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Vegas Gambler Victorious In Century Casinos

Published: August 15, 2021 9:08 pm ET

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Mystery Chase colt Vegas Gambler vaulted off cover rounding the final turn to win the $50,000 Century Casinos Final, a race for two-year-old pacing colts and geldings, on Sunday (Aug. 15) at Century Downs.

Prairie Pursuit pushed for the lead to post a :28.4 first quarter with Farasthe Eyecansee sitting in second and Shotgun Seat parked to the outside. Shotgun Seat stayed alongside the pacesetter through a :59.2 half before folding into the sprint up the backstretch, where Sundance Kid circled wide to blitz the leader moving to three-quarters in 1:27.4. Prairie Pursuit then turned that challenge away as driver Phil Giesbrecht sat third over with Vegas Gambler, readying to tip his charge off a helmet. Once fed racetrack, Vegas Gambler shot for home to stop the clock in 1:57.3, downing Prairie Pursuit by 1-1/2 lengths with Farasthe Eyecansee finishing third.

Co-owned by trainer Rod Starkewski with Clauzette Byckal, Vegas Gambler won his second race from three starts, earning $28,975. He paid $7.00 to win.

Saphire Blue delivered as the 6-5 favourite in the $50,000 ASHA Filly Pace, powering first over to hold onto victory in a 1:56 mile.

Driver Michael Hennessy secured the pocket with the daughter of Vertical Horizon while Divine Art led the field to a :27.4 opening quarter. She remained in the pocket through a :57.3 half before creeping off the pegs to press Divine Art moving to three-quarters in 1:26.2. Around the final turn, Saphire Blue loomed closer to the lead and eventually edged to command off the corner as Metaki came rolling after the leader late. But Saphire Blue withstood the late challenge to win by a half length with Divine Art settling for third.

Trained by Harold Haining for owner Donald Richardson, Saphire Blue remains unbeaten from three starts, earning $31,000. She paid $4.40 to win.

Earlier on the card, the stage was set for next Sunday's $55,000 Alberta three-year-old stakes finals with four $7,500 eliminations — two for the Shirley McClellan Breeders' Stakes for fillies and a pair for the Moore's Mile Breeders' Stakes for colts and geldings.

Exotic Dragon was an impressive winner in the first McClellan elimination, lowering the track record for three-year-old pacing fillies to 1:52.3 for trainer/driver Nathan Sobey.

The former record of 1:53.1 was set by Rockin Mystery in the 2019 mid-June final of the Shirley McClellan Breeders' Stakes.

Burning Hot led the field through fractions of :28, :57 and 1:24.2, but Exotic Dragon advanced first-up from fourth for Sobey and wore down the popular Gord & Illa Rumpel Memorial champion to win by three-quarters of a length. Outlaw Sharktastic followed nine lengths behind in third, with Sent By Angels and Crush Me completing the top five finish order.

Owned by Robert Jones of Stony Plain, Alta., the Custard The Dragon-Accentuate filly has won five of her 10 starts this year, including a sweep of the Alberta Sires Stakes Diamond leg. She paid $6.80 to win.

Graceful Horizon won the second filly elimination in 1:54.4 with Kelly Hoerdt in the sulky for trainer Chris Lancaster.

The Vertical Horizon-Gracie Montana miss swept from fifth to first after a :29.1 first quarter and opened up three lengths on her foes through middle splits of :57.4 and 1:25.2 en route to victory. Jack N Diane advanced first-up to finish one length behind in second with Coz Im Special following her cover to show. Early leader Custard Smoothie finished fourth and YV Angels Envy was fifth.

Graceful Horizon, a runner-up in the Rumpel last time out, earned her fourth win of the season from seven starts. Lancaster shares ownership of the filly with Derek Gilbert of Brandon, M.B., and Velda Olding of Abbotsford, B.C. She paid $2.80 to win.

Shark Week fended off his challengers to win the first Moore's Mile Breeders' Stakes elimination for the colts and geldings in 1:53.4.

Alberta Marksman champion Shark Week crossed to command from the outside post seven and led the field through a quarter in :28 and half in :58.1 before pressure mounted in the form of the pocket-popping Ralph Klein Memorial winner, Sunshine Boy, approaching the third quarter mark in 1:25.3. They faced off in the stretch, with Shark Week battling back and then prevailing over the late-closing favourite, Codename Cigar Box, by half a length. Sunshine Boy stayed for third, while Bonus Round and Pacing Perfect completed the top five.

Trainer Rod Hennessy co-owns the Vertical Horizon-Shark Gone Bad colt, who has won four of his seven sophomore starts, with Lorne Duffield of Edmonton, Alta. He paid $7.00 to win.

Dragon Energy ($4.10) gave Sobey another win in the eliminations with a five-length romp in 1:53.3.

Even-money Dragon Energy was first to the front and retook the lead from Kootenay Santanna in front of the grandstand after a :27.2 first quarter. He proceeded to call the shots through a half in :57.1 and three-quarters in 1:25.2 with the first-up Samba Beat and second-over Carro B Bunsen tucking in behind him as he began to scoot away turning for home. Carro B Bunsen edged out Samba Beat in the race for place, while Solid Silver and Kootenay Santanna followed in fourth and fifth.

After going six-for-seven in his freshman campaign, Dragon Energy has won two of his first four starts this year. The Custard The Dragon-Tik Tik Vroom gelding is owned by breeders Kurt Schmidt and Kathy Schmidt of Leduc County, Alta., and partner Robert James of Camrose, Alta.

To view Sunday's harness racing results, click on the following link: Sunday Results - Century Downs.

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