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Harness racing driver Brandon Campbell is hot. Red-hot. But Mike Hennessy knows how to run up the heat on his longtime running mate. After all, the two standardbred drivers have battled plenty on the race track over the years. And on Saturday at Century Downs Racetrack and Casino, they’ll go head-to-head again, as they hit the dirt chasing the Gord and Illa Rumpel Memorial piloting the two favourites — Rockinwithcustard and Blue Star Dreaming — in bids to win the high-stakes feature race. “You know Brandon’s going to be a threat at some point,” said Hennessy, last year’s leading driver at Century Downs. “But I don’t get too concerned about him. Me and Brandon have grown up our whole lives together, and we’ve both been red-hot at times. I don’t believe he’s any better than I am out there (Saturday).” The day’s card culminates with not one but two of the year’s largest standardbred races at the Calgary track, each with $50,000 purses awaiting them at the finish line. The Gord and Illa Rumpel Memorial is for three-year-old fillies, while the Ralph Klein Memorial highlights three-year-old colts and geldings, and the pair of stakes races offer up two of the most prestigious awards in Alberta harness racing. “That filly race is a real competitive field,” said Hennessy, a 37-year-old born-and-bred Calgarian. “There’s actually quite a few in the race that are able to step up and get there. Keith Clark’s got (Rockin With Lou) in there. And Kelly Hoerdt has Century Gianna — she’s a good filly. “It’s not a gimme in that one at all for anybody, I don’t think.” Still, on paper, the nod goes to the pre-race favourite, Rockinwithcustard — with Campbell in the driver’s seat — at 2/1 odds out of the No. 2 post. And right next to her is Hennessy and Blue Star Dreaming in the one hole, coming in at 7/2 in the Rumpel. “Not many can move as fast as her down the stretch when she’s healthy and good,” said Hennessy, who’s trying to defend her 2019 Rumpel win — a “lucky” upset with 25/1-standardbred Stash The Cookies. “(Blue Star Dreaming) hadn’t been too healthy over the last month, but then last weekend she’s finally back to her self, so she should be good. “My filly hasn’t been very good on the front end, so I think that’ll tempt Brandon and more of the others to leap out of the gate. I’m going to have to play it by ear. But that filly of mine off of cover can out-pace any one of those when she’s good, so that’s kind of where I want to be.” Where Campbell wants to be is in the winner’s circle — twice. Given his hot streak — somewhere in the neighbourhood of 20 victories in the last two weeks — it’s hardly a long-shot at the 51/2-furlong track. “They’re both coming into it real good,” Campbell said. “They’ve been racing fantastic lately. “Rockinwithcustard’s got an outstanding attitude on her. She wants to be a racehorse. It took (trainer Michael Campbell and Jim Marino’s barn) awhile to get her around, but she now just keeps getting sounder and stronger and better. She’ll be there at the end. It’s just a matter who is going to get a better trip . . . me or Mike. “My horse doesn’t have a ton of gate speed, either. So it’ll be kind of a chess game between me and Mike in that race.” In the follow-up Klein stakes, Campbell expects simply to ease on to the wire with Major Custard, who is unbeaten in 2020. “He’s just an outstanding animal — I think he’s heads above the rest,” said Campbell, also a 37-year-old Calgary native. “I think the only way to beat him is boredom. They’ve been pushing on him, trying to get him beat, and he’s put two or three horses away in a race. He more or less slows himself up at the end of the race once he’s cleared because there’s nobody around. “I think if there was some better horses of his quality around, he’d probably shatter some track records. But he’s really easy on himself. He’s a pretty easy horse to ride because he does most of the work for me. I just try to race him the best I can.” Campbell and Major Custard, at overwhelming 3-5 odds, will face future hall-of-famer Kelly Hoerdt and Criminal Record, a 9-2 second fave — among others — in pursuit of the Ralph Klein victory during the day’s finale at the Calgary track. He hopes by that 11th race that he’s in the running for the major-stakes double. “A sweep would be fantastic — that’s what we’re all going for, right?” Campbell said. “It would be a great payday for me, but when it comes down to these races, it’s more the prestige. It just feels good to be out there winning the big races, right? I grew up in this industry watching all the big races and watching the drivers do it. “And now that I’m in that position, it’s an incredible feeling.” Because of physical distancing measures, there is limited fan access at Century Downs. Racing fans are able to join in on the action at the Derby Restaurant, on the apron patio, on the general admission patio and in the off-track betting lounge as well as online at https://www.cnty.com/centurydowns/live-stream/. Post time is 2:15 p.m. By Todd Saelhof Reprinted with permission of The Calgary Sun

Dr. Deena Hinshaw and Premier Jason Kenney were like coaches in danger of “losing their team.” But they saw the signs. And they made the moves. After leading Alberta to become an example for the nation and around the world when it came to COVID-19 self-isolation, social distancing and flattening the curve, it was no longer “pucks in deep”, when it came to their messaging. Basically, telling the population they’d earned their trust to proceed responsibly, when it came to sport, they effectively leap-frogged Stage 2 and went all the way to Stage 3 Tuesday. It was, overall, potentially great news for most youth sports in Alberta and for participation events not involving attendance of more than 100. While painting with a wide brush — and it’ll take days for minor sports associations to come out of hibernation to figure out — Kenney and his chief medical officer opened almost everything up. Recreation centres, arenas, gyms, pools and playing fields involving fewer than 50 participants will be allowed to open Friday. This would allow all manner of baseball, softball and soccer to open. Hockey camps will now be allowed to take place this summer. Historically, most organized youth sports comes to an end in terms of huge participation numbers when the school season ends. There hasn’t been school and all local kids’ sports had been cancelled. So this will take a while for organizers to react. When it comes to pro sports, however, there’s only one major change. And being that your correspondent announced it on one on these pages last week, it doesn’t qualify perhaps as actual news. Still, for horse racing fans, it seems that they’ve been holding their mutual tickets for forever now. Tuesday, the result was finally made official, although neither Hinshaw nor Kenney made reference to it. Horse racing has finally been given the official blessing to become the first pro sport to return from the COVID-19 shutdown in Alberta. The standardbreds will open June 14 at The Track on 2 in Lacombe and June 22 at Century Downs, just outside Calgary, and the thoroughbreds June 21 at Edmonton’s Century Mile. While they were obviously expecting good news, this was a better news day than they expected. “The authorization to open the casinos and racing entertainment centres was surprising because it was ahead of schedule,” said Century’s racing director Paul Ryneveld. Purses in Alberta are directly tied to casino profits, particularly at the casinos that are part of the complex of both Century Mile and Century Downs. For some reason, Premier Kenney and/or Dr. Hinshaw lollygagged when it came to the no-brainer of opening Century Mile for thoroughbred racing and Century Downs for harness racing until now. Assiniboia Downs in Winnipeg was allowed to be the first of all pro sports entities in Canada to burst out of the gate three weeks ago, and both Woodbine and Mohawk tracks in Toronto followed this past weekend. As a result, the Edmonton-area thoroughbred track and Calgary-area harness track missed out on massive infusions of betting action from a sports starved populace. Winnipeg has been up and racing with six-race-a-night programs over three days a week and running up record totals of: $1,067,221, $1,623,616, $1,786,264, $1,429,225, $1,535,976, $1,853,429 and $1,142,611 through Monday evening. If those numbers are meaningless to you, consider the fact that they added up to $10,438,342 for seven horse races a day over seven race days. Last year, Assiniboia Downs’ average handle was a mere $12,467,854. For. The. Entire. Year. They are expected to top that Wednesday night on their ninth day of racing. And that’s with no fans in the stands and no on-track betting. By comparison, the average handle for thoroughbred racing at Edmonton’s Century Mile last year was $172,422 and hit $838,429 for the Canadian Derby. When they go to the post for the 40-race day thoroughbred season and the 50-day harness season, the riders and drivers will wear masks, as will everybody else involved. But despite the lollygagging, behind those masks everybody will be smiling. “I think the most important point to be made here is that this development will save the overall industry in this province and with some luck, we’ll be able to come back even stronger in 2021,” said Norm Castiglione, Horseman’s Benevolent Protective Association president. The Alberta horse racing industry involves approximately 4,800 jobs beneficial to the provincial economy to the tune of $312 million in 2019. And these have been tough times for horse racing before COVID-19. “Thoroughbred horse racing will return to Century Mile for 2020 and beyond. We need people to realize the significance of this for both the immediate future on the long-term future. Our government saw the importance of this industry to our economy and now, going forward in partnership, we will work toward making it stronger for the future,” said Castiglione. By Terry Jones Reprinted with permission of The National Post  

With decades of experience, in harness racing, to her credit - award-winning writer Melissa Keith, of Lower Onslow, Nova Scotia, is on the move to Western Canada and is set to make her professional race calling debut this coming Sunday at The Track On 2. "The support for harness racing, in Alberta, is really impressive to see..." says Keith. "Watching the developments by Century and at The Track On 2 - and seeing the many fans along the fence when I watch online - I'm looking forward to getting out there and to the races!"   Keith brings with her a long list of accomplishments, through her written works in harness racing, including the Media Excellence Award for Outstanding Written Work, in 2015 - Been There, Bought the T-Shirt: The Relevance of Trademark Race Calls - read it here http://www.standardbredcanada.ca/files/Been-There-Bought-The-Tshirt-(0215).pdf - it was published in Trot Magazine's February 2015 issue. The story is about race announcers, their trademark race calls and memorable race calls.   Melissa's favourite horse race callers currently include Ken Middleton (Mohawk), John Hernan (Yonkers), Sugar Doyle (Western Fair) and Vance Cameron (Red Shores). Her all-time favourite callers have been Scotty Kane (Sackville Downs), Danny Emond (Hippodrome de Montreal), Sam McKee (Meadowlands/Red Mile), Frank Salive (many places) and Larry Lederman (mostly retired, but called at Freehold this past summer).   Keith's current status in the business of harness racing... She's a much-sought-after freelance writer and an Atlantic Post Calls columnist; is President of the Canadian Chapter of the U.S. Harness Writers Association and a member of the fractional Won't Back Down Stable, at Truro Raceway.   When asked about her previous experience in race calling... "Professionally - there's very little," admits Keith. "I've practiced, but not formally called the races, at Maritime tracks (primarily Truro Raceway), after being encouraged (by another fan) to call a few races trackside at a New Brunswick matinee card a few years ago," she explains. "My first professional race call was Race 2, May 1, 2018, at The Raceway at Western Fair District. I had been practicing more seriously in the months leading up to that date, hoping to assist at a Nova Scotia matinee card that never materialized this year. I was actually preparing to travel to Leamington Raceway in Ontario, where they had welcomed me to guest-call a few races, when I got the call to announce at The Track on 2!"   Has Keith ever called races on a one mile race track? "In practice yes, but for real - the answer is no... Although I look forward to giving it my best shot!" she says. "I was raised on half-mile racetracks and still bet them most, but the big tracks give closers and horses with exterior post positions a better chance, so I enjoy them too - especially the stretch drives."   How did this opportunity come to be? "(Owners/Operators) Kurt and Kyla Belich, and (Business Development Advisor) Jim Reed, were open-minded and even enthusiastic about welcoming a still-evolving, female announcer to The Track On 2, which blew me away," answers Keith. "Sugar Doyle, who called the first cards on the season at The Track On 2, is an in-demand announcer and had previous commitments at other tracks, so he asked me if I would be willing to give it a go. Sugar has been my race calling 'coach', ever since I mentioned wanting to try it a couple of years ago, with no plans to do anything but learn a fun new skill. He knew about my radio background, so the pieces just fell into place."   Do you see this venture as a stepping stone to becoming an announcer or will you continue your main focus on writing? "That's an excellent question," mentions Keith. "Time will tell... I'm mostly happy to have been able to tell my Dad the news about The Track on 2 literally days before he passed away last month. He cried when he heard my race call at Western Fair, back in May, and said it made him so proud that his daughter would do that, stereotypes be damned..."   Keith will make her professional 'full-card' race calling debut this coming Sunday, September 16th, at The Track on 2 in Lacombe, Alberta. First race post time, for the eight-dash program will be 1:10 MT - a FREE Program and Live Video Stream will be available at www.thetrackon2.com.   Best of luck Melissa and welcome to Alberta!   *The Track On 2 is a horse racing and event centre located just outside of Lacombe, Alberta on the QEII Highway. The racetrack is the only one mile dirt track and 7/8 mile turf track in Western Canada. The facility also includes a large grandstand, a riding arena and a number of stables. The Track is locally owned and operated by Kurt & Kyla Belich and their business partner Ross Morrison.   by Shannon Doyle, for The Track On 2      

The United States' Marcus Miller emerged with the early lead in the harness racing standings after driving a pair of winners during the 2017 World Driving Championship opener on Saturday, August 12 at Century Downs Racetrack & Casino in Calgary, Alta. while Canada's James MacDonald also doubled up to finish the five-race leg in second-place.   The North American reinsmen dominated the first of five WDC legs hosted by Standardbred Canada, with Miller accumulating 57 points and MacDonald earning 50 points while Australia's Shane Graham put forth a consistent showing hitting the board in three of the races to secure third position in the standings, trailing MacDonald by just two points. Sweden's Bjorn Goop was the other first leg winner and finished in fourth-place with 43 points.   "I'm very happy," said Miller early on in the competition featuring 11 top international drivers. "There's a lot of races to go yet so I'm just going to try to hang in there and keeping doing the same thing."   Miller opened the 2017 World Driving Championship with a victory in the first race aboard 2-1 second choice Ashlynn Grace ($6.20) to take the early lead in the point standings. He secured a pocket trip with Ashlynn Grace, who started from the trailing tier in post 10, behind the inside leaver and found room between horses in the final turn to come through for the two-length victory, timed in 2:05.3 over the extended 1-1/16 mile distance.   The United States reinsman then sent 9-5 favourite Kavola ($5.60) three-wide from the outer flow approaching the third quarter mark to take over command in the third race and held off a wall of closers to win by one and a quarter lengths in 2:07.3.   "It's unbelievable. I know everybody at home is watching," said Miller of representing his country. "It's something else, this is one of the most exciting times in my life as far as harness racing goes."   MacDonald was victorious in the second and fifth races. In his first win, he cleared to command from post eight after the first quarter and held off the competition for the victory in 2:03.1 aboard Lucky Lucka ($19.70). His second victory came aboard Barossa Blue Genes ($6.70), tipping three-wide off cover approaching the third quarter mark and drawing clear in the stretch to win by two and a half lengths in 2:03.3.   "It's a whole different ball game and I've never been involved in anything like this," said MacDonald of the international tournament. "I'm really excited to be doing it and thankfully having a little bit of success."   The drivers will head to MacDonald's home track at Mohawk Racetrack in Campbellville, Ont. for the second WDC leg on Monday, August 14.   "At Mohawk, I'll know all 11 horses in the race and I'll know their tendencies, not to say that's what they're going to do that given night, but I'll have a little bit of information," said MacDonald. "Every little bit you have ahead of someone else helps."   Goop's victory in the fourth race was his first in Canada as he made a power move in front of the grandstand sending Newport Min ($40.90) three-wide to the lead and then prevailed in a three-way photo finish in 2:07.1.    The opening WDC leg at Century Downs was the culmination of the First Annual Calgary Racing Festival. The week-long event, running through to Saturday, included an Industry Day, Mid-Summer Classic card, Charity Bowling and Charity Golf tournaments, and a Charity Gala.   After the next leg at Mohawk, the drivers will head to Georgian Downs in Innisfil, Ont. on August 15. The action then moves to Trois-Rivières, Que. on August 16, where Hippodrome 3R will host the fourth leg before the drivers head to Prince Edward Island's Red Shores Racetrack and Casino at Charlottetown Driving Park for the fifth and final leg of the Championship on August 18, one of the major highlights of Old Home Week.   The reinsmen will earn points based on their finishing position in each race and the top point-earner at the end of the five-day competition will be declared the 2017 World Driving Champion and win $25,000 in prize money.   The World Driving Championship -- along with the 25th anniversary edition of the World Trotting Conference, to be hosted in Charlottetown -- are both held every two years and will coincide with the 250th Anniversary of horse racing in Canada, and Canada 150 celebrations.    WORLD DRIVING CHAMPIONSHIP LEG #1 LEADERBOARD   Rank - Driver (Country) - Points 1. Marcus Miller (United States) - 57 2. James MacDonald (Canada) - 50 3. Shane Graham (Australia) - 48 4. Bjorn Goop (Sweden) - 43 5. Gerhard Mayr (Austria) - 38 6. Mika Forss (Finland) - 34 7. Dexter Dunn (ITA/New Zealand) - 29 8. Rik Depuydt (Belgium) - 25 9. Noel Baldacchino (Malta) - 24 10. Mark Purdon (New Zealand) - 21 11. Eirik Hoitomt (Norway) - 16   Jeff Porchak World Driving Championship Media Liaison standardbredcanada.ca

When Century Downs opened for harness racing in April of this year, a reporter assured readers that a day at the races involved “no mint juleps or fashion-statement hats.” He re-inforced that it was just a bunch of “blue-collar families trying to make ends meet, especially when it comes to those sitting in the sulky.” Well, not at Packwood Grand. On a spectacular July afternoon, with the high-flung clouds white tufts against a prairie blue sky, the men were dapper in summer suits and the women wore sundresses and fascinators. They had arrived trackside at Century Downs thanks to limousines running from downtown, walked a VIP red carpet, and photographed themselves in a special area devoted to selfies, thereby proving to the social media universe that they were, indeed, dressed to the nines at what was billed—admittedly by the event itself—as the fashion event of the season. Trackside, they toasted mint juleps made with Kentucky bourbon. With their smartphones, they made two-dollar bets on the horses. The event was equal parts sartorial affair and part revival of old-school standardbred racing. With its fancy plumage and gourmet “libations,” it was also consciously creating pomp for a sport long associated in Alberta with blue-collar entertainment. The opening of Century Downs marks the first time in seven years that Calgarians are able to play the ponies live, as opposed to off-track betting. When trainers lost the track in Calgary, the number of days they could race their horses dropped from about 160 to 80. Event organizers managed to cobble together one-year contracts at facilities in smaller centres, but it was logistically challenging and unprofitable. Now that this fuller racing schedule has returned to Alberta, it’s not an accident that both Century Downs and Edmonton’s Northlands Park are trying to appeal to a broader crowd. In Calgary, the Packwood is part of that. At Northlands, every Friday is a “Park After Dark” night, with DJs and youth-oriented entertainment between the races. Katy Bond, one of the creators of Packwood, says that she and her colleagues wanted to bring a different sort of horse-racing event to Calgary. “We have a lot of cultural roots in equestrian, but most of that is Western. There was nothing like this happening in Calgary.” The Packwood cites as influence British-style derbies. “You see similar events all over the world,” explains Bond. “Royal Ascot in the U.K., the Kentucky Derby in the States, and the Deighton Cup in Vancouver. “It’s a really fun opportunity to get dressed up in a way that we don’t normally do in Calgary.” The events Bond mentions are undeniably high-class affairs. As its name suggests, Royal Ascot, which dates back to the 1700s, is attended by members of the Royal family. It’s the highest of British high society. In this internet age, you can download a 20-page ebook detailing acceptable dress choices for the two weeks of races. Examples: Women’s hats must be larger than four inches in diameter (no fascinators allowed) and men must wear ties, not cravats. (To be fair, attending the races is also a notoriously boozy affair.) On one level, that is what these events share—the sartorial celebration of society and its attendant proof of social stratification. At Century Downs, the cultural divide between the fashionable Packwood attendees and the regulars was hard to ignore. There was Sam, a consultant, sincere and brown-eyed, who explained he was there with his wife—Packwood seemed a popular date afternoon for 30-something parents. Sam asked me to consult on his bet. I suggested a horse based only on its witty name. He placed the bet on his phone and, as the horses took off, we stood at the rail and crossed our fingers. Our horse finished last. The following race I met a trio of women who had come out to the track together. One of the three, with a long flip of blond hair, a black-and-white sundress and vertiginous wedges, told me she’d downloaded a “betting on horses for dummies” book on her phone during the limo ride from downtown. There, she said, she learned that it’s not about the horse but about the jockey. She scrolled on her phone and said something authoritative about the jockey she’d bet on. Sure enough, when the horses crossed the line, she had won. A fist pump and she disappeared to collect. This much was clear: for the young and fashionable, gambling is something that you do with the smartphone app you download the day of the races, with $20 or $50 dollars set aside for that purpose. You won, you lost, you went and bought another Kentucky bourbon cocktail or locally brewed craft beer, readjusted your tie or fancy hat, and went back to hang out with your friends. The sunny, trackside jubilance of Packwood could not penetrate the perpetual dusk of the casino. A trip through the casino revealed a warren of bleeping VLTs and flashing lights. Amid the din, grey-haired, glassy-eyed and solitary gamblers punched buttons. Further inside, the real horse betters sat in front of a wall of TVs with multiple races streaming from track around North America. At lines of tables with single seating, they scribbled notes while seated on bar stools in their T-shirts and faded jeans. If you could think of an atmosphere the exact opposite of the jubilee outside, this was it. Certainly, a day at the races means different things to different people. For comparison’s sake, I took in one of Edmonton’s “Park after Dark” Friday thoroughbred night races. This is Northland’s regular programming designed to bring more young people down to the track. The day I went, a DJ played conspicuously contemporary music beneath a gauzy summer sun. Everyone from hip and perhaps overdressed couples, to be-khakied families, to north-siders in track pants relaxed in the comfortable and expensive outdoor seating. Toddlers wiggled their diaper-fat hips in time to the music. Fragrant smoke drifted down the trackside from barbecuing burgers. My companion and I drank Coors and Pilsners and propped our feet on stylish, woven-plastic coffee tables. The program was thick with statistics that neither I nor my date could quite figure out. Between races, while a giant John Deere tractor groomed the dirt track, we squinted indecisively at the telephone-directory-dense print. No betting for us. We watched for a while, before relocating to a pub that served better beer. Afterwards, when I realized that I had forgotten the names of the horses that I was trying to bet on at Packwood, I discovered that the race information was no longer online. No, the only online evidence you’ll find of that day at the races are the endless photos on Instagram and Twitter. It’s sartorial proof: women with the impeccable lipstick and clutches, men in brogues. It’s enough to make you think that everyone who bets the horses is a winner. Reprinted with permission of Jay Smith, Swerve More from Jay Smith, Swerve

The draw took place on Wednesday for the $90,000 Brad Gunn (colts & geldings) and $70,000 Ralph Klein (fillies) Final at Century Downs. Headlining the glamour boys Brad Gunn Final, of course, would be First Class Horse - from post 6 - installed as the 3/5 morning line favourite for Hall of Fame co-owner/trainer/driver Keith Clark. After not racing, for two months, the colt son of Western Terror came back to finish a solid third against a pair of very good older horses in Sotally Tober and Ghost Pine. That showing saw him pace his own back half in one of the fastest - if not THE fastest - final halves in the history of Century Downs - an eye-popping 54.1 bullet! The rail post goes to my second choice in Have Not Read It for Kelly Hoerdt. This son of Dragon Again is expected to use the inside post to his advantage so count on Hoerdt to have this colt rocking and rolling early - to be a big factor late. He's a must play in the Exactor here. Urcutoff, for conditioner Darryl Cutting, bounced back in his latest race to get the job done, after coming up flat in stakes action two back. Brandon Campbell, from the center of the gate post 4, will be looking for a trip up close again so expect this son of Brandons Cowboy to 'cowboy-up' early. He gets top 3 consideration. Outlaw Deacon Jim from post 3 is the second-choice on the morning line, at 4/1, but I see him as a minor player only here. There's a few more that could round out the top four as well - if the right trip is there. Horses like #2 Chillinlieavillian, #5 Pablos First, #7 Johnny Gun, #8 My Sharona Bluechip and #9 Withflyingcolours are all worthy of being included in the Superfecta. Shannon "Sugar" Doyle's Selections - Brad Gunn Final 6 First Class Horse is the one to beat 1 Have Not Read It  - the Exactor factor 4 Urcutoff -  expect his best effort here 3 Ootlaw Deacon Jim - in need of a trip "Sugar" Bets - Brad Gunn Final $20 EX BOX 1-6 A close look at the Ralph Klein Final for fillies and I can't look anywhere else - it's Wrapped To Go for me. She'll make her third start for trainer/driver Jim Marino and she - like many coming into this race - has never been better. A picture perfect steer from 'The Moneyman', in her Elim, would have her picking up the pieces late after the front end collapsed from an early speed battle. Second-time Marino - this filly was impressive... Third-time Marino - this filly will be great. She offers great value on the morning line, but the only thing that makes me nervous here is post 5. She may have to navigate through some traffic - she may even have to rough it on the outside... I love her form coming in though and that's why I'm putting her on top. Fire Watch - the morning line fave - gets the inside post 2 this time for young gun Travis Cullen. This Camystic miss went the trip of her life last time - parking first-up all the way and staying on to finish a gutsy second-best. One is left wondering though... How does any young horse come back off a tough trip like that? If she responds well and hits the ticket here - then 'she is one heck of a filly'... If she comes up empty in the Final - then she has the excuse of 'last week's trip took it's toll on her'. I'll use with caution and try her for second-best again. Kelly Hoerdt has another serious player Saturday in Thats Extra from post 3. This filly has explosive speed - as seen in her Elim win, last week, when others just could not keep up with her through her third quarter march. If the trip is there and if she gets a helmet to follow, until the late stages, this Allamerican Native daughter could get up to get it all. Again - this is one of those fillies that is peaking at just the right time. She's a serious top 3 threat for me. Blue Star Texas is in a hole early, here, after drawing the outside post. She tried to go all the way last time and with her 'high-tailing it', turning for home, she just couldn't fight off a determined Fire Watch - nor the eventual winner Wrapped To Go. Keith Clark has been in all the big races - there's no pressure for him here - he'll know what to do when the wings fold at the start - but can his prized filly bounce back in this one? It's going to be very tough from the outside looking in. Minor players include #1 Remember Terror, #4 Beauty Of Nature, #6 Cam Finish and #7 My Villas On Fire. Shannon "Sugar" Doyle's Selections - Ralph Klein Final 5 Wrapped To Go - she has never been better 2 Fire Watch - using with caution for second 3 Thats Extra - peaking at just the right time 8 Blue Star Texas an outside chance here "Sugar's Bet"- Ralph Klein Final $20 WIN & PLACE on 5   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SLgWQ5JVRbI   Shannon Doyle  

EDMONTON, AB - The 2014/2015 Northlands Park Racetrack & Casino harness racing season came to close this afternoon with a 10-race card at the Edmonton oval. "Northlands Park is alive with action 363 days a year and the harness racing season captures some of the most exciting three months in the racing calendar," said Tim Reid, President and CEO, Northlands. "The 2014 and 2015 harness racing season was no exception, as some of the best Standardbreds, trainers and drivers in the nation came to the track to give our guests a great experience." The season's two biggest races at Northlands Park Racetrack & Casino were the Western Canada Pacing Derby on December 6, 2014 and the Northlands Filly Pace on December 13, 2014. Rummys Command trained and driven by Keith Clark won the $70,000 Northlands Filly Pace while Outlaw Gunpowder, driven by Philip Giesbrecht and trained by Kelly Hoerdt, took the $95,000 Western Canada Pacing Derby. The 2014/2015 harness season showcased the continued dominance of the 2013 O'Brien Award winner for Rising Star, Travis Cullen. He was the runaway winner in both the trainer and driver categories, never being challenged from the outset. A few career milestones were also set at the meet. Driver Brandon Campbell recorded his 1,000th victory in the sulky, and trainer Doug Shaw recorded his 1,000th win conditioning horses. Driver and trainer Jamie Gray recorded his 1,500th training victory while closing in on his 2,300th driving win. To round out the 2014/2015 harness racing season, Northlands Park Racetrack & Casino is proud to celebrate Alberta's champions for 2014 at the Alberta Standardbred Horse Association Awards Night on Sunday, February 1 in the Paddock Theatre. Harness racing in Alberta will resume after a short break on March 28 at the all new Century Downs racing facility near Calgary. Horse racing returns to Northlands Park when the 77-day thoroughbred meet kicks off on Friday, May 1 with a 6:30 p.m. post time. Chris Roberts

Charlottetown, PE - Tempo Seelster, under the command of owner Vince Poulton, won the Saturday feature in 1:59.2 at Red Shores Racetrack & Casino at the Charlottetown Driving Park. Poulton sent the pace the front and cruised through fractions of 29.4, 1:01 and 1:30.3 before storming home with a 28.4 closing panel to hold off a fast charging Van Zant (Ron Matheson) by a nose with Blue Star Outlaw (Jason Hughes) finishing third. Broadcaster Peter MacPhee nailed the winning triactor in the pre-race set-up with the 3-1-2 combination paying out at $93.80. The fastest mile of the night went to Camcun who stopped the timer in a sparking 1:57 flat for driver-trainer Kenny Arsenault and his co-owner Dan Belliveau of Halifax, N.S. Abundaspin extended his winning streak to three for driver Harold Shepherd and owner Mikaela Lustic of Cornwall. Shepherd put the 14 year-old trotter on the point and out- sprinted the field in the 2:01.3 mile. Kan Wire and Caliban Hanover completed the top three. Neal made his return to the racetrack with an impressive win the second trot class. The trotting star, driven by trainer Ron Gass, blasted from the back of the pack early to take over the pulse of the race to deliver the victory in race 3. Bill Andrew, Calgary, Alberta owns the son of Credit Winner. Mark Bradley and Jason Hughes recorded driving doubles on the program. For complete results go to www.redshores.ca Red Shores Summerside will host the opening card of 2014 on Monday with the Victoria Day Pace feature. Post time is 1pm. By Lee Drake

The Alberta Standardbred Horse Association (ASHA) has announced it will be holding a "Name That Foal" contest, sponsored by Meridian Farms and ASHA. Harness racing fans can submit their name choice for the foal pictured below with a letter explaining why the name was chosen. Bonus points will be given to those who also submit a picture drawn by the participant. The foal is a bay filly sired by Camystic out of Real Chop. She was born on March 16. Please send two additional names in case your top choice is already taken with Standardbred Canada. Complete contest rules are outlined below: All participants must be a resident of Alberta. A maximum of 18 characters (including spaces). Ages 13 to 18: Best name entered wins $100. Ages 7 to 12: Best name entered wins $100. Ages 6 & Under: Best name entered wins $100. The foal's name will be chosen from one of the above three winners and the winner will receive an additional $100. The best letter with drawing will receive $100. Runner-ups in each category will receive an ASHA prize. All submissions must be received in the ASHA office by April 30. The winners will be announced Saturday, May 3 at Alberta Downs Opening Race Day. Please print and submit the contest page to the ASHA office by mail, fax or email. Mail: ASHA, Bay 127, 5065 – 13th Street SE, Calgary, AB T2G 5M8 Fax: 403-294-1510 Email: orianna@asha.ab.ca From the Alberta Standardbred Horse Association

Smooth Criminal repeat as a gate-to-wire winner from post one in the $9,000 Open Pace at Northlands Park on Saturday, but this time in a career-best clocking for trainer/driver Bill Tainsh Jr. The five-year-old Alberta-sired gelding by Blue Burner is owned by Willie Wychopen of St. Paul and Edmonton's Walter Moroz. Smooth Criminal cruised through fractions of :27, :54.2 and 1:22.1 en route to the 1:52.3 triumph. Timberline Court (Gerry Hudon) closed up the rail to finish one length behind in second. Pocket-sitter Rock Allstar (Jamie Gray) prevailed in a photo for show over outsider Who Doesnt (Travis Cullen), who was parked the entire mile after challenging early for the lead. To read rest of story click here.

"I just try to put the horses in the best spot and usually when you put them in the best spot they can do it from there.” A month into his return from hip surgery, driver Tim Tetrick is eyeing two big races Saturday at Meadowlands Racetrack, not to mention another career milestone. Tetrick, who was last season’s Driver of the Year as voted upon by the U.S. Harness Writers Association, will take the lines behind National Debt in Saturday’s $60,500 Buddy Gilmour Memorial Series final for three-year-old male pacers and Ray Hall in the $53,200 Charles Singer Memorial final for trotters. In addition, the 32-year-old Illinois native is 10 wins from 8,000 lifetime victories. When he reaches that mark, he will become the youngest driver in harness racing history to do so. Walter Case, Jr. holds the record, having notched win No. 8,000 at the age of 37 in 1998. “That’s a huge number,” said Tetrick, who became the youngest driver to reach 7,000 wins in May 2012. “I’ve been very fortunate. I never dreamed something like that could happen when I started out, but I’m glad it did. The main thing is just trying to do the best I can for all the clients that trust me with their horses." Tetrick, who also was USHWA’s Driver of the Year in 2007, 2008 and 2012, ranks No. 25 on the all-time list for wins. He has led the sport in purses for each of the past seven years and ranks No. 7 in career earnings, with $141 million. Only Billy Haughton won more consecutive purse titles, with eight straight from 1952-59. In December, Tetrick had surgery on his left hip, which sidelined him until Feb. 5. He has won 24 of 163 starts since his return and is getting more comfortable every day. “When I first came back I felt out of shape; it was like starting something all over again,” said Tetrick, who has suffered from a degenerative hip condition since childhood and had surgery on his right hip in 2008. “I can understand why horses don’t win right off the bat. “It took some time to get my legs back under me, but I feel good now. The muscles are getting stronger and I’m pretty much pain free.” Tetrick will drive for his biggest purses since his return when he races Saturday night at the Meadowlands. National Debt won his only start this season, drawing off for a three length win over Dinner At The Met in 1:50.3 in the first leg of the Gilmour Series on Feb. 22. The colt was unbeaten in four starts in Alberta last year, when he was trained and driven by co-owner Kelly Hoerdt. Hoerdt, who received the 2013 O’Brien Award of Horsemanship, sent the horse to trainer Ron Coyne, Jr. to race at the Meadowlands. The horse is staked to all the major races for three-year-old pacers. “He’s got a lot of pressure on him now,” Tetrick said about National Debt, “but he impressed me very much. When I qualified him I thought he was a nice colt, but I didn’t know he was going to go in 1:50. When he got out there under the lights, he turned it on and he did it real handy. I moved with him at the half and he brushed and crushed. He’s got a big motor.” National Debt, who starts from post one, will be challenged by eight rivals, including Dinner At The Met and Capital Account. The Erv Miller-trained Dinner At The Met has won four of five starts this year and the Jimmy Takter-trained Capital Account has captured three of four races. Ray Hall, out of the stable of trainer Mark Harder, faces two horses that are unbeaten this year in the Singer. Time To Quit has gone five-for-five and Perfect Alliance is four-for-four. Ray Hall, who has won two of six races, finished second to Perfect Alliance in his two preliminary legs of the Singer. “My horse has done nothing wrong at this point, he just ran up against the standout of the series,” Tetrick said. “Perfect Alliance is definitely the one to beat, but I like (Ray Hall). Hopefully in the final he can be right there and get a good piece of it.” From Harness Racing Communications

There wasn’t a whole lot of pari-mutuel love given to Battle River Storm in Friday evening’s eighth race at Woodbine Racetrack, but that didn’t stop him from engineering the biggest upset on the Friday evening card. In rein to Mike Saftic, the six-year-old son of Freedoms Pass-Presidential Jenna dropped into an early five-hole and sat there through first-half fractions of :27.4 and :57.2. He was backed up to be sixth at the three-quarter pole, but Mike Saftic found him some clearance between rivals in deep stretch and Battle River Storm shot through and prevailed by three-quarters of a length in 1:58. Beeeyouuuuuu was second, with Matts Delivery rounding out the top three finishers. The Rod Boyd pupil, who was sent off at odds of 54-1, returned $111.60 to his backers and added $3,500 his own bank account. Timothy McCoy of Edmonton, Alberta owns the pacer who won for the first time in six starts this season. The victory was one of three on the card for driver Mike Saftic. He and Jody Jamieson led the way with driving triples, while Phil Hudon notched a driving double on the 11-race card. To view results for Friday's card of harness racing, click the following link: Friday Results – Woodbine Racetrack. Reprinted with permission by www.standardbredcanada.ca

Last week was pretty poor with just one favorite winning and a minor box exacta. Springtime is just around the corner (we hope) and with that a few new series are getting underway starting this weekend. We have lots of action from Yonkers Friday and Saturday, plus the start of the Gilmour Series at the Meadowlands and Prairie Jaguar going for his 8th straight win at Pompano. Good Luck! $33,000 F&M Open Handicap Pace Yonkers 6th race – FRIDAY – One of the top mares in the country, Economy Terror, gets handicapped with post 8 once again but it did not bother her last week in beating this class with a game effort. Career winner of $1.6 million should be able to make it three straight wins. Use Ramalama and Lorrie Please in exotics. $33,000 Open Handicap Pace Yonkers 8th race – FRIDAY – As the only million dollar career winner in the field, Calchips Brute is overdue for his first trip to the winner’s circle this season. Class of the field will be decent odds and with good cover he may be able to upset this field. I think it will be a dogfight upfront and he can pick up the pieces at the end. Use Zooming and Backstreet Hanover in exotics. $17,500 Buddy Gilmour Series Pace Meadowlands  1st race – SATURDAY – New series for three-year-olds looks very interesting. Capital Account looks to be the early favorite in the series. Has two sharp wins and a decent second in three starts this year. Has poor outside but two starts back at the Meadowlands he was able to get in the flow and win with ease. Use Pierce and Superficial in exotics. $30,000 FFA Handicap Pace Meadowlands 2nd race – SATURDAY – It’s the 2014 debut of the great pacer, Golden Receiver. Career winner of over $2 million always races his heart out and has true grit. It may be his first start back but he has every reason to fire out of the gate and beat this field. Use Easy Again and Road Untraveled in exotics. $10,000 Open Handicap Pace Pompano Park 3rd race – SATURDAY – Don’t understand why they keep allowing this horse to race. He is way too good. We’re talking about Prairie Jaguar and he is going for his eighth straight win at Pompano Park. Only allowed to race every other week but he still crushes everyone he faces. Sorry bridgejumpers, they took out place and show wagering on the race. Use Lyons Johnny and Freeneasy Hanover in exotics. .$17,500 Buddy Gilmour Series Pace Meadowlands 6th race – SATURDAY – There has been talk and stories that say that National Debt is the real deal and could be a pacing sensation. Still very green with just four lifetime starts but shows very good speed and is unbeaten. We will see tonight how he has adjusted from Alberta, Canada to the Meadowlands. Use Dinner At The Met and Recharge in exotics. $33,000 Open Pace Yonkers Raceway 6th race – SATURDAY – Classic match-up of some tough pacers at Yonkers. Can make a case for most anyone winning in here. I am going with Pan From Nantucket. After brief rest he won in this class last out and now draws the rail. Field looks like there will be some fast early fractions which should set him up with another great trip to score from. Use Domethatagain and American Rage in exotics. $24,000 Winners Over $25,000 Pace Yonkers Raceway 8th race – SATURDAY – After having rough go in the top pace last week, Atta Boy Dan is dropping back down where he belongs. In this class he had been first or second in his last five starts. Should be able to go right out for the lead and never look back. Use A J Corbelli and Nob Hill High in exotics.

National Debt has only four lifetime starts, winning all four easily in Alberta Canada. On Saturday the impressive colt will step up in class and face the best early season three-year-old harness racing colts at the Meadowlands in the William Buddy Gilmour Series. In those four lifetime starts, National Debt owns two track records.  National Debt became the fastest two-year-old pacer in Alberta Downs history in just his second start, defeating a field of older horses in 1:53.3. In his fourth lifetime start National Debt equaled the track record for two-year-old colts at Northlands Park, rolling to victory in 1:55. Kelly Hoerdt trained and drove the colt in all of his four starts. Kelly shares ownership of the talented son of Allamerican Native-Our Inheritance with Blair & Erna Corbeil of Beaumont, Alberta.  The colt was a $17,000 purchase at last year's Harrisburg Yearling Sale. Kelly was named Co-Trainer of the Year at the recently completed Alberta Standardbred Horse Association Awards. Hoerdt, 47, scored 82 training wins during the 2013 racing season and earned $623,245 in purses, $438,100 at Alberta Downs to make him the season's leader.  Also at the awards, National Debt was named Two-Year-Old Colt of the Year. The William Buddy Gilmour Series begins next Saturday at the Meadowlands.The first leg goes for $17,500. The second leg on March 1st goes for $20,000, and the final on March 8th for $75,000.  The series is for non-winners of 2 pari-mutuel races or $30,000 lifetime. "He is a fantastic horse," Hoerdt said. "He is the best horse I ever had. I don't know how he is going to be at the Meadowlands. He has had a couple of good qualifiers. "He was awarded the two-year-old of the year last night," Hoerdt added. "He went 1:53 in just his second lifetime start. We have a shortage of horses in Alberta. They mix the classes. He won his maiden in 1:57. He then went in non-winners of two thru four. It is like jumping up three classes. He did not race against two-year-olds in that race, they were all aged horses. The horse he sailed by in twenty six went on to win the Western Canada Pacing Derby. In all his starts he had a plenty of horse left at the end. This is why he is at the Meadowlands. "I haven't seen the two qualifiers but I got feedback from Tim Tetrick," Hoerdt explained. "Tim said the horse has tons of talent, but is very green. Every time he took the horse off the helmet he couldn't wait to get by that horse. That's the sign of a great horse. He goes by them, but doesn't want to open up on them. He liked him. Another good thing is that Tim had his choice to drive two other horses in that race and picked us. I am hoping Tim drives him in the Gilmour. "We have had a problem getting him ready for the series," Hoerdt said. "We gave him time off after his fourth start. I should have trained him down to two minutes in Alberta. With the bad weather we were only able to train him down to 2:03 before I sent him to Ronnie Coyne. The plan was to have one start in him, but Ronnie was getting dumped on with the snow. The Gilmour is just a launching pad. They are not going to get the guts ripped right out of him in his first start. Last year the divisions went in 1:52 and 1:53. He is coming off the qualifier in 1:56.  The time doesn't mean as much as the way he did it. I know that sitting behind him, 1:51 or 1:52 is not out of his reach. He may be a little short in his first race. Everybody else is going to be in same boat with the bad weather and cancellations" There are fifty one horses eligible for the William Buddy Gilmour. The notables include Capital Account, Dinner At The Met, Pierce, and Fire In The Belly among others. Capital Account trained by Jimmy Takter won in 1:52.4 by five lengths on February 8th at the Meadowlands. Dinner At The Met trained by Erv Miller won in 154.3 on February 15th at the Meadowlands. Pierce, although he broke stride the other night at the Meadowlands, has a lifetime mark of 1:50.1 at the Red Mile in a qualifying race. Fire In the Belly, trained by Jim King Jr., won easily at Dover Downs in 1:54.2 on February 16th. "We have made a lot of stake payments for him." Hoerdt said. "We jumped in with both feet. He's paid up for the North America Cup, Meadowlands Pace, Breeders Crown, Cane Pace and Messenger. He is out there for sale. We don't have a for sale sign on him. Those payments have to be made if you plan to get any money for the horse. "I sent the horse to Ron Coyne in New Jersey." Hoerdt added. "My partner Blair Corbeil has a horse with Ron already. I met Ron a couple of years ago at Harrisburg. He has a smaller operation with his wife. All the horses get individual attention, as opposed to a big barn. We are on the same page as far as training the horse." "We are waiting to see if he can do it against the competition at the Meadowlands," Coyne stated. "I am pretty confident he can go in 1:51. Can he do it this week, probably not. It would have been nice if we had a start along with the two qualifiers.  We have been fighting the weather for a couple of months now. They were fighting the weather up in Alberta when he first started training. We got the two qualifiers in. I was happy with both qualifiers. The first qualifier he was in need of a soft journey. We covered him up and let him sprint the last hundred yards. The other day we raced him a little bit more. We were hoping for a sharper qualifier, around 1:55. The pace up front did not dictate that. He finished it off coming home in twenty seven and change. "Timmy(Tetrick) liked him quite a bit," Coyne said. "He said he has got some talent. Everybody is down on the fence. Can he make the next jump? I expect Tim will drive the horse on Saturday. I don't see any better horses that he could drive. I am hoping he will stick with him. “We wanted to stay away from any 1/2 mile tracks early," Coyne explained. "They have put him in the Bobby Weiss at Pocono next. That will stretch his legs a little more. Hopefully that will set him up for the rest of the season’s stakes races." If all goes well, starting with Saturday's Buddy Gilmour Series, Kelly Hoerdt and his team will have a successful three-year-old stake season with National Debt. They will have defied the odds of racing a horse from Alberta, Canada and being successful in the highly competitive racing of the big tracks in the Northeast. By Brian McEvoy, for Harnesslink.com

Smooth Criminal came within one-fifth of a second of his lifetime mark on Saturday at Northlands Park as he held off 45-1 longshot Overcard to win the $9,000 Open Pace in 1:53.1 over the 'good' track. Trainer/driver Bill Tainsh Jr. quickly sent Smooth Criminal to the lead from post three and carved out fractions of :27.4, :57.1 and 1:24.3 before holding off the pocket-sitter. Overcard and Philip Giesbrecht finished a quarter-length behind in second. Smooth Criminal paid $13.70 to win as the 5-1 third choice. Timberline Court, the 3-5 favourite, finished third for Gerry Hudon. The five-year-old Blue Burner gelding is owned by Willie Wychopen of St. Paul, Alta. and Edmonton's Walter Moroz. Now two-for-five this year, Smooth Criminal has 16 wins lifetime and his earnings sit just a few thousand dollars shy of the $200,000 plateau. He took his 1:53 speed mark as a three-year-old in an Alberta Sires Stakes elimination at Alberta Downs. Hudon was the evening's win leader with three victories aboard Cabo Real ($4.50), the repeating Mr Brightside ($7) and Burn The House ($7.50). Meanwhile, Gary Clark, Travis Cullen, and Kelly Hoerdt each had a pair of wins on the 12-race program. To view Saturday's harness racing results, click on the following link: Saturday Results - Northlands Park. Reprinted with permission by www.standardbredcanada.ca

Back at Alberta's Northlands Park after collecting his O'Brien Award trophy last weekend in P.E.I., Travis Cullen returned to his winning ways scoring four times on Friday's card. Canada's first Future Star Award winner swept the late Daily Double with a pair of streaking mares, Feelin Flush ($2.40) and Sing Like An Angel ($3.30). Both mares earned their fourth consecutive victories with Feelin Flush competing in the top Mares Open class. Her latest was a four and a quarter-length score in 1:56.1 for Cullen and co-owner Ken Hanson. Cullen's other winners were Roof Daddy ($2.50) and the repeating Artxzipit ($3.20). With Friday's four wins, Cullen now has 31 on the year to lead all trainers in Canada. To view Friday's harness racing results, click on the following link: Friday Results - Northlands Park. Reprinted with permission by www.standardbredcanada.ca

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