Condren named to Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame

Luis Contreras rides Inglorious to victory in the Woodbine Oaks in June. The Canadian horse is...

Luis Contreras rides Inglorious to victory in the Woodbine Oaks in June. The Canadian horse is entered in Saturday's $500,000 Alabama Stakes. (MICHAL BURNS photo)

ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:14 PM ET

TORONTO - No matter when it happened, being inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame was going to be the highlight of Steve Condren’s racing career.

But there couldn’t have been a more appropriate time for such a feel-good celebration than the summer of 2011.

The long-time, big-time harness driver on the Woodbine-Mohawk harness circuit was among this year’s long list of inductees honoured at a gala celebration Thursday night in Mississauga.

With more than 6,600 wins in his career and purse earnings closing in on $110 million, Condren was a sure thing to be inducted into the Hall, which honours both thoroughbred and standardbred performers.

That the announcement came days after he was diagnosed with colon cancer this past spring was a well-timed pick-me-up for the 54-year-old native of St. Catharines.

“It was good news compared to all the bad news I had since coming back from Florida,” Condren said on Thursday before joining his wife Carol and family at the ceremony. “It puts what has been happening to me in a different light.”

For the past seven seasons, Condren has taken a sabbatical to Florida for the harsh winter racing months, but always returned north in time for the bigger-money stakes season. He barely got back into the sulky this season before getting the alarming diagnosis.

Though he won’t be able to add to the modest 2011 total of two wins, Condren takes pride in the fact that he has visited the winner’s circle at least once a year for the past 34 years. And he has every intention of returning to racing some time next summer.

The veteran has some fighting left to do after completing an initial radiation and chemotherapy regimen in the summer, including surgery this fall to remove a tumour. He’s been building his strength and energy since, not that anything was going to keep him away from Thursday’s ceremony.

“It’s got to be the highlight of my career, quite an honour obviously,” Condren said. “Nothing tops it.”

Glory for Inglorious?

The much-anticipated return of Queen’s Plate champion Inglorious is scheduled for Saturday afternoon at Saratoga where she will face top U.S.-breds in the Grade 1 Alabama Stakes for a purse of $500,000.

The Canadian invader isn’t getting much respect south of the border as she is listed in the morning line as the co-fourth choice in a field of six.

There’s virtually no chance the Josie Carroll trainee will go off at odds anywhere near the 6-1 she’s pegged at, however, once serious handicappers digest her credentials. Not only did she whip the Canadian boys in the Plate, she did so at the gruelling 11/4-mile distance the fillies will be asked to run in the Alabama.

“She ran several hard races right in a row and the timing was right,” Carroll said of opting for the Alabama rather than the rest of the Canadian Triple Crown. “I certainly wouldn’t bring her if I didn’t think she had a chance.”

Having Woodbine’s leading rider, Luis Contreras, on her back certainly won’t hurt Inglorious, who will break from the outside Post 6.

The early 9-5 pick is trainer Kiaran McLaughlin’s It’s Trick (9-5) followed by Bob Baffert’s Plum Pretty (2-1).

Sam-sational

Among the long list of this year’s Hall of Fame inductees is a triactor tied to the glory days of one of Canada’s leading thoroughbred outfits, Sam-Son Farm.

Leading the way was the late Tammy Samuel-Balaz, who died in 2008 but continued to guide the fortunes of the prolific breeding and racing operation after her father, Ernie, passed in 2000. She was joined by trainer Mark Frostad, who has worked almost exclusively for Sam-Son since 1995 and has trained four Queen’s Plate winners.

And to make the presentation complete, one of the more charismatic of those Plate winners, Dancethruthedawn, also was enshrined. The filly, a daughter of the great Dance Smartly, captured the 2001 Plate.

Finish lines

The career of the hard-trying turf specialist Rahy’s Attorney has come to an end after he suffered an injury following a game second-place finish in last weekend’s Sword Dancer Stakes at Saratoga. Best known for his win in the 2008 Woodbine Mile, the seven-year-old gelding retires with 14 career wins, 28 top three finishes from 41 starts and a nice career bankroll of $2.1 million for trainer Ian Black ... Saturday’s Alabama will be shown live on NBC from 5-6 p.m. as part of the network’s Summer at Saratoga series ... Another Plate performer has his eyes on the biggest of all Saratoga races — the Travers Stakes on Aug. 27. That would be Bowman’s Causeway who finished fourth at Woodbine, well behind Inglorious, but was second in the Prince of Wales ... And one final Hall of Fame thought: I have fond personal memories of a number of this year’s equine inductees, but none top the performance of Touch Gold in the 1997 Belmont Stakes where in a furious stretch run, the colt ran down Silver Charm in the closing strides to deny the latter’s bid for a Triple Crown. Owned by Frank Stronach, Touch Gold raced at Woodbine as a two-year-old for trainer Danny Vella before moving on to the U.S. Though his biggest races came south of the border, Touch Gold had strong Canadian connections. His sire is fellow Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame resident Deputy Minister.


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