Two Birds in hand

JOHN SHORT

, Last Updated: 9:58 AM ET

The regular summer break for chuckwagon racing is always greeted by criticism from some members of the Alberta thoroughbred constituency, but there is general agreement that this year the timing is excellent.

Last weekend's Canadian Derby victory by Tommy Danzigger and the City of Edmonton Distaff triumph by Summer Song built enough momentum to carry racing fans through the week long layoff that begins on Sunday.

The back-to-back Bird of Pay and Birdcatcher stakes tomorrow and Sunday are sure to help, too.

Dakota Sue has drawn early attention in the fillies' showdown tomorrow, largely because of a solid recent victory over Constable Sheppard and the Dale Saunders-trained Slews Academy.

It is more than coincidence that race-watchers see the area's top three-year-olds on one weekend and wait only seven days before they get a chance to focus on next year's potential Canadian Derby contenders.

Concentration on future speedsters will increase on Tuesday when the annual thoroughbred yearling sale takes place at Westerner Park in Red Deer.

Next weekend, back at Northlands, the highlight figures to be Saturday's $100,000 Speed to Spare handicap, which once was a hot feature in Edmonton thoroughbred circles.

Obviously, expansion of the Canadian Derby purse to a whopping $300,000 took some of the lustre from this annual showpiece for older horses, but a lot of attention should be regained if owner Ab Brewster does as expected and sends Cool Ventura back into battle.

Cool Ventura's win on Derby Day failed to get as much attention as usual, but several railbirds noted that Real Simard must have had some pangs of regret when he mounted Brewster's speedster in a race against Footprint, who carried Simard home first in the Canadian Derby two years ago.

Only two weeks after the Speed to Spare comes another weekend event that holds considerable attraction: Fall Classic Day, when Alberta-breds get their shot at $350,000 in no less than seven features.

Racing secretary Jason Teague has come up with a classy salute to a classy man. Retiring jocks' room custodian Dickie Armstrong will have his name attached to the seventh race on tonight's card.

JCSHORT@SHAW.CA


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