If family values, good coaching and karma have any value at all in horse racing, then trainer Tom Gardipy Jr. is long overdue to take his first Assiniboia Downs training title.
The 49-year-old Cree from Beardys Reserve near Saskatoon is currently in a heated battle for the title with nine-time leading trainer Ardell Sayler, wily veteran Carl Anderson and relative youngster Jared Brown, who has sizzled out of the gate at this meet two years in a row. Gardipy has 33 victories as of Wednesday, which puts him one win ahead of Brown, three ahead of Anderson and four ahead of Sayler.
Brown has slowed down over the last few weeks but still has the ammunition to get the job done with 45 horses in the barn. Anderson is loaded with stock ready to run. Sayler says he can't make a serious run at the title this time with mostly two-year-olds left in his barn to finish off the year. Sayler has said that before, though.
"It's going to depend on who gets their horses in," said Anderson, who has won nine training titles in Saskatchewan and trained numerous champions locally. But bettors take note -- these guys want to win the title -- whether they admit it or not -- and their horses will be running hard to that end.
Gardipy is stabled in the same barn as Sayler and when asked what he did to get to the top of the standings this year he answered with a smile.
"I just watch what he (Sayler) does and do the same thing."
But there's much more to it than that.
A three-time leading trainer in Saskatchewan, Gardipy has been around these parts for awhile and sharp bettors have been playing his horses for profit for years. He once went seven-for-seven in one day, winning with four starters in Saskatchewan, one in Alberta and two at Assiniboia Downs. His all-time favourite horse? Judge Smiles, a horse he claimed for his family for $7,800, who went on to win numerous races including two stakes.
Gardipy has been training horses for 31 years, and has finished close to the top of the standings at Assiniboia Downs on more than one occasion. He comes by his talent honestly. Born in Duck Lake, Sask., he grew up on a reserve in a family of nine, farming and working with horses under the tutelage of his dad, Tom Sr. and mother Marie. His experience working with horses while growing up (he also won races in the bushes as a jockey) was no doubt enhanced by his own physical talents.
"He was an awesome athlete," said wife Cheryl, who holds the family together as Tom travels back and forth from Saskatchewan. "He played senior hockey and coached minor hockey. He had to retire due to an injury. But it was also too hectic with the spring training of the horses and trying to keep up with our five kids in hockey."
Married for 26 years, the Gardipys have five children, four boys and a girl, all of whom have worked in the barn and all of whom have star potential as hockey players.
"At the level of hockey they're playing they're also being taught important life skills," said Tom. "They're learning about discipline, respect for others and the value of working hard and doing your best."
Gardipy and his assistant trainer Tanis King have used the above values and family teamwork to produce a winning stable year after year.
"If you treat the horses good they'll treat you good," said Gardipy.
It's only a matter of time.
Newcomer Baze keeps tearing it up
Newcomer Vicky Baze continued her red-hot riding streak with four wins in a row on Wednesday evening. She took Race 5 on Force Field ($3.60), Race 6 on Proper Causeway ($3.20), Race 7 on Star Power ($13.40) and Race 8 aboard Sam's Delight ($5.20). Baze has now vaulted into eighth in the jockey standings with an amazing 20 wins in only a few weeks.
Keep an eye on K 5 Stables' improving three-year-old Star Power, who not only won the 7th Race on Wednesday, but smoked a second-quarter turn time of 22.20 seconds. He then shook his duel rival and opened up on the field. It was the most impressive move of the meet to date. And he has some quality pedigree to work with.
Watch the replay of Race 5 on Wednesday, in which horse No. 1 Airen moved off the rail in mid-turn and rallied strongly outside to finish second with the addition of blinkers. It was a much-improved effort and he could be sitting on a big race.
Former Assiniboia Downs jockey Felipe Valdez won his first race at Del Mar last week and the horse paid over $100. Valdez is often overlooked in the wagering at Del Mar but has enough talent to ride competitively with the California colony if he's on anything remotely live.