On the final day of the Yorkton standardbred race season the streak of the summer came to an end Saturday.
After establishing what was announced as a Canadian record for consecutive wins within a claimer class Judges Discretion was trying to make it 14-in-a row to have an undefeated meet at Cornerstone Raceway but it was not to be. In race eight of the card the seven-year-old mare finally went down to defeat finishing in the show spot behind Desons Dahlia with Kirk Rogers at the reins, and Crush On Clinton with Dean Rey aboard.
Tyler Redwood who trained and drove Judges Discretion in all 14 races for his father and horse owner Kelvin Godlien said the loss was a hard one to take.
“It was disappointing,” said Redwood who added he felt the loss was on him. “I can’t put blame on anybody but myself. I made a move, but maybe too early.”
Redwood said he felt the pressure coming and pulled out, but when the horse ahead fell back Judges Discretion didn’t “have a helmet to chase” and she relaxed down the stretch.
“It would have been nice to be undefeated here in Yorkton for the season, but 13 wins is still more than anybody hoped for,” he said.
And it’s still a Canadian record.
“If that’s what it is it’s indescribable,” said Redwood, adding it was a steak made sweeter since it was his father’s horse.”
A win in the race would have been Redwood’s 40th of the Yorkton meet but he would come up one short finishing with 39 wins, two Saturday, in 99 starts, earning more than $44,000 as the top driver on the track. Redwood was also the top trainer of the 16-race meet.
Redwood said it would have been sweet to get the 40th win with Judges Discretion, and when that went by he still had a shot in race 10 with Minettas Liberty. But he will gladly take 39.
“It was a phenomenal year here. I wouldn’t change anything,” he said. “Everybody worked their butts off day-in and day-out.”
Redwood said it was also gratifying to make some money for owners who supported him in past years when wins were far less common.
The race track was a touch more solemn Saturday than the usual last day of the season since racing may not be back in 2013 following an announced end to grants to horse racing from the provincial government.
Redwood said he didn’t focus on that until after the last race when he realized it might be “the last burn around the track.”
The loss of the grants hurts, said Redwood, adding many people are affected.
“It hurts me. It hurts my father. It hurts my family,” he said. “It’s hurting everybody around here.”
But Redwood said the industry has faced adversity before, and survived.
“I’ve always been told in tough times you never give up, and hold on,” he said, adding with that “deep down inside I have a feeling we’re going to race.”
Brian Gray has been among the driver/trainers in Yorkton the past five years. He said it was a strange day at the track Saturday.
“It was just an odd feeling all day. It wasn’t doom and gloom, the word to describe it would be melancholy,” he said.
Gray said it was like watching American Graffiti and realizing the old days were not only gone by, but that you were unsure of the future.
“It hasn’t really been a happy day … and there have been a lot of happy days here,” said Gray who set the track record with Outlaw Watch Me a couple of summers ago.
But like others at the track Gray holds out hope he will be back. He said he has heard the government may have an announcement pending and while it may help thoroughbreds more than the pacers, it could be the start of saving horse races.
“The government is opening up the door a crack and hopefully we can get a toe hold in there and get something done,” he said.
Glenn LeDrew long involved with the Saskatchewan Standardbred Horsemen’s Association said he is hopeful they have not raced their final race at Cornerstone Raceway.
“I really hope it’s not. The racing has gotten better every year. The quality of horses has gotten better,” he said
But in a sport where betting is an element, LeDrew wasn’t suggesting racing in 2013 was a sure thing.
“Unless somebody knows something I don’t know I wouldn’t really say the odds are in our favour,” he said.
That said LeDrew said race organizers in Yorkton, and at West Meadows Raceway in Regina are working to find a way to keep standardbred racing going at both tracks.
“We want to find a way to continue at both tracks,” he said, adding he feels racing provides good economic spin-offs to both cities. “… Hopefully the government will find a way to support it. Hopefully we can get together and find a solution.”