Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Red letter day for Brown at Downs

First woman named top trainer in 55-year history

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Shelley Brown made history Sunday at Assiniboia Downs, becoming the first woman to win the leading trainer title since the racetrack opened 55 years ago.

"If you had told me I would be in this position four years ago, I would have been in disbelief," said the Regina-born Brown. "Back then I had just begun to train my own horses, have a little fun with it, and see if that was what I really wanted to do, but it has gone really well.

"I have always believed it's hard to succeed in a male-dominated sport, so I couldn't be more proud at this point. I count my blessings and I don't take it for granted. In this game you take the good when it comes, because it can be a very humbling sport. So you can't let it go to your head."

Paul Nolan, from Rugeley England, was named top jockey.

On the last day of the 2012 season Sunday, Nolan, 50, slugged it out with 23-year-old Melfort, Sask., jockey Jennifer Reid, and three-time Downs leading jockey Rohan Singh, to win that title. Leading by four wins heading into the last 10 races, Nolan won only one race compared to Reid's four, but that was enough. He finished with 76 wins. Reid had 75 and Singh finished third with 72.

Nolan, who has also won leading rider titles in Minneapolis and Texas, had no rides in the first three of the 10-race card, and it almost cost him. His only win came in the sixth on Miss Cataville.

Reid didn't win until the third when she rode Brown's Tannat to victory. She then added wins on Takehome Asouvenir in the fifth, Ecton's Gem in the eighth and Arstar, in the $50,000 Buffalo Stakes.

With only the final race to go, Reid needed the win to tie Nolan for the title with 76 wins apiece, but it was not to be. Nolan rode Additional Expense to fourth, and Lunare Sovrano, with Reid up, finished eighth.

Brown, 39, had sewn up the title on Saturday with 46 wins compared to Ardell Sayler's 39 and Chad Torevell's 36. Neither Sayler nor Torevell had enough horses running to catch her.

A pair of wins with Only Officer in the second and Tannat in the third gave Brown a final total of 48 wins. Sayler, a 10-time leading trainer, settled for second with 40 wins and Torevell took third with 37.

There were times this year when Brown had her doubts.

"I had a lot of horses that wanted to go a route (more than a mile-and-an-eighth), and it is hard to sprint with those, so I was running a lot of seconds. I was a little defeated and frustrated at the beginning, but a lot of veteran trainers sort of patted me on the back and told me to ride the wave, so I did and it started to come around."

Nolan had two goals when he came here this spring: To win the Manitoba Derby on Balooga Bull and win the title. He achieved both.

"I had been in a two-week slump prior to the (Aug. 6) Derby," he said. "But Balooga Bull did his job and got galvanized after winning the Derby, and so did I. It got us both back on track."

When Nolan was an apprentice rider 24 years ago, Reid hadn't even been born, but he was certainly impressed with the young rider.

"She made me work," he said. "I knew it was going to be a fight, and I got fortunate on Friday, banging off three wins. We (Reid and Singh) all fought hard, and the winner was the one who got the trophy, but really in the end we're all winners."

petto@shaw.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 24, 2012 C12

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