by Garnet Barnsdale
Friday night at Fraser Downs, 16-year-old pacing stallion Prime Time Bliss won a pari-mutuel race and accomplished something that could only be done in British Columbia — and it didn’t come a moment too soon.
“We had a deal in place to send him to Wisconsin on Monday where the Amish are going to stand him to breed driving horses,” said trainer Terry Burstyk.
Terry Burstyk recounted the excitement he and his wife felt watching the race from the paddock office. “We’ve grown very attached to this horse over the years,” he said. “He’s won like 20 races for us. So when he was moving up at the 3/4 pole, my wife and I started driving him and all the people outside that were watching on the TVs were cheering for him, too!”
In rein to Jim Marino and with added encouragement from his connections, the unaltered son of pacing Triple Crown winner Blissfull Hall, out of the Direct Scooter mare Armbro Knots, got up to win the $4,000 claimer to record his 61st win in 343 starts in a career that has seen him claimed 10 times. Horses are currently required to be retired on their 15th birthday everywhere but B.C., where they can race to the end of their 15-year-old season.
Initially sold at Harrisburg for $36,000 way back in 2003, Prime Time Bliss was last claimed on Sept. 1, 2013 by Burstyk. The veteran warrior has earned his $336,360 the hard way, never having earned more than $15,000 in any start. That payday was earned in the 2006 final of The Mr Vancouver is which Prime Time Bliss parlayed a perfect two-hole trip into a 1:55 2/5 score for the late Bill Davis.
I asked the 25,940-member Facebook group Harness Racing History if a 16-year-old horse had previously won a pari-mutuel start. Dein Spriggs said Frost Affair won a race a $5,000 claimer at age 16 in April or 2003. He also mentioned that Tarport Mark won 12 races at age 15 at Pompano Park, which brought back memories of Miami Beach winning 16 races in a row for Bill Megens in his 14-year-old campaign. Racehorses are permitted to race past 15 in the U.S., but only in amateur events.
But Friday night belonged to Prime Time Bliss, the gallant warrior who stamped himself as a harness racing rarity with a 1:59.4 score. Burstyk said he bought a mare that he is sending with the stallion to Wisconsin to breed and he’s happy with the way things have unfolded. “I spoke to the guy and he’s quite happy to be getting him,” he said. “I’m really glad things have worked out for him.”