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Apparently you can expect some long lineups at gas stations around Century Mile Saturday night. “The tanks are going to be empty,” said harness driver Nathan Sobey. “This is what we’ve spent the entire year trying to get to. Nobody is going to be saving anything.”
‘This’ is Alberta’s Super Finals - four $75,000 stakes races: one for two-year-old colts and geldings; one for two-year-old fillies; one for three-year-old fillies and a fourth for three-year-old colts and geldings. The nine starters in the four races all got in because of points (for the two-year-olds) earned in Alberta sire stake races all season or money (for the three-year-olds). There are also four $15,000 consolations on Saturday’s powerful 12-race card which gets underway at 7:15 p.m.
Sobey, a very talented trainer and one of Alberta’s most sought-after drivers, will pilot a horse in three of the four Super Final races including two for trainer Dave Lamont - Outlaw Aceofspades in the three-year-old boys’ division and Miss Itunes in the two-year-old fillies. With Sobey in the bike, both horses came from far behind to win their prep races last week.
Outlaw Aceofspades, who started from the outside eight hole, got away ninth and last, was still last after half a mile, moved up to fifth at the three-quarter pole and then paced by them all to win in 1:55 3/5 with a last quarter in :27 1/5. Outlaw Gunsablazin, who was second - defeated by three-quarters of a length - will be back Saturday night to try and turn the tables.
A similar come-from-far-behind drive by Sobey also got Miss Itunes to victory. Starting from post seven, Miss Itunes was eighth - a staggering 16 lengths off the pace - after a quarter of a mile, was still a distant eighth after half a mile, moved up three wide at the three-quarter pole and then, after moving five wide, outpaced Cayley Skye, who will contest the three-year-old filly Super Final and who was second in the Don Byrne elimination, down the lane in 1:59 with a last quarter in :28 3/5.
“Miss Itunes and Outlaw Aceofspades are both coming into the Super Finals off good prep races,” said Sobey. “Neither had raced the previous week. Both had to come a long way to win. “I just wanted to make sure they finished up well and they certainly did that. The races are won in the last quarter of a mile. It’s all about what you have left in the tank in the stretch and, like I said, there will be nothing left in the tank for anyone on Saturday.”
Sobey said after what they did this past weekend, both horses will be coming into the Super Finals with a lot of confidence. “They’re both in tough. Outlaw Aceofspades has to get by Outlawgrabbingears and Jewels Dragon. But if he shows up with his game he can hang in there with them. And, there’s no reason Miss Itunes can’t be there,” Sobey said of the daughter of Mystery Chase, who has been first or second in five of her six career starts. “Depending on how the races shape up never know what can happen.”
Lamont thinks so too. “I was mildly surprised with Outlaw AceofSpades’ victory - mostly because of the post he had and how far he had to come,” said Lamont. “But he’s good right now and that was a very good race for him. He’s a handy horse who can go fast. What else do you need besides some luck?”
Like Sobey, Lamont believes he has to beat Outlawgrabbingears and Jewels Dragon to get all the money. “Those two horses have both paced in 1:51 and change,” he said of Jewels Dragon, who has the track record with a mile in 1:51 1/5 in the Sept. 7 Western Canada Pacing Derby elimination, and Outlawgrabbingears, who won in 1:51 2/5 in the Oct. 13 Maverick stake. “But my horse has won in 1:52 and a bit.” Jewels Dragon got the rail in Wednesday morning’s post draw; Outlawgrabbingears also drew well winding up with post 3.
Outlaw Aceofspades, on the other hand, drew outside again, getting post 7. “He won out of the eight-hole last week so….,” said Lamont, who will now definitely need some speed to pace at with his come-from-behinder. “My horse likes to chase the pace and with $75,000 on the line I suspect there will be plenty of early speed. I’m really just hoping to finish in the top three. Anything else would be a bonus. He’s healthy and he’s sound. I haven’t spent any money vet-wise on him at all this year. He gets his air; he breathes good."
“He still gets on one line a bit and doesn’t steer 100 per cent but (Sobey) suits him. He’s got it all. A little bit of luck and away we go. He was a long ways off at the half on Sunday and he came home in :27 1/5.”
Only one horse paced a faster last quarter last weekend at Century Mile and that was the likely favourite, Outlawgrabbingears, who paced in :27 flat while finishing sixth in a race won by older horse Ima Dude with Jewels Dragon a sharp second.
“The eight hole definitely hurt him,” said Outlawgrabbingears’ trainer/driver and co-owner Paul Davies. “He raced good and he came out of the race really good,” Davies said of the winner of nine of his 17 starts this year. “He’ll be tough.”
But then Outlawgrabbingears has been tough all year. Easily the top money earner from Alberta-sire stakes qualifiers, as well as the Derby elimination and a very easy sweep of the Maverick which he won by a combined 10 lengths - eased up in the stretch in both - Outlawgrabbingears won a handful of other stakes this year and last when he was named Alberta’s two-year-old champion. He was also fourth in the Sept. 15 $125,000 Derby Final despite not being 100 per cent. “He got a bit of a virus that went through my barn and, unfortunately, that took the edge out of him. He still showed his class and held on for fourth,” said Davies.
As for Miss Itunes, who will start from post 4, Lamont said “She’s coming into the race looking good too. Like Outlaw Aceofspades she came from a long way back. There are a couple of strong contenders but I’m hoping to get something with her too. She beat some older fillies and mares last Friday. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. The forecast for Saturday night is for good weather so hopefully everybody gets a chance.”
Some of the contenders Miss Itunes has to deal with are Snow Shark, who exits a very powerful win in a division of the Stardust as the odds-on-favourite, Blue Star Dreaming, who has won her last three stakes - the Stardust, Jim Rogers and Starburst - and who drew the trailing 9-post position behind the versatile LA Woman, who is also a definite factor.
Wednesday’s post draw certainly didn’t help the rapid favourite, Rockin Mystery, who drew the outside eight-post in the three-year-old fillies Super Finals division. First or second in 14 of her 19 starts this year, Rockin Mystery has crossed the finish line on top in her last five starts including an easy sweep of the Marquis Series but was disqualified from victory in the Sept. 5 Don Byrne Memorial Final for leaving ahead of the starting gate.
With Rockin Mystery outside, Hottieonthehorizon, who has won 10 of her 16 starts this year, now becomes a much tougher threat especially if she can stick handle from the trailing 9-post. Hottieonthehorizon has won her last four starts sweeping the Murphy Series at B.C.’s Fraser Downs.
The two-year-old colts Super Final is pretty much wide open. Sobey looks well positioned with Trip Hammer, who got post two. Trip Hammer won both a leg of he Shooting Star (1:56 3/5) and the Century Mile (1:55 1/5) - both in very convincing fashion. Criminal Record, who starts from post six, won another division of the Shooting Star in 1:55 2/5. Just Mac, who also won a division of the Shooting Star (1:54 4/5) - just edging Dontpokethedragon, are also very legitimate threats. Just Mac will leave from post five; Dontpokethedragon got post four.