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Exit Smiling Thrilling Connections

Published: November 6, 2018 2:34 pm ET

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Exit Smiling missed out on two of Alberta’s biggest harness races of the summer, the Ralph Klein Memorial and the Western Canada Pacing Derby, but he may still be the top racehorse in the province. He’s set to try to prove it in the 2018 Alberta Sires Stakes Super Finals which will take place on Saturday, November 17 at Century Downs.

The three-year-old son of Vertical Horizon – Nice Yankee put on an impressive show on Sunday afternoon in the final of the Alberta Maverick Stakes. With Jamie Gray in the bike, Exit Smiling let Its A Great White and Peace Out Posse duel through a blazing half in :58.2. Then, midway down the backstretch, Gray hit the accelerator and Exit Smiling responded, as he rolled past the leaders and stretched the lead to nine lengths by the finish in 1:55.2.

“The race was over by the time he got to the three quarters pole,” said a delighted Fred Gillis, who shares ownership in the colt with Geoff Smith, Natasha Peisker, and Gray.

“We had him wearing a hood earlier in the season,” Gillis explained. “We switched to earplugs during the summer. I’d bet Jamie released them down the backstretch and when he pulled them and urged the horse to move, Exit Smiling responded very nicely.”

The three-year-olds raced through a series of qualifying stakes events, including the Alberta Plainsman, the Alberta Marksman and the Alberta Marquis en route to the Super Finals. Even with time missed because of injuries, Exit Smiling led all colts and geldings with $53,350 in eligible earnings. Freedoms Rescue, Yankee Up, Custards Laststand, Screen Test, Mortgage My Villa, Paradise Hill, Captain Terminator, and Tap The Keg are the other qualifiers for the $80,000 finale. Outlaw True Grit, Spikes Revenge, It’s a Great White, In For The Chase, Peace Out Posse, President Elect, Snap Test, Daddys Eyes, and Blue Star Trooper will line up in the $15,000 consolation final.

On the fillies’ side, Jamie Gray held the lines and did a masterful job of steering Bearcat Josi to Saturday’s win in the final of the Alberta Marquis. The daughter of the late Blue Burner out of the Brandons Cowboy mare Barona Josie put up a 1:58 clocking on a heavy track on the first day of the fall-winter meet. The win pushed her into the lead in the standings with $34,559 earned this season. Touch wood, she’s been pretty durable, coming through the Alberta Princess, and the Alberta Diamond before finishing up in the Alberta Marquis.

“Her biggest problem this year has been a bunch of outside posts,” Gray said. “She just missed in the Don Byrne Memorial Northlands Filly Pace, where she finished second. Saturday, by the time she got to the head of the lane, she had used a lot of energy on the track. But she had enough to hold the lead. She raced really well.”

“Part of a great family,” trainer, Doug Stout, said on Sunday morning. “Barona Josie paced in :54 as a two-year-old and won about $140,000 for us. Bearcat Romi, our two-year-old filly, has made the consolation final in that class. We’ve got Bearcat Abigail who’s a yearling, and Bearcat Mathilda who’s a weanling at the farm. All fillies. And Barona Josie is back in foal to Mystician. We faced her in a different direction this time when we bred her, so maybe this time we’ll get a colt.”

Roaring Home, Hot Kiss, Custard Lite, Born A Dragon, My Day, Maid In Alberta, Cusdmagicdragon and True Horizon will fill out the rest of the championship heat for three-year-old fillies on November 17. Ginger Beer, Nice Aint My Color, Blink And Gone, Duannes Horizon, Outlawstormywether, Paperback Thriller, Rare Gem, Smile A Mile and Blue Blew On By will be the entries in the consolation final.

As for the two-year-olds, points were used rather than dollars earned to determine the Super Finals eligibles. Beginning in August, fillies competed in the Alberta Starlet, the Alberta Starburst, and finished up with the Alberta Stardust on Saturday. Gin Twist, owned by Don Richardson of Cochrane, finished second behind Rockin Mystery in the Stardust final, but earned enough points to finish atop the standings for the class. Rockin Mystery went wire to wire for her third win in a row. Jedi Tricks, Lollipop Yacht, Maxsamian, Western Summit, Mrs Suhwiggens, Rockin Mystery, Cayley Skye and Mrbssweetpea will fill out the rest of the class for the $80,000 Super Final. Cenalta Glory, Raging Chihuahua, Bearcat Romi, Casey N Grinegan, Outlaw Hawaiifiveo, Bim Bam Boom, Emily H, Spring Sunrise, Crystal Dragon and Queenoftheriver will on be in the $15,000 consolation final.

Jedi Tricks is an interesting story, as co-owner and driver/trainer Doug Chappell explained on Sunday morning.

“I’m a Star Wars fan, so that’s why ‘Jedi’ appears in her name,” Chappell said. “Charlottes Trick is her mom, so I took ‘Trick’ from that.”

“I’ve been training horses since 2007 and started driving in 2009. I had to take a couple of years off for personal reasons. This is the first stakes winner I’ve had. And we only paid $1,000 for Jedi Tricks at the ASHA yearling sale last year. She’s made about $25,000 to this point. So it’s been a nice reward for some hard times and a lot of work. She’s had three seconds and two firsts in her last five starts, so she’s peaking at just the right time.”

Meantime, Paul Davies’ fine two-year-old colt, Outlawgrabbingears finished atop the standings in the colts and geldings division with 150 points earned across the Alberta Rising Star, the Alberta Lonestar and the Alberta Shooting Star series. He looks to be the horse to beat in the Super Finals. But he’ll have to earn it against the likes of Crackle N Burn which won a division of the Shooting Star on Sunday, and I Ama Rocket, who chased Outlaw Grabbingears home in the other division. Chase Me Forever, Go Nine O, Bad Moon Rising, Senga Savannah, Kootenay Lager, and HF Thegreatpumpkin will fill out the field for the championship mile. Crash Dive, Rock N Roll Dragon, Tap Tap Boom, Loaded Deck, HF Shadow Racer, Thunder Alley, HF Jessie James, Budgie Smugler and Trick Shot will make up the field for the consolation final.

One postscript to Super Finals Day on November 17: Mrs Suhwiggens, Raging Chihuahua, Custard Lite and Nice Aint My Color are all at Fraser Downs in Langley, BC this week for BC’s Breeders Classic Day on Sunday. So they’ll all have a busy time, as they will race on the 11th, then ship back to Alberta, and then race again on the 17th if their respective interests decide to go that route. The money is good, but there’s only so much an animal can do.

Career Start #300…

It is rare that a horse can stay healthy, keep its legs strong, and make 300 starts in harness racing. Although, it happened on Sunday afternoon when BJs Bequia moved to the starting gate in a $20,000 claimer against five challengers.

“We just got him in July to be a stallion,” co-owner Shannon Crump has explained. “Our son, Kelly, found him in Minnesota. We were looking for a son of Rocknroll Hanover to put into our breeding operation down at Standard. He’s earned about $720,000 and has a mark of 1:50.1, and he’s raced against the likes of Outrageous Art and Vertical Horizon, both of which are now in Alberta as stallions. We’ve got a few mares that we think will cross nicely with him next spring and we’re looking for some more.”

In fact, Outrageous Art was in the field Sunday during BJs Bequia’s latest start. He finished second while BJs Bequia was sixth in 1:57.4 – pretty respectable time for an 11-year-old, especially on a brand new racing surface which has yet to settle in.

Saluting the Veterans…

Century Downs and Alberta Standardbred have come together to do something good for veterans in the community. Many veterans have been hurt by the loss of the Veterans Food Bank. Between now and Sunday, November 11, Century Downs is accepting non-perishable food items on behalf of the Veterans Association Food Bank. Bring your food donation to customer service and receive a racing program in exchange.

As well, drivers Jamie Gray and Harold Haining will contribute a portion of their drivers’ earnings to the cause. ASHA is set to match whatever Gray contributes, so that will help a little more. Gray is off to a good start this month with his wins in the finals of the Marquis and the Maverick Stakes on the weekend.

This is the 100th anniversary of the Armistice which was signed November 11, 1918. Canada continues to send its men and women to serve in any number of peacekeeping operations around the world. It is unconscionable that any of them should have to live on the streets and fend for themselves after their service. Please do whatever you can to make sure those folks feel like someone cares.

A reminder that this coming weekend, there will be racing on Sunday, November 11 and Monday, November 12. Some folks will have Monday off for Remembrance Day. Monday is usually a stronger day for simulcast than is Saturday, so that’s why Century Downs has chosen to go with this schedule. Post time will be at 12:45 p.m.

(Peter Watts /

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