It was a clean sweep.
The remarkable Dance Shoes took all the awards she was eligible for at Saturday evening’s Night of Champions.
Named the Moore Equine Veterinary Centre’s Champion Older Mare, Century Downs Racetrack and Casino’s Champion Sprinter and the Ted Connor Memorial Trophy’s Champion Alberta-bred, Dance Shoes topped the night off by also dancing away with Horse Racing Alberta’s Horse of the Year honours.
The only thing Dance Shoes didn’t take away from the gala was the centre place flower arrangements.
It was a night to remember.
Owned by Mohamad Khan and bred by Jim McFadyen, Dance Shoes scored six times last year. In 11 starts - eight at Century Mile - the now five-year-old mare also had a second and two thirds.
“She’s sweet,” said regular rider Dane Nelson after Dance Shoes got her 2022 campaign rolling with a five-and-a-half length runaway in the June 17 RedTail Landing stake. “Like a jar of candy.
“Very talented. And she’s very versatile. She can go to the top or she can come from behind.”
The RedTail was contested in the mud, yet Dance Shoes still won the six-furlong affair in a marvellous time of 1:08 4/5 - a full second faster than when she finished second in her previous outing - an allowance race over a fast strip.
The Alberta-bred trained by Jim Brown, who came to Alberta when Century Mile opened in 2019 because of the one-mile track, was just getting started.
Three weeks later she took the seven-furlong, July 8 Shirley Vargo.
After easily winning an allowance on July 30, the only blemish on Dance Shoe’s card was when she finished sixth in the August 20 $100,000 Northlands Distaff. But that was after she challenged B.C.’s marvellous Infinite Patience, who was recently named B.C.’s Horse of the Year, and paid the price.
It didn’t take long for Dance Shoes to find the winner’s circle again. On September 10 she demolished and humiliated her opponents in the Fall Classic Distaff.
Taken back to last Dance Shoes effortlessly went to the lead midway around the far turn with Nelson standing almost straight up in the irons.
It was simply no contest. Winning by almost seven lengths eased up, the 1-9 favourite paid $2.30 to win.
She still wasn’t done.
On September 24 Dance Shoes tangoed again. Wide, she won the R.K. ‘Red’ Smith easier than her one-length triumph would indicate.
All this from a horse who was claimed for just $16,000 early in 2021.
In other awards, Cuban Cobra was named Champion Two-Year-Old Colt of 2022.
First or second in all of his five starts last year, Cuban Cobra won the Canadian Juvenile wire to wire by three and three-quarter lengths and followed that up with a two and three-quarter length win in the Winnipeg Futurity. Owned by Crystal Cates and Gonzalo Anderson, who has now taken over the training from leading conditioner Tim Rycroft, Cuban Cobra then finished out the year running second to It’s a Fact in the Birdcatcher. A winner of two of his five starts It’s a Fact was Cuban Cobra’s main rival for the year-end championship and the Rocky Mountain Turf Club trophy.
Cuban Cobra was bred by Alberta’s Moonshine Meadow Ranch.
There was no doubt about who the top two-year-old filly and winner of the Dwight McLellan Memorial trophy was: Big Hug. Doing almost everything perfectly, Alberta-bred (Chalet Stable) Big Hug owned by Empire Equestrian and trainer Rick Hedge won her first four starts most impressively before finishing second in her 2022 finale, the Freedom Of the City behind Bar None Ranches Monopolize.
Big Hug won the Princess Margaret by three and a quarter lengths, the Sturgeon River by a length and three quarters and then was in a total romp in the $100,000 CTHS Sales stake winning by more than eight lengths.
On the strength of victories in the Western Canada Handicap and the CTHS Sales stake, Asyoubelieve was voted last year’s three-year-old champion. Owned by the Shot In The Dark Racing Corporation and trained by leading trainer Rycroft, Asyoubelieve also won a pair of allowance races to take home the Bar None Ranches sponsored trophy.
The champion three-year-old filly and winner of the Dave Kapchinsky Memorial Trophy is Oneofthemgirls. Owned by the Highfield Investment Group, Curtis Landry and Irving Devey and trained by Greg Tracy, the lightly raced, speedy filly went wire-to-wire to win the Alberta Sales Stake Debutante, the Chariot Chaser in the mud and then the Sonoma determinedly holding off Tone It Up, who went on to win the Century Casino Oaks.
In six career starts at Century Mile, Oneofthemgirls, bred by Highfield and Landry, has only lost once.
At Attention, who only raced twice at Century Mile but won them both, was named Alberta’s Champion Older Horse and recipient of the Century Mile Racetrack and Casino trophy.
Owned by the horse’s breeder - Carol and Dr. Bryan Anderson - the ultra-consistent B.C. based horse won one of the most thrilling races of the year when he took the $100,000 Speed to Spare, the richest race of the year for older horses, by a neck over odds-on favourite Soy Tapatio after duelling for the lead throughout between horses.
At Attention also won the Century Mile by another neck - this time over Chase the Sun.
At Attention also won the Premiers’ Handicap - by a nose - at B.C.’s Hastings Park where he also won a pair of allowance races. First or second in 14 of his 27 career starts At Attention has won $378,810 in his career for trainer Barbara Heads.
The HBPA Champion Claimer is Bon Prix. Owned and trained by James Wyness, Bon Prix started the season running in a $4,000 claiming race but then put together a six-race winning streak moving all the way up to crossing the finish line first in an allowance race after going winless in 2021.
The leading breeder was Pierre Esquirol, the leading jockey was Enrique Gonzalez, the top apprentice rider was N’Rico Prescod, the runaway leading trainer was Tim Rycroft and the leading owners were Cates and Anderson.
In a special presentation longtime trainer Rod Cone was justifiably awarded the Ken Cohoe trophy has Horseperson of the Year.
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