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Catching Up With Alberta's Trainers

Published: April 5, 2017 8:17 pm ET

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Sunday was a day to wander around shed rows and try and keep warm at Century Downs. A mid-morning snowstorm blanketed the area and forced a 40-minute delay to the start of the matinee card of harness racing. Once the snow was bladed off the racetrack, the 10-race card could proceed. But while trainers were waiting, they were ready to talk.

Here are a few tidbits from Horse Racing Alberta's Peter Watts:

Kelly Hoerdt served notice that the three-year-old American Ideal gelding, American Dreamer, is going to be a horse to watch as the racing season unfolds. The pacer took over a "non-winners of two" field as the race moved to the clubhouse turn and subdued seven opponents in 1:58.2.

“We picked him up at the January sale in New Jersey,” Hoerdt told me. "I bought him with partners Fred Gilbert and Dave Mooney from Manitoba, and we formed Topnotch Stables. Separately, Dave has a three-year-old filly, Mybelle Louelle, in my barn. She finished runner-up to Grinandchaseit in Saturday’s 'non-winners of two' and raced very well.”

Hoerdt now has a decision to make about American Dreamer. “He’s eligible for the Keith Linton Memorial at Fraser Downs the middle of this month,” Hoerdt told me. “But he’s still a young horse and I have to decide if I want to ship all the way to Cloverdale and back, and if he’s ready for that kind of test. I had hoped Sunday’s race would be a good test for him, but the weather made for a sloppy track. The Linton is a $75,000 race so it’s tempting. But, as I say, he’s still a young horse and there’s lots of racing to come. We’ll see how he comes out of Sunday’s race and make a decision.”

Ryan Grundy qualified both of his three-year-old stars, Senga Nitro and Shesamysterytome on Saturday. 'Nitro' is pointing towards the Linton as well, while Shesamysterytome is headed to the Penny Bath Memorial the same weekend at Fraser Downs.

Adjacent to the Hoerdt shed row, I ran into Gord Empey, who’s back from a winter season spent at Cal Expo in Sacramento.

“It’s the first time Helen and I have been there,” he told me. “We really enjoyed it and we were well treated. It helped to know the Schneiders, Quentin and Ricky, who were there and we met some other folks as well. The horses did pretty well. I had three of them racing and three others in training. We came home because I also have three mares to foal out. The one thing I learned is that it’s a long ship to California. We put them into races as soon as we got home and in retrospect, maybe I should have given them a little time off. Cenalta Cougar was sixth on Saturday, but I think she’ll get better with a little more rest.”

Speaking of Grinandchaseit, it looks like Carl Archibald has another quality three-year-old filly on his hands. The daughter of Mystery Chase out of the Western Terror mare, Terrified Grin, has two wins and two seconds on her card this year and polished off six challengers in Saturday’s fifth race in 1:58.1. Also in the field was Warrawee Rap, one of the horses racing for the Century Downs Racing Club. 'Rap' was fifth in her first start of the season after qualifying last weekend.

“We got Terrified Grin as a yearling,” Archibald told me. “She only made one lifetime [qualifying] start in Ontario. She had some issues and we decided we’d breed her. The first time we tried her with an Ontario stallion...and she lost the foal. The next time the foal was Pocket Novel, which we raced for a time before losing it in a claim to Phil Giesbrecht. Grinandchaseit is the third foal and she’s by Mystery Chase. And I’ve got a two-year-old named Imallaboutthechase that I’m currently training. So the mare has been a good producer and we’ll see if we can keep Grinandchaseit in good form. She’s at the farm right now for a little rest. Then I’ll bring her back to the track and get her ready for the Prairie series at the end of the month.”

Archibald expects to get Real Buzz and Divas Dragonfly back from Fraser Downs this week. 'Buzz' finished second last Friday night in a "non-winners of four." He’s made about $12,000 this year. "Diva’s" been pacing in the 1:55 range but seems to have done something to one of her feet. So that will have to be looked at once she gets home.

I headed next for Rod Starkewski’s barn, in time to learn that Outlawintriguedbyu, Queen Of Thrones and Keep On Burning made it safely through Saturday’s qualifiers. "Intriguedbyu" is owned by the Fun For Fans Stable, so a portion of what the three-year-old filly earns this summer will be split among a number of charities. Outlawburntpopcorn, last year’s star of the Fun For Fans Stable, qualified on Sunday. She’s been leased to trainer Devann Crick, so a portion of what she makes will also come back to Fun For Fans.

“Outlawintriguedbyu did everything proper,” Starkewski told me. “She’ll go in maiden races to start. The other two will be in 'non-winners of two.'”

Back in the paddock, I ran into driver/trainer Dave Kelly, who’s slowly building a small stable. “I started with four horses last month,” Kelly told me. “Then I claimed Perapps Knot Yet, who’s been racing well this year. I bought a mare out of Ontario, but she’s raced a lot over the past few months and she needs a bit of time before she’ll be ready to race here. And a couple of the horses I had last year, [including] Somewhereinmexico, should be ready to qualify in the next two or three weeks.

“I’m fortunate to have a couple of owners who believe in me and who are prepared to invest. Mike Dicks has a couple of horses with me and Rick McAllister has three at the moment. And I’ve run into another guy who’s working up north at the moment, who tells me he wants to get into the sport. He’s coming down at the end of the month, so we’ll see where that leads. He was part of the Century Downs Racing Club last year and decided he’d like to be a little more involved. It’s always good to be able to introduce new people into the sport.

“Then there’s Glenn Grainger and Fred Richards who have a two-year-old Trueland Hanover filly named Over the Curb. We’re just starting to get her ready, so we’ll see if she’s able to start her career on the track later this year.”

A few minutes later, I ran into former ASHA President, Norm Kennedy. He’s just back from three weeks in Florida where he spent much of his time at Pompano Park. “Come with me,” he growled. So, we went out to his truck where he proceeded to show me a racing program that introduced me to a horse called American Hustle.

“This horse is really, really good,” Kennedy told me. “I watched him beat a field of aged horses in 1:52.3 and he was the only three-year-old in the race. You should call Al Neurauter because he foaled the horse.” So I did.

“We bought the mare, Artoonist, in foal to American Ideal,” said Neurauter. “We intended to move the foal through the ASHA Yearling Sale. But Bryan Lawrence of Hanover, Ontario knew the family and really wanted American Hustle. So we sold him privately. I’m glad to hear he’s doing well. And his mother, Artoonist, is in foal to Custard The Dragon, which leads to another story.

“Before we got 'Custard,' he was racing for George Teague in Delaware. He was hurt for a bit and George bred him to four mares, three of which delivered foals. One of those foals is a three-year-old named Henry The Dragon. I just found out that he’s going to be one of 10 horses to be profiled later this month when the next report on horses eligible for the North America Cup comes out. George has him and I’m delighted the colt is doing well. And it certainly won’t hurt Custard The Dragon’s reputation to be the sire of a North America Cup-eligible colt and to be standing in Alberta this year.”

(Courtesy Watts)

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