Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Saylers are getting it done at the Downs

Blood runs thicker than water, until the gates open, that is

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They share a barn, a passion for horses and a competitive fire that burns deep down in their souls.

However, when the gate swings open at Assiniboia Downs, family ties disappear and it's dog eat dog.

Having said that, Ardell Sayler, 60, was proud of his son Aaron, 35, last weekend, even though the young whippersnapper stole some of his thunder.

"We always try to work together when we can," said Ardell. "I love my son, and I'll do anything for him, but when it comes to race time it's war. That's just the way it is."

With five major stakes races over two days, the 10-time Downs' Trainer of the Year watched as his son grabbed the lion's share of time in the winner's circle as the two split four of the five stakes wins.

But this was Aaron's moment in the sun. In addition to the stakes wins, he added a pair of claimer wins to his credit. In total, he won the $40,000 Sales Stakes with Arstar (Jennifer Reid up) and the $30,000 Jack Hardy Stakes with She's Copacetic (Tyrone Nelson). Then, Naughty Dotty and My Ponies Painted cashed in winning tickets.

Meanwhile, Papa Ardell got his turn in the circle when Two Barrel Tootie won the $30,000 Debutante (Paul Nolan), and Da Hoot (Trevor Simpson) won the $30,000 Osiris. Then he made it clear that he was still a force to be reckoned with when Balooga Bull (Nolan) won the $18,000 mile-and-a-sixteenth allowance race by 10 lengths. In the process, the Bull solidified his No. 1 status going into the $50,000, mile-and-an-eighth Gold Cup Stakes on Sept. 15.

As for the other stakes race on the weekend, Shelley Brown's Golden Stripe captured the $50,000 Distaff, making Simpson the only jockey of the weekend to capture two stakes victories.

Aaron was five when Ardell put him on a horse for the first time at their South Dakota farm near Rapid City. At 12 he had already begun galloping. "Now he breaks all my horses for me back home. I think last year he broke 28 babies (training young horses to wear a bridle and saddle, carry a rider and respond to commands)."

"I just felt a whole lot of power under me," said Aaron, recalling that first riding experience. "He had a horse named Turquoise, and he dumped me four times on the same spot. My dad just kept putting me back on, and I kept telling him I've had enough, but he said, 'no, you haven't had enough.' "

Ardell says horse racing is in the family's blood.

"There are a lot of easier ways to make a living," he said. "But my family has been in racing since 1961 and we just learned to eat, breath and sleep it. It's seven days a week, starting at 5 a.m., and getting done at 11 p.m. If you ain't on top of it, you're not doing your job."

"Sometimes there can be a lot of pressure," said Aaron. "Sometimes it feels like fireworks are about to go off in the barn, but at the end of the day we're still family. We find time to sit back and laugh at a lot of things. You have to, or this game will humble you."

"I'm proud of him," said Ardell, "I hope he continues do well. You know, it's getting closer for me to retire and hang it up, so I'd like to see him take over from there.

Post times tonight and Saturday are 7 p.m. Labour Day post time is 1 p.m.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 31, 2012 C5

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