We’re down to the final two weekends of thoroughbred and quarter horse racing for the season at Century Downs. The next to last weekend will be highlighted by the CTHS Sales Stakes for 3 and 4 year olds. Both races will be run on Sunday afternoon, October 21st.
The rules allow for any horse which has gone through the sales ring at any one of the five CTHS sales across Canada, to be eligible for any of the sales stakes. The 2 year olds, which raced in the sales stakes for their age group two weekends ago, produced two BC-bred winners. It’s the kind of result that can stir up conversation about whether or not the races should be restricted to Alberta-breds.
“I don’t care for the rule the way it is now,” veteran conditioner, Red Smith, told me. “I would think with the importance of these races to our breeders, the sales stakes should be restricted to horses bred in this province.”
Smith has a couple of horses nominated for the filly stake on Sunday. Bitters is owned by Smith and by Stone Ranches. He also has Piper Rose which is owned by his wife, Linda. Bitters, which is an Alberta-bred, has a 2-2-1 record from seven starts this season. Piper Rose has 4 wins from 21 lifetime starts, although the 4 year old daughter of Whiskey Wisdom has not won in eight starts this season. She too, is an Alberta-bred.
It’s going to be a real challenge for anyone to beat Escape Clause, the Manitoba-bred 4 year old which owner and trainer, Donnie Schnell calls, one of the best horses he’s ever trained. The 4 year old daughter of Going Commando is 7-1-1 in nine starts this year. She’s won seven races in a row, six of them stakes events, at 4 different racetracks. Her most recent outing was an impressive win in the Lynn Chouinard Founders Distaff at Century Downs on Oct. 8th.
“She’s one of the reasons I like the format for the Sales Stakes,” trainer, Rod Cone, told me. “Sports that have real stars are sports that get a little more attention. Sure, they’re a challenge to beat, but that’s part of the game. It gives racing fans a chance to see a truly exceptional mare. I hope when Century Mile opens in Leduc next spring, that Donnie will find a reason to campaign her on the mile track. We need more like her.”
“And I think it’s important for racing in western Canada that stars like her get to move around and race at different venues. We need to keep the borders open and encourage more owners who buy in one sale to race those horses in others. You look at the field for the Harvest Plate here at Century Downs a couple of weeks ago. It’s one of the few times we saw horses competing against each other from Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and BC. It made it more of a challenge for the bettors. If we had more of these kinds of opportunities it would give us something to market to the public at large.”
Some of the bigger stables have nominated their best in class to take on Escape Clause. Riversedge Racing Stables, which has had a banner year on the Alberta circuit, has Sail On By ready to go. She’s won twice in seven starts this year, including a win in the Shirley Vargo Handicap on July 7th at Northlands Park. Peter Redekop’s Vancouver-based stable has nominated Anstrum which won this event last year. She keeps running into Escape Clause, most recently in the Lynn Chouinard. She hasn’t been able to beat the Manitoba-bred yet. Maybe Sunday will be her day.
A little more intrigue comes from Saveitforarainyday, a 4 year old Alberta-bred which trainer Jerri Robertson claimed a week ago for $17,500.
“I got her for Dale Ellson who’s had horses with me for several years,” Robertson told me. “Her gelding, Irish Gold, won the Red Diamond Stakes as part of Alberta Fall Classic Day on Sept. 16th. So she had a few dollars to re-invest and asked me to find her a filly. We were looking for a horse for the Sales Stake and decided on this one.”
Saveitforarainyday was 6th in the Fall Classic Distaff on Sept. 16th but came back to win at the high claiming level. Robertson will see how she trains early this week before deciding whether to start her Sunday. She might be a step slower than the elite horses, but she could claim a share. And if circumstances broke her way, you just never know. It’s the reason why the race will be run.
Other nominees include Manitoba Dancer, Parcom Cowgirl, Raider, and Street Made. Entries close on Thursday.
The boys CTHS Sales Stake drew just eight nominations. Regal Max, owned by Almac Racing and Kerredge Farm, is a likely starter, according to trainer, Rick Hedge. The 3 year old Alberta-bred has had a good season so far, with a 3-2-1 record from seven starts and earnings of $73,513. Most recently he won the Beaufort Stakes at Century Downs on Sept. 16th. His biggest rival in the province this year, Shimshine, isn’t eligible for the Sales Stake. But there are still seven other nominees to deal with, including Strate Remark which is also owned by Riversedge Racing Stable. Strate Remark has been racing at Hastings Park this summer and counts the BC CTHS Sales Stakes among his wins.
Edmonton businessman, Ed Keryliuk, has directed trainer, Monica Russell, to nominate Lonesome Cat and Rainy Bay for the Sales Stake. Long time Alberta investor, Al Pitchko will try to win with Pacioretty. Makealittlenoise, Stormchaser, and Why So Blue are the other nominees.
Toughie Lives Up To Her Name…
What a way to finish a racing career for a 5 year old quarter horse champion. Toughie, owned by Sexsmith businessman, Charles Stojan, and trained by William Leech, held on to win the Quarter Horse Cup Classic Sunday afternoon at Century Downs. She got a great start under Ricardo Moreno and held on in the final strides to beat Honour The Fast Man and Cruisinforabruisin at the wire. She finishes her racing career with a record of 17-4-1 in 26 lifetime starts with career earnings of about $225,000.
“It’s not her best distance (440 yards) and I was concerned about whether she could hang on for the final 40 yards or so,” trainer Leech told me. “But she showed just how tough she is. She’s really well bred (Stel Corona-Hard Lining- Hawkish). I don’t know exactly what Charles has in mind for her in terms of a breeding, but he’ll sort that out in the next while. But she’s been special at the races, I’ll tell you that.”
The Rycroft Season…
Tim Rycroft has earned a lot of accolades for his work this season, and deservedly so. But he’s not the only member of the family who’s doing some good things at the racetrack. His father, Tom, has had, by any measure, a solid season as well. A look at the Century Downs standings shows Tim Rycroft in the lead among trainers with a 13-9-17 log from 87 starters and earnings of $191,091. His horses have finished in the money 15% of the time.
Tom has done most of his work with his own stock, largely with claimers. In 40 starts, he’s compiled a record of 10-9-4, with a 25% winning percentage. The numbers carried over from a good spring-summer meet at Northlands Park and show that Dad has maintained his knowledge of horses, and maybe even enhanced it a bit, now that he can spend more of his day at the stable.
“We’ve always had a few horses, although I spent a lot of time in the oilfield services business,” he told me. “I started out working on the oil rigs before I started the company. I had that for thirty years. Now my granddaughter and her husband are taking on that work. And I had the farm up near Grande Prairie until I sold it back in February. But we’ve always had horses and I used to spend the summers racing at Saskatoon and Winnipeg. I did OK and always had parts of the family around to help. That hasn’t changed.”
He’s got 16 or 17 horses at the track at the moment, so even with help from the family, the work keeps him busy. He wouldn’t have it any other way.
“The game hasn’t changed,” he told me. “You still have to train your stock and keep the horses in good shape. And you still have to race them where they belong. You have to put them in races where they have a chance to win.”