The fifth annual edition of Xtreme Horsepower took place at Georgian Downs on Saturday evening featuring adrenaline charged Xtreme harness races and a plethora of entertainment off track
Seven-year-old Camotion mare Rain Activator ($16.90) and driver Anthony MacDonald kicked off the Xtreme action winning the $20,000 Xtreme Rush 3/8-mile pace in :38.3 over a pesky Daylon Blizzard (Billy Davis Jr.) and quick-closing Foolish Justice (J.R. Plante). The former Xtreme Sprint competitor is trained by George Atkinson for owner Adam Kaminski, Drayton, Ont.
“We didn’t spend too much time [studying] the page really," said MacDonald. "It was just put her on the gate and let her go as fast as she could and she hung on. Billy had me around the last turn and she fought back and beat him.
"You’re going all you can go,” he said of the mare's :25 second opening quarter. "It’s pretty cool, but I don’t think she was going to keep it up for much longer.”
Following the first race, Jimmy Shin and rider Marielle Enberg
led from start to finish in the first ever $4,500 Xtreme Trot Under Saddle exhibition race in 1:59.2 over Friendly Amigo (Riina Rekila) and Its On My Tab (Anita Valstad).
“Most of us girls that were riding tonight have been riding before. Most of us are from Europe,” said Enberg, a Swedish native who works for Luc Ouellette and Chris Beaver. “The horse is stabled at their farm so I rode him once before to prepare.”
The new Xtreme event, which is a popular form of racing in Europe, was organized by Emma Burgess, the daughter of trainer Blair Burgess, with the help of Kathy Wade Vlaar, Manager of Industry Marketing at Standardbred Canada, and Jackie Warner, Manager of Marketing & Public Relations at Georgian Downs.
“We were training our horses under saddle. Some of them go out everyday and just enjoy it a lot better than going out in the jog cart so we said why don’t we try to set up something. My mom’s from Sweden so we’re obviously very familiar with the concept," said Emma Burgess. "We just wanted to see if we could get it going and we thought Xtreme Horsepower was a great place to get it going. We just wanted to put together something for the fans to see how versatile standardbreds are and what’s popular everywhere else, and maybe even in the bigger picture open up a second career for some standardbreds who aren’t good at the sulky racing or are older. I know they bet on it in Europe so it could become quite popular here.”
Rose Run Hooligan ($2.40) and driver Simon Allard got off to a great walking start from Post 6 in the $30,000 Xtreme Shotgun trotting event and wired his foes, winning the 1-1/4 mile event in 2:29.4. King Trut (Anthony MacDonald) finished over six lengths behind in second and Meadowview Matty (Doug Brown) was third. Trainer Rene Allard shares ownership of the eight-year-old Corleone son with Anne O'Keefe of Ferryland, Nfld. and Ferme Bureau Et Fils Senc of Saint-Leonard, Que.
"He’s a natural, very good trotter. He’s never put in a bad step," said Allard in the winner's circle. "I tried him today. I slowed him right down and got him going fast and he just went. Some other horses need to take their time a little more because they’re rough gaited, but he’s just trots so easy that he left very easy."
Playing by the rules this time out, Sulky Sam defended his title in the Xtreme Mascot Race as he blasted around the pylons and sprinted to victory over his plush equine foes.
Big Bay Point ($5.70) and driver Josh Marks won a three-wide tussle during the first quarter and opened up an insurmountable lead en route to a 2:23.2 victory, equalling the Canadian record, in the $30,000 Xtreme Rewind 1-1/4 mile pace contested clockwise. Lyons Horace (Mike Whelan) narrowed the winner's margin to three lengths and Secrets Weapon (Scott Young) finished third. David Menary trains the four-year-old Camluck gelding for Pennsylvania owners Burke Racing Stable LLC and Weaver Bruscemi LLC.
"I was definitely pretty concerned,” said Marks of being stretched out for a quarter of a mile in an extended 1-1/4 mile race. “But Dave said the horse would be really good today and just keep going as fast as you can go. I was pretty glad the stretch was short [coming that way around the track]. I was just told when the gate opens go as fast as you can go. I like those instructions.”
The small but mighty Ike fanned wide around the final turn to come on for the victory in the Miniature Horse Race for driver Laurel Williams. Donny Boy Quick overtook reigning champion Jersey Boy down the backstretch but he was collared by Mullingan down the lane with Ike motoring home on the far grandstand side to steal the glory. At 16 years old, Ike was the oldest mini in the 5/8-mile race.
Salute ($53.60) and driver Stephane Gendron overcame the outside, trailing tier Post 18 to win the $30,000 Xtreme Challenge 1-5/8 mile pace in 3:13.1 for trainer Joe Pereira and owner Marc Lemay of Quebec, Que. The six-year-old gelded son of Western Ideal was parked three-wide in the early going but advanced to the lead as the field raced to the half-mile marker. Eagle Artesian (Dan Clements) took over command down backstretch during the final lap, but the pocket-pulling Salute wore him down in the homestretch for the upset victory by two and a half lengths. Blazing Sakra (Stephen Byron) was third.
“I was a little bit concerned when he was parked three-wide for quite a ways, but he’s tough,” commented Periera following the win. “He’s a horse that comes from off the pace and I thought he’d do well in a mile and five-eighths race. I was concerned when I saw we got Post 18 -- you’re right next to the highway there -- but he overcame the post.”
Driver Simon Allard doubled up on the card with an open length victory aboard Logans Hero ($4.30) in the $30,000 Xtreme Rewind 1-1/4 mile trot contested clockwise around the track. The six-year-old son of Angus Hall, owned by Keith Cassell of Smiths Falls, Ont., advanced first over from third and overtook double millionaire Abbey Road C (Keith Jones) as the field moved into the backstretch for the first time. The Richard Moreau trainee then opened up daylight on the field to score the 19 and three-quarter length victory in a 2:27 Canadian record over Southwind Cruiser (Shane Weber) and Striking Lindsey (Dan Clements).
The 2009 and 2010 Xtreme Sprint champion Awesum Best ($12) was just that in this year's Xtreme Dash For The Cash 1/8-mile invitational pace, edging out Most Happy Keene (Simon Allard) in the win photo to take the entire $50,000 purse all for himself. Ultra Jimmy (Dan Clements) was third. Picking up his second win of the night, Anthony MacDonald drove the six-year-old Cammibest mare to victory for trainer John Curran and owner Kenneth Curran of Coldwater, Ont. The winning time was :11.2 seconds.
"I was positive I was second," admitted MacDonald. "It's hard to tell from out there. I looked down and I thought I had them beat easy halfway down the stretch and I looked over and I saw Simon's horse bolting to the finish. I thought I was beat. It's pretty cool.
"I've driven all of the horses except for two of them in there," continued MacDonald. "I've driven Most Happy Keene one other time and I knew he could leave hard. But listen, it's not even how fast your horse can leave, it's what foot you get off on and I felt like I got off on the right foot. It seems silly because it's an eighth of a mile, but it feels like a big win. Everybody's pumped here and the hometown horse won it. Everybody...well all but eight are happy anyway."
Silverado Dream ($8.70) and trainer-driver Pierre Bovay went the distance to win the $30,000 Xtreme Classic 2-1/2 mile trot featuring a field of 15 horses. The six-year-old Fortuna Winner gelding, owned by Nicole Bovay Gurtner of Rigaud, Que., brushed three-wide and came on to take over the lead with one lap to go. He held off Chaplin Hall (Simon Allard) from the pocket to win in 5:13.1 while Jackpot Emotion (Frederic Maine) rounded out the top three.
“He was just awesome for the first three laps," said Bovay. "I couldn’t hold him. I banged the helmet of the guy in front of me a few times. He wasn’t crazy, but he just wanted to go more. He was just waiting until I put him outside to go.”
The Steelman ($6.90) took the first of two $10,000 Xtreme Battle 5/8-mile pacing heats to give Simon Allard the driving hat trick. The seven-year-old Blissfull Hall gelding kept Xlr Ray Shun King (Aaron Byron) parked out for most of the lap and held off the quick-closing Mach It Paid (Travis Henry) by a neck for the 1:09.2 triumph. Xlr Ray Shun King finished third with Grissini (Paul MacKenzie) fourth.
"When I saw Aaron Byron on the outside and Simon retake a little bit and make him fresh for 200 feet I said this one is done. And after the horse took control the rest of the race," commented trainer Michel Allard, who co-owns with David Gage of Brantford, Ont. "Maybe it's going to be different the next race, but we were lucky this time. It worked for us. The horse is fantastic and I like that kind of horse, it's all Blissfull Hall."
Following two recalls, Simon Allard also swept the second heat with another son of Blissfull Hall, Blissed Out ($2.80), who was a wire-to-wire winner in 1:09. Dan The Dragon (Stephen Byron) finished second with Whitesand Merlot (J.R. Plante) third and Lulus Boy (Scott Young) finishing fourth. The 10-year-old gelding is trained by Rene Allard, who also co-owns with Ferne and Jack Frydman, and Howard Dinetz, all of Thornhill, Ont.
The top four plus one fifth place finisher from the two heats will advance to the $30,000 final later on the card.
Having driven both elimination winners, Allard chose Blissed Out as his mount for the final.
"He's got so much class," he said. "I know he drew outside, that's what I heard, but it doesn't matter. I just think in that kind of race [a 5/8-mile race] it's actually almost like a real race. If you go too fast sometimes he gets a little tired at the end. I think everybody has a shot."
The Horseless Sulky Pull took place between the Battle heats with driver Scott Young reining Isaac Waxman to a slight victory in a three-horse win photo. The winner earned the right to choose a recipient charity of a $500 donation made by Georgian Downs. Young awarded the Ontario Standardbred Adoption Society (OSAS) with the donation.
“He was slow off the start, but at the end he kicked in like normal,” joked Young in the winner’s circle. “The plan was to just go as fast as you can. It’s just like the eighth of a mile sprint. Just go all you can go.”
“The horse is very out of breath,” laughed Waxman. “Usually I’m faster off the front. I can’t believe we got up, but Scotty’s just got the hands tonight.”
Dash Board Lights ($7) brought Allard back to the winner's circle with his :11 second victory in the $20,000 Xtreme Sprint 1/8-mile pace. Dutchtreat Hanover (Aaron Bryon) finished second and Best Show In Town (Denis St. Pierre) was third. The four-year-old Western Hanover gelding is trained by Rene Bourassa for the M&S Racing Stable Inc. of Rockwood, Ont.
"I was screaming at him as loud as I could," said Allard after his fifth victory on the card. "That thing was pretty scared of me and he was gone. I didn't need to whip him he was so scared of me. He was going real fast.
"It's great, I love this place [Georgian Downs]," added the Quebec native, who ventured across the border to race at the Meadowlands Racetrack for the first time this year. "Even before when I was a trainer I used to come and train racehorses here. It's always been a great place to race. The crowd is good and the people are nice. Everybody is happy. It's a nice track to drive on, everything is perfect. I love this place, it's actually my favourite track in Canada."
Unbounded River ($4.30) and driver Paul MacKenzie captured the $30,000 Xtreme Challenge 1-5/8 mile trot featuring a 17-horse field (one scratched). The nine-year-old Silver Pine gelding got away third and moved to the front as the field passed in front of the grandstand for the first time. He then gave way to Post 18 starter Northern Mistral (Dan Clements) and followed along in the two-hole before sweeping to victory in the stretch in a North American record of 3:14. Tigre Angus (Anthony MacDonald) finished second with early leader Rowdy (J.R. Plante) third and Northern Minstral fourth. The Mike Sinclair trainee is owned by Steve Organ of Aurora, Ont. and Rosemary Shelswell of Cookstown, Ont.
"He was real good. I think he could of went another lap," said MacKenzie after the victory. "He was really strong finishing. The key point was when I moved him here in front of the grandstand and away we went. He felt real good there and when Danny came I let him go. His horse looked like one of the better ones. I saw him pick his horse up the backside so I thought it was a good chance to make a move and let him trot."
MacKenzie also shared his insights on the changes in distance and field size experienced throughout the Xtreme card.
"As a driver you have to ask alot of people how many laps you go," he laughed. "No, you just try to rate your horse the best you can and from there on you just see how the race goes. You try to get situated in the right spot to make the right move [in the bigger fields] and when you're at the back it is tough."
Mach It Paid ($3.50) and driver Travis Henry closed out Xtreme Horsepower 2011 with a gate-to-wire score in $30,000 Xtreme Battle 5/8-mile pacing final, providing young reinsman Travis Henry with his biggest victory to date. With the inside post position, the seven-year-old gelding took control of the field from the word 'go' and cruised to a 1:08.3 triumph. Xlr Ray Shun King (Aaron Byron) followed in the pocket one and three-quarter lengths behind in second while elimination winner Blissed Out (Simon Allard) rallied three-wide from the backfield to show. Isaac Waxman, the Horseless Sulky Pull winner earlier in the evening, owns and trains the son of Mach Three.
For results from Saturday's harness racing card, click on the following link: Saturday Results - Georgian Downs.