Wedding Dance established a new track record for two-year-old pacing fillies at Century Downs Racetrack and Casino as the ASHA Stakes weekend kicked off on Saturday afternoon (August 20).
Two-year-old pacing fillies and colts competed in four $15,000 ASHA Stakes divisions, with Wedding Dance's record performance saved for last.
Driven by Gerry Hudon for trainer Harold Haining, Wedding Dance paced her mile in 1:56 to shave one-fifth of a second off the divisional track record that was set by Nightime Chase and equalled by Outlaw Fireball earlier this summer. Her winning time also matched the fastest mile by any two-year-old over Century Downs, held by gelding Blue Star Jet.
Sent postward as the 2-1 second choice from the inside post, Wedding Dance was out-sprinted off the gate by outside post eight starter Stylomilohos, but swept around that rival at the :28.2 first quarter mark and then took a second quarter breather to the half in :58.2. The daughter of Mystery Chase and Westart Love continued to lead to three-quarters in 1:27.1 while the aforementioned record holder and 3-5 favourite Outlaw Fireball fanned wide around the stalled first over filly Last Time To Play. Meanwhile, Wedding Dance was still clear on top turning for home and she closed out her second straight stakes-winning performance with a :28.4 final frame. Outlaw Fireball finished one and three-quarter lengths behind in second while Stylomilohos followed in third.
Wedding Dance, who also won an Alberta Sires Stakes division last time out on August 7, is owned by Donald Richardson of Cochrane, Alta. The Meridian Farms-bred filly was a $6,500 ASHA Yearling Sale purchase and has started her racing career with three wins from five starts for earnings of $22,040.
Saturday's stakes began with Da Magician prevailing by a neck in the opening split for the colts to earn his second stakes win and match his lifetime mark of 1:57.4 for trainer, driver and owner Serge Masse.
Da Magician took control of the five-horse field off the gate from the inside post and carved out panels of :30, 1:01.2 and 1:29 with slight 4-5 favourite Senga Nitro moving up to challenge. However, Senga Nitro broke stride in the final turn and 6-5 second choice Da Magician was left to contend with Getup Gideon, who closed from off the cover, but came up just short at the wire. Charge And Go finished four lengths behind in third off a pocket trip.
The Dragon Again-Hottie Hanover colt has now won half of his six starts, including divisions of Century Bets Stakes and now ASHA Colt Stakes, to give him a bankroll of $24,889.
Mateo was no match for his foes in the second colt division as he romped to a 10-3/4 length victory in a lifetime-best 1:57.1 mile in rein to Ed Hensley for trainer Darryl Cutting.
Mateo looped Beer Bribe to take the lead after a tepid :30.2 first quarter and then reached the half in :59.1 in a two-horse breakaway from the other two starters in the scratch-reduced field. The front-striding 1-9 favourite also began to gain some separation from Beer Bribe on the way to three-quarters in 1:28 and continued to draw away down the stretch to secure his first stakes victory in dominant fashion. Beer Bride followed back in second and Best Advice won the race for third-place.
The Blue Burner-Mater Deo gelding is now two-for-three in his career for owners Christine Cutting and Jim Marino.
Hensley doubled up in Saturday's stakes as Pickles On Top wired the first field of fillies to match her lifetime mark of 1:57.2.
The Camystic-Real Chop filly was sent postward as the 4-5 favourite with Hensley subbing in for trainer and regular driver Travis Cullen, who will be competing in the Gold Cup & Saucer tonight in P.E.I. Pickles On Top took the lead from post five and carved out fractions of :28.4, :58.3 and 1:28.1 before sealing the deal with a :29.1 final frame. Badlands Palace followed one length behind in second off a two-hole trip and Sideline Secrets rallied from last (seventh) through the final quarter to show.
Cullen shares ownership of Pickles On Top with his father Ron, as well as Keith Hannah and Don Byrne Stables Inc. The win was the filly's first against stakes company, but third from seven starts, pushing her bankroll to $20,489.
The duo of Hensley and Cullen teamed up to bring their daily win count to three with Runway Model and Rock Shooter also winning their respective Saturday claiming-conditioned assignments.
To view Saturday's harness racing results, click on the following link: Saturday Results - Century Downs.