Rycroft poised for big day in Alberta-bred showcase
Fall Classic Day will be held for the first time Sunday at Century Downs, where seven $50,000 stakes for horses foaled in Alberta will make up the bulk of a 10-race card that begins at 1:15 p.m. Mountain.
Adding to one of Alberta’s biggest days of racing is a pick four that includes the Grade 1 Natalma and Grade 1 Summer stakes at Woodbine. The first leg at Woodbine is the $250,000 Natalma (race 7), in which contention runs deep in the one-mile turf race for 2-yearold fillies. The Chad Browntrained Fog of War likely will be favored in the Summer for 2-year-olds. The one-mile turf race worth $250,000 goes as race 9.
The two races at Century Downs are the Sturgeon for 2-year-old fillies in race 8 and the Alberta Oaks for 3-year-old fillies in race 9.
Horses trained by Tim Rycroft will play prominent roles in both races at Century Downs, and the leading trainer figures to have a big day with likely favorites in four of the seven stakes.
Only One Kiss is the one to beat in the 6 1/2-furlong Sturgeon, which drew nine horses. She easily won her debut and then finished third to her stablemate Smarty River Pants in the $57,000 Princess Margaret Stakes on July 28. A son of Afleet Alex, Smarty River Pants will be 1-10 or thereabouts when he runs in the Alberta Premier’s Futurity for 2-year-olds in the first race.
Rycroft thinks Foolish Blue Moon, who came from a stalking position to beat the Greg Tracy-trained Can’t Touch This in a maiden special weight race at Century Downs on Sept. 2, could give her stablemate all she can handle.
“I liked the way Foolish Blue Moon went after and caught Greg’s horse,” Rycroft said.
Can’t Touch This is in the field and should improve in just her third start.
Only One Kiss will be making her first start since the Princess Margaret, but over the past couple of years, Rycroft has won with 43 percent of his horses who were coming back in 31 to 60 days.
I Miss Back When will appreciate not having to face Raider when she runs in the 1 1/16mile Alberta Oaks. Raider won all the stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Northlands Park this year, and in her last two starts, I Miss Back When finished second in the $50,000 Northlands Park Oaks on July 13 and third in the $60,000 Sonoma on Aug. 4.
The main threat is the Red Smith-trained Madam Bullet, who improved dramatically when she ran on Lasix for the first time and beat older fillies and mares in a first-level allowance race at Northlands on Aug. 17.
Here is a look at the other stakes.
◗ Race 1: Smarty River Pants is as close to a cinch as you are going to find in the Futurity. He has not been tested in any of his three wins, and his lowest Beyer Speed Figure, a 62, is 20 points higher than the career best of his five opponents.
◗ Race 2: Shimshine and Regal Max are the main players in the Beaufort Stakes for 3-year-olds going 1 1/16 miles. Shimshine, trained by Elige Bourne, made a strong move but flattened out to finish third in the Grade 3, $200,000 Canadian Derby on Aug. 25.
Regal Max beat Shimshine in the $58,000 Alberta Derby at Grande Prairie prior to finishing eighth after pressing the pace in the 1 3/8-mile Canadian Derby. He is trained by Rick Hedge, who going into the weekend had won with half of his eight starts at the meet.
◗ Race 3: Zippity Zap looks like a standout in the Alberta Breeders’ Handicap for 3-year-olds and up that drew five horses. Trained by Craig Smith, he is coming off a runner-up finish in a $25,000 optional-claiming race with nonwinners-of-three allowance conditions on Aug. 10, and he is facing mostly mid-level claimers. He was the runner-up to For Cash in the Breeders’ last year. For Cash is a multiple stakes winner with $582,959 in earnings.
◗ Race 4: Mister Jangles is going for the hat trick in the Red Diamond Express, which drew six older horses going 6 1/2 furlongs. The Rycrofttrained 5-year-old son of Ice Box won the race last year and is coming off a win going the same distance over open company in the $56,000 Timely Ruckus at Northlands on Aug. 25.
◗ Race 6: The Fall Classic Distaff Handicap should go to Parcam Cowgirl, but the Dale Saunders-trained 4-year-old is coming off a last-place finish in the $75,000 Edmonton Distaff Handicap at Northlands on Aug. 25, and she didn’t fire in her only start at Century Downs in the $49,000 CTHS Sales Stakes last year. If she runs her usual race, she will be tough to beat though.