The stables at Fraser Downs were busy Wednesday in anticipation of the richest day of harness racing in B.C.
The Cloverdale track will host the 2019 Breeders Classic on Monday (Nov. 11), with four $100,000 breeders stakes planned that afternoon, among several other races.
“It’s our biggest day of the year, and this is where the champions come out,” said Diane Pennington, the breeders/events manager for Harness Racing B.C.
Two- and three-year-old colts and fillies will race starting at 12:45 p.m.
The Classic began as an annual event close to 50 years ago.
The young B.C.-bred horses compete in four legs to earn enough points for eligibility to race in the final on Remembrance Day.
On Wednesday, Rod Therres – a longtime breeder, owner, trainer and driver of standardbred racehorses – was preparing some of his 25 horses for race day.
“There’s a lot of hype for this one, yeah, and I’m bringing out a driver from Ontario for it, by the name of Billy Davis Jr.,” Therres said as he held Indigo Beach, a two-year-old filly of his.
“It’s all about the money,” he said with a smile.
A self-described “lifer” who went to school in Cloverdale, Therres has been coming to Fraser Downs since it opened in 1976. “My mother, brother and sister all worked in the mutuels at the track when it opened here,” he noted.
Today, he owns 25 horses, 13 of which were in the stables on Wednesday.
“That one is Somewhere Better, but we call him Bahama because the Bahamas would be somewhere better,” he said with a laugh. “They’ve all got nicknames. He’s not in the Classic though.
“This one is, though,” he said, pointing to Indigo Beach, also known as Black Beauty.
”All week, we take them out, exercise them lightly, and then two or three days out, we’ll train them a little harder and we cross our fingers and toes and hope they stay healthy and sound,” Therres explained. “They’re racehorses and race every week, or every two weeks, and stuff happens. They’re not machines.
“There’s a bit of a virus going around,” he added, “so the vets are getting a lot of money, too.”
On Classic day, each race honours someone special in the harness racing community.
There is the Betty Millbank Memorial for two-year-old fillies, the Robert Millbank Memorial for two-year-old colts, the Mary Murphy Memorial for three-year-old fillies, and the Robert Murphy Memorial for three-year-old colts.
Every year, members of the Millbank and Murphy families attend the Classic and present trophies and blankets to the race winners.
“It’s a big day for everybody here, absolutely,” Pennington said. “For the breeders, if you’ve bred a horse and you’re selling it as a yearling, and now you’re watching that horse maybe become a future champion – and that’s everybody’s hope, from an owner, breeder, training, that that horse is going to win that cup. It’s big, especially because these are all B.C.-bred horses. That’s important.”
To watch the Breeders Classic, call 604-575-5603 to reserve a seat at Elements Casino’s Homestretch viewing area and restaurant, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Minors are welcome to attend, but can’t enter through the casino.