Shark Week Breaks Western Canadian Standardbred Racing Record with First Sub-1:50 Time at Century Downs Racetrack & Casino
BALZAC, AB – You could feel the excitement building on a beautiful afternoon on Saturday June 3, someone said there was a little smoke in the air but those in attendance commented that the only smoke they noticed was from the race bike tires as the action on the track was hot!
While there was two stakes races with purses just shy of $57,000, after last week’s track record many had a gut feeling we might see something special again this week. The first few race times showed that the track had speed in it and Samba Beat going a mile in 1:52.3 in the race leading up to the week’s version of the Preferred Pace had anticipation at an all time high. A barrier that not many believed would fall on the Century Downs 11/16’s oval had a chance to be broken, it required incredible effort.
Shark Week, a son of Vertical Horizon out of the Badlands Hanover mare Shark Gone Bad, had taken almost a full second off the all age track record a week prior and in post parade looked incredibly sharp. Meridian Farms is the breeder of this incredible athlete and Bill Andrew who first brought Vertical Horizon out west, he now stands stud In Alberta for Chris and Tara Lambie. His driver Mike Hennessy seemed to have him ready to roll and lived up to his nickname Lightning Mike on Saturday. The rail was packed with fans ready to witness Western Canadian Standardbred history! Handicapped with the outside five post, it took Shark Week less than 10 strides before he landed on the front and had destiny in his own hands. A quarter time of 26.2 and a half time of 54.4 gave Shark Week a great shot at history, and he looked very comfortable up front. Speeding down the Century Downs backstretch in 27.4 had him at the three quarter pole in 1:22.3 and the excitement in the grandstand was at a peak! Hennessy popped the plugs and shook his athlete up to get him at top speed in the stretch, and when he crossed the finish line the 1:50 barrier had finally been broken- in fact it was smashed with a final time of 1:49.2 and again Shark Week lowered the track record by another full second! Bonus Round and Armycaptin Hanover finished second and third respectively and both raced fantastic with times that would have equalled the track record two weeks ago before Shark Week decided to put his stamp on the Century Downs Record Book.
Many times, on a day like this, the credit goes to the driver and Mike Hennessy certainly deserved his fair share however Hennessy would be the first one to point out that the real credit should go to his Dad and long time Alberta Horseman Rod Hennessy along with Team Hennessy members Mike Kleinsasser, Marissa Kleinsasser, Tyson Jacoby, Shanisty Andres and others. Also, a special mention and congratulations to Rod’s long time racing partner and co-owner Lorne Duffield along with Rod’s wife Diane and a legion of Team Hennessy fans!
There was much more to come and more success for sons and daughters of Vertical Horizon. Three year olds sired by Outrageous Art, Custard The Dragon, Captive Audience and BJS Bequia also found success on the racetrack. First up was the Final for the Alberta Diamond contested by three year old Alberta Bred Fillies for a nice purse of just under $57,000. Elimination winners Shesmyinspiration, Beep Bop A Lula, and Caviar N Crackers all had a major say in the way this race would play out. As the gate wings swung open, a few of the expected front runners took back and in a somewhat surprising result, Cenalta Token was on point then quickly back in the pocket as Beep Bop A Lula assumed command for driver Dave Kelly. Beep Bop A Lula lead the field through fractions of 28.0 and 56.4, and was already feeling pressure as Mike Hennessy and Festiveus were making a strong bid to take over the lead. That one could never get by but pushed the pace down the backstretch in 28.3 and had a couple contenders in tow as Caviar N Crackers and Shesmyinspiration were gratefully accepting her cover. As the race turned for home the drive was a three wide battle between the three elimination winners and in the final strides driver Nathan Sobey and Shesmyinspiration were able to just get by for the win by only a neck. Beep Bop A Lula fought gamely and held for a solid runner up placing with Caviar N Crackers having to settle for third. The three fillies are sired by Outrageous Art, Vertical Horizon and Captive Audience respectively.
The final stakes races was the Alberta Marksman Final for three year old Alberta Sired Colts and Geldings. Elimination winners Virtual Horizon, Mickey Mantle and Catfish Jack all played prominent roles in the race with a healthy purse of just under $60,000.00. As the gate swung open for this dash, YRU So Sirius took advantage of his pole position to leave out quickly but by the quarter pole Virtual Horizon and driver Brandon Campbell were already making a move to assume command. He led in fractions of 28.0 and 56.4 to the half which brought a few other contenders to the outside. Mickey Mantle was the leader of the outside flow for driver Phil Giesbrecht and it was a strong challenge which pushed them down the backstretch in 28.3 but he had a couple others in tow most notably Tin Can Timmy for driver Logan Gillis. As they turned into the lane Campbell and Virtual Horizon had another gear which they were able to use to draw away for a comfortable 2 length winning margin. Mickey Mantle and Tin Can Timmy battled all the way to the finish line with Mickey Mantle hanging tough by ¼ length to finish second. Timmy was third and his stablemate and elimination winner Catfish Jack shook free from some traffic trouble to grab fourth place money. The top three were sired by Vertical Horizon, Custard the Dragon and BJS Bequia respectively.
After the excitement of Saturday afternoon, everyone could use a one-week breather to ramp up for the next Stakes Action. On Saturday June 17, the three year old fillies return to eliminations to qualify for the Shirley McClellan Breeders Stake Final while the three year old boys will take to the track for eliminations to qualify for the Moores Mile Breeders Stake Final. The eliminations promise to bring more exciting action to Century Downs Racetrack and Casino in Balzac, Alberta. Clear your calendar and plan to be in attendance to watch these eliminations, along with the rest of the card, and feel the excitement live in Southern Alberta!