Speed and class prevail in championship stakes at ASD

Sep 17, 2012 | Live Racing

Balooga Bull and groom Richard Spencer were all smiles after winning the 2012 Gold Cup at ASD.

Balooga Bull and groom Richard Spencer are all smiles after winning the 2012 Gold Cup at ASD.

by George

There’s no question that the highlight of the past weekend at Assiniboia Downs was Balooga Bull demolishing his opposition in the 55th running of the $50,000 Gold Cup on Saturday night. The time for the race wasn’t fast, 1:51.80 for the 1 1/8-miles, but he did it the hard way and he still laid a beating on eight rivals.

He’ll lay a few more out too, before he’s done.

Paul Brandt’s $2,000 yearling is all “growed up” now, and he’s a handful. Just ask Pleasant Closing, the Harry Jeffrey Stakes winner who hounded Balooga Bull and jockey Paul Nolan throughout in the Gold Cup, and then dug in gamely to save the place as Balooga Bull left him tied to the eighth pole and ran off to win by an astonishing 12 lengths. The pace wasn’t slow either. The Bull cracked off fractions of 22.69, 47.40, 1:12 and 1:38.80 before galloping away. How good is he? Difficult to say, but he’s better than anything we’ve seen around here for a long, long time. And if he’ll come from off the pace, he’s even better than that.

You have to give trainer Ardell Sayler a lot of credit for what this horse has done. Sayler never trains his horses hard, and he likely hasn’t found the bottom of this fine steed yet. Most trainers are tempted to work a good horse too fast before the horse is ready for it. They’re like a kid in a candy store with a pocketful. But Sayler was patient, and now look what he’s accomplished.

Balooga Bull has lost only once, probably more as a result of being confused than anything else, in his first try at a route two months ago. Rider Paul Nolan said it was his fault Balooga Bull lost the Harry Jeffrey Stakes. It was nobody’s fault. Balooga Bull was still learning his lessons at that point. A Manitoba Derby and Gold Cup win later, he’s passed all his local tests. In fact, he’s skipped a few grades.

The 3-year-old gelding by Flashy Bull-Proud Crusader by Crusader Sword now sports a career record of 9-0-1 in 10 starts, all at Assiniboia Downs, for earnings of $188,508. Owner Brandt could have sold him for twice that much already, but intimated that wouldn’t be much fun, now would it. Nope.

So what’s next for Balooga Bull besides collecting the local Horse of the Year trophy? We’re not sure, but he’s certainly ready for a much more serious class test.

“He’ll tell us what he wants to do,” said Sayler.

That approach has worked well so far.

In other championship stakes action Portales broke through the stakes barrier with a narrow win in the $50,000 Winnipeg Futurity; Danger Rules showed why it’s good to own a Manitoba-bred when he won the $50,000 J. W. Sifton Stakes; and Miss Victoriana outclassed nine rivals to win her third straight $50,000 Matron.

In a case of “Great moments are born of great opportunity,” Portales picked her toughest assignment to date to come up with the finest performance of her career in the 83rd running of the Winnipeg Futurity on Saturday night. Ridden by Rohan Singh for trainer Charlie Smith, Portales was forced to run down lone speed Hastings Park shipper Tigger Town, who opened up early, set fast fractions of 22.60, 46 flat and 59.60 and almost forgot to stop. Actually, he didn’t stop, Portales just ran him down in 1:13.80. The official margin of victory was a nose. It was less than that.

Picked out of a yearling sale by owner Terry Propps and purchased for just $3,000, the 2-year-old daughter of Sharp Humor-Justasprinkle by Gelded Time has now earned $69,563 from a record of 3-2-1 in six starts. The Winnipeg Futurity was her first stakes win after runner-up finishes in both the Graduation and Debutante Stakes.

Co-owner Barry Arnason couldn’t have been any more gushing in his praise of Manitoba-breds after his Danger Rules won the $50,000 J. W. Sifton Stakes on Friday night, and deservedly so. The $10,453 Manitoba Yearling Sale purchase owned by the partnership of Arnason, Daley, Sundsbak, and Ziprick earned another $30,600 for his wire-to-wire 4 ½-length romp in the Sifton. Trained by Chad Torevell and bred by Arnason Farms and Cam Ziprick, the 3-year-old colt by Going Commando-Danger Pay by Circulating finished the 1 1/8-miles in 1:56.40 under jockey Tyrone Nelson, and was never pressured en route to breaking the $100,000 mark in career earnings. Like Arnason said, if you can get your hands on a good Manitoba-bred, they’re worth the money.

Not only did Northlands Park shipper Miss Victoriana outclass her field in the $50,000 Matron on Friday night, she was probably the only horse in the race that wanted to run the 1 1/8-miles. Conditioned by veteran Ron Smith for Modeste Racing Stable and ridden by Fernando Perez, Miss Victoriana won her third Matron in a row here under confident, patient handling by Perez. Trailing the field to the final turn, she sliced between horses, challenged leader Ruby’s Big Band into the stretch and drew away to win with something left by 6 ½-lengths. The 6-year-old mare by Explicit-Barb’s Intent by Regal Intention stopped the timer in 1:55.40 and increased he lifetime earnings to $217,486 from a record of 6-4-8 in 25 starts.

While Miss Victoriana was clearly best in the Matron, it should also be noted that Ruby’s Big Band ran a valiant race under jockey Trevor Simpson, pressing solid fractions and turning back three different horses in the drive to save the place.

The fierce battle for the leading rider title continues on Wednesday with Rohan Singh holding a slim 70-69 lead over Paul Nolan and Jennifer Reid only two wins back at 68. This race should go right down to the final day. On the trainer side, Shelley Brown holds what looks like an insurmountable lead of 45-37 over 10-time leading trainer Ardell Sayler heading into Wednesday’s card. If the talented young Brown can hold on, it will be her first ever training title, and we think the first ever by a female trainer at Assiniboia Downs. A rare runner-up finish by Sayler isn’t likely to bother him too much this time.

Balooga Bull already made sure of that.

Next Post Time for Live Racing: 7 p.m. Wednesday, September 19, 2012