Happy New Year 2020 to our readers! Another year of great racing has passed, great memories, some history repeating itself, and sadly saying good bye to some long standing members of our racing community. Northside resumes racing for 2020 on May 9th with 30 race dates scheduled through November 14th. Here is a look back at 2019.
Fastest at Northside on Opening Day
Ryan Campbell sent Southwind Ricardo to the front from the word go and the six year old gelding led all the way to win in 2:04.1 over a sloppy track rated off three seconds for the fastest mile of the afternoons six dash card in North Sydney. Last years co Horse of the Year winner, owned by Joel and Harold LeBlanc, Willie Seymour and Bernie Gillis, held off newcomer Blue Line and Randy Getto to prevail by a half length, with Burn Em Up Burr third, beaten two lengths. Keep A Secret and Dreamfair Van Dam rounded out the field of five.
Waterside Lucky won the opening race of 2019 for Carey Romeo, her 66th lifetime in 2:08.1 for owners Joseph, Bernie and Ian MacNeil.
to Hall of Fame
Horse owner, trainer and former driver and race official Doug Sonny Rankin was inducted into the Cape Breton Sports Hall of Fame on June 1st along with four other inductees from various sports. Sonny was born into the sport and has excelled in all facets of the game, racking up over 2554 lifetime wins as a driver and $1 million in purse earnings, in a career cut short due to injury in 1991 at just 46. After switching from the judges stand back to training colts and fillies, Sonny has much enjoyed success with Maritime stakes and Breeders crown champion Carol Alice, Three Pink Bows, and Nameisonthehalter to name a few. His induction is well deserved.
Brother John Upset Winner
Brother John rewarded long shot players winning wire to wire in 1:58.4 to highlight a seven dash card of harness racing on May 26th. The nine year old gelding, driven by John Willie Beaton for owners Randy and Bradley Getto, Susan Macsween and Wayne Hardy, led all the way and returned $25.90 to win.
Locals Ousted in NA Cup Eliminations
Century Farroh and Bronx Seelster gave it their best shot but came up short in their bid to make the North American Cup final following eliminations held on June 8th at Mohawk. Century Farroh had no luck in the post position draw, hampered with the outside post 9 in the first elimination for the Ratchford stable and trainer Ian Moore. Despite pacing a final quarter in 26 flat, Century Farroh settled for 7th, beaten just four lengths and charted in 1:50.2. Bronx Seelster, meanwhile, had a better starting post, but ended up with a horrible traffic trip, that saw him shuffled to last and behind a ton of cover throughout the mile. Despite charting in 1:50.1, with a 26.1 final quarter, Bronx Seelster finished 8th, beaten 6 lengths.
Callie Rankin Passes
Callie Rankin, who has been an institution in the southern Ontario industry for decades, steered his horses to 3,700 wins over the course of his career passed away. Horses that he drove earned over $9 million in career purses. Rankin, of Dundas, Ont., who grew up in Cape Breton, also carved out a tremendous career on the training side of things, as he sent 8,856 starters to post and recorded 2,054 wins. Overall, his starters hit the board 4,388 times. His career UDR settled at a lofty .350, while starters from his stable raced to $6.79-million in purses.
Lambert Todd Days Pace
Lambert Todd may not be a name many readers may know, but that does not mean that he did not leave his mark on the sport of harness racing. Believed to be possibly the first ever community owned race horse in North America, the community of Reserve Mines in Cape Breton continues to honour the legendary horse through the Lambert Todd Days festival for the equine who broke 14 track records, won 138 heats from 312 starts and earned almost $10,000 lifetime, racing primarily in the 1920s. In a time when syndicates and group ownerships have become the new wave, almost 100 years earlier, Reserve Mines proved to be way ahead of its time.
In the Lambert Todd Days Pace on June 29th, six year old Accelerator waited until late in the mile to make his move, and when he did, he drove away from a field of six to win by six lengths in 1:59.3 . Redmond Doucet drove the six year old to his third win of the season and sixteenth lifetime for owner Robert Blanchard of Sydney. Early leader Brother John finished second with Wildcat Jet third.
Dreamfair Van Dam
Defies All Odds
You would think a horse with 13 wins over the last two years could not be the longest shot on the board, but think again, as fourteen year old Dreamfair Van Dam, in his final season of racing, rallied from last at the half to win in 2:00.2 to take the Winners Over in a field of 6 on July 6th. Gerard Kennedy used a three wide move past the three quarters on the Heather Hawkins trainee to put himself in position to sprint through the stretch for the two and half length victory over Wildcat Jet and Brother John.
Wildcat Jet, Nikes Cowgirl
Win Ferguson Eliminations at Northside Downs
While it may not have the speed of a Maritime Invitational final, the J.A. Ferguson Memorial Pace, an annual tradition, shapes up to be a highly competitive final after a pair of eliminations were held. Eight pacers have advanced to the final after Wildcat Jet and Nikes Cowgirl both won their respective elimination divisions on July 19th. Wildcat Jet paced the fastest mile of the day, in winning the first division in 1:57.3 for owner Brian O’Donnell and driver Mark Pezzarello. Elm Grove Ladyluck, who led from the word go for Ryan Campbell, finished second, followed by Accelerator, and Inverness invader Makes Me Stupid, who closed well to be fourth and also advanced to the final. It was the third win on the season from eleven starts for Wildcat Jet.
In the 2nd elimination Nikes Cowgirl rallied from 5th at the half to win her division in 1:58.4, winning by a quarter length over Dreamfair Van Dam, with Eastview Dexter and Brother John both also making the final. Nikes Cowgirl is owned by Jimmy Struthers and was driven by Jamie Struthers, and lit up the tote board, paying $36.90 to win.
John Coleman and Sandy Dowie
Since our last edition we were saddened to learn of the passing of two local horsepeople, John Coleman and Sandy Dowie. I have been fortunate to work with Johns son Teddy, longtime high school hockey coach at Memorial High School, and with Sandy’s brother Danny, who has been a judge at Northside and Inverness for many years. To their families and many friends, we extend our condolences.
John Coleman was passionate about horses and harness racing. He was a trainer before becoming Presiding Judge at Tartan Downs, Northside Downs and Inverness Raceway for over 25 years. John was very proud of his induction into the Cape Breton Sports Hall of Fame, The Cape Breton Horsemen Hall of Fame and, most recently, the Northside Sports Hall of Fame. He was a prominent hockey coach and referee as well and was a mentor to may hockey players and officials on the Northside.
Sandy was a well known businessman for the past 30 years. His love for sports included the Toronto Maple Leafs and was an owner of Standardbred horses for 35 years. Particularly Sandy enjoyed playing the claiming game and had a really good filly at one time in Firefly Undersky. Growing up he was a skilled hockey and baseball player which he continued into adulthood. He coached his sons and many of the area’s youth in hockey and baseball for several years, something he took great pride in.
Nikes Cowgirl Wins Classic Ferguson Final at Northside
In thirteen years of announcing, this race was far from the fastest I called, but by far one of the most exciting eight horse, 1:58.3 races you will find anywhere. The J.A. Ferguson series final really had no clear cut favourite, was as close on paper as any eight horse field I can remember, and the finish proved it. From last at the quarter to first at the wire, Nikes Cowgirl literally circled the field to win the annual J.A. Ferguson Memorial Pace Saturday in 1:58.3 in North Sydney. The six year old mare, owned by Jimmy Struthers of Port Morien and driven by Jamie Struthers, was forced to move five wide all the way around the final turn, as all eight entries in the final were separated by less then two lengths as the field entered a furious stretch drive. Half way through the stretch they fanned out six wide on our six wide track, with two horses on the backs of the horses on the inside. It reminded me of the classic Gold Cup and Saucer win by Pownal Bay Matt, with everyone in contention in the stretch drive and horses coming from everywhere.
Fans wagered $13957.00 on the nine race program.
Wins Nova Scotia Stake
Woodmere Rollnpop has now won three of four lifetime starts, as the two year old gelding defeated seven other pacers in winning the $9202 stake race for two year old pacing colts on the August 3rd card, the last one before a three week break for the annual Cape Breton Farmers Exhibition. Clare Macdonald drove Woodmere Rollnpop to a six and a half length victory for owners Morah Kerr and Phonsie MacEachern, with Harry G second, and locally owned Howmac Napoleon third. Eastview Dexter paced the fastest mile of the afternoon, winning in 1:58.1 for owner Brian O’Donnell and driver Myles Heffernan.
Cape Breton 1-2 in OSS Gold
How about the performances of Century Farroh and Bronx Seelster, who finished 1-2 in the $158,000 OSS gold event for three year old pacing colts on Friday August 2nd at Woodbine Mohawk. Century Farroh won by a neck in 1:49.4 for the Ratchford stable, with Bronx Seelster out a long way for a game second, for the Capers 3 Stable, both finishing ahead of Meadowlands Pace winner Best In Show.
Back to Back for Blacky Black at Northside Downs
Blacky Black used the rail to his advantage, going to the lead from the word go and wiring a field of six in 1:58.2 to on the September 14th card. Owner and driver Barry Bates guided the five year old gelding to his fourth win in his last five starts, holding off Pictonian Fancypas in the stretch to win by 2 lengths, with Accelerator rallying up the inside to finish third. Blacky Black has shown some terrific gait speed since arriving in Cape Breton, has drawn well and has shown he is tough to haul down when he sets up shop on the front end.
ASS Colts Postponed
Hurricane Dorian wrecked havoc on the Atlantic Sire stakes three year old colts date at Northside, which was first postponed and moved to Inverness, and then eventually cancelled altogether due to prolonged power outages. It was too bad that we did not get to host the best three year old colts, after two previous excellent Saturdays of stakes races at Northside, but if there is one safe thing to bet on, it is mother nature, who does not get beat when she puts the hammer down.
PEI Colt Stakes
At Charlottetown a pair of Cape Breton owned pacers were victorious in divisions of the PEI Colt stakes. Elm Grove Ocean won her filly division for the Done for the Day Stable of New Waterford in 2:00.1, with Walter Cheverie driving for trainer Angus Gillis, while The Big Chase captured a two year old colt division for the JTL Risk Stable of Glace Bay for driver Adam Merner in a new record of 1:57.2.
Blacky Black Rolls
On at Northside Downs
Blacky Black has been getting a lot of ink lately, and why not. He reeled off his third win in a row on Thanksgiving Monday, winning wire to wire again in 1:59.1 to defeat a field of seven in the afternoon Winners Over. Newcomer Spider Man Hanover could not capitalize off a two hole trip and finished second. Dusty Lane Royal was placed third after Southwind Ricardo was set back for interference. Barry Bates has struck gold so far with the five year old gelding by The Panderosa, winning seven of nine starts at the Regent St oval.
Local Breeders Crown Winners
Tequila Tuesday prevailed in the two year old Atlantic Breeders Crown trot for owner Jackie Heffernan and driver Myles Heffernan, fending off a late challenge from Mabou Ridge. These two trotters have dominated the division all year with Tequila Tuesday getting the best of Mabou Ridge in the last two starts, with both closing in on $40,000 on the season. Elm Grove Ocean captured the consolation for two year old fillies on the Saturday afternoon card, with Walter Cheverie driving the filly to a 2:02.2 win for the Done For The Day Stable and trainer Angus Gillis. Elm Grove Ocean has won five of eleven starts, with earnings of almost $17,000 in a solid first season at the races.
Governors Cup Series
The annual Governors Cup Series will kicked off on October 26th, with two legs and then a final scheduled for November 9th with a guaranteed $5,000 purse. Both Southwind Ricardo and Blacky Black would each sweep their respective legs and were on a collision course in the eight horse field final.
Just like in 2018, however, Southwind Ricardo continued his dominance in the series, blowing out his competition in the final to win for driver Brett LeBlanc. Forced to race on the outside for the first three quarters of the mile by early leader Pictonian Fancypas, when Southwind Ricardo finally made the lead for driver Brett LeBlanc, he pulled away from the field of eight to win his third in a row and ninth on the season for winning owners Joel and Harold LeBlanc, Willie Seymour and Bernie Gillis. Pictonian Fancypas would hold on for second, with Wildcat Jet, who sat third for the entire mile, grabbing the show spot. Makes Me Stupid rounded out the top half of the eight horse final field.
That is a wrap of the 2019 season. Best wishes for a happy, prosperous 2020 to our readers. Until our next edition we extend good luck, good racing and good handicapping.