Blacktie suited for final

On the day of the big gala awards banquet for harness racing in B.C. it was only appropriate that there was a Blacktie winner on the Fraser Downs track. 

Armbro Blacktie almost waited until midnight to crash the ball, winning the first leg of the Pat Brennan Memorial in a photo finish. The four-year-old gelded son of Camluck won by a neck in 1:55.2, a new lifetime mark. 

Blacktie, owned and trained by Ming Siu, and driven by Larry Micallef, was seventh after a quarter and sixth at the half. He started up the outside slowly but late on the backstretch was beginning to fly. He was fourth at the three-quarter mark, third at the head of the stretch and roared home to catch the favorite, Armbro Bolton, at the wire. 

Blacktie, the Downs' horse of the month in December and the 5-2 second choice, covered the last quarter in 29 seconds in getting his second win in five starts in 2005. 

Bolton, a 3-5 favorite, starting from the rail, had taken the lead just after the half. C C Maxim was third and Southwind Sage, first off the gate, fourth. 

Meanwhile, Red Star Choo Choo kept chugging up the racing ladder, winning the other leg in a lifetime mark of 1:56.1. 

The four-year-old son of Northern Luck was claimed out of the $6,000 conditioned claimer ranks on Nov. 13 and has rarely looked back. His win Saturday was his ninth in 15 lifetime starts and fourth in six starts in 2005. 

Now owned by Sandra and Joan Brown and trained and driven by Tim Brown, Choo Choo, the 8-5 favorite, won by 11/2 lengths. Charging up from the five-hole he gained the lead at the quarter, cleared to the rail just after and was never headed. 

Dal Reo Revolt, third early, finished second, Law Of The Yukon, always close, was third and Band On The Run, the 5-2 second choice, was fourth. 

Blacktie has drawn the rail for the final and has been made a 3-1 favorite. The entry of Bolton and Revolt, who will start from the five and seven holes respectively, is second choice at 7-2 and Choo Choo, from the outside eight hole, is at 4-1. 

The Pat Brennan Memorial is for three and four-year-olds that are non-winners of $25,000 up to Nov. 30, 2004. The purse for next Saturday's final will be $37,400. 

FRIDAY NIGHT PAYOFFS: An inclination to stay away from the chalk could have been profitable last Friday at Fraser Downs - especially if one did not rush home. 

It started with a win payoff of $32.40 on We Winnie Winston in the second but the really big payoffs came late. 

Outlaw Jehara, a 33-1 shot, captured the 12th race and paid $69.60 for a $2 win ticket. She combined with 19-1 shot Queen Of Flight for a $1,448.30 exactor. 

Then in the last race, Jusluky Fiddler paced to the win, paying $93.80 and combined with Haras Giggles, 20-1 and Chilly Nites, 10-1, for a $2,182.20 triactor. 

CRUISER TO T O: Seven Seas Cruiser will not be home soon after all. 

The dominant three-year-old colt at Fraser Downs in 2004, and recent of several awards at the recent awards banquet, headed to the Meadowlands in New Jersey in late December. 

After a sparking qualifier, a not-bad debut race and a disappointing next race, he was scheduled to return home. 

But with a change of plans he now has traveled to Woodbine in Toronto where he will take a shot at the upcoming Cam Fella Series. 

EMERSON TAKES FULL ADVANTAGE: Red Star Emerson's early small opening eventually led right to the end and victory last Sunday in the open event at Fraser Downs. 

Emerson and driver Clint Warrington decided to try to get to the front early and it helped them manage to avoid traffic congestion that knocked many others out of contention. 

Nuclear Dew, impressive winner of the open a week earlier, tried, from his outside eight post, to grab the lead. He missed by a whisker, causing interference to Red Star Apache in the first turn. Near collisions prevailed with Apache and The Bruster, the favorites, and Red Star Justice making breaks and falling well back. 

Emerson and Coyote Hanover followed Nuclear Dew most closely to the head of the stretch with Emerson taking over and racing on to a 11/2-length victory in 1:56.1. Nuclear Dew went on to cross the wire third but there was an inquiry and he was set back to last by the judges' ruling. 

It was the first win in six starts in 2005 for Emerson who is owned by Robert Murphy, trained by Rene Goulet and was driven by Clint Warrington. Emerson, a five-year-old son of Armbro Emerson, has now won more than $169,000 in his career. 

FINE FIT: Bigshoestofill is getting serious. 

The five-year-old daughter of As Promised made it two straight victories in the fillies and mares open with an impressive win last Saturday at the Downs. 

Again using a come-from-behind style, Bigshoestofill (fourth 51/2 lengths behind at the half) closed in a nifty 28.3 seconds to win by 41/4 lengths in a new lifetime mark of 1:55.3. 

Heart and Style, at 25-1, and Princess Jessica, at 28-1, also showing late speed, finished second and third respectively. 

Bigshoestofill, who was a 5-2 third choice in the betting, is owned by Robert Murphy, trained by Robert Merschback and was driven by Jim Burke. The win was her second of 2005 and goes along with a second and a third in six starts. She has earnings of $12,000 for the year and more than $145,000 for her career. 

ITíS CLOSE: Honors for drivers and trainers last weekend were shared more than usual among all with a familiar name -- Bill Davis -- returning to the head of the pack. 

Davis steered to five victories to lead the way among drivers. Jim Marino, who has been on a tear in 2005, slipped a little but still managed to grab second with four wins. Sharing third with three wins apiece were Jim Burke, Scott Knight and Larry Micallef while Dave Hudon and Tim Brown had two apiece. That leaves 16 others with a singleton. 

Davis also paced the trainer colony with four trips to the winners' enclosure followed by Jim Wiggins with three and Gord Abbott, Barry Treen, Jim Mohorich and Micallef with two. 

Sandra Cherry registered her first driver and trainer triumph of 2005 when Sleek Fantasy captured the 11th race on Friday. 

JOIN HPI AND SMILE: Fraser Downs will, as of March 1, join the list of tracks making changes to their live video output. 

Patrons who wish to view the races on their computers will have to have an HPI (Horse Player Interactive) membership to access the races. There will be no charge for the membership and anyone interested can go to the HPI window at the Downs or register on the Downs web site. 

U.S. fans will be able to set up a special access. 

DOUBLE DREAMERS: Bill Veevers and Tim Wiesner, both of Surrey, tied for top spot, shared honors and $250 in the ninth week of the California Dreamin Handicapping Contest. 

Veevers and Wiesner each totaled $455 in the three races - entrants handicap races three through eight at Santa Anita Racecourse. 

Raymond Kiem picked up third place with a $428 total followed by Bob Nordin at $318 and Richard McCaull and Jim Featherstone at $370. 

Dreamers are after the top prize of a trip for two to the Santa Anita Derby in April.

Each Saturday contestants can win $250 and the day's winner qualifies for the final, set for March 5. Veevers and Wiesner will both head to the final. 

Lance Beveridge, Don Pegura, Doug Robertson, Ray Abgrall, Tom Churchill, Maureen Nott and Frank Neves have won the previous weekly titles. 

COOMBS CLIMBS: Carmen Coombs piled up 14 points last weekend and jumped into the lead of the KENO Harness Pool after seven weeks. 

Coombs now has 75 points and a one-point lead over Rick Jensen, who had 12 on the weekend.  Jensen has been on, or near, the lead since the start. 

Last week's co-leaders Kevin Clark and Rob McElhinney each had nine points and are still deadlocked, at 72.  Patrick Jordan is fifth at 70 while Shirley Setter was the biggest mover and shaker of the week with 15 and moved into sixth at 69. 

More than 350 entrants chase $10,000 in prize money in the pool, which ends Sunday.

Contestants pick a team of six horses, one from each box of six horses, and points are awarded for top three finishes. The top 40 players will receive prizes -- $3,000 for finishing first.