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The End Of An Era At Northlands

Published: September 23, 2017 2:13 pm ET

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For decades, Northlands Park has been the home of the Western Canada Pacing Derby. With the Edmonton-area track slated to shut down in 2018, this year's edition of the race will thus be the final contested over the five-eighths mile oval.

The Western Canada Pacing Derby boasts a roster of champions the likes of Hall of Famers On The Road Again and As Promised as well as local legends Tajma Hall and Trust The Artist. It was 10 years ago that trainer-driver Kelly Hoerdt guided Trust The Artist to victory in the 2007 edition, winning in 1:52.4.

Trot Insider caught up with Hoerdt on Thursday evening to discuss his chances for another Derby title as two $12,500 eliminations are slated for Saturday (Sept. 23).

One obstacle he wasn't counting on facing isn't one he'll find on the track: it is the track.

"I ended up shipping my horses into Northlands to train," said Hoerdt. "Our track was too foggy and I had some horses I wanted to show the inside hubrail to. Some of the horses I have in the stakes have never seen a hubrail before."

Mother Nature hasn't been kind to the Edmonton area this week, with a number of wet days heading into Saturday's stakes events. Because of that, Hoerdt admits he's not going into the stakes events as he'd planned.

"I haven't had the chance to train them as hard and fast as I'd like because of the weather we've been dealing with...and some of them needed that, I think. I'm probably going in 60 percent hopeful, 40 percent confident."

He has five entrants in the two Western Canada Pacing Derby elims, with his best chance on paper going to sophomore Three More Smiles. A recent acquisition, Three More Smiles had been racing in Ontario and will make his first start for Team Hoerdt on Saturday.

"He looks the best on paper. I've had very little chance to sit behind him unfortunately since he got here, just because of the weather, but from what I've done with him so far I like him.

"Jack Moiseyev had the horse, I talked to Jack about the horse and he liked him well enough but thought he'd do well out here too. We'll hope for the best."

Despite not winning a race this season, oddsmakers have listed Three More Smiles as the 7-5 favourite in the second WCPD elim. Hoerdt made the decision to not only purchase the horse, but pay a $4,500 supplemental fee to enter in the stakes race.

"His breeding, the way he looks, his start on the five-eighths at Georgian really sold me. I watched that race several times and I liked him. He raced real tough."

Despite his longer odds, Hoerdt also likes the chances of Wabash Cannonball. He's one of Hoerdt's two colts in the first division. He'll line in Post 4 with Phil Giesbrecht in the sulky. Hoerdt & Giesbrecht teamed up to win the 2014 WCPD with Outlaw Gunpowder.

Wabash Cannonball is a 10-1 outsider according to the oddsmakers but Hoerdt shed light on why this son of Mystery Chase could be poised for a form reversal.

"He wasn't crazy about that long ship to Century, so that gets cut down by about two hours and he seems like he's a lot better on the dirt track than the stonedust. Those two factors, and he always trains great at home and goes with my best horses at all times."

Northlands will also host sophomore fillies in two eliminations for the Northlands Filly Pace. Hoerdt sends out Alexas Princess in the first elim and Steady Breeze in the second.

"Both of mine showed they had a lot of talent earlier in the year, they kind of got soggy on me towards the end of the season in Calgary so I gave them the last few weeks off to freshen them up," noted Hoerdt. "Hopefully they come back to those good performances in June and July."

The elims will determine the fields for next Saturday's lucrative finals. The Western Canada Pacing Derby features a purse of $138,430 with the Northlands Filly Final estimated at $132,390. These purses are the most offered for these events since 2008.

Stabled just outside Edmonton at his Bedrock Training Centre, Hoerdt welcomes the return to Northlands Park and feels his horses will also benefit from a schedule with reduced transportation time.

"We're ecstatic, we were counting the days, hours and minutes to get back here," Hoerdt admitted with a chuckle. "Nothing at all against Century Downs of course, just the convenience for us and it's easier on the horses and the people.

"We're one of the very few stables that had to ship that far; I think it took its toll on [the horses] and I think they just needed a break from that."

While he admits a bit of nostalgia over the final year slated for racing at Northlands, Hoerdt looks forward to a new beginning at Century Mile in 2018.

"It's been a great place to race; we've made a pretty good living there over the last 30 years. I'll miss that part of it, but by all parties involved it's time to move on."

To view entries, click the following link: Saturday Entries - Northlands Park.


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