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STAKES ACTION BEGINS  

Stakes action will begin this weekend at Fraser Downs as the countdown (and eliminations) leading to the Breeders Stakes get under way. 

Elims for two-year-olds will take place tonight and for three-year-olds Saturday with a second leg of eliminations on Nov. 4 and 5. 

The final nine of each gender surviving the eliminations will battle for big bucks on Breeders Classic Day Nov. 11. The finals for the rookies will be for a purse of $60,000 each and the three-year-olds will scrap for $100,000 purses. 

Although there will be some big-time favorites, it is expected that many owners and trainers cannot resist a shot at some lucrative paydays. 

The list could be shortest in the two-year-old filly division where Red Star Biggirl should scare away some. Rightly so. Biggirl, the daughter of Grinfromeartoear, and trained by Clint Warrington, can already lay claim to a stakes win at Sandown and the Fraser Downs track record for her age and division. She toured the five-eighths oval in 1:56.1. 

Sweetypea won the other division at Sandown in early September and will challenge. Some others who may take a shot are Silvery Belle, GG S Madi, Twentyten, Furious Five and Whisper What Then. 

Red Star Islander and Superfecta Kid, who each won a division on the Island, will again be tough to beat on the rookie colt side. Some recent new challengers lurking could be Spartacus Dee J, Joe Millionaire, Limbos Doublecross along with Regal Intention, Solar Wind, Red Star Urge and Double Stutz. 

J J J Stable and Alan Anderson have stakes winners Active Pass and Wild Rumour set for the three-year-old colt showdowns but that could be the place where a host of challengers awaits. 

Lunar TKO, Nazko Dancer, Red Star Yogi, Luckys Lildude, We Winnie Winston, CC Maxim and Mattswhereitsat are just a few. 

Red Star Ginny, star of the show at Sandown with a pair of impressive stakes victories, will be the one to beat in the three-year-old filly class. But again, there will be challengers after the winner’s share ($50,000) in the final. 

Just a few include Betterfrombehind, Jimmy Jams Jubilee, Red Star Fantasia, Shannons Scoobydoo and Classic Socks. 

The Downs held non-wagering schooling races for two-year-olds the past two weekends and who knows how many trainers are a little braver now. 

MASSE TAKES LEAD: Bolstered by strong results in the special schooling races for two-year-olds, Serge Masse led all drivers last week at Fraser Downs. 

With Standardbred Canada, the governing body of racing in Canada recognizing the results of the drivers and trainers in the races, Masse piled up seven victories as a driver. He was two-for-two in the baby races. 

Jim Marino grabbed a handful of wins to be closest challenger while Bill Davis, Tim Brown, Gord Abbott and Dave Hudon each had four wins. Grant Hollingsworth had two.

Masse also dominated the trainer stars, again with seven triumphs. 

Davis, Brown and Hudon had four wins apiece while Bill Young and Ray Gemmill displayed continuing strong performances from the Geritol set with two wins each. 

SUPER LITTLE SUPER: Fraser Downs has introduced the 20 cent superfecta wager. 

Downs patrons can still bet a $1 or $2 super, which is selecting the first four finishers in a race, but now have the third alternative. The thinking is that patrons can find the cost of a superfecta wager high. 

Already it is shown that even at 20 cents, there can be plenty of reason to smile. On opening weekend, a patron bet a 20-cent superfecta box (picking four horses which can finish in any order among the top four). The wager was $4.80 and the winning ticket paid more than $400. 

SALE BOOKS READY: The online and printed catalogues are available for the B.C. Standardbred Breeders Society annual yearling sale. 

The sale, which drew a record consignment of 129 horses, will start at 2 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 23 in the Cloverdale Agriplex.  

In addition to the 129, 30 owners paid the $1,000 fee to make their yearlings eligible to the Sale Stake without going through the sale.  

There is strong representation of B.C. and out-of-province sires in the catalogue. 

The Society will have some mares in foal for the sale with the pedigrees of these horses posted at a later date.  

REVENUE SPLIT SET: Representatives of all horse racing groups in B.C. have reached a new agreement governing slot revenue sharing. 

Under the agreement the horsemen’s share of slot revenue will benefit the breed at the track in question. 

Once slot machines are operating at Hastings Racecourse, all of the horsemen’s share there will benefit the thoroughbred sector and all of the horsemen’s share at Fraser Downs will benefit the standardbred sector. Also, once the slots are in at Sandown Park, all of the horsemen’s slot share will go towards the standardbreds.

The machines at Hastings are expected to be in place next spring with Sandown hopefully to follow not long after.  

The thoroughbred horsemen have been receiving 50 per cent of the revenue from the slots at Fraser Downs but the agreement has provisions for payback of this money to the standardbred sector. All of the funds thoroughbred horsemen receive after April 1 of this year will be repaid as will $1 million of the $2.1 they received in the 2004/05 fiscal year.  

The implication of the agreement is considered good news for the standardbred industry. It means standardbred horsemen can now count on a stable purse structure and the SISAP program for this fiscal year and a substantial increase in purses and programs in the next.  

GCGC BUSY: Great Canadian Gaming Corporation has completed the acquisition of all of the outstanding shares of Flamboro Downs Holdings Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of Magna Entertainment Corp.  

The Company paid MEC aggregate consideration of $50 million Cdn and $23.6 million U.S. in cash and by the assumption of existing debt. 

The closing of the transaction follows the approval of the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario and the Ontario Racing Commission. The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation has also consented to the change in control of Flamboro Downs as required under their siteholder agreement. 

Flamboro Downs harness racetrack is located near Hamilton and its acquisition gives GGGC control of Flamboro and Georgian Downs in Ontario as well as Hastings Racecourse (thoroughbreds), Sandown Park and Fraser Downs in B.C. 

Meanwhile, GCGC has placed its four standardbred racing facilities into the Harness Tracks Of America fold. 

Chuck Keeling, the company’s vice president of racing and former general manager of Fraser Downs, will represent the tracks on HTA’s Board of Directors. 

Great Canadian Gaming will officially enter the HTA family during a board meeting on Feb. 7 in Las Vegas.  

NORTHLANDS EXPANSION:  On Oct. 25 the Northlands Park board of directors approved a motion to proceed with plans to expand the Edmonton five-eighths to a seven-eighths of a mile track.  

It means the thoroughbred and harness industry has cleared another major hurdle in the quest for a new surface - but two barriers still remain: financing needs to be finalized and approval must come from city council, the Edmonton Sun reports.  

"I'd say in the next couple of weeks we'll start the process of negotiating (financial) agreements that are satisfactory to both Northlands and Horse Racing Alberta (governing body)," said Jerry Bouma, the Northlands Park board member overseeing horse racing.  

The price tag for the major expansion project is pegged at $21 million.  

If negotiations are successful, city council will then decide whether to give the racetrack a stamp of approval. If the project does get a passing grade, the existing racing surface would be ripped apart and a new oval would be constructed. 

Construction would push a bolt of excitement through the entire sport, as horsemen have been waiting for years for a larger oval.  

“It would change the style of racing” said harness horse trainer Liz Hennessy. “Drivers would race more balls to the wall. With not as many tight turns, you'll go faster miles.”  

A new $80-million racing facility near the Calgary airport is reportedly still on schedule to be open in spring 2007. (Courtesy of the Edmonton Sun)

CLARK GETS 5,000: Veteran driver Keith Clark achieved a career milestone Oct. 26 at Stampede Park, notching win 5,000 of his illustrious career. 

The 52-year-old, who has raced at Fraser Downs, got the win aboard four-year-old pacer Best Of The Lot in the program’s sixth race in 1:59.4. Clark posted win number 4,999 in the night’s first race aboard Hillbilly Highway. 

Clark, who has been a dominant force in Western Canada for many years, won the O’Brien Award Of Horsemanship last season. 

In addition to his driving prowess, he also has 2,821 career training wins to his credit. Lifetime, he has driven the winners of $22,712,692 in purses.

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