Downs opening big


To say Fraser Downs’s opening weekend of live racing in the freshly-renovated Grandstand and Clubhouse was an unqualified success would be perhaps stretching matters.


There were glitches that were highly understandable for an updated facility using opening night like a test run. There were many new staffers getting experience under the gun.


To your agent, who writes each week of the goings-on at the Cloverdale oval, a day at the races is like a walk in the park, a kiss from your other, or a baby’s smile. With the new facilities and fine staff, a race night will be – and was last weekend -- better than ever.


Meanwhile, there were several significant happenings on opening weekend, both on and off track.

The opening weekend crowds, and older challengers, failed to faze Red Star Biggirl as the daughter of Grinfromeartoear set a track record for two-year-old fillies Saturday.


Making only her second career start, Biggirl came from off the pace to win by a neck over Red Star Fantasia in 1:56.1. The former mark of 1:57.1 was established by Betterfrombehind on Nov. 11, 2004.


Red Star Biggirl is owned by Robert Murphy of White Rock, B.C., and trained and driven by Clint Warrington.


Warrington took Biggirl back from the start and sat fifth at the quarter, six lengths behind leader Shannons Scoobydoo (28.3). Biggirl was still fifth at the half, 5½ lengths behind new leader Lil Dudes Rockette, who covered the half in 58 seconds. From there Warrington used a second over trip to move to third at the three-quarter pole (2¼ lengths behind another leader Classic Socks) and a 28.3 last quarter to break the record.


Biggirl’s seven challengers were all three-year-olds in the non-winners of two or $4,500 lifetime condition race with a purse of $4,900.


Several other equine stars had strong showings on the weekend. Carson Jane captured the fillies and mares open on Saturday with a 1:55.3 clocking, her best of 2005. Lildudeskickinash paced to victory in 1:56, three-year-old Red Star Dreamglo set a life mark of 1:56, Headliner won in 1:56.2 while You Da Man Cam (1:58.3) and Freedom Whisper (1:59.34) had lifetime marks.


On Friday, in his first start at the Downs, Lance Raider won the open with a fine 1:55.2, beating track record holder Infinite Dreams by 2½ lengths.  However, it was not the fastest of the night on an off track as Thisisbliss paced the mile in 1:55. Lil Dudes Keeper (1:58.3) and Freedom Fortytwo (1:59.3) set career marks. 


BROWN BEST: Tim Brown used a pair of wins each night to top all drivers on the weekend with four victories. Dave McKellar, who had a hat trick Friday, Gord Abbott and Bill Davis each had three triumphs. Tied with deuce apiece were Jim Wiggins, Dave Hudon and Barry Treen.


Ann Cooper had three visits to the winner’s enclosure Friday to tie Davis for the lead among all conditioners. Bob Merschback, Wiggins, Treen and Davis each had two wins. 


BETTING MANIA: Wagering was up dramatically from a year ago for opening weekend at Fraser Downs.

Live wagering for the two days was up 54 per cent.


On Friday, on-track wagering went from $65,736 in 2004 to $94,188 while the total (simulcast, on-line) went from $223,000 to $265,843.


On Saturday, on-track went from $36,000 to $63,000 while total ballooned to $261,000 from $202,000.

BABY RACES: Eagle-eyed Downs’ patrons likely noticed the races held prior to the start of the regular card last weekend.

The races, two Friday and one Saturday, were for two-year-olds and were non-wagering.


For the small purse of $500 the rookies have been given the opportunity of gaining additional race experience without necessarily taking on older horses.


Each year many two-year-olds have limited experience prior to the staging of the first stakes events. For example, provided there are sufficient entries, the elimination for the first stake race, the Breeders, will be held next Friday (Oct. 28). The Breeders Stakes finals are set for B.C. Classic Day on Nov. 11.


One more weekend of rookie races will be held this weekend. (Driver and trainer stats do count from the special races). 


RAISING THE ROOF: While the extensive renovations were happening on the front side of Fraser Downs, there was some fixing up on the backstretch as well. Barn A, on the farthest left as patrons look over to the barns, was given a new roof with skylights. Many of the stalls in all barns were also provided with new walls.  


IDEAL HORSE: American Ideal will likely be going again to the Meadowlands.


Trainer Casie Coleman confirmed with Trot Insider last week that the connections of American Ideal will pony up the $60,000 (U.S.) supplemental entry fee for the Breeders Crown, which takes place at the Meadowlands in late November.

American Ideal added another accomplishment to his amazing season, winning a $230,500 division of the Tattersalls Pace on Oct. 8 at The Red Mile.


Mark MacDonald had the son of Western Ideal-Lifetime Success in front through 27, 54.4 and 1:22.3 quarters before sprinting home in 26.4 en route to the 1:49.2 victory over Cams Fool and Beretta Hall.


“He came out of it great,” Coleman said Oct. 12. “We shipped him home on Monday and he seems really good. I’ll just give him a week or two to relax in the paddock because he’s had a tough month. He’s 100 per cent. He’s eating all his feed and keeping his weight up so we’re gearing him for the Breeders Crown.”


Just one week before taking his Tattersalls division over Cams Fool in 1:49.2, American Ideal set a world record when he clocked 1:47.4 in a division of the Bluegrass Stakes at the Red Mile in Lexington, KY.


Coleman, who has watched American Ideal compile a 10-4-1 record in 19 starts this year, trains the career winner of $830,678 for partners Mac Nichol of St Albert, AB, and the Brittany Farms of Versailles, KY.