rockport Harbor mare Whisper Wisdom when she last raced at Northlands in October, 2015 for an $8,000 tag. She originally made her debut at Northlands in June, 2014 for Steve and Craig Smith and was ultimately claimed by Red at year end for $7,000. The sudden interest in Whisper Wisdom you ask – she is a ½ sister to Connect winner of the September 24 $1,250,000 Pennsylvania Derby. Turns out another agent was quicker to the punch as he purchased the mare from the Smiths in November of 2015 for an undisclosed price (despite begging and pleading, Mrs. Smith stood firm – no disclosure). We can only speculate on one thing – it was more than $8,000 and much less than it would have been had they sold her this week!

California Chrome keeps winning races with the greatest of ease and no obvious challengers from either here or abroad appear on the horizon to dethrone the champ in the Breeders’ Cup Classic which will be run at Santa Anita about a month from now. The only possibility is the 3 y o Arrogate who was last seen winning the Travers by 13 ½ lengths in track record time. There is always a problem with a horse winning by this far – they usually bounce in the next start and put in a lesser effort. He is currently in training at his home track Santa Anita, and seems to be stretching his legs with workouts 7 days apart. 

Stellar Wind has now handed Beholder 2 straight losses which makes the former the horse to beat in the Breeder’s Cup Distaff. 

This corner is very fond of Runhappy believing heis a great sprinter – regarding his connections; not so much.  We do not profess to know the ins and outs of training but to ask a rhetorical question why would you debut the best sprinter in the land who had not been beaten in his previous six sprint starts and has been on the shelf for over 10 months, in a one mile race at Belmont?   Runhappy raced well but in the end tired down the lane to be beaten 2 1/2 lengths.  To add insult to injury the connections look to be pointing him to the Breeder’s Cup Dirt Mile rather than the Sprint – go figure.

Lastly a horse called Ashleyluvssugar has caught our eye. Don’t be confused by the name since he is a 5 y o gelding and not a mare. On Sunday at Santa Anita he won the G2 John Henry going 1 ¼ miles on the turf.  He is now being pointed to the Breeder’s Cup Turf contested at a mile and ½ to which his rider Gary Stevens contends the farther they go the better he is. 

We did some checking on his pedigree and note that he is by the sire Game Plan an unraced son of Danzig who stood at EA Ranches since 2005 prior to being laid to rest at the Ranch in 2015. During his career at stud at last count he sired 24 Stake winners with Ashleyluvssugar being his highest earner at $847,504. A close second in earnings is the mare Mistical Plan with earnings of $816,790.  Her first three offspring siredby Unbridled Song, Tiznow, and Tapit have sold at public auction for a total of $1,050,000. Other significant progeny of Game Plan are: Celtic Dreamer ($660,660); Melanyhasthepapers ($311,152) and Lady Gamer ($292,115). Not bad for a stallion who stood most his career for a Stud fee of $2,500. Unfortunately there are only 3-4 Game Plan babies in his last two crops who will debut in 2017 and 2018.

All of our customers and fans are encouraged to take in the weekend and Holiday Monday thoroughbred action at Northlands. As previously mentioned there will be great Stake race action on the Holiday.

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