Inside Track with Dan Jukich
January 6, 2012Dave McKellar was a young kid hanging out in the backstretch when Cloverdale Raceway opened on January 1, 1976. Now here it is 36 years later and he’s a respected owner, trainer and driver at Fraser Downs Racetrack.
McKellar shows no signs of slowing down, either. When the dust settled on the 2011 season last Friday night, the Langley horseman had 41 wins as a trainer and 58 driving. McKellar trainees Red Star Governor ($16.90), A Midnight Promise ($14.80) and Garden Gate LL ($14) were all upset winners Friday.
Even with those lucrative victories, McKellar’s most fun on the weekend just might have been driving Art of Arts - one of his favourites - to a convincing win in the ninth race on Sunday’s card. There is quite a story behind how Art of Arts wound up in McKellar’s stable.
The now five-year-old daughter of Power of Art was racing in the lower claiming level at Cal-Expo this past summer. McKellar drove her (“not very well that day”) for the former owner and when the Northern California meet ended McKellar did some good old-fashioned horse trading and introduced Art of Arts to life north of the border.
She began the fall season at Fraser Downs racing for $6,000 but has now found her way into the condition level with wins in three of her last four starts to make it five in total at The Downs.
McKellar refers to Art of Arts as “the little horse with a big heart”.
While J.F. Gagne was scoring four driving wins on Sunday (reaching 1,000 in his career) it was actually Jim Marino who had the crowd buzzing with his driving triple, most notably bringing home upset winner Just Fiction ($34.10) in Canada’s very first Open event of 2012.
Just Fiction, last year’s B.C. Stallion Stakes champion, equaled her lifetime record of 1:55.3 in the $12,500 Fillies & Mares Open Pace. Trailing the seven-horse field for most of the way, Marino slipped things into high gear and closed with a rush to beat Legal Suspensory (Dave Hudon) at the wire. Jans Rich Girl (Scott Knight) and Mystic Maiden (Justin Currie) finished third in a dead-heat. The resulting two triactors were whoppers: 7-4-5 paying $264.90 and 7-4-6 paying $462.00).
Marino’s two other successful Sunday afternoon drives were Prime Time Bliss ($4.10) and Custom Crafted ($3.40).
Gagne’s grand slam included Tre Bien ($2.90), Lightemup ($13.30), Queens Heritaj ($22.20) and Rehearsal Hall ($5.90).
Not a bad day’s work, huh?
See you at The Downs Friday (7 p.m.) and Sunday (1:45 p.m.).