The photo finish camera was put to work as Playbook and Cowboy Caper won their respective $12,500 Western Canada Pacing Derby eliminations for three-year-old colts by the slimmest of margins on a snowy -13 degree Saturday evening at Northlands Park.
Playbook held off a late-closing Steve O to win the first elimination by a nose.
With Bobby Clark in the sulky, Playbook grabbed the lead from post two and cruised past panels of :28.4, :59.2 and 1:28 while slight favourite Steve O (J.F. Gagne) leap-frogged around one rival into a gapping two-hole.
Down the stretch, B.C. Breeders Stakes runner-up Steve O kicked into high-gear as he charged after the pacesetter, but came up just a whisker short at the wire. Playbook held on to win in 1:57 flat for trainer Keith Clark, who guided a from-last Somethinsgoinon to a fourth-place finish to make next week's final with his stablemate. No Fear (Brandon Campbell) advanced from the backfield to show.
Elimination #1 - Race 8
Playbook paid $6.70 to win as the 2-1 second choice.
The homebred Camcracker-Incognito Miss gelding is owned by Keith Clark, along with Laurence Swalm and Verne Rea of Calgary, and Doris McDougall of Cochrane, Alta. The Alberta Super Final runner-up has put together a seasonal record reading 6-6-1 in 20 starts while banking $75,548.Cowboy Caper
later rallied home from off the pace to prevail over Watch And Pray in another close call in the second elimination.
Watch And Pray (J.F. Gagne) and Sharkalucchi (Keith Clark) fired off the gate together from posts five and six ahead of Smooth Criminal (Bill Tainsh Jr.), favourite Outlaw Beacon (Jim Marino), and the Kelly Hoerdt-trained and driven Cowboy Caper. Parked through a :27.2 first quarter, Sharkalucchi eventually cleared to command in front of the grandstand.
As the colts raced towards the half in :58.2, Smooth Criminal advanced first over to take the lead with Outlaw Beacon and Cowboy Caper following to the outside and Arroway (John Chappell) forced three-wide while beginning to advance from the backfield.
Smooth Criminal led the field down the backstretch to three-quarters in 1:27.1 with Outlaw Beacon backing away and Cowboy Caper dropping down along the rail in fourth.
Watch And Pray then angled off the rail around the final turn and wore down the leader, but couldn't hold off the closing Cowboy Caper, who prevailed in 1:57.4 by half a length. Watch And Pray stayed for second while Outlaw Highvoltage (Brent Grundy) closed from last at long odds of 40-1 to show. Sharkalucchi finished fourth and will also advance to the final.
Following the race, Cowboy Caper survived a objection, launched by Arroway's driver in regards to the racing action before the half. The judges determined a placing was not necessary.
Elimination #2 - Race 10
The Brandons Cowboy-Prom Miss gelding paid $9.40 to win as the 7-2 second choice.
Hoerdt co-owns the bay pacer with Blair Corbeil of Beaumont, Alta., along with Peter Morris and Roque Consultants Inc. of Calgary. Cowboy Caper now sports a seasonal record reading 7-1-3 in 19 starts with earnings totalling $86,331.
Later on the card, favourite Timberline Court
and trainer-driver Gerry Hudon won the $9,500 Open Pace for the third consecutive week with a 1:56 front-end effort. The seven-year-old With Held gelding overtook his stablemate Bachelor Pad (Keith Clark) before the :28.1 opening quarter and cruised past middle splits of :57.3 and 1:26.1 en route to the two length tally. Bachelor Pad finished second with Smart Shark (Connie Kolthammer) rallying off cover to show.
To view Saturday's harness racing results, click on the following link: Saturday Results - Northlands Park