Apr 19,2017Stephanie Tang
Following in her parents’ hoof prints? It’s certainly starting to look that way. Six-year-old mare Tajmeallover showed a champion’s grace as she stood in the back of her stall, not so much unruffled by the camera as she was disinterested in it. Small surprise; after all, the 2016 Alberta Horse of the Year has just one thing on her mind: racing.
In an earlier interview with journalist Curtis Stock, horseman Jean-Francois Gagne described the mare’s excitement if she thought she was going to the racetrack—and the sheer disappointment she showed if she was left behind.
Gagne, who co-owns, drives, and trains the champion mare, talked about how he often had to hold her back when all she wanted to do was speed full-throttle down the racetrack. It’s doubly no surprise, then, that Tajmeallover breezed through a qualifier at Century Downs last week, earning the official go-ahead for this season’s races.
“She qualified well. She followed no problem, finished well, so we’re looking forward to start racing,” said Gagne.
“I wasn’t going to ask too much at the beginning, but we should be where we left (off) pretty soon.”
Where they left off is pretty impressive. After the 2016 season at Century Downs, the pair spent the winter at Edmonton’s Northlands Park and British Columbia’s Fraser Downs, and wasted no time in dropping jaws of fans and pundits alike.
In an article on Horse Racing Alberta, Stock lauded the mare as “unarguably the best horse in the province.” He cited an unbelievable performance at Northlands Park that saw Tajmeallover—the sole mare in a field of boys—mount a come-from-behind effort from fourth place to cruise to an easy win by two-and-a-half-lengths on a frozen racetrack.
That race saw her beat some of Alberta’s best horses, along with Western Canada Pacing Derby winner Appellate.
She carried that fire west to Fraser Downs, where she lost only one of her last eight starts and rivalled her life- time mark of 1:53.2 in a dominating win during the Lady Elements final leg, earning a cool $50,000.
And despite everything going as well as he could have planned, Gagne believes she still has room to grow.
“She hasn’t reached her full potential yet,” he said in an earlier interview. “She has so much desire. She’s always asking me. It’s not me asking her. She’s going too fast for that to happen.”
And for those who think his words are merely hopeful or optimistic, there’s bad news. Gagne’s prediction is based off of Tajmeallover’s lineage.
She was sired by racing star Tajma Hall, who only got better with age and ended up with lifetime bankings of $764,254. He still owns a spot in the history books at Northlands Park, setting a record for pacing a mile in just over 1:50. He’s the fastest 10-year-old in history to clock that time on a five-eighths mile track.
Her mother, Watch Over Me, was also a racing champion in her own right. She was named Alberta’s Two-Year-Old Filly of the year and, despite being sidelined with an illness, collected $281,767.
Tajmeallover has already proven she can keep up with elite company, recently eclipsing the $200,000 mark for lifetime winnings and earning an award as Alberta’s Horse of the Year. There’s little reason to believe she can’t keep up with those who came before her—and maybe set some records of her own.
“Just as long as she stays easy to manage and nice to work with. The speed is there, we know that,” Gagne said of what he hopes to see from her this season. “If we have enough races, she should have a decent year. She’s a year older but she’s sound, she’s easy to work with. So it should be a fun year anyway.”
Although limited starts at Northlands and a new track surface at Century Downs means it might take a few races for Tajmeallover to find her stride, Gagne showed no signs of worry about the mare getting up to speed.
The horseman reminicsed about her progression, from the moment he qualifed her as a three-year-old until now.
“She was good right from the get-go. She was starting in lower classes and she just won a whole bunch. I didn’t know, when (we were) going up the classes, if she was going to be an open mare,” Gagne said. “And then it started slower in the open (class) too, but then next thing you know, she got confident and wanted to race no matter what.”
Luckily, Tajmeallover won’t be left waiting too long. Gagne plans to give her three starts per month and see where the rest of the season leads. If her five straight wins collected at last year’s meet is any indication, it could give pundits more to talk about in the months to come.