The Racing Journal Logo

Rocky Mountain Turf Club Fall Meet set to rock

August 11, 2006     E-mail this page to a friend!

By Garry Allison
The Horses, Rocky Mountain Turf Club, Lethbridge - Grant Erickson, decked in his red jacket and black bowler hat, is all set to sound out the Call To Post on Saturday, Sunday and Monday, September 2, 3 and 4 to welcome the horses back to the Rocky Mountain Turf Club and kick off the two-month-long Fall Meet.

The Thoroughbreds will be primed for a series of top stake races and the annual $10,000 Arabian Race is all set, as are a few top Paint races. And the Quarter Horse people are looking forward to their annual $100,000 Futurity. These and the regular claiming and allowance races are all jammed into every three-day weekend between opening weekend and the final weekend November 4-5.

While the horses are all fit after the exciting RMTC Spring Meet and the summer of racing at Grande Prairie, RMTC itself is in even finer fashion.

"We've spent the summer giving the RMTC grandstand area a super western look, thanks to the designs of Academy Award winning set director Rick Roberts," says RMTC CEO Max Gibb.

"Rick, who is also nominated for an Emmy this month, has created an amazing old west look on the main floor which not only looks great but will be user friendly for our race goers. The standing tables set up around each pillar and the tables for seating and the extra TVs are all aimed to benefit the race goers.

"The third floor has been totally re-done. Our Champions room is the place to be for the serious horse player, with televisions all along the top for simulcast wagering, three wagering windows, two outside accesses to the mid-level of the grandstand to watch the live races, and an elaborate bar for our patrons. As well, the facilities for our new telephone wagering system are all place on this level.

"The Champions room will feature pictures and stories of the great horsemen of the past and other Lethbridge and district champions."
Both levels make extensive use of rock and rough barn wood, carrying the western theme of Bullys Sports and Entertainment Centre through to the other levels. The under-grandstand area has also been acoustically tuned to accommodate the track announcer and any entertainment and auctions held in the area.

The men's and ladies washrooms on the lower level have been totally redone and a stage area has been created where the pari-mutuel wickets sit. The wicket area is easily rolled out and the stage set up.

"You have to see the make-over to really appreciate it. Itís simply marvelous," says Gibb. "Along with all this we'll have some of the best Thoroughbred racing for this, Montana, and some of the other northern states lined up for the fall, starting with the $15,000 Fillies and Mares Stake Sunday over a distance of seven furlongs."

Besides the Fillies and Mares Stake for three-year-olds and upwards, RMTC Race Manager Dot Stein has a full program for opening weekend, including the Open Stake on Sunday.

"The Open Stake is for three-year-olds and upwards and covers seven furlongs for a purse of $15,000," says Stein. "Then on Monday we have the Fall Overnite Sprint, about five and a half furlongs, again for a $15,000-added purse. This is also for three-year-olds and up.

"On the Quarter Horse side we have the Canada Quarter Horse Cup trials opening weekend, with the Futurity Trials Sunday and the Derby Trials Saturday. Both series are 350 yards. Both the Futurity and Derby Final will be held September 16.

"We have 30 Thoroughbred Stake races planned for our Fall Meet, a number of them for Alberta breds. The are still nine or 10 top Quarter Horse Stakes and aged series races to come, including the Canada Quarter Horse Cup Futurity and the Derby set for September 16."

The RMTC Spring Meet, a two-month clash of trainers, horses and riders, produced some pretty startling figures for a community track. For example, 20 trainers with the RMTC shared $624,158 in purses, with most of the high paying Stakes and Allowance races still to come this Fall.

On the equine side of things, Lafleur won all three of his races and earned $19,822 for owners Allen and Amanda Fogle. Lafleur was easily the class of Whoop-Up Downs this past May and June.
On the training side of the picture, Ross Brigden was at the top of the list with 15 wins in 49 starts, with five seconds and three third-place finishes. William Leech and Dale Bagnell were next in line with 10 victories apiece.

However, on a money-earned basis, Leech was on top with $71,514, which included 13 seconds and 11 third-place runs. Brigden's horses earned $52,541 and Bagnell's horses earned $50,354.

There was a real battle for leading rider honours with Sean Evans finishing with two less victories than Janine Stianson. But Evans topped the money-won department with $123,988. Evans led the way with 29 second-place finishes as well as 28 third-place runs, putting him in the money on 57 percent of his 144 starts, far and away the best of the bunch.

Four riders topped the 20-win mark, with Brooke Mellish, who picked up three of her wins on Lafleur, finishing with 21 wins and veteran Peter McAleney coming through with 20. Jackie Smith recorded 17 wins and Angelle Wilson and Scott Sterr crossed the finish line first 15 times each. Also in double figures were Laurina Bugeaud and Randy Cunningham with 10 wins apiece.

They'll be back to settle things this Fall. Newcomers to Whoop-Up Downs this fall will be assisted by the Betting Buddies on all levels to help with understanding the program and the tote board in the infield.