Welcome to the Year of the Horse!
And what better way to celebrate this auspicious year in the Chinese calendar and kick off my first column of 2014 than to announce the winner in my "name the filly" contest. The idea was to name a filly to honour Winnipeg’s curling greats — Jennifer Jones and her team — who made us proud by remaining undefeated to win the Olympic gold medal in Sochi.
I received more than 400 name suggestions (the most popular of which was "Hurry Hard") and gave them to Team Jones to choose the name they liked best. While driving to Yorkton, Sask. for one of their many post-Olympic appearances, the four curlers chose — ta-dah! — Gold N Sochi.
So that’s the name the yearling filly has as it romps around a farm in Russell, Man. where she was bred by Cam and Sherisse Ziprick. If everything goes according to plan, Gold N Sochi will go on the auction block in August (which means you could buy her) and be introduced to racing at the Downs next year.
And everyone will be wondering: Will Gold N Sochi match the stellar two-year-old racing season of the last horse who was named for a Manitoba Olympian? Four years ago, a colt was named for Jon Montgomery, the Russell native who won the skeleton gold medal in Vancouver. That horse, Jon’s Golden Run, rose to the very top of two-year-old Manitoba-breds by winning the $50,000 Buffalo Stakes.
And who is the person who submitted the winning name? Drum roll again, please. It was Leslie Smaha of Roslyn Road, who is finding out here for the first time she won the contest — and that she’s being invited to the press conference at the Downs next week to kick off the live race season. She can also look forward to being included in photos with "her" filly, enjoying an ASD race night buffet for four, a possible meeting with the curlers and attendance in the saddling area at "her" filly’s first race.
So that knocks off one of the ways the Year of the Horse is being saluted. To find out other ways this special year is being honoured — with you in mind, of course — check out this column next week. Glad to have you aboard again.
And when do the horses go to post for the 57th year of live racing? About 10 days from now on Sun., May 4 at 1:30 p.m. That’s the day after another important race day: the Kentucky Derby day, when the first 200 at the track receive a souvenir glass and their names go into a draw to win other souvenir merchandise.