Fourth Choice Fares Fabulously

Published: May 13, 2016 10:23 am EDT

Both finals for this weekend's Bev Sears and As Promised Stakes at Century Downs Racetrack & Casino appear to have a common theme: a very-hot seemingly-can’t-miss favourite with an outside post.

The Bev Sears (for the girls) and the As Promised (for the boys) are both open stakes for three- and four-year-olds in 2016 which have not won $35,000 lifetime as of December 31, 2015. With eliminations conducted last week for these two stakes, the $30,000 finals are slated for this weekend.

With horseman Ed Hensley still recovering from broken ribs, he put his brother-in-law and leading trainer-driver Travis Cullen to good use as this combination swept through both Bev Sears eliminations last Saturday.

In the first elimination, Balinska Hanover wasted no time grabbing the lead and waved bye-bye as she posted quarters of :27.3, :57.3 and 1:25.3 en route to a career-best victory in 1:55.3 winning by over three lengths. The four-year-old Somebeachsomewhere mare was picked up at a sale in Ohio last December for $19,000 and the Hensley barn had this stake race in mind. She has now won seven of her eight starts and will be the odds-on favourite in the final again.

In the second elimination the Cullen-Hensley tandem came right back, with favoured P L Impressive taking the second division. The four-year-old daughter of Sportswriter got into a small fight early in the race before she cleared for the lead and never looked back, winning by a length over Cenalta Artistry (Goulet) in 1:56.2. It was only her second win in 16 starts this year.

The victory path, however, appears to go through Balinska Hanover despite the dreaded post eight.

“She came back OK from the elimination. We obviously were pleased with how easy she won it but now we drew post eight. You always wish to draw a better post but she can leave so we will see what happens,” said trainer/owner Ashleigh Hensley, who confessed that Balinska Hanover actually was not the Hensleys' top choice at 2015 Fall Speed Sale.

“She was actually our fourth choice but we passed on the first three horses because the sale price was too high. So we ended up with Balinska Hanover. She has been a very decent mare for us,” added Hensley.

Other contenders in this race could include Monstrous, the three-year-old daughter of Allamerican Navajo who stepped it up from the four-hole and chased home Balinska Hanover at 15-1 odds last week.

“She is a nice medium-sized filly. Very smart and flexible. She can go to the front or come off the pace," noted driver Jean-Francois Gagne "This is only the second time I have driven her so we will see what scenario we get when the race starts to unfold."

Punters looking for some value may want to look at the Mona Roy-trained You Name It. The four-year-old daughter of JK Royal Flush has a record of 11-1-2-3 banking over $10,000 so far this year and has finished well in her outings.

“She tries every time. She is not a big filly but Mona has done a great job," stated driver Gerry Hudon. "I have never driven her so we will see what happens this Saturday."

Turning to the boys, Counter Strike is on fire for leading driver/owner Travis Cullen. He is on a nine-race win streak and will look for a second straight stakes win on Sunday afternoon (May 15) when he starts from the outside post seven in the As Promised final.

Last week in the first of two As Promised $6,000 eliminations, Royal Renegade (Mike Hennessy) marched right to the front through splits of :29 and :58. The 2-5 favourite Counter Strike took the initiative using a first-over ride, slowing wearing down the early leader before grabbing the lead for good to win by three-quarters of a length in 1:56.3 after Royal Renegade came back late in the lane to grab place dough.

Cullen shares ownership of the four-year-old son of Camystic with Jerry Hagenaars of Hafford, Sask. Counter Strike has bankrolled over $50,000 in purse earnings so far this year and will try to pad that amount with a win in the $30,000 final.

The second As Promised elimination saw a feel-good story as homebred Cowboys Dirtyboots picked a good time to pick up his first win of the year. Driver Bill Tainsh Jr. employed a first-over power move down the backside, leading to a two-length win in 1:57.1 for the small barn of trainer/owner Devann Crick of Lacombe, Alta. Crick's main position is helping out the Rod Starkewski barn.

Cowboys Dirtyboots drew the rail for the Final. Longshot lovers may want to take a shot on him as he tries to play the spoiler role and pad his bank account, which stands at just over $8,500 for 2016.

Other value seekers in the final will look at Royal Renegade from post 2. The four-year-old son of JK Royal Flush gave Counter Strike a scare down the lane last week and may be peaking at the right time to spring the upset.

“He raced real good last week in the elimination losing to Counter Strike by only a half length,” commented trainer Rod Hennessy. “This horse has really matured and developed nicely for us over the winter. It is a good purse. A first or even second place finish again would be nice.”

Other horses deserving a long look include Vernon Sifert’s Big Magick. The four-year-old son of Mister Big drew the tough post eight but did chase Counter Strike home in 1:55 back on April 24 in the Prairie Boys Stakes final. The David Lamont trainee Man Of Many Arts has shown talent since shipping in from Ontario but did not fare any better drawing post six. He was the favourite last week in his elimination but succumbed late in the lane to the aforementioned Cowboys Dirtyboots.

Century Downs Racetrack and Casino will feature eight races this Friday with a post time of 5:45 p.m. and ten dashes set for Saturday, with ten races set for Sunday’s card. First race post time of 1:10 p.m. is scheduled for both Saturday and Sunday.

(A Trot Insider Exclusive by Frank Fontana)

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