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Half-Blind Pacer Turning Heads

Published: September 16, 2016 3:33 pm ET

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Century Downs Racetrack and Casino is set to showcase the top freshmen on the grounds this weekend. These stakes races represent the second leg of the Alberta Sires Stakes series leading to the Super Finals in late October. The two-year-olds will have one last shot early next month to show their talent and garner crucial points in the hopes of making it to the big show.

The two-year-old fillies will do battle in three divisions on Saturday all with a purse of $19,067 in the Alberta Starburst Stakes while the two-year-old boys will also be contesting the Alberta Lonestar Stakes on Sunday in three divisions each with a purse of $18,767.

The gals are in the limelight first on Saturday. The first division will feature Kurt and Kathy Schmidt’s homebred Lil Bit O Jingle (Blue Burner-Rain Drop Hanover) who lost a heart-breaker in her latest start against older condition types. Hailing from the barn of leading trainer-driver Travis Cullen, she will command the bulk of the action at the windows as she gets to tangle with foes her own age.

Shesamysterytome (Mystery Chase-Allamerican Boo) tuned up for this test by crushing Maiden types by seven lengths in her last start and now sports a superb 4-1-3-0 record. She can also boast ending up second to a couple of future stars in Outlaw Fireball and Wedding Dance, who established a new track record for two-year-old pacing fillies at Century back on August 20.

The second division should be a heavyweight bout between the aforementioned Wedding Dance (Mystery Chase-Westart) and Pickles On Top (Camystic-Real Chop).

A Harold Haining trainee, Wedding Dance boasts the top money earned in this group at just under $23,000 with a fantastic 6-3-1-1 summary and a track record to boot. In her last start against older condition types she got bogged down on the rail and was screaming for room down the lane but found none and settled for third. That race was used as a nice tune-up for this stakes contest on Saturday. The connections, however, were not too happy with the post draw.

“We were happy with her last race but post eight will hurt us for this stake race. When you think you are the best, you get beat. We will need the trip,” commented Haining. The connections will have veteran driver Gerry Hudon in the sulky yet again and that suits Haining just fine.

“He has been real good for us. We are in good hands.”

Wedding Dance is owned by Donald Richardson of Cochrane, Alta. The Meridian Farms-bred filly was a $6,500 ASHA Yearling Sale purchase and punters will have to respect this potent trainer /driver combination this weekend.

Pickles On Top was a $24,500 yearling purchase for the Cullen barn but was recently sold to Don Byrne Stables Inc of Edmonton. In her most recent start, Pickles On Top was made the favourite against a group of condition types but lost all hope as she broke stride that day. Look for a bounce back effort by this filly as statistically-sizzling driver Brandon Campbell will be in the bike.

The third division will feature Outlaw Fireball (Blue Burner-Watchasgirlsgoby) who was a private purchase from Connie Kolthammer earlier this summer by the Gagne barn. She followed the same script as Pickles On Top in her latest effort going off stride against a bunch of older condition types. She has banked just under $20,000 in just five lifetime starts (5-2-1-0). A proven commodity, she defeated Pickles On Top in the Alberta Starlet and was a fast-closing second to Wedding Dance in the ASHA Filly Stake back on August 20.

Punters wishing to go a different direction for value might want to look at Stylomilohos (Mystery Chase-Heart and Style) who has showed hints of talent with a top-three placing in the ASHA Filly stake at huge odds and could be the surprise horse.

“She keeps getting better all the time. She is so handy to drive. This will be her last race as she is heading to BC for stakes action there where the competition I believe is not as strong. Here in Alberta we got a tough crop of two-year-olds,” said driver Travis Bowman. “I suggested to trainer Rick Lancaster that we add ear plugs to get to relax. But overall we are happy with the post four we drew and we will see what happens. Obviously you have to watch out for Outlaw Fireball.”

Shifting to the boys on Sunday, Mateo looks awfully tough in the first division. After winning the ASHA Colt Stakes, he destroyed some older condition types. The Blue Burner-Mater Deo gelding has a superb 4-3-1-0 for owners Christine Cutting and Jim Marino and is by far the leading money earner of this group.

Marino will be flying in from B.C. to steer Mateo this weekend. Marino was plying his trade at Running Aces in Minnesota all summer but has returned to his base in B.C.

“This is my first time driving Mateo so I am looking forward to see how things go. He was born blind in one eye so we bought him privately, but he has learned to adjust and this issue does not appear to bother him at all.

“Hopefully I won’t screw up. I don’t want to get fired,” joked Marino. “Justin Currie trained him down and Daryl Cutting has done a wonderful job on this horse.”

Mateo has some talent in his pedigree that merit respect.

“Mateo’s half brother just sold at the ASHA yearling sale for $21,000 last week and his mother paced 1:52 in a big stake race at Mohawk a few years back,” added Marino.

Amysterytome (Mystery Chase-Takemetotheriver) has also shown talent having stakes placed in the Alberta Rising Star. He was a vet scratch sick for the ASHA Colt Stakes but qualified nicely last week in 1:59.1 with a last quarter in a quick :28.2.

The second division features Senga Nitro (Blue Burner-Nells Sweet Future) who was undefeated in three career starts for trainer/driver Ryan Grundy and owner/breeder Kenneth Gunn before going off stride in the ASHA Colt Stakes. Senga Nitro is the top money earner in this division with a 4-3-0-0 record and will be seeking some payback this weekend. Retros Mystery (Mystery Chase-Retro) has been impressive with a 6-3-1-0 record and could play a part for trainer Rod Starkewski and owner/breeder Robert James.

All eyes will be on Ima Dude (Lil Dude Starrbuck-Ethel Seelster) in the third and final division. He used a pocket trip and defeated the aforementioned pacesetter Mateo in the final strides by a quarter-length for a 1:57.3 for a smashing maiden-breaking victory in the Alberta Rising Star stakes. A week ago, Ima Dude finished a very respectable second to much older foes in a condition race in 1:57.3. The Surdale Farms-bred colt is trained and driven by Brandon Campbell for owners Jodi Loftus, Steven Robinson and Timothy Kane. Getup Gideon (Blue Burner-Sureshowedu) for the Starkewski barn and Beer Bribe, a Camystic son for Keith Clark who was the 2015 ASHA sale topper going for $37,000, also look playable.

Century Downs Racetrack and Casino will feature twelve dashes on Saturday and Sunday with a first race post time of 1:10 p.m. each day.

(A Trot Insider Exclusive by Frank Fontana)

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