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ACTION-PACKED TIME AT THE DOWNS

The final weekend of the 2004-05 harness racing meet at Fraser Downs is in the record books.

The meet was somewhat frantic, particularly off track with construction, casino, and more construction, dominating. However, it was a good meet on track with most, not all, now professing optimism for the future.

Perhaps the biggest story of the meet was the domination of Stakes races by the J J J Stable/Al and Mark Anderson ownership combination. Horses, all trained by Al Anderson, captured 11 of the 31 feature events.

They were particularly dominant in the younger-horse events – for two- and three-year-olds – led by three-year-old filly Betterfrombehind.

The undefeated daughter – she has 12 wins in as many career starts – of Kents On Nuke won five Stakes finals. The wins included the $60,000 plus Breeders Stake in November as a two-year-old and the $100,000 Stallion Stakes in April as a three-year-old.

She set the track record for two-year-old fillies in the Breeders with a 1:57.1 clocking and missed the three-year-old record by one-fifth of a second in the Stallion final with a 1:54.3.

Speaking of track records, Red Star Senator equaled the two-year-old colt/gelding mark of 1:56.3 and Red Star Madeline tied the aged mare mark of 1:54.2.

Records also fell in the wagering end of things with marks set in highest $2 win payoff ($295.20), show ($39.20, exactor ($2,609.70) and triactor ($24,451.10).

With the renovations forcing the moving and closure of several areas of live and simulcast wagering, the handle at the Downs was down. However, a positive sign came in April with an increase over the previous year.

Also, the new, state-of-the-art simulcast area (in the old Legends Lounge) is expected to be open in late June.

Back to on-track happenings, a familiar name led the driver and trainer standings again.
Although not at the Downs for the last weekend, Bill Davis could not be caught in nearly every category. He paced all drivers with 163 wins, $829,215 in earnings, a .394 universal rating and a win percentage of 24. On the trainer side, the leading figures included 95 victories, a .442 UTRS and a 30 per cent win factor.

Jim Marino was the closest rival to Davis in wins with 126. Tim Brown had 95 and Jim Burke was fourth with 90.

Dave Hudon led all conditioners, who had 100 or more starts, with more than $369,000 in earnings. Al Anderson’s totals were so high that all computers crashed while calculating.
Rick White, Mike Glover and Wayne Isbister, while well back of Davis, staged a tough battle for second in trainer wins. White was second with 58 while Glover had 55 and Isbister 52.

Many of these Fraser Downs’ competitors will be on hand when action resumes at Sandown Park in North Saanich on Vancouver Island. The 20-day meet starts July 2 and runs every Saturday and Sunday afternoon until Sept. 4.

Action is expected to resume at Fraser Downs on Sept. 30.

STREAK ENDS: Betterfrombehind’s amazing winning streak from the start of her career ended last Friday at Northlands Park in Edmonton.

Betterfrombehind had extended her lifetime unbeaten streak to 12 as she won by a nose in an elimination the previous week for the Compass Rose Stake for three-year-old fillies but 13 proved unlucky.

Betterfrombehind, owned by J J J Stable of Aldergrove and Al and Mark Anderson of California, drew the six-hole in the final but after a good start fell back to finish third.

Another familiar name Patriot Dream, partly owned by Bill Boden of Vancouver, did the damage.

Betterfrombehind, with driver Bill Davis, charged to the front and led the first quarter in 27 and the half in a sizzling 55.2. No Idol Promises pressed that pace but Betterfrombehind beat off the challenge. However, Guestimate and driver Bill Tainsh Jr, came off cover to keep the heat on the front-runner and they were close at the three quarter pole in 1:25.

Patriot Dream and trainer/driver Gerry Hudon were in the garden spot and on the final turn found a seam and formed a thrilling three-wide drive to the wire.

Patriot Dream, by Freedoms Pass out of Sea Blue used the final strides to edge Guestimate by a head while Betterfrombehind (Kents On Nuke-Sparks Will Fly N) tired to finish 2¾ lengths back in third.

Patriot Dream improved her 2005 record to 7-1-0 in eight starts and the lion’s share of the purse lifted her career bankroll to $224,369.

ONTARIO WATCHES: Rich Cam and Lil Dude Starrbuck continue to carry B.C. colors high at Woodbine in Ontario.

Rich Cam, a B.C. bred by Camluck out of the Safe N Rich mare Rich Jan, and a former B.C. competitor, raced over the Woodbine course in 1:50 last week.

The win, by three lengths over Duca, came as Rich Cam roared from well back, covering the last quarter in 26.2 seconds. The winning share for Rich Cam, who is now owned by Francis H Azur of Coraopolis,PA, was $14,000.

Starrbuck, owned by Lil Dude Ranch of Surrey, finished second but was placed first last Saturday in a $35,000 event.

Nighttime Magic was first but was charged with interference in the stretch on Lil Dude Starrbuck. Magic had covered the mile in a blistering 1:49.2.

Starrbuck, a four-year-old son of Threefold, trained by Kevin McMaster and driven by Luc Ouellette, won the 2004 Western Canadian Pacing Derby in Edmonton and was a winner of Stakes races at Fraser Downs.

Red Star Minckler holds the all-time record mile at 1:49.2 for B.C. breds.

FAST FILLY: Ill Change Your Luck was Canada’s first two-year-old to qualify this year and she did it on Saturday, May 14 at Fraser Downs.

Carl Sibiga drove the daughter of Albert Albert out of the Camluck mare Allie Seelster and took her first up at the three-quarter mark to get in front and finish first with a half-length win in 2:04.3. Fourhoofr was second and Daringly third.

The time for Ill Change Your Luck, who is owned by Heather Sifert and Jerald Carmody of Ravensdale, Wash., remains the fastest in the country for two-year-old fillies.

A RECORD: The recent claim of Armbro Bach, the son of Village Jiffy out of Lindwood Metra, by Robert Murphy for $62,500 was the highest claiming price paid ever in Alberta.

Murphy claimed him from Ray Gemmill and Ian Moyes of Surrey and Ron Waples of Guelph, Ont.

In his first race for White Rock’s Murphy, Back finished second to Tajma Hall last Saturday in the winners over event at Northlands. Tajma Hall won in 1:53.2.

IMPORTANT: Race fans are once again reminded that the formal redevelopment presentation for Sandown Park will be made Monday, June 13 in North Saanich Council chambers.

The meeting will get under way at 7 p.m. and all supporters of harness racing and the development of Sandown are strongly urged to attend. Anyone interested is asked to call Jackie Ballas at 250-656-1631.

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