by Garnet Barnsdale
For my end of the year column, I thought I would chime in on some of the events and participants that caused a buzz in 2018, but for some reason didn’t make it into one of my Buzzworthy columns.
But first, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention an appearance by ‘ole St Nick himself on the track at Cal Expo Friday night. This wasn’t just your run-of-the-mill cameo appearance. Santa Claus not only raced in a pari-mutuel dash, he wasn’t far from winning with even-money favorite Twomickeytrip in race 4. Santa and Twomickeytrip couldn’t hold off charging second choice Beckys Dreamboat down the lane. Perhaps the jolly old fellow indulged a bit too much in Christmas dinner this year. Seriously though, kudos to driver Gerald Longo and Cal-Expo management for adding a bit of excitement to the Friday night card.
If there was one racehorse that caused a year-long buzz everywhere he went in 2018, it is the great – many say greatest – 14-year-old warrior Foiled Again. As I prepared to write this column, it made sense to print off Foiled Again’s lifetime past performances for reference. As the pages kept printing and printing, (finally stopping at 11 8 1/2 x 11 pages), I realized more than ever how spectacular his career was, especially to race this long at a reasonably high level after going so many tough trips while amassing the biggest bankroll of any standardbred in history — $7.675 million.
The entire year was an appreciation tour as the great bay son of Dragon Again out of the Artsplace mare In A Safe Place made starts at 18 different tracks across North America, much to the delight of his adoring fans who came out to catch a glimpse of their harness hero and get selfies with the 109-time winner.
It was truly a grand sporting gesture by the connections and Foiled Again’s record of 11-5-3 from 27 starts and $78,540 in earnings showed that the old boy still had some go and certainly had every right to be still out there on the track strutting his stuff.
North of the border, there were several reasons to celebrate a banner season for Canadian connections, highlighted by Atlanta making history winning the Hambletonian as a filly, which is a feat rarely even attempted anymore. Three sophomore pacing colts also made their marks with Stay Hungry winning two-thirds of the pacing Triple Crown, Courtly Choice winning the Meadowlands Pace and Little Brown Jug in what was one of the best performances of the year, and Jimmy Freight sweeping the Ontario Sires Stakes, taking a division of the Somebeachsomewhere Stakes and racing successfully all over North America while earning more than $834,000 (Cdn.)
Canadian drivers Doug McNair, Louis Phillipe-Roy and Bob McClure showed they can drive with and beat the best anywhere with their exploits north and south of the border.
Harness racing moved permanently from Woodbine Racetrack to the rebranded Mohawk Park, a move which had both supporters and detractors, but so far, other than the odd bout of fog, racing at Mohawk Park has gone well and wagering has been good. There will be plenty of excitement next fall with the Breeders Crown returning to Mohawk Park.
Presenting this column has been a lot of fun for me this year and I tried to make the material informative and entertaining. I wish you and yours a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.