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Breaking new ground at the Downs

Brown on pace to be 1st woman to lead trainers

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Is Assiniboia Downs ready for another milestone?

If not, it certainly should be aware when things wind up after the last race on Sept. 23, there's a good chance history will have been recorded.

The last time someone shook up the record books was in 2010 when American jockey Vicky Baze became the first woman to win a leading jockey title at the venerable horse racing track.

With only 15 racing dates remaining this season, there is a very good chance Canadian trainer Shelley Brown, who has been in the business for only four years, could become the first woman to capture the leading trainer title.

With two wins on Wednesday -- Rainmaker Favorite (Tyrone Nelson aboard), and Grand Vision (Jennifer Reid up) -- Brown now has 34 victories. Trailing her are Chad Torevell with 29 and last-year's leading trainer, Ardell Sayler, with 28.

Included among the Regina native's winners are stakes victories by Golden Stripe in the Canada Day CANSTAR Stakes, Alisal in the R. J. Speers Stakes and Pure Glory in the Agassiz Stakes last Saturday.

"I think that probably the reason that things are coming together for me now, is that this year my help situation is a lot better," Brown said on Thursday. "Last year it wasn't for not wanting to hire grooms. It was that there was a shortage and I found myself shorthanded a good part of the year. There is nothing singular here. From the farrier (person who shoes the horses), to the veterinarian, to the grooms, to the exercise riders, it is an absolute team effort.

"This year, I have very knowledgeable and very conscientious grooms. And my exercise riders do an excellent job. They're very conscientious about telling me how they feel about a horse. I make the decisions as a whole, but I involve the grooms as well as the gallop riders."

And then, there's the horses.

"I started off the year with a lot of route (distance) horses, so in the beginning it was tough to get going. To run five or six furlongs, they were coming along but I wasn't quite getting to the winner's circle, so I started off a bit slow. Now that we've been able to lengthen out, the horses are really starting to come together.

"I also picked up a new owner (Jerry Lambert and Lynn Matthews) and they have a lot of nice horses. Then of course, Phil Kives (K5 Stables) has also brought me some nice horses, so those are my two big clients. I also have a lot of really good small clients."

Brown has horses running in two of the three stakes races tonight. In the one-mile Distaff its K5 Stables' Golden Stripe, and in the six-furlongs Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society Sales Stakes, Lambert's and Matthews' two-year-old filly Sigga makes her racing debut. Brown has no entries in the five-and-one-half-furlongs Debutante Stakes, which also goes tonight.

Golden Stripe is an established horse with a litany of stakes victories to his credit, including: the La Verendrye and the Distaff in 2011; the Canada Day and Distaff in 2010; the R.C. Anderson in 2009. "Golden Stripe always gives 110 per cent and never leaves anything on the track."

But as far as Sigga is concerned, anything can happen.

"You never know with first-time starters. That is the excitement with two-year-olds. You can be pleasantly surprised but you never know on any given day because there is always so many factors. But I really like her. I think she will be a very nice three-year-old. We'll just have to keep our fingers crossed for a really good experience on her first trip out there."

Brown has opted out of Saturday's six-furlongs Osiris Stakes for two-year-olds, and the mile-and-one-sixteenth Jack Hardy Stakes for three-year-olds. Instead, she'll be in Saskatoon with four of her horses (Dixieland Gold, Lime Dancer, Citizen Patrol and Northern Twister), to run in stakes races at Marquis Downs.

Post time tonight and Saturday at Assiniboia Downs is 7 p.m.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 24, 2012 C5

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