Last issue’s question: Name the Maritime-bred three-year-old that was on his way to the fastest mile by a Maritime-bred (and a track record) when he jumped it off in the stretch at Sackville Downs in the late 1970s?
Answer: AARON’S BLAZER
At the 1977 Standardbred Sale of the East in Truro there were 101 yearlings on offer bringing an average of $1218. When the sale began, Ralph Mailman of Enfield, NS was in the hospital and sent his son Danny, cheque in hand, to the sale to purchase a colt. Mailman had had some horses in the past with top trainers Dave Pinkney and Doug Walsh but with little success. Ralph checked himself out of the hospital and arrived at the sale where he picked out a striking chestnut colt from Greg Collins’ consignment. When the auctioneer’s gavel fell, he took ownership of Aaron’s Blazer for $1000. It may look like a complete bargain basement price today but at that sale 53 yearlings failed to attract a bid that large.
Aaron’s Adios was a son of Adios Elmer out of the Rhythm Time mare, Brendas Honey Time. Adios Elmer’s claim to fame was as the sire of top race mare Adios June, who raced the local free-for-all circuit for Bobby Stevenson. His dam was a ½ sister to Aaron’s Adios, the 1975 Atlantic Sires Stake champion three-year-old pacer. Adios Elmer was not in vogue as a local stallion by the late 1970s with Tarport Ervin and other newer stallions emerging on the scene. The sale topper at that sale was a son of Jim Shive’s stallion that took a $5400 winning bid from Harry. There was no line up of trainers awaiting Mailman to handle the brilliant chestnut colt with two white stockings behind and a tail that touched the ground. A young Danny Romo, then just starting out on his own at Sackville Downs with but two horses for his father-in-law Doug Ratchford, was entrusted with training the Mailman purchase. It didn’t take long for the colt to show his promise. Dan Mailman remembers the first day on the track ground breaking him, “Romo and Mike Snow had lead lines and I had the reins. We had to stop to let the hand holds out because he was pacing back so far he was hitting my shins.”
On the racetrack, Aaron’s Blazer debuted in June of 1978 with two winning qualifiers sandwiched around his first pari-mutuel start, where he made several breaks and ended up distanced, an inauspicious beginning. He behaved in his next start, finishing fourth in a Maiden class before taking his maiden with a 2:13.1 win on a sloppy track on July 1st. An impressive 2:09.2 win the following week with veteran Dave Pinkney catch-driving convinced his connections that he was stake ready. On July 19th at Exhibition Park Raceway, Aarons Blazer gave a young Danny Romo the first of his many Atlantic Sires Stakes victories, winning a $2454 AtSS race in 2:09.1 from post position 10. Dave Pinkney was back at the reins for the next stake in Truro where the colt had to settle for a second place finish behind B J Dancer after making a break. Romo and Aaron’s Blazer made a statement in the next stake setting a new AtSS record with a ten length romp in 2:05.2 at Sackville Downs. He continued to show top form taking the Sydney stake on August 31st in a 2:06.3 track record performance before winning at Charlottetown in 2:09. He would finish his freshman season taking place honors behind Shadow Key at Fredericton on 2:09.2 over a good track. At season’s end, Aaron’s Blazer was honored as the AtSS champion freshman colt pacer and took top two-year-old colt honors as well at the Halifax County Horse Owners Association awards banquet. The colt won 8 of 13 starts with $6219 in earnings and a Maritime record for locally bred two-year-olds.
After turning some heads in the local Maritime circles in 1978, in his sophomore season Aaron’s Blazer and his young trainer/driver would provide many early headlines for the fledgling Atlantic Post Calls. Aarons’ Blazer returned to racing action in April of 1979, winning his first three races against good conditioned pacers at Sackville Downs. After a 2:08.1 romp on May 5th he returned the following Saturday against the invitational class and shocked race fans with a 2:02.2 score by four lengths over Jacques Roy’s Beigne Au Meile. By mid-May the smallish chestnut pacer with the big, easy stride had established a new standard for Maritime-bred three-year-olds, lowering the record set by gelding Hungry Ego of 2:02.3 in 1976 and smashing the colt record of 2:03.4 shared by Shawfield Bras D’or and Crafty Larry. A week later he prevailed in an early closer with a mile in 2:04.2, last half in :59/3, fastest in Sackville Downs history to that time. He certainly drew lots of attention with those two performances! Sackville Downs then programmed a $4000 invitational the following week and invited Mike Doyle and his stalwart Free-for-aller Power Baron in an event billed as “the superstar against the wonder colt” in an Atlantic Post Calls headline. There was talk of a new track record and the standing offer of a $1000 bonus to any driver that could break the 2:00 barrier. Aarons Blazer went off as the betting favorite on that day and sat the four hole behind Mike Worthen and Beigne Au Miel through quick early fractions of :29.3 and 1:00.2. Romo made his move up the backstretch and Aarons Blazer made an exhilarating brush to the front past the three-quarters in 1:31. As they entered the stretch, Aaron’s Blazer opened up a five-length advantage over Kaweco in the two hole. Track announcer Scotty Kane bellowed that they were going track record speed, prompting Romo to tap Aaron’s Blazer to keep him pacing through the finish, but 100 yards from the wire the colt reacted by going off-stride and almost falling down. Henry Smallwood guided Ron MacLellan’s Kaweco past to victory in a track record time of 2:01.2. Today, almost 40 years later, Danny Romo still remembers that race well, “I was young and I liked the whip, perhaps too much. I heard Scotty say we had a shot at the record and I touched him and he didn’t react very well. He did hang on for second place money over Power Baron. There were a lot of long faces in the barn after that race.” Four days later, the chestnut would take the first AtSS stakes test at his home track, grabbing the lion’s share of the $3770 purse over nine rivals with a 2:04.1 mile – just 2/5 off the AtSS record. A week later he would repeat in AtSS action at EPR cruising to a 2:06.2 victory over Kilkerran Brewer, last half in 1:01.2. With no more stakes action in June, Aaron’s Blazer was entered in overnight action at Sackville. By this time there were reports of numerous suitors looking to purchase the impressive colt. Mailman had reportedly turned down an offer of $45,000 for his prize colt. He was upset by Squire Thomas in a leg of the Port City Classic, getting parked all the way in the 2:03.1 mile. By the time his next race was reported in the APC, Aaron’s Blazer had been sold to Courtney Foos Jr of Pennsylvania for a record price, rumored to be in excess of $80,000 Canadian. He would win the $3860 final leg of the Port City Classic at Sackville on June 27th handily in 2:05.1 and then was shipped to Yonkers Raceway. The colt did race well at the New York half-milers, finishing third in his first race there in 2:01.2 and showing a charted mile in 2:00.4 shortly after and consistently getting money. Aarons Blazer was involved in an accident there that may have prevented him from achieving his full potential. He did take a life’s record of 2:01.2 in October of that Year at Roosevelt Raceway for owner/driver Foos Jr.
Aaron’s Blazer banked $36,205 that year, a record for Maritime-breds at the time. He would race three more years, retiring in 1982 with $53,575 in lifetime winnings. For those who saw him in action, Aaron’s Blazer was an exciting prodigy at a time that Maritime-bred breeding was making fast strides. Ralph Mailman and Danny Romo would share more success with horses like Josedale Butler, Aaron’s Danny Boy, a ½ brother to Blazer, and the stake-winning trotter Pack Truce. Romo would go on to become one of the winningest drivers and most successful trainers in Maritime history. Tragically for breeder Greg Collins, his dam Brenda’s Honey Time died in foal during Blazer’s three-year-old campaign.
This issue’s question:
Name the last three-year-old to start in the Gold Cup and Saucer?
(HINT: it happened in the 1980s and this horse won a Gold Cup Trial)
Answer in next issue of Atlantic Post Calls
Jerry can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org