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This Texan has a way with girls

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Charlie Smith (right), Terry Propps and granddaughter Lola in the winner’s circle after winning the Chantilly Stakes with paddock host Rob MacLennan.

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Charlie Smith (right), Terry Propps and granddaughter Lola in the winner’s circle after winning the Chantilly Stakes with paddock host Rob MacLennan. Photo Store

This Texan has a way with girls. Girl horses, that is.

And he loves to race them at Assiniboia Downs. And why not? He does nothing but win — or at least comes darn close to winning.

His name is Charlie Smith, and his bushy moustache reminds you of a Wyatt Earp-style gunslinger in a western movie. But the slinging he does is mostly with hay or carrying around a little granddaughter by the name of Lola, who seems a lot harder to control than his horses.

Between practising criminal law down in the Lone Star state, he and his partner Terry Propps breed horses and ship them up to Canterbury Park race track in Minnesota and, of course, Assiniboia Downs. He likes the Downs, he says, because horsemen are friendly and helpful compared to the cutthroat attitude of some tracks he’s raced at down south.

He and Terry quickly won the hearts of race fans in their first foray to the Downs in 2007 with an adorable two-year-old filly by the name of Miss Missile (whose picture occasionally appears in ASD ads in this paper). Miss Missile won the top race for baby fillies, the Debutante. Then she returned the following year to sweep the Chantilly, Canada Day, Assiniboia Oaks and Jack Hardy stakes. Whew!

But that was just the beginning of Charlie and Terry’s filly-bustering. They would go on to win a record-breaking five Debutante Stakes races in a row: Miss Missile (2007), Lady Countdown (2008), Ruby’s Big Band (2009), Little Widow Maker (2010) and Gospel Gal (2011). And they just missed winning the Debutante again last year with a filly by the name of Portales. But Portales made amends by winning the $50,000 Winnipeg Futurity and, last week, returned bigger and stronger than ever to win the $30,000 Chantilly Stakes, defeating a classy horse from Edmonton who had finished second in a $50,000 stakes race at Northlands Park.

Now the question is: how good can Portales get? Does she have what it takes to win the $50,000 Assiniboia Oaks on Derby Day, Aug. 5? That race is the filly counterpart to the Manitoba Lotteries Derby. It will mean stretching out to a mile (the Chantilly was 3/4 of a mile).

Charlie likes her chances. "That was a gritty, courageous performance (in the Chantilly)," he said in the winner’s circle after the race. But he also hinted he has a nice colt in training in Minnesota that just might be able to follow in the footsteps of his great fillies. Uh-oh! That’s exactly what other horsemen want to hear.

Racing continues Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. with the likely reappearance of two-time Horse of the Year Balooga Bull in the Wheat City Stakes Saturday. That race should be a dandy. See ya!

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