With three days left in the season at Assiniboia Downs, it would take a disaster of Biblical proportions to prevent Paul Nolan from repeating as top jockey or Ardell Sayler from winning an unprecedented 11th trainer's title.
The two, who have been a dream team since Sayler invited Nolan to come up from Canterbury Park to be his go-to guy in 2012, put on an awesome show Wednesday night, winning four of the seven races on the card.
Nolan -- who has 73 wins this meet and holds a seven-win edge over Adolfo Morales -- won his first two races on Puttinonairs and Kola Kat, trained by Jack Robertson and Irene Britton, respectfully.
'It's a big advantage to have a rider who'll work with you and tell you what is wrong by what he feels from the horse'
Sayler, who used jockeys Tyrone Nelson and Adrian Ramos in his first two races, won with A Hi Five and Chica Wow Wow.
Then the Nolan-Sayler connection staged a grand finale by winning the last two races with Nathan's Special and Gimmesumsugar. The haul all but wrapped up the title for Sayler, who has 56 wins and leads runner-up Shelley Brown by 18.
The dynamic duo also swept a pair of $50,000 stakes races last weekend, winning the J.W. Sifton with Divine Wisdom and the Gold Cup with two-time ASD horse of the year Balooga Bull.
It's not just Nolan's prowess in the saddle -- and Sayler's training skills -- that get the job done. It's the symbiotic relationship that sees both men working in harmony, which puts winners on the board.
Since the coalition, Nolan has won 10 stakes races on Sayler-trained horses, including the 2012 Manitoba Lotteries Derby on Balooga Bull. In all, six of the 10 stakes wins have been on Balooga Bull. Nolan has won six stakes races this year, with only two of those on horses not trained by Sayler.
"It's a big advantage to have a rider who'll work with you and tell you what is wrong by what he feels from the horse," said the veteran trainer. "Paul has a nice set of hands on a horse and they both know what they want to do."
"It's also good when you can get feedback (from the trainer)," said Nolan. "Some trainers look at you like, 'Are you the trainer or am I the trainer?' But I've been on horses all my life. I would hope that I have figured something out and maybe I can give some input as to what I feel when I am riding the horse."
Nolan says Sayler hates to lose. "I'll come back after a race sometimes and as I am walking up to the grandstand I can see his face, and I think 'oh, oh'. Then I explain what happened, and sometimes he'll take it, and sometimes he won't."
"It's not that I hate to lose," countered Sayler. "In this game you learn to lose, but I want him to tell me 100 per cent about that horse after a race so that I know what is wrong, and what I can fix. I have to have faith in him as a rider that he'll give me 100 per cent and he has to have 100 per cent faith in me that I've done my homework and the horse is ready to go."
At 61, Sayler is a hands-on guy.
"I pulled into here on the first day of April and I am here from 5 a.m. until 11 p.m. seven days a week. I have not had one day off, never took a day to go fishing or nothing. You have to be on top of things and that's what we've really concentrated on this year.
"After Sunday I'll go home and start looking for different horses. We always break about 30-35 yearlings a year at the farm (in Rapid City, S.D). It's a never-ending job, but I love it. It's a real challenge."
On Saturday, Nolan will ride Whispertomesoftly in the $30,000 Jack Hardy Stakes. On Sunday, he'll be on Smoke Show in the $50,000 Buffalo Stakes.
Post times tonight and tomorrow are 7 p.m. Sunday's races begin at 1:30 p.m.