Trainer Ardell Sayler probably surprised himself with his lightning-fast start at the Assiniboia Downs this year, but you won't hear him bragging about it.
The 61-year-old, an 11-time leading trainer at the Downs, won 12 races over the first three days of the live race meeting to take what looks like an insurmountable lead in the trainer standings.
Sayler won four races on opening day, another five the following Saturday and three more on Mother's Day to take a 12-3 lead in the standings over trainer Rob Atras. Blair Miller, Jim Meyaard and Jared Brown have two wins each while Emile Corbel, Gary Danelson and Irene Britton have one win apiece.
So the score is actually tied. Sayler 12, all other trainers 12.
"I'm pretty plain Jane," says Sayler. "You see what you get. Work. Work. Work. Horses from 5 (o'clock) in the morning to 11 at night. That's what I do."
Sayler has had multiple four-win days over the years but the five-baggers are rare. He says it had been at least five years since he'd won five races on a card before Saturday.
"Five is tough to do," says Sayler, who once one won seven of eight races on a card at Fort Pierre, S.D. "We got off to a good start here. The horses were a little fitter than we thought they were. We started them at the farm in February and had a good bottom in them before working them. We also had some fit horses from Phoenix."
Sayler was born in Ellendale, N.D., but his farm is in Rapid City, S.D., where he grew up. He fills a 54-stall barn at the farm, mostly with young horses that benefit from an on-the-grounds starting gate and their own crew of exercise riders. Sayler will break and train up to 35 babies a year at the farm, many of which are bargains he has picked out at the yearling sales in Kentucky.
"I'm always shopping," says Sayler. "Always looking at horses. All day. Every day."
Sayler can argue pedigree with anyone and his results speak for themselves. Two of his yearling sale pedigree-purchases that stand out are Balooga Bull and Hey Hey Renee.
Balooga Bull was purchased for just $2,000 and developed by Sayler to win the Manitoba Derby and back-to-back Assiniboia Downs Gold Cups in 2012-13. Hey Hey Renee was purchased for just $3,200 and developed by Sayler to win five stakes before being sold for $225,000.
Another of Sayler's yearling sale purchases, Divine Wisdom ($7,334, CTHS Manitoba Yearling Sale), won both the $25,000 Frank Arnason Sire Stakes and the $50,000 J.W. Sifton Stakes last year to increase his earnings to $86,780.
Sayler's come a long ways since working as a groom for John (The Silver Fox) Gray here in the late 1960s. He didn't have many horses when he first started out as a trainer.
Janet, his wife of 43 years, gave him a horse named Fast Fractions for Valentine's Day early in the process and that helped get him get started at tracks in South Dakota, Ohio and Nebraska, where he finished high in the standings in the late 1980s and caught the eye of then Assiniboia Downs owners Bob and Hazel Wright. The Wrights invited Sayler to the Downs and he returned to Winnipeg in 1990.
On life, Sayler says, "Enjoy every day to its fullest." On marriage, he says, "Always keep her smiling." On fun, he says "Work" and on work, he says, "If you're standing still, you're going backwards." He then adds, "What is it they say? Faster horses, younger women, older whiskey..."
Combine and reorder as desired.