Wednesday, 07 June 2023 07:35

Tim Rycroft's Training Streak Continues: Asyoubelieve Claims Sixth Consecutive Win in The Journal Handicap

Asyoubelieve with a slight edge over Stone Carver in the stretch in Century Mile's Journal Handicap Asyoubelieve with a slight edge over Stone Carver in the stretch in Century Mile's Journal Handicap Photo by Coady Photo/Ryan Haynes

The Journal newspaper is owned by Postmedia. But in horse racing, The Journal Handicap is owned by Tim Rycroft.

When Asyoubelieve won this past Saturday’s 68th running of The Journal at Century Mile it marked a remarkable sixth straight time that Rycroft has won the sprint stakes.

“Pretty cool,” said Rycroft of the notable training feat.

Pretty cool indeed.

But then so was Asyoubelieve’s victory - a slender, relentless head triumph over his stablemate, the veteran Stone Carver, who was looking to win The Journal four years in a row.

“What an exciting race,” said Shot In The Dark Racing Corporation’s owner Craig Robertson.

“I was watching right at the finish line and I didn’t know for sure if he had got up in time. It almost looked like a dead heat. I watched the replay quite a few times; it was so thrilling.”

Stone Carver set the early fractions while Asyoubelieve stalked the pace from the outside.

For the longest time it looked like Stone Carver and jockey Jose Asencio were going to hold on taking their slight edge at the top of the lane over Asyoubelieve and still holding the edge past the sixteenth pole.

But in the final four jumps Asyoubelieve and jockey Enrique Gonzalez prevailed simply refusing to lose.

“Stone Carver and Asyoubelieve are both really nice horses,” said Rycroft. “I hated to see either one of them lose. But unless it was a dead-heat one of them had to lose.”

“Stone Carver ran a winning race. I was proud to see both horses together down the stretch. If you are going to come at either of them you better be running.”

“They both laid it on the line. Both riders gave their mounts great rides. And both of them stayed out of each other’s way,” said Rycroft, who has been Alberta’s leading trainer five years in a row.

“I prepped both horses the same way. They both had the same kind of work schedule. There just isn’t much of a difference between the two of them.

“They’ve been training together and I couldn’t tell you if you asked me before the race which one had the best chance.”

The bettors did - proving correct when they made Asyoubelieve the heavy 3-5 favourite with Stone Carver going off at 5-1 in the six furlong affair.

“Asyoubelieve just doesn’t do anything wrong,” said Robertson, who has owned thoroughbred race horses for the last 20 years. “Instead, he does everything right.

“He runs straight as an arrow. Usually he breaks good and usually the jockey doesn’t have to touch him. He does everything himself.”

Asyoubelieve’s stats clearly demonstrates that. The four-year-old has now won eight of his 12 career starts.

Purchased by Robertson at the B.C. Mixed Sale in 2020, Asyoubelieve showed that he was something special from the beginning when, in his career debut, he broke his maiden by more than 15 lengths. Then, in just his second career start, he won the Canadian Juvenile by eight and a half lengths.

After running third in the Birdcatcher Asyoubelieve closed out his 2021 campaign winning the CTHS Sales stake in the slop by four lengths making him an easy choice as Alberta’s Two-Year-Old champion.

Last year Asyoubelieve won four of his seven starts and was named Alberta’s Three-Year-Old champion.

“He’s won a lot of races up to and including seven furlongs,” said Robertson. “But he’s yet to win going farther than that. It would be nice to see him win going longer.”

Rycroft thinks that could change.

“I think Asyoubelieve will go longer. I think he will stretch it out. He doesn’t need the lead to win. He’s got tactical speed which he showed again on Saturday.”

Rycroft’s record of six straight wins in The Journal began in 2018 when multiple champion Trooper John won the Journal over his dad’s hard knocker Born in a Breeze.

A year later Trooper John made it back to back Journal victories - again over Born in a Breeze.

Then Stone Carver took over winning The Journal in 2020 - when he defeated Trooper John - 2021 and again last year when he prevailed in a four-horse photo in what was arguably the best race of the season.

When Stone Carver won in 2021 he set Century Mile’s track record for six furlongs winning in 1:07.51.

Now Asyoubelieve has extended Rycroft’s Journal streak.

“It’s tough to win The Journal once let alone six times in a row,” said Rycroft.

For Robertson it was his second Journal title. In 2016 he won it with Blue Dancer, who went on to win 16 of 48 races while pocketing $376,265.

“Blue Dancer was the best horse I’ve ever owned,” said Robertson, who at the time had Greg Tracy as his trainer.

“As a two-year-old he won the Ascot Graduation at Hastings Park in Vancouver. He won Edmonton Juvenile at Northlands. And he won the Winnipeg Futurity. We even took him to the $2-million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita.”

“As a three-year-old Blue Dancer won all three prep races for the Canadian Derby: the Western Canada, the Ky Alta and the Count Lathum.”

“And as a four-year-old - in addition to The Journal - he won the Spangled Jimmy and he Fred Jones.”

“He was a real nice horse. But now Asyoubelieve is bringing me a lot of trophies. Like I said, Blue Dancer was the best horse I ever had - he was one heck of a horse - but Asyoubelieve might even be better. Who is to say? He’s only a four-year-old.”

STOCK REPORT - There were three other $50,000 stakes this weekend at Century Mile. Saturday’s card also featured the Western Canada Handicap which was taken wire-to-wire by last year’s Alberta-Two-Year-Old Champion Cuban Cobra. The first prep towards the $200,000 Canadian Derby, Cuban Cobra won handily over American Blaze, who hopped at the start. American Blaze broke his maiden at Kentucky’s Ellis Park by 17 lengths and the Turf Paradise Derby in Phoenix, Arizona.

Friday’s card showcased Big Hug, last year’s Two-Year-Old Filly Champion - when she won four of her five races - in the Chariot Chaser. Once again Big Hug proved to be too much horse. Taken off the pace, Big Hug made a big move around the turn and won willingly by two and a half lengths.

Also on Friday was the RedTail Landing Handicap for fillies and mares. That race saw Floral post a mild upset over last year’s Horse of the Year Dance Shoes, who lacked running room around the turn. It was Floral’s second consecutive victory. Owned by Dallas Nelson, Floral was another winner sent out by Tim Rycroft.

I’ll have my third book signing for ‘The Turcottes: The Remarkable Story of a Horse Racing Dynasty’ this Saturday at Calgary’s Century Downs starting at 1:15 p.m.

In harness racing Shark Week did what no other standardbred has ever done in Western Canada: he became the first horse to pace in under 1:50.

Owned by Lorne Duffield and trainer Rod Hennessy - and driven by Rod’s son Mike - Shark Week stopped the clock in a sensational 1:49 2/5 this past Saturday at Century Downs just outside of Calgary. Going wire to wire and winning by more than eight lengths, Shark Week set fractions of :26 2/5; :54 4/5 and 1:22 3/5. HIs last quarter was a stunning :26 4/5.

Shark Week has now won 29 of his 63 starts. This is the fastest mile ever recorded in Western Canada by a Standardbred.

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