Nice little guy story

Everyone – whether it is in sports or in life -- loves a little guy(s) story, a rags to riches story. 

Nowhere was that better illustrated than last Sunday in Calgary when The Bruster captured the $200,000 Nat Christie Memorial Stake at Stampede Park. 

The Bruster is a three-year-old colt trained and co-owned, along with Bruce Larway, by Spud McCormac (his mom named him Joseph) a 61-year-old Maritime native now a resident of Alberta. The Bruster paced to victory in the final in a time of 1:55.1, after finishing second by a nose in his heat of 1:53.3, three races earlier. 

Fraser Downs’ regular patrons will likely remember that McCormac had raced here briefly the last two meets. It was in 2003 at the B.C. Breeders mixed sale in February that the story of McCormac, Larway and The Bruster began. 

However, then The Bruster was known as Red Star Charlie and he was consigned to the sale by the powerful stable of Robert Murphy. Charlie was a two-year-old by His Mattjesty out of the Albatross mare Corsie Cannie.

Larway and McCormac picked up Charlie for $500. 

Even a name change did not help at first. Despite his fine breeding -- his sire made more than $1 million at the races and the grandsire made close to $2 million -- the young pacer was small for his age.

By the end of last year it looked like their investment was out the window. The Bruster couldn't pace a qualifying mile without breaking stride and it took five tries to qualify. In his first race -- at the Downs – he made a break.  

However, unknown to most, the bay colt had hurt himself and needed time to heal. McCormac, a relatively unknown trainer, was patient and eight months later he has one of the hottest horses in the country with six wins in its last eight starts.  

Off at a respected 7-2, driver Robert Shepherd had the Bruster sixth in the eight-horse field, 13 lengths behind after the opening-quarter of 27.1 seconds. But thanks to his typical powerful closing charge, The Bruster won by two lengths. Thebuckstartshere and driver Rod Hennessy finished second, with Jennas Lil Dude, owned by the Lil Dude Ranch of Surrey and trained and driven by Larry Micallef, was third.  

"I was going to be awfully happy if we just got to the final," said McCormac after the race, confirming he didn't think he would win. "To win this is unbelievable."  

Considering that purchase price, The Bruster's financial totals are almost shocking. The Illinois-bred pacer had earned just $15,946 entering the day, but the earnings total was close to $85,000 by the end of the day.   

On a day, which had started poorly – McCormac’s truck was stolen from his Calgary home – the trio became the stars of the show. 

And, if you don’t believe the public clamors for this kind of a story, ask one of the hundreds of people in the winner’s enclosure after the race if you can check their picture. 

ANGEL IN THE BARNS: With opening day less than two weeks away, the first of two sets of qualifying races was held last Saturday. Ninety horses in 14 races were in action and a high percentage made themselves eligible for the Sept. 17 opener. 

One of the more interesting qualifiers was Angelintheoutfield, an eight-year-old mare who was returning after a stint as a broodmare. 

Angel, who has 89 career starts, had not raced since March 13, 2002 and her last win came on April 20, 2001. The daughter of Daylon Marshal out of Balmy Hanover had raced and won in the fillies and mares division and as a two-year-old finished second to Red Star Trixie in the 1998 B.C. Sire Stakes. 

Another qualifier was former track record holder Bre X who had not raced since Dec. 27 of last year. Prior to going to the sidelines, the son of Dal Reo Hop Sing had won eight of 13 starts at the last Downs meet. 

OFF AND CALLING: Don’t forget a chance to sound like Fraser Downs’ Rick (Mr. Excitement) Uppal or Woodbine’s Frank (Silky) Salive is here. 

Ten people will get a chance to call a qualifier race at the Downs this Saturday.  The first 10 entrants will be contacted and assigned a race, which he or she will call.  If you think you have what it takes, send your name address and phone number to [email protected]

The contestant receiving the most votes from the judges will be the winner of Fraser Downs Racetrack & Casino merchandise.  Also, all participants will be invited to a barbeque after the qualifiers have concluded. 

B.C. BUYERS: Three B.C. interests were active at the recent Summer Sizzler Mixed Sale at the Western Fairgrounds in London, Ont. 

Trainer Ray Gemmill purchased three horses, trainer Jim Marino two and owner Fred Zaitsoff two. 

Gemmill, acting for Western Pacific Stables, picked up D D Dunbar, a three-year-old gelding by Jennas Beach Boy out of Ice Chaser for $22,000; Sunday Supreme, a three-year-old filly by Run The Table out of Jennie Sunday for $27,500 and Armbro Bach, a three-year-old gelding by Village Jiffy out of Lindwood Metra for $22,000. 

Marino bought Kypros, a two-year-old colt by Astreos out of Plunge for $7,500 and Certain Fame, a three-year-old filly by Apaches Fame out of So Certain for $17,500. 

Zaitsoff purchased Greek Maiden, a two-year-old filly by Astreos out of J Vs Jiffy for $10,000 and Angelic Smile, a three-year-old filly by Grinfromeartoear out of Ms Katie Ann for $16,500. 

The average price at the sale was $7,509. 

SUCCESSFUL SALE: The Alberta Standardbred Horse Association’s annual yearling sale last Sunday had gains in nearly every category. 

Not surprisingly, As Promised progeny brought the highest dollar values from bidders. Topping the sale was Nazko Legacy, an As Promised colt out of the Safe N Rich mare Bawita. The full sister to former Fraser Downs star Nazko Promise brought a bid of $50,000. 

In total, 123 yearlings were sold, bringing gross bids of $1,372,400. The sale average was $11,158, up dramatically from last year’s figure.

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