Pulling the plug sends Ricardo to top

Robert Murphy is not in town right now to verify the story but there is a strong rumour that he was ready to pull the plug and, at least, if he did he it would be understood.

Ready to end his association with -- or pull the plug -- that is when it came to Ricardo Hall.

Murphy, of course, is the head honcho of the powerful Murphy Stable and Red Star Farms and he and his horses are well known on the Fraser Downs racing scene.

Murphy purchased Ricardo Hall for $140,000 in the United States. The price, obviously, is big when compared to B.C. figures, but even the locals would drool at a chance to get a No Nukes foal out of the Cambest mare Raetta Hall.

Murphy turned his purchase over to trainer Mark Harder and the young colt made his first start as a two-year-old at the Meadowlands. He had one huge race, a Stakes event when he finished second, covering the mile in 1:53.3.

But there were no wins and late in the season he came to Mohawk in Ontario and made one start in November. Now three, his next start was in January, 2002, a stakes elimination in which he was third. Five races later he got his first victory.

But 2002 for Ricardo did not turn into a huge success story. Seven starts for Harder with one win.

Then he went to the barn of Joe Hudon, highly successful and well-known name in B.C. harness racing circles, and first raced for Joe on June 1. He last raced for Hudon on Jan. 27, 2003.

Including those two races he started 14 times -- with but one win -- and in his last six starts did not collect any purse money.
Murphy likely came close to pulling the plug then but decided to bring Ricardo Hall to B.C. under trainer Bill Davis. Who knows, maybe B.C.'s leading handler could get Ricardo straightened away.

Little did Murphy know that "pulling the plug" would be Davis' key to the results turned in by the four-year old gelding since he started racing at the Downs.

Fraser Downs patrons are already well aware of Ricardo's love affair with B.C. Four starts -- four wins with margins of  7 1/2, 16, 3 1/2 and 11 lengths. His last start last Sunday came with a new lifetime mark of 1:55.4 (a better time than stablemate Red Star Admiral had in the winners over race). He has won $10,250 in those starts.

But success came with a twist -- of the wrist and a pulling of the plug.

"We had worked him a few times and we had trouble putting his bridle on," Davis explained.

"One day he was particularly bad, he was really throwing his head and did not want us touching him near the ears. I had Bert (groom McNamee) hold his (Ricardo's) head and I put my hand in his ear," Davis continued.

"I got some puss on my hand. So, I told Bert to hold him tight and I stuck my hand in as far as I could. I felt something and gave it a good pull. Out came an ear plug."

Davis does not know how long it was there but said, "It may go a long way back because if I remember, I don't think Joe (Hudon) liked using ear plugs."

McNamee added that improved results with Ricardo Hall were almost instantaneous, "He was better the next time on the track."

Unfortunately, because his results were not all that great, payments for Stakes races were not kept up (the Sunwapta in Edmonton for example).

Davis plans to take Ricardo Hall to Edmonton in mid April.

"He's getting better but there are some little things I will do before we go," Davis said. "But his day (with the big boys) will come."
 DELTA FAVOURITES ROLL: Favourites were the order of the day in the elimination legs of the Delta Pace last Friday.

Outlawcantcatchme, a 1-5 choice, and Red Star Rockaway, part of a 1-6 favoured entry, were the best in the $6,000 purse legs. They'll get a chance to square off Saturday in the $32,600 final in the event for three-year-old fillies.

Outlawcantcatchme, by Freedoms Pass out of Armbro Ornate, is owned by the Wild Dunes Stable of Delta and trained by Sten Ericsson. Driven by Grant Hollingsworth, Outlaw paced the mile in 2:00.2 in winning by three lengths over Bo Magnolia.

Raggidy Ann had the lead by the first quarter but Called To The Bar and Outlawcantcatchme pulled first and Outlaw went right on and passed all to take the lead by the half. She is appropriately named as she couldn't be . . . with Bo Magnolia and driver Glenn White making the biggest effort for second. Raggidy Ann, with Tim Brown in tow, came back for third but was 8 1/2 back.

Outlaw has now won twice in 2003 in six starts for $9,135 in earnings. She has never been out of the money in those starts.
Red Star Rockaway, owned by Robert Murphy of White Rock, also continues to impress in 2003. Her victory made it three-for-three in the year for earnings of $7,350.

By Pacific Rocket out of the Albatross mare Rockaway Hanover, she won by 3 1/2 lengths over stablemate Red Star Finalee in a time of 1:58.4. Despite only eight lifetime starts Rockaway has a lifetime best mark of 1:57.3.

Rockaway is trained by Bill Davis, who also handled the reins. Davis let Finalee take the lead to the first quarter -- with Stallion Stakes' winner Lil Dudes Dewette second -- but he was first up, took the lead, and the entry was never to be headed after that point. Breeders Stakes winner, Yumyum Candy, with Glenn White, came on for third.

There is a full field of nine for Saturday's final. Others who will challenge, in addition to the top three finishers in each leg are: Dewette, Norma Norma and Called To The Bar.

The Murphy entry has been installed as 4-5 morning line favourite with Rockaway expected to grab top honours. She will be driven by Davis from the three-hole while Outlaw, the 4-1 second choice, will start from the six.
 DAVIS AGAIN: Bill Davis waited awhile but did the usual, dominating last weekend's races with seven driving wins.

Davis, restricted to Stakes-only races Friday, got one victory, added another Saturday, and then picked up the pace, winning a handful Sunday. Three of the wins came behind horses he trained.

There was quite a scramble behind Davis for driving decisions. Grant Hollingsworth moved into the top 10 for the meet, winning four times, and now has 31. Tim Brown, also had four while Jim Marino had three and Terry Kaufman, Andy Arsenault, Dave McKellar, Glenn White, Rod Therres and Scott Knight had two each.

Davis also led in trainer visits to the winner's enclosure, with five. Wayne Isbister was the closest to Davis with three (two driven by Davis) while Ken Dorman, Jeff Waltenburgh, Ken Harris and Sten Ericsson had two apiece.
 WIN SOME, WIN BIG: Nifty payouts were prevalent -- although not the order of the day -- last Friday at the Downs.

In the fifth race 55-1 shot Kays Barbara, owned and trained by Ed Tracey, won for a $122.40 return on a $2 win ticket. The five-year-old mare, winless in 12 starts in 2002, combined with 11-1 Haras Eve for a $696.50 exactor and was part of a $5,776.85 return on a $1 superfecta wager. Also, in the seventh race, 19-1 pacing Odessey combined with 31-1 Pennyforyourthouts and 6-1 Carolyn Holmes N for a $3485.80 triactor.

But there were exactor payouts of $5.60, $6.80 and $5.20.
NOT REALLY BARN NOTES BUT A LONG OF HAY: Last week we wrote that father still knows best -- just. He did but it was a friendly rivalry.

We refer to the contest-ending battle between father Alex McDougall and son Ryan in the $10,000 KENO Harness Pool at Fraser Downs. It went right down to the last day before dad won, capturing the contest by one -- the same way they came into the final three days (the last weekend) of the event.

Alex had won the first half of the 12-week event and Ryan the second half. The final totals were 132-131 which meant that dad was able to claim $2,500 first-place money while Ryan had to settle for $1,500.

"Yeah, a little bit," Alex said when asked if there was a rivalry over the last few weeks, but he also admitted that they had worked together before the contest started.

Alex was entered in the Harness Pool contest for the first time but Ryan said he had been in twice before.

Dad, who is semi-retired, said he will "pay a few bills" with his winnings while student Ryan agreed there was a good chance the money would go to tuition fees.

Alex comes to Fraser Downs on occasion while Ryan is more of a regular. Dad has a brother Ray who has thoroughbreds racing at Hastings Park and has been around tracks since his dad took him to Squamish when there was harness racing there, to old Patterson Park in Ladner and to Hastings when it was Exhibition Park.

He likes the horses but also admits he is a "gambler, a careful gambler."

The McDougalls along with third-place Mike Wagstaff ($1,000) were on hand to received their money last Sunday.

The Keno Harness Pool worked just like a sports pool with participants picking a team of horses from a supplied list and earning points based on their performances.

The top 40 players (including ties) in the Pool -- both halves combined-- won cash and there were also prizes for the top three in the second half.

Anyone in the top 40 can pick up their cheque (top 10) or voucher at the Welcome Centre.