By Ivan Bigg for George (on holidays)
The Bull is back to his old winning self.
Balooga Bull, Horse of the Year at 2- and 3-years-old, showed on Friday that his talent is still intact at 4 despite an uncharacteristic fourth-place finish in his previous race, the Wheat City Stakes on July 6. Sharpened by a 59-second workout, he reaped vengeance on the three horses who had beaten him in the Wheat City: Pleasant Closing, Ran the Man and Gotatigerbythetail who finished in that order behind him in the $18,000 allowance race. Balooga was the fan favourite and paid $4.50.
That sets the stage for his entry into the $50,000 Gold Cup on Sept. 14, a race he won last year. His style is to go to the lead and not look back -- which is what he did in Friday's allowance, despite other speed in the race. Ran the Man tried to push him early but Balooga, with leading jockey Paul Nolan aboard, just powered through the 7 1/2f test in 1:35 without any serious challenge. Balooga's record now is 14-11-1-1 and his earnings have increased to $223,000.
LOCAL HORSEOWNERS GET 1ST & 2ND IN MATRON ON LABOUR DAY: For the first time in four years, the winner's share of the $50,000 Matron Stakes isn't going to Alberta. It's staying in Manitoba. That's because Miss Victoriana, the Northlands horse that won the Matron three years in a row, retired last fall. And a Canterbury Park horse sent up from Minnesota to grab the purse--and bet down to 3-5--struggled on ASD dirt (after racing primarily on turf back home) and finished fifth in the six-horse field.
So local horse owners got to share the loot. Don and Gaye Bell reaped the biggest chunk because they co-own both the winner (Hello) and the second-place finisher (City Splash). The winning horse gets 60 per cent and the second-place finisher 20 per cent. Trainer Lorna Gray also is a part owner of Hello. And Dennis Mitchell and Gold Medal Stables are partners with the Bells in City Splash. With leading jockey Paul Nolan aboard, Hello dominated the field, putting away the field racing outside horses, then pulling away in the stretch to be much the best.
QUARTER HORSE SETS RECORD SATURDAY: The fastest horses in the world, quarter horses, made a cameo appearance in two races Saturday in sizzling fashion, with Canterbury invader Burnt Ivory ($2.80) setting a track record in the 300-yard $15,000 Quarter Horse Open Futurity, the first race on the card. The race went in 15.70, a tick faster than the 15.77 record set by Shiney Royal Cash on July 6, 2008. Jockey Clint Magera had a perfect quarter horse day, riding both the Futurity winner and the last-race quarter horse winner, Drinkin the Gold ($3).
UNHERALDED JOCKEYS EXCEL ON SATURDAY: It was a great day Saturday for jockeys who aren't often in the limelight: .
--Clint Magera, 13th in the standings, had a hat trick: the two quarter horse victories above (although they don't count in the thoroughbred standings) and on Lucky Brew ($5.90) in race 5.
--Janine Smith, 10th in the standings, notched two victories: Danger Rules ($3.70) in race 3 and Johannesbourbon ($4.70) in race 6.
--Jerry Pruitt, 14th in the standings, gave the 6-year-old B.C.-bred gelding Savuti ($4.60) his first lifetime victory in 26 starts
--And Larry Munoz, 15th in the jockey standings, produced the biggest longshot score of the day in race 7 with Lacrosse ($23.50).
Now, with just nine days of live racing remaining, attention turns to the $50,000 Winnipeg Futurity this Saturday.
Stars are born there. And so are legends.
Obviously a race not to miss.