This month’s question: Name the two-year-old pacing colts or geldings who captured Atlantic Sire Stakes divisional championship honors while going undefeated in their freshman season?
Answer: Macmor Bart, Kilkerran Fury, Acton Stinger, Seltzer Blue and Woodmere Stealdeal
Since the beginning of the Atlantic Sires Stakes (AtSS) program in 1967, only five freshman pacing colts or geldings have recorded undefeated seasons while winning AtSS championship honors. It was fifteen years into the AtSS program before the first unblemished season happened. A modest $3400 bid bought the ownership group of Charlie MacLennan along with Earl, Dorothy and Louis Power of Charlottetown, PE a compact but rugged yearling by the name of Macmor Bart at the PEI Select Sale in September of 1981. The son of Good Time stallion Test of Time and the first foal of the Truluck mare Straddle was given to Cyril “Toby” MacDonald to develop. After a maiden victory at the Charlottetown Driving Park in 2:08/2 in early July the colt would sweep all six AtSS events he entered while setting an AtSS record of 2:02/4h at Truro. Macmor Bart and MacDonald would also capture the inaugural Don MacNeill Memorial at the CDP in 2:03, a track record for freshman colts at the time. On the season he won all nine starts while banking $11,402 in the days before the rich Rothman’s Sires Stakes for his Island connections. The colt had an abbreviated season in 1983 with just two wins in 11 starts and $4600 in earnings as division rival Gemini Risk took Maritime Horse of the Year honors after recording the first sub-2:00 mile by a Maritime-bred in the region.
Five years later and there was another phenom in the freshman pacer ranks. Kilkerran Fury was a $6000 yearling purchase from the Doug Ferguson’s consignment at the Combined Standardbred sale in Moncton, NB by Wathan Piers of Pictou. The black son of Oil Count out of Libbie Time Riggs and trainer/driver Emmons MacKay swept all 11 starts, including the first AtSS divional championship for two-year-old colts, while earning $48,932 on the season on their way to Maritime Horse of the Year honors. In 1989, Kilkerran Fury continued his dominance over his peers winning 14 of 16 starts with a record $73,626 in earnings as he defended his Horse of the Year title. Racing until age 10, the Maritime-bred star banked a Maritime-bred record $230,918 in the region over his career.
It would not take long for another undefeated freshman colt to emerge to delight Maritime race fans. In 1988 the first crop of Armbro Acton hit the racetrack and from that crop came Acton Stinger out of the mare Bayside Sting Rae by Cloud Cover and owned by 20-year-old Ronnie Maclean of Fairview, PE. Acton Stinger and trainer/driver Joe Smallwood narrowly won the $60,000 Rothman’s Final at Exhibition Park Raceway by a neck over Woodmere Jinx in 2:02/2. The event was the richest in the Maritime’s up to that time. The gelding later took a record of 2:01/2h on a cool fall evening in the PEI Colt Stakes before closing out the season with a victory in the $18,405 AtSS championship final at the Summerside Raceway. His $52,920 in earnings in only seven starts established a new earnings record for freshman colts in the region. Plagued by an injury at age three, Acton Stinger only made three starts in 1989 winning two of his appearances.
That year was dominated by another precocious freshman colt. Seltzer Blue was a homebred son of Hugh Baird’s stallion Quality Blue Chip and first foal of the Precious Fella mare Seltzer and co-owned with Hazel Scharf of Hampton, NB. Sean Shannon did the training and Steve Mahar handled the driving for the phenom who won all 13 of his starts that year. Seltzer Blue would pace the first 2:00 mile by a freshman over a half-mile track in the region when he won the J.A. Williamson Memorial in 2:00 at Fredericton Raceway. Earlier in the season he had lowered the AtSS record to 2:00/3h over the same track and set a track record of 2:01/2 over the Summerside track. His 1:57/2f mile over the 5/8’s mile oval at New Brunswick Downs in Dieppe, NB on a windy evening also setting another regional standard for freshman pacers, His $68,455 in earnings were another Maritime record for two-year-olds. At season’s end he was honored as the Maritime Horse of the Year for 1989. A repeat performance was not to be for the Maritime faithful as Seltzer Blue was sold to U.S. interests for $100,000. In 1990 he competed on the biggest stage, racing on the Grand Circuit for trainer Dr Ken Seeber. He would win a leg of the Berry Creek Series at the Meadowlands in the spring in 1:53/4m and was the morning line favorite for the Final before he was scratched sick. Seltzer Blue raced the North American Cup eliminations and later won the consolation of the Windy City Pace. He was sidelined with a career-ending injury and ended his year with over $86,000 in seasonal earnings.
After three consecutive undefeated seasons in the freshman colt ranks it would take another three decades before the feat was matched in 2020 by Woodmere Stealdeal. A $22,500 yearling purchase from the Atlantic Classic sale by Kevin A Dorey of Middle Sackville and partner Robert K Sumarah of Halifax, NS. The gelded son of ill-fated sire Steelhead Hanover out of the Western Ideal mare Very Ideal Hanover was placed in veteran trainer Danny Romo’s stable and put together an impressive debut year on the track. Woodmere Stealdeal won all 13 starts most impressively, routinely kicked home in 27 and change while setting track records for his age group on each of the five tracks he competed on. His Atlantic Canada record-equaling mile of 1:54/1 in the Atlantic Breeders Crown final for two-year-old pacing colts and geldings on a day when the thermometer read 9C with a cool breeze blowing was simply phenomenal.
Over the past 54 years several other freshman colts and geldings narrowly missed completing unblemished campaigns. Back in 1972, Tumblewind Chief was the first to scare perfection winning 18 of 19 starts at age two on his way to divisional honors. In 1995, Kenneth Fram’s Alfred Alfred was 12-11-1-0 on the year. In 2000, the great Firm’s Phantom won 12 of 13 starts for co-owners Joe Kennedy and the Hardy Mill Stable after making a miscue in his debut at Summerside. The following year, Gilles Barrieau campaigned Quick Flow to a 12-11-0-0 line for owners Jennifer & William L. Flowers of Nauwigewauk, NB. Then in 2003, Dunachton Gale and Phil Pinkney narrowly missed joining the undefeated ranks with 9-1-0 line in 10 starts. Then in 2015, the Downey Stables-owned and bred Jackson K Down won 12 of 13 starts with a second-place finish.
It won’t be long now and we’ll get to see what the stakes season has in store for this summer. Is there another phenom waiting to strut their stuff? We all anxiously await the return of the glamour boys division stars after the fireworks of last summer and fall. Wishing all good luck and good racing as we look forward to making more memories in 2021!
This issue’s question:
Name the first horse to surpass $100,000 in career earnings racing in the Maritimes? (HINT: It was a free-for-all horse)
Answer in next month’s Atlantic Post Calls.
Jerry can be reached at: email@example.com