A little charity work, a little stakes action, and a whole bunch of great racing over three days this Thanksgiving holiday weekend at Century Downs in Balzac. It begins Saturday afternoon with the C-Cup Classic, a fund raising event for prostate cancer being put on by the Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society’s Alberta division. All monies raised are going toward the Calgary Prostate Cancer Centre. Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among Canadian men and is the third leading cause of death from cancer in Canadian men.
The C Cup Classic will be the first official Canadian Amateur Jockey's Association pari-mutuel race! Please be a part of this very worthwhile event and come to cheer on our riders and pledge them in support. There is an online pledge site for the riders taking part in the event.
Thanks to Jasper Brewing Company for their support; they are the official beer of On Track to Beat Cancer and the C Cup Classic. Every Jasper Brewing Company beer sold during On Track to Beat Cancer means a $0.50 donation towards the Calgary Prostate Cancer Centre. Also, thanks to Century Downs which will match the donation! A big thank you to our other sponsors; Bar None Ranches, Furlongs Inc., Energy Equine and Collette.
“We expect to have seven participants in the event,” Teresa Sealy, head of the backstretch committee, told me. “Stephan Heiler, who is a former jockey will be one of them. Stephan serves now as clerk of the scales at Century Downs. He’s been rounding up trainers to provide horses for the event. Gordie Smith has ridden in some amateur races in Canada and the United States. He’s currently working as an exercise rider for Bar None Ranches. Mauricio Valdez is the son of trainer, Marcos Valdez who was a long time competitor on the Alberta circuit and now serves as a trainer. I understand Mauricio has been going through his dad’s tack to see if anything still fits!”
“Then we’ve got Roy Ramirez who used to be a jockey and now serves as a valet. Ryan Bott is an exercise rider at Woodbine and he’s coming in specifically to take part in this event. So is Kate Pendergast who is currently an exercise rider at Fort Erie. And finally, we have Kaylie Richardson who is one of the graduates of our exercise rider program at Olds College. She’s working full time in Calgary and gallops horses on the weekends.”
“They’re all raising money for the cause through pledges. Again, we’re excited about the fact that this will be a pari-mutuel race and that’s a first for this type of event. And we’ll have special displays and the man-van on exhibit throughout the afternoon. We’re just trying to draw attention to the fact that men need to get checked regularly for prostate cancer.”
The action shifts back to the stakes schedule for Sunday’s card. Nine colts and geldings and seven fillies are nominated for the CTHS Sales Stakes, worth $50,000 apiece.
“We just don’t have that many 2 year olds who are ready for these events,” racing secretary, Tim Lawson, told me. “I think we’ll see more activity at the end of the meet when we have the Freedom of the City and the Canadian Juvenile. Both of those are open stakes with no restrictions and there are likely to be more horses on the grounds that can qualify.”
“The Sales Stakes are open to any horse which has passed through one of the five CTHS sales,” trainer Rod Cone, told me. “The breeders wanted to make that part of the eligibility requirements. Say you bought a horse at an Ontario sale and brought it back to Alberta. That horse would now be eligible for this event. Or, say you have a horse that you bought in Alberta or BC and it developed well enough that you wanted to take a shot at the Ontario Stake. Now you’ll be able to do that.” Cone has nominated Canaveral Bay, owned by Dylan Heppner and Dictionary, owned by Al Pitchko, for the colts event.
Monday should be a very interesting day with the second running of the $50,000 Lynn Chouinard Founders Distaff and the $100,000 Harvest Plate. The Distaff, which honours the late proprietor of Bar None Ranches will be run over a distance of a mile and a sixteenth. I would guess that this is one race that trainer, Ron Grieves, would want to win badly. He’s got Our Sammi, which is owned by Bar None, on the nomination list. Our Sammi is a homebred and has two wins and a third in four starts this year.
Escape Clause, which was third in the Distaff last year, is back to try again. In fact, the filly is nominated for both the Distaff and the Harvest Plate. She’s likely to say with her own kind, however, according to trainer, Donnie Schnell.
“She’s had another great year,” he told me. “Six wins, a second, and a third in eight starts and she’s earned just over $116,000 for the season. Those six wins have come in her last six outings. We took her down to Canterbury Downs in Minnesota and she lost in a close finish to a horse I hear may be headed to the Breeder’s Cup next month.”
What’s interesting about the Monday program is that it will bring together a bunch of stakes contenders from BC, Alberta, and Manitoba, making it a punter’s challenge to pick the winners. Vancouver business man, Peter Redekop, has Aqua Frio for the Harvest Plate, and Anstrum for the Distaff. Anstrum has raced most of the summer in Alberta in the care of trainer, Monica Russell, and was third in her most recent start in allowance company on September 23rd.
The powerful Riversedge Stable from Okotoks has five horses nominated for the Monday card. Clear The Runway, Gem Alta, and Stone Carver are named for the Harvest Plate. Curlish Figure and Sail On By are nominated for the Distaff.
In addition to Escape Clause, Schnell has also nominated Hey Bro and Langara for the Harvest Plate. Hey Bro has three firsts and two seconds in five starts this season and set a new track record in his first appearance at Century Downs this fall. Of the three Schnell horses which are nominated, he’s likely the one with the bet chance to start. The Plate drew a whopping 25 nominations as of Monday morning, so preference will be given to stakes winners and to money won this year to determine a maximum field of 12 starters for each race.
One horse which won’t likely be a part of the Plate is Frank Bodell’s Royal Warrior. Fortunately, he has another option. “It’s been a frustrating season for this horse,” trainer, Dave Nicholson, told me. “We didn’t have the Speed to Spare in Edmonton this summer so that was one expected start he didn’t get. He’s only had four races this season. And he doesn’t like the shorter 7 furlong events which is what the Harvest Plate is here. So we may ship him to Vancouver to run in the BC Premier’s. It’s a $100,000 event going a mile and three-eighths which will be much more to his liking. There’s 12 nominated there. So, we give him one more work at Century Downs and then make a decision. If he doesn’t go to Vancouver, there’s supposed to be an allowance race for Monday at Century Downs and he may go in that.”
It promises to be a great way to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday if you’re a race fan.
A hastily organized BBQ by the backstretch committee, raised more than $2,000 for injured rider, Andre Martin. He was hurt on opening weekend and won’t be able to ride again until next spring at the earliest. Kudos to trainers Craig Smith, Rod Cone and Tim Rycroft who led the way in laying in supplies, and spending time at the outdoor grills on a cold Sunday morning. As usual, Century Downs pitched in as well to help provide some of the supplies… Tim Rycroft isn’t the only member of the family having a banner season in Alberta racing. Father, Tom, now has a few horses to help fill in some spare time in retirement. He’s got five wins to show for his work so far. He’s even got two horses nominated for the Harvest Plate: Blue Dancer for owners C & H Duggan and Shot in the Dark Racing Stables, and Excitations, which is owned by World Pro chuckwagon driver, Chanse Vigen. Wouldn’t that be something if he could pull off a surprise in the big one! Of course, the first step is to get into the race and we’ll find out about that on Thursday morning.