Downs' track passes first test

The revamped track at Fraser Downs has earned early passing grades.

The Downs opened with two nights of live harness racing last weekend and the track – with some alterations to turns and a new surface – brought some fast times and kind words.

It started with the first race Friday when some of the best horses on the grounds met. Bre X had a tough battle with Lo Siento as they both covered the last quarter in a nifty 27.4 seconds with Bre X winning by three-quarters of a length. The winning time was 1:54.3, just 4/5 of a second off the track record.

“Good, I liked it,” said driver Tim Brown when asked how he found the new track.

“I think it should be a big improvement,” added Brown who had three wins in the two days. “Sinful Sally, who used to have troubles on the turns, never lost an inch on that last turn,” said Brown, using of one of the horses he drove to victory, as a prime example.

“Horses that were going in flat-footed before seemed to steer much better.”

Brown also praised the new surface – a finer limestone.

The work took about eight days in August and the biggest change made was the banking in the first turn where the grades were set from about six per cent to exactly 13 per cent.

MARINO LEADS: Jim Marino led the driver brigade on the opening weekend at the Downs.

Marino had a pair of wins on each day (Friday and Saturday) and his total was one better than Dave Hudon, Tim Brown, Rod Therres and Larry Micallef, who each had three.

Hudon was the top trainer with three victories, all on Friday. Sharing a pair of triumphs were Rick Lancaster, Wayne Isbister, Micallef and Therres.

No one wants to put a damper on good times but the smiles will be put to the test with this week’s arrival of perennial top driver/trainer Bill Davis from Calgary where he has been competing at Stampede Park.

DELIGHTFUL BID: Bill Boden of Vancouver, an owner with some of top horses at the Downs, made the biggest splash at the Alberta Standardbred Horse Association’s Yearling Sale on Saturday, Aug. 30.

A bid by Boden of $52,000 topped the sale when he liked a daughter of As Promised-City Dreams by the name of Blue Star Delight.

The auction sold a total of 130 horses, good for gross sales of $948,200. The average per horse stood at $7,293.85. The numbers were much improved over last year’s figures. While an additional 30 horses were sold in 2002, the gross sales were nearly $100,000 less and the average price per horse was 37 per cent lower.

FAST TIMES AT: There were several new lifetime marks set by horses last weekend in addition to the aforementioned Bre X in the opener Friday. Just a couple were Kiss Me Jate, who knocked more than two seconds off her mark and nine-year-old Kootenay Thunder, who was clocked at 1:56, lowering his previous best, set in 1999, by a second.

BIG BETTORS: The Edmonton Journal and the Edmonton Sun reported last week that Edmonton experiences and generates more gambling per capita than any other city in Canada.

According to the Journal, the city’s gambling opportunities include four casinos (with two more in the works), 17 bingo halls, 1,181 VLTs (in 243 locations), 2,352 slot machines (in five locations), 492 lottery ticket terminals and one racetrack.

The largest concerns voiced amongst researchers and city officials appear to revolve around problem gambling and the reputation of the city; issues that are countered with the fact that the provincial government received $1.2 billion in revenue from legal gambling, not to mention the number of people the various casinos, bingo halls and Northlands Park employ.

MAINMAN’S MOONSHOT: Deadline woes ended Mainman’s Moonshot appearance in the Surrey Now but due to popular demand here it is in Barn Notes. Beginner’s luck last week brought a $46.70 payoff on Spider M. This week the Shot will be with Pocket Class N, a 10-1 morning line choice, in the fifth race Saturday.