Fraser Downs will have a total of 101 days of racing in the 2006 calendar year.


At the present meet there will be racing until Saturday, May 13. Then the 2006-07 meet will return with live racing on Friday, Sept. 15. (Patrons will remember that weekend was to be the opening for 2005-06 but construction delays set the starting date back into October.)


On the first weekend in September 06 there will also be night racing on Saturday, Sept. 16. The next week there will be three days with a return to Thursday nights. The format of Thursday through Saturday will continue until Dec.1 when the Downs will return to the Friday night, Saturday and Sunday afternoons format.


Meanwhile, Hastings Park will open April 14 and race two days a week until June 9 when Friday night racing returns. The Fridays will be raced until Sept. 6. The final day of thoroughbred racing at Hastings will be Nov. 25.


The season is shared in Greater Vancouver by a home market agreement whereby the standardbred “traditional” meet starts on the third Monday in October and ends when the thoroughbred season starts on the second Monday in April. This sharing of the season, or “overlap” has developed over the years and is felt to the benefit both breeds.


At present Orangeville Racing Ltd has applied for 16 days at Sandown Park on Vancouver Island from July 1 to Aug. 30. This number will change depending on what happens with the slot development proposal. If the machines are in place early next year, more days might be added. If the proposal fails, there may be no more racing a Sandown.  


LARSEN STEPS DOWN: Tim Larsen has resigned as executive director of the B.C. Standardbred Breeders Society and the B.C. Standardbred Association.


The end of his seven-year tenure will come March 1. Larsen said a replacement is expected to be named in the coming weeks but that he would remain on hand on a month-to-month basis in early 2006 if necessary.


“It's just time to move on,” Larsen explained. “I have an opportunity to do a newsletter for 4-H B.C.”


That organization has recently moved its headquarters to Enderby in the Northern Okanagan and Larsen said he and wife Mary are seriously contemplating a move in that area.


 “Mary is retiring from teaching and Cody (younger brother to Harley) is now in Grade 12. We discussed it and it seemed a good decision. We wanted to move out of the Fraser Valley (Langley) and toward the Okanagan area.


“I will continue on with the Greener Pastures (Standardbred adoption) program,” said Larsen of the organization, which has become a labor of love for him and Mary.

Larsen was involved in many facets of the B.C. racing industry including the staging of the annual yearling sale each November.


DUKE KEEPS ROLLING: Duke Is Duke just seems to be getting better.


The oldest in the field of six in the open last Saturday, the Duke, at 7, raced to his fourth successive win – and third straight in the open. He now has 20 lifetime victories and more than $165,000 lifetime in earnings for owner Joe Lin of Edmonton.


Despite starting from the five hole, driver/trainer Serge Masse got Duke to the front – albeit with some degree of work – before the quarter. >From there he was never headed as he won by 1¾ lengths in 1:55.2.


Haras Colta Cola, a 25-1 shot (Duke was 3-5), challenged the winner early from the four hole and settled for the pocket trip two hole. Driver/trainer Paul Harrison pulled at the head of the stretch, and although not catching the Duke, he came up with his best showing of the meet.


Red Star Senator, part of a 9-5 entry, closed well for third. 


MARY MARY QUITE: Midnight Mary proved she’s only six years old as she set a lifetime mark last Saturday in winning the eighth race of her life. The daughter of Deamons Bell, owned and trained by Ken Dorman, blasted into the sub-two-minute range with a 1:59.4 clocking.


Magic Pal, a seven-year-old son of Cams Magic Trick, won a $20,000 claimer last Saturday and his $5,000 share of the $10,000 purse pushed his career earnings to more that $250,000 for owners Jarm Investments and trainer Serge Masse.


The big grin last Saturday belonged to owner/trainer/driver Tim (TJ) Jacobson as Rockridge Winston, his five-year-old son of Flicker Hanover, won for the first time in 27 starts in 2005.


Sunalta Brodsky, a seven-year son of Doctor Brodsky, only waited 22 starts to get his first win of the year for trainer Wally Slopianka. Sunalta Brodsky, driven by Rod Therres, did it the hard way – parked the mile.


Meanwhile, Cameezy extended her win streak to five (and seven of nine at the meet) last Sunday. Cameezy, owned by Claudine and Melissa Masse, and trained and driven by Serge Masse, is a three-year-old daughter of Cambest. She now has 10 wins in 32 starts in 2005.


Cameezy was racing in the claiming handicap $15,000-$20,000 event last weekend after starting the meet at the Downs in a $6,000 claimer on Oct. 21.


Close races were prevalent this weekend, particularly on Friday. Just some on Friday went like this: fourth race, Princess Jessica wins by a neck with the first five horses finishing within 3½ lengths; fifth, Major Lees Crude wins by a neck with six horses within 5¾ lengths; seventh, Red Star Bigosh beats Mighty Killean by a nose with Red Star Dewy third by a neck and seven horses within 3½ lengths; eighth, Meekos Trucker wins by ¾, there is a dead heat for second and five horses within two lengths and ninth, five horses within 1¾ lengths and seven within 4¼.


Meanwhile, Northlands in Edmonton finished their winter meet last Saturday but one of the highlights (for Barb Mainman, Ann Cooper and Dal Reo Farms at least) occurred on the last Wednesday. It was the fifth-place finish of Dal Reo Burner. Not startling in itself but it was enough to give the seven-year-old son of Safe N Rich more than $100,000 for his career. He also has 31 career wins.


Northlands will start its spring meet on Friday, March 4. 


PERFECT START FOR MAIN: A new trainer grabbed the spotlight a week ago at the Downs.


Trainer Alana Main got her first win of her career when Hf Percy, a five-year-old mare she co-owns with John Abbott, won her first of the year and 10th of her career. Main got her trainer’s licence two months ago, as did Abbott, and this was her first entry. Her 1.000 percentage leads all.


“It was very exciting,” Alana said of her win. Of her horse which she jogged a couple of years ago and described at the time as a nutcase, “She was great and she showed a lot of heart.”


Main, a 22-year-old native of B.C., had worked as a groom since 2000 (she was once B.C. groom of the year) but decided recently to step out on her own as a trainer. 


DAVIS LEADS: Bill Davis has vaulted into a familiar position.


The perennial leading driver at Fraser Downs shared honors as top driver last weekend – six along with Gord Abbott – and now has 42 for the meet.


Serge Masse and Jim Marino, who each had three victories on the weekend, now have 39 and 38 respectively for the meet.


The red-hot Jim Burke climbed into fourth place with 31 after grabbing a handful on the weekend. Abbott’s six bumped his total to 25, good for sixth behind Tim Brown who has 27.


Brown and Dave Hudon, who has 23, have been attending yearling sales in Mexico.

Rod Therres was among the weekend leaders with four triumphs while Scott Knight and Barry Treen had two each.


Davis moved into second for the meet among trainers, picking up five and sending his total to 24, 10 behind Masse who had two on the weekend.


Bob Merschback and Ken Dorman deadlocked with three wins while John Currie and Abbott had two each.


500 FOR MARINO: Jim Marino continues to make an impression as a driver at Fraser Downs and Sunday he added to his resume.


Marino, who turned 30 on Aug. 2, registered the 500th driving victory of his career when he piloted Kg Meister across the finish line first in the 13th race.


Marino attended high school on the hill – Lord Tweedsmuir – and used to come down to the backstretch to find out all he could about harness racing. Over a period of time he went through the learning process, getting his groom, driver and trainer’s licences.


His first driving victory came at the Downs in January 1999 with a horse called Glenedens Spirit.


His first few years were a learning curve but he has been making rapid strides of late. In 2005 he has 126 victories as a driver putting him right on the tail of top pilot Bill Davis.


Two weekends ago he had two driving wins in Stakes races with one a win aboard Jimmy Jams Jubilee who he also trains.


“It’s nice,” Marino said of win No. 500. “But to put it in perspective it’s nothing like Davis who has around 4,500. That’s a lot of races to win.” 


CALLING ALL HANDICAPPERS: So you think you are the best harness race handicapper in B.C. The chance to prove it is here.


On Feb. 4, Fraser Downs Racetrack & Casino will hold the first Harness Handicapping Challenge. In addition to bragging rights, the top two competitors will represent the Downs in the National Harness Handicapping Championship at the Meadowlands on April 22.


This contest is similar to many of other Downs’ handicapping contests and will replace the KENO Harness Pool.


The entry fee into the 2006 Harness Handicapping Challenge is $45 that includes all applicable harness programs and dinner after the Fraser Downs live racing card.


Each contestant will be assigned a contest account with a mythical $40 balance. He/she will then have to make a series of 10 $2 win/place wagers with a contest account card. Of the10 wagers, four will be mandatory wagers from Fraser Downs and the other six will be player choice races from tracks such as Woodbine and the Meadowlands.


The contest will begin at approximately 2:30 p.m. and will conclude at 7:30 p.m.  The top five contestants will receive cash and prizes with the top two receiving airfare to Newark, New Jersey, accommodations for two nights in Rutherford, New Jersey and entry into

the National Harness Handicapping Championship.


At the NHHC, the grand prize will be $50,000 U.S.


Entries for the Downs’ contest have begun and will continue to be taken until Sunday, Jan.15. Double entries will be made available on Monday, Jan.2 if the contest has not reached the maximum of 150 entries.


To sign up for, or receive more information on, the 2006 Harness Handicapping Challenge, visit the HPI Centre or call 604-576-9141.