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Albertans Keen For Northlands Meet


Published: February 5, 2010 1:05 pm ET

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The province of Alberta is primed and geared up for the 2010 winter meet of harness racing at Northlands Park, and no matter who you talk to one thing is certain: everyone is excited to be back.

"This begins my fifth season of race announcing in Alberta, so I'm pretty excited about that," announcer Shannon "Sugar" Doyle told Trot Insider. "Time flies when you're having fun!"

Despite achieving near veteran status in booth, Doyle admits that he might not be 100 per cent game ready for the first race tonight, with a 6:00 p.m. (MT) post time.

"It's never easy coming off of a break...Just like the horses, I may need a start or two to get back into racing shape."

One horse that's coming off an extended break is pacing mare Stelle Nel Cielo, who returns to the races Friday night for trainer-driver Ron Graham after sitting out most of 2009.

"Stella was great for us as a three-year-old but unfortunately we found an O.C.D in her ankle," Katie Graham of the Ron Graham Stable told Trot Insider, "so we got that removed and she had to be turned out for recovery. She's back sounder than ever, and hopefully Stella will come out of tomorrow's race the same way."

On Saturday, two of the recent ASHA Award winners will be in action. All Canadian Mjjz, the 2009 Two-Year-Old Colt of the Year, makes his sophomore debut for trainer-driver Rod Starkewski. As well, 2009 Aged Horse of the Year Smart Shark and Connie Kolthammer will compete in the Saturday feature against against the likes of Almost No More Bs who makes his Alberta debut for noted horseman Jamie Gray.

"It will feel great to get back racing again, as we all know you can't make any money just training," Gray told Trot Insider. "I'm looking forward to the stake season this year. We have set our goals high for 2010 and we are not settling for the runner up position."

Gray also sends out the tough, cold weather horse Rango on Sunday. At age ten he'll inch closer to a half-million dollars in life earnings this year.

Coming off his best season as a driver, Brandon Campbell will be back in the bike on Sunday and according to Campbell that day couldn't come soon enough.

"It's going to feel like getting out of jail, it's been a long six weeks," stated the 26-year-old Campbell. "Watching everybody racing on the simulcast makes my skin itch. I'm very excited to get back at it, I've been dreaming about driving every night for the past week."

The 26-year-old Calgary resident topped the 100 win mark for the first time in 2009, and banked over $665,000 in purses.

"Last year I set a goal of a 100 races, I made it and this year i would love to take on a more dominating role in alberta. I'm going to make Sunday count."

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