Grooms are appreciated!

The B.C. Standardbred Association, with the cooperation of Fraser Downs, and MarketPlace IGA Cloverdale, is holding the fourth annual Fraser Downs Grooms' Challenge this weekend.

Every groom will be permitted to pick one horse in his or her barn that will be racing Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Should a trainer not have a groom employed, he or she will be able to designate one person who normally or frequently assists in a groom function with the stable, for one race only to go into the challenge.

Every groom whose horse wins will receive an equal share in the $1,000 pot put up by the BCSA.

All grooms in the event will receive “goodie bags” from Market Place IGA-Cloverdale. Fraser Downs will give a golf shirt to all winners and a food coupon to all participants.

The cheques and shirts will be presented at the Grooms Days Dinner Dance on Saturday, March 6.

The dance climaxes Groom Appreciation Week in which there will be daily draws in the
kitchen, hot drinks and hot dogs in the paddock on race nights/days.

Horse owner Gar Campbell has donated a prime pair of Canucks tickets and the limo has been booked for the Grooms Grand Draw to drawn at the dance.

Thirty grooms have horses for the weekend: Friday: Tracie Donnelly, Diva In Demand; Donna Scrannage, Northern Colors; Colin Baker, Spatz Bad Manners; Brenda Arsenault, Ask Again; Cathy Bilyk, Emery Flight; Thalia Bengyik, Southside Royal; Ashley Destobel, Kaiser Black; David Bilyk, Red Star Master; Jeanne Goulet, Sinister Force;

Saturday: Caroline Garceau, Burn Brightly; Kelly Medland, Major Lees Crude; Duane Manary, Red Star Veronica; Sandra Roberts, I C Q; Bert McNamee, Chute Again; Don Ulmer, The Color Of Money; Shirley Hedgecoe, Lildudewithaditude; Archie Caron, Jr., Lil Dude Starrbuck; Donna Cunningham, Lildudekickinash; Pat Fleming, Evs Spirit; Frank Otterson, Fox Valley Riddler; Denielle Gisby, Pacing Odessey;

Sunday: Crystal McKay, Georgia K; Darren Poloway, Pocket Lane N; Bill Davis, Jr., Red Star Admiral; Tim Mosterd, Pellegrini N; Janine Therres, Papas Reflection; Dan Desko, Lil Dudes Keeeper; Sue Allan, Nealies Deal; Lisa Taylor, Keep Spinning; Alex Fisher, Red Star Suesue.

Grooms are considered by many to be the unsung heroes of the industry. They do much of the “grunt” work such as cleaning stalls, harnessing the horses for training and races, bathing and brushing the horses and generally assisting the trainers.

Many come to be both the trainers’ and the horses’ best friend.

THIS SPIDER HAS BITE: Spider M, a five-year-old son of Deamons Bell out of Sabrina Legacy, used a powerful last quarter to capture his first Invite last Saturday at Fraser Downs.

A 4-1 fourth choice in the field of seven, which had no clear-cut favorite, Spider M fell to fifth early from his No. 1 post. Trailing by 7 ½ lengths at the quarter, he was still fifth, four back, at the head of the stretch. But he roared down the stretch, covering the last quarter in a rapid 27.4, to edge favorite Infinite Dreams by a neck.

Spider M, owned and bred by Ken Dorman and Janice Wheeler, trained by Dorman and driven by Tim Brown, paced the mile in a new lifetime mark of 1:54.4.

He now has two wins, two seconds and a third in seven starts in 2004.

Infinite Dreams, the favorite narrowly over Haras Colta Cola and Red Star Admiral (all around 2-1), had won the Invite two weeks ago. He stuck his head in front of early pacesetter Cola in the stretch but could not hold off Spider M. Admiral was third.

Arturos Choice made it two in a row in the fillies and mares open, winning by 1¼ lengths over stablemate Make Some Noise in a field of five last Friday.

Arturos Choice, driven by Jim Burke and trained by Bill Davis and owned by Robert Murphy, covered the mile in 1:56.1. The daughter of Arturo has two wins, a second and a third in four 2004 starts.

STILL HOT: Dave Hudon remains on his February flow.

Hudon led the driver and trainer derbies last weekend for the third straight week.

Hudon had a four-bagger last Friday – four days after his 40th birthday --to finish with six driving victories. He now has 21 for the month, eight ahead of runner-up Tim Brown.

Brown was among six drivers – Bob Baxter, Rick White, Bill Davis, Jim Burke and Jim Marino, the others – with three victories.

Hudon was the top trainer with five triumphant decisions. White and Davis were next with three and Carol St Amand, Ken Dorman, Marino and Mike Glover each had two.

MARES LEAD SALE: The three mares offered by the B.C. Standardbred Breeders Society at its annual mixed sale last Tuesday brought the highest purchase prices.

The broodmares, purchased at the recent 2004 Garden State Super Sale in Hanover, Pa., brought an average of $4,600. Leading the way was Roxette Hanover, a 13-year-old by Kentucky Spur and in foal to Dragon Again, who was bought by the SW Farms of Aldergrove. Burke LeBouef of Hinton, Alta. paid $4,500 for Blue Collar Girl, and Fred Zaitsoff of Aldergrove bought Eicarls El Grande for $4,000.

The top seller in the open section of the sale was Red Star Marty. The three-year-old son of Cam Can Do, consigned by Robert Murphy, brought $2,500 from Stud Muffins of Langley.

Crimson Racing Stable bought Not In The Mood, a No Nukes broodmare bred to As Promised, from the Lil Dude Ranch for $1,400 and LeBoeuf purchased One Cool Deal, a five-year-old mare, for $1,300. The mare, who is still racing, was consigned by Joe Gray and Kelly Hudon.

Only five of the 24 horses (seven were pulled out before the sale) consigned were bought back.

During the sale at the Agriplex, Tom Bourdeau was the successful bidder on the stallion service offered by Ty O'Neil on his stallion Creative Edge. The proceeds, $550, will go to the standardbred horse Greener Pastures adoption program.

JONES KEEPS UP: Wray Jones of Surrey is the ninth week’s winner of the California Dreamin handicapping contest at the Downs. Jones used two correct winning wagers to get the mythical total of $536.

Ian Barrie of Port Coquitlam was second with $504 and Jim Sentes of Langley was third at $496.

Jones joins Fred Pirgheibi, Ken Dunn, Josef Eppel, Don Thompson, Kara Cromwell, Ken Compton, Ron Smith and Lorrie McKay as nine of the 10 finalists who will battle head-to-head in the CDHC on Saturday, March 6 in the Homestretch Party Zone. The CDHC champion will attend the Santa Anita Derby on April 3, courtesy of Fraser Downs.

In the CDHC, which runs weekly until Feb. 28, contestants are asked to handicap a series of races from Santa Anita. The contest is based on six races, three through eight, and on which entrants will handicap three. For each of the three horses chosen, a mythical $20 win, place, show bet is placed. At the end of each contest day, scores will be tallied and the entrant with the highest total will receive the weekly $250 prize – and be crowned a finalist.

Entry ballots are available at the Welcome Centre the morning of each contest day. They must be returned before the scheduled post of the second race at Santa Anita.

POOLING TIME AGAIN: The second half of the $10,000 KENO Harness Pool begins Friday and concludes on April 4.

The Harness Pool has contestants pick a stable of horses and each contestant earns points based on their performance (five for win, three for place and one for show).

The contest was divided into two halves, each half six weeks in length.  At the end of each half, the top three contestants will win prize money. During each half, contestants are permitted one trade. The second half trading forms will be available on March 12 and the second half deadline is on March 19.

At the end of the contest, both halves will be added and the top 40 players, including ties, will share in the $10,000 prize pool as follows: first $2,500, second $1,500, third $1,000, fourth to10th $250 and 11th to 40th  $75. Prizes will be awarded to the top three players in the first half and second half as follows: first  $250, second $150 and third $100.

Winners of first half top-three prizes are not eligible for second half top-three prizes.

John Kusch captured the first half title with Puggy Singh second and Nobby Mori, Pamela Percy-Bell, Ryan McDougall and Debbie Chomyn sharing third.

MAINMAN’S MOONSHOT: Last week the shot was Next Plane Out, a 14-1 post-time line choice who was eighth. This week we will try Tinkers Magic, a 12-1 morning line selection in the seventh race Saturday.