Four years ago Shelley Brown pulled up stakes for Winnipeg, and began training thoroughbreds at Assiniboia Downs. Does the former Regina show jumper, who still dabbles in the sport at her small farm in Ocala, Fla., during the winter, have any regrets?
No way, especially after her horse Golden Stripe, owned by Winnipegger Phil Kives of K5 Stables, smoked everyone by 13 lengths in the one-mile Canada Day CANSTAR Stakes last Sunday.
"She ran probably one of the best races of her career," Brown said of the six-year-old mare. "She gets really brave up there on the front end, and she just grew a heart as big as Texas."
For the past three seasons, Kives has been putting some of his horses in Brown's care. "Phil has had many trainers, and I think I am up there with most of them," she said. "Over the last few years we have developed a pretty good relationship, and that doesn't happen overnight. You have to trust that the trainer will do the best for the horse, as well as for the owner, by making decisions that are going to help him win races."
Brown, 39, was show jumping and grooming horses in Alberta, when her father Tom took ill about six years ago. "He needed cancer surgery, so I decided to go home and take care of him. While caring for her father, she got her trainers license, and owned a horse she would race in Saskatoon.
In 2009, after her father had recovered from his surgery, she split for Assiniboia Downs, bought six horses, and began her career here.
At first the decision did not go well with her father. "I was planning to be a vet, so he was a little disappointed that I took the hard route as a race horse trainer. Now he follows my career, and I would have to say he's probably the proudest man on Earth."
Brown learned the basics of caring for horses from Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame golfer Marge Homenuik, who also raced standardbreds on the harness racing circuit in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. "She taught me a lot about leg work. There is not a lot of money in standardbred racing, so they do a lot of patching, icing, maintenance and care."
With Golden Stripe's big win now history, she has now turned her attention to another Kives' horse, Runaway Lion (Lion Heart, out of Wild Goose Chase by Dynaformer), and the 1/18-mile, $75,000 Manitoba Lotteries Derby on Aug. 6. But first things first, so she is focused on getting him ready for the July 14, 1 1/16 miles, $30,000 Harry Jeffrey Stakes, considered the prep event for the Derby.
The bay gelding has only one win (over seven furlongs on Oct. 8), in six starts, but his ace in the hole is that he has gone the route twice (a mile and an eighth on June 16 finishing eighth, as well as a mile and a 16th on Nov. 27 to place fourth).
That cannot be said of the undefeated (6-0) Balooga Bull, trained by Ardell Sayler. The Bull has never gone more than six furlongs, but is currently considered the horse to beat on Aug. 6. The two horses should meet for the first time in the Harry Jeffrey.
Saturday's six-furlongs $30,000 Wheat City Stakes will see the return of Free Press Stakes winner Schillerthekiller, from Canterbury Downs, and his rider Adolfo Morales. Also in the lineup is U R Burnin Daylite, who finished second. Post time tonight and Saturday is 7 p.m.