Sophomores Slug It Out In Alberta

Published: December 18, 2021 03:39 pm EST

The fields for the 2021 Western Canada Pacing Derby and Century Casinos Filly Pace became much clearer after elims were contested on a special — and especially chilly — morning card of harness racing at Century Mile on Saturday (Dec. 18).

The front end was the place to be in each of the $9,300 Century Casinos Filly Pace eliminations, with Exotic Dragon and Graceful Horizon adding to their impressive bankrolls with strong morning performances.

Sent to the lead from the rail by trainer/driver Nathan Sobey, Exotic Dragon picked up her 11th win of the season with a wire-to-wire 1:56.3 score. Joining her in the Century Casinos Filly Pace Final from that first elim will be Burning Hot (Phil Giesbrecht), In High Cotton (Kelly Hoerdt) and Outlaw Spiced Rum (J.F. Gagne), who finished second through fourth respectively.

Now a winner of five straight attempts, Exotic Dragon (Custard The Dragon - Accentuate) is owned by Bob Jones of Stony Plain, Alta. The filly sports an impressive 11-6-1 summary from 19 seasonal starts along with a $163,800 bankroll, and will surely be one of the favourites in the $110,000 (est.) Century Casinos Filly Pace on Friday, Dec. 31.

Likely to provide some competition in that lucrative year-end event is Graceful Horizon, who scored in an identical 1:56.3 to punch her ticket to the Century Casino Filly Pace. Giesbrecht engineered the winning trip for trainer Chris Lancaster and his co-owners Derek Gilbert of Brandon, Man. and Velda Olding of Abbotsford, B.C.

Hitting the wire more than two lengths the best, Graceful Horizon notched her ninth win of the 2021 campaign while besting Coz Im Special (Dave Kelly), Uptown Hanover (Hoerdt) and Cheese Whiz (Mike Hennessy). A daughter of Vertical Horizon - Gracie Montana, Graceful Horizon lifted her seasonal summary to 9-2-2 in 15 outings with more than $114,000 in purses.

The top four finishers from each elim plus a fifth place finisher drawn by lot will comprise the field for the 2021 Century Casinos Filly Pace Final, with elim winners also having the advantage of post selection.

After letting the leadies lead the stakes action, the boys brought up the rear in a pair of $9,300 Western Canada Pacing Derby eliminations, with a similar top four guaranteed admission plus one fifth-place finisher qualifying for the $110,000 (est.) final on New Year's Eve.

Nevada Vacation and Shark Week took turns on the lead in the first elimination, but when it counted Nevada Vacation was the pacer with his nose on the wire first. Shark Week (Mike Hennessy) fronted the field turning for home, but Nevada vacation's :28.3 final quarter was enough to repel a late bid from Codename Cigar Box (Hoerdt) to win by a length and a half in 1:57.3. Shark Week stayed for show with Jim Strikesitrich (Glenn LeDrew) best of the rest in fourth.

The second stakes win of the morning for driver Giesbrecht and trainer Lancaster, Nevada Vacation (Mystery Chase - Nevada) is owned by his trainer along with Christopher Lambie of Rockyview County, Alta. The sophomore sports four wins on the campaign from 19 outings, but three of those wins have come in his last five attempts.

Sunshine Boy enjoyed a perfect pocket ride into the stretch in the second elim, and he pounced on pacesetter Samba Beat to win the second $9,300 Western Canada Pacing Derby elimination. With a :28.4 closer, Sunshine Boy and trainer/driver Brandon Campbell tripped the timer in 1:55.4, more than two lengths better than a hard-closing Show Stop (Hoerdt). Tajmania (Hennessy) and Saltwater Savage (LeDrew) finished third and fourth to clinch entry into the WCPD Final.

A son of Sunshine Beach and Western Canadian open class standout Betterfrombehind, Sunshine Boy is owned by former Sunshine Girl Jodi Loftus of Calgary, Dana Shore of St Albert and George Rogers of Calgary, Alta. The sophomore sports a 7-3-5 summary from 17 seasonal appearances with lifetime earnings of $96,216.

For the full charts from Saturday's first card of harness racing at Century Mile, click the following link: Saturday Results - Century Mile (afternoon).