Latest News, UPDATES, thrills & spillsFrom ASHA and the World of Harness Racing
"THRILLS & SPILLS" DECEMBER 2014 - CHECK OUT THRILLS & SPILLS NEW PAGE UNDER RACING NEWS. THRILLS DECEMBER EDITION IS HERE Check it out CLICK HERE
ATTENTION HORSEMEN: Due to the increase in available stalls in the ship-in barn at Century Downs this weekend we are going to asign the horses stalls race by race. The qualifiers will be stabled and race from the outdoor stalls and paddock due to the twelve race cards both Saturday and Sunday.
CONGRATULATIONS TO "CENTURY DOWNS RACETRACK & CASINO FOR A "GREAT" OPENING WEEKEND!
2015 ASHA "NAME THAT FOAL" CONTEST Is now officially started. Please see attached Contest Form CLICK HERE
ASHA held their 2015 Annual General Meeting on Saturday, April 18th. Please see attached the "NEW" 2015 Board of Directors and Breeders Committee View HERE
PRAIRIE GIRLS & BOYS **NEW** ATTENTION ALBERTA HORSEMAN: DUE TO CENTURY DOWNS CONSTRUCTION DELAYS THE PRAIRIE GIRLS AND BOYS WILL NOW BE RACED ON MAY 2ND and MAY 3RD AND NOW WILL BE RACED IN DIVISIONS.
NOTICE TO ALL: Century Downs Racetrack & Casino is enforcing "FULL" membership to all ASHA members in order to provide liability coverage for those involved at any capacity around the race grounds. This means that ALL GROOMS, DRIVERS, TRAINERS, BREEDERS AND OWNERS must have current memberships to ASHA in order to be on Century Downs Racetrack & Casino premises for any race related activity. This policy shall be enforced by Century Downs Racetrack & Casino, not ASHA. Your cooperation is greatly appreciated.
ASHA STALLION DIRECTORY & STAKES GUIDE IS NOW IN! PLEASE CONTACT ORIANNA AT THE ASHA OFFICE @ 403.263.7765 FOR A COPY OR INFORMATION.
ASHA PRESS RELEASE - MARCH 6, 2015 (CENTURY DOWNS) VIEW HERE
CENTURY DOWNS is currently recruiting for the positions of Track Superintendent. Email your resume to Careers@CenturyDowns.com. For a copy of the job description, email email@example.com. Jobs will continue to be posted at http://centurydowns.cnty.com/ under careers at the bottom of the home page
AS PROMISED DAY - VIEW POSTER HERE
The Alberta Standardbred Horse Association
(ASHA) was formed to represent and protect the best interests of Standardbred industry participants and bring about a closer, more understanding relationship among members, racetracks, racing associations, governing bodies and the public.
It was cold! It was windy! But it was finally time for the return of harness racing to the Calgary market. And neither wind nor moisture, nor cold air was going to keep long suffering fans from their appointment with the opening of Century Downs racetrack and entertainment centre. Even Premier Jim Prentice showed up to present the cooler to the winner of the first race at the new facility. It’s a wonder he didn’t wrap it around himself, just to keep warm, instead of presenting it to Waitin Ona River, owned, trained, and driven to victory by veteran conditioner, Rod Hennessey.
Impressions of Opening Weekend: welcome to the new reality of gaming. It used to be when you walked into a racetrack that racing and horses were the dominant theme. Today, entry is through rows of gaming equipment to get outside where the horses fly by. That’s not to say it’s bad – it’s just different. The 33,000 square foot building was jammed. One server told me that it was a challenge to get from the restaurant to the bar to the kitchen on Opening Day because of the crowd packed into the building. But food and beverage got served, folks moved among the machines, with occasional forays outside to watch the races. Then it was back indoors so as not to wind up in Strathmore!
The stars of the show earned their hay and oats through the third quarter which came against a stiff breeze straight out of the north. By the head of the lane, most of them didn’t have much left. The fastest time on Opening Day was 1:56.3 by Feelin Flush with Travis Cullen at the controls. Twenty-four hours later, on a bright sunny Sunday afternoon, with the breeze cut down significantly, Cullen toured the track with Who Doesnt in a sparkling 1:53.3.
TAfter two days of racing it was already clear that if drivers leave their horses six or seven lengths off the pace by the head of the lane, it was probably too late to catch the leaders. “The turns are nice and wide,” says track announcer, Murray Slough, “but there’s not a lot of space and time to make up too much space before the finish line. Positioning heading into the far turn at the ¾ pole is going to be something to watch.”
Long time owner and breeder, Bill Andrew, sported a broad smile throughout the weekend. “This is going to make a huge difference to breeders,” he told me. “I hope we can bring back some owners who fell away after racing left the Calgary scene. Hopefully we can bring some new owners into the sport as well, especially here in southern Alberta.”
ASHA executive director, Fred Gillis, has some ideas on that subject. “We’re soon going to announce a syndicate program that will bring together folks who’d like to share in the ownership of a horse or a group of horses, and come watch it race every week,” he told me. “That’ll be one way to increase interest in ownership here in southern Alberta.
Other impressions came from racing secretary, Jackson Wittup. “I wrote the last race at Stampede Park nine years ago,” he told me. Rod Starkewski with Skip to My MJJs on Nov. 12th, 2006. And I wrote the first race at Century Downs, April 25th, 2015, won by Rod Hennessey with Waitin Ona River. It’s good to be home after 9 years.”
That comment was echoed by Shirley McLellan, President of Horse Racing Alberta, and a stalwart defender of harness racing. “I’m relieved,” she told me as we huddled inside the REC after watching a race. “We’ve all waited a long time for this day. I commend United Horsemen and Century Gaming for their hard work to get this facility open. And I couldn’t help thinking about Ralph Klein today. He was such a devoted fan of harness racing, and he and Doug Mitchell introduced the slot machine program to support live racing more than 15 years ago. He’d be proud of what has been accomplished here.”
Count Kathy Wade Vlaar as an enthusiast for the new home of harness racing in southern Alberta. The Manager of Industry Marketing for Standardbred Canada was on hand for the opening weekend, to promote The Fan Club program. “We had 54 people sign up,” she reports, “and we expect to get some more online registrations. We’re launching our photo contest with a May theme of “Spring Fever.” We’ll be looking for any type of horse photos that say spring is here: mares and foals, horses running or frolicking in the pastures, race shots, shots of horses in the mud, etc. People can submit their photos to firstname.lastname@example.org . We’ll have a new theme every month through September. People can vote online for their favourite and we’ll have monthly prizes and a grand prize for the best photo of the year.”
Impressions generally were pretty favourable, even from some of the thoroughbred fans who were on hand to be part of a little piece of history. There were suggestions on what could/should/ needed to be done, but the overall impression was positive. Century folks acknowledged that much work remains to be finished. Indeed, the site is likely to be a construction project for the next couple of years as more work is done in the backstretch. Given the popularity of the machines, expanding the REC might have to be moved up. And certainly Opening Day – even with foul weather – tested the capacity of the site.
For a time, at least, racing at Century Downs will be a “ship-in” exercise. There will be another barn on site later this summer and some, like veteran teamster, Gerry Hudon, who lives north of Edmonton, hope that they’ll be able to stable and train horses on site. For now, the main options are Olds Ag Society and Norm Cutherbertson’s training centre at Strathmore. The thoroughbred community is eyeing a 2016 debut at Century Downs but wants training rights at the racetrack. That’ll be on the could/should/need to list, though how high up remains to be seen.
For now, though, Opening Day is in the books. Now comes the task of making improvements and of chasing 1:53.3. Expect everybody involved to keep working away at those two challenges.
Written by Peter Watts
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