One casualty of the pandemic are the Alberta harness racing tracks. Their shutdown is forcing the sale of some pretty big time horses.
Among them is Major Custard, owned by trainer Jim Marino. The winner of 17 consecutive races and likely Canada’s Harness Horse of the Year is up for sale. Another top trainer, Albertan Brent Bodor, is following suit for the same reason. Of note, he won 66 of 321 races this year, 80 of 431 races last year and 84 of 513 races two years ago.
These records speak for themselves. Bodor won 30 of 368 starts this year and 59 of 495 last year. Major Custard won the Western Canada Pacing Derby and 17 races in a row. There is great value in these top-tier thoroughbreds.
One last race for as many horses as possible is planned before the midnight deadline shuts down horse racing. As for Marino, this is a business and financial decision.
“Because of track closures, casino closures and the uncertainty of purse
money…it makes the most sense to focus on the yearlings and regroup.
He confesses that the race track has been great to him. Now he has a lot of employees and needs revenue. With 40 horses total, it remains to be seen how many he will chose to sell.
It’s going to be a challenge for other harness horse owners with no purse money building what with the casinos being closed. The good news is that he has good stakes colts in British Columbia and Alberta.
“We had a good year in the stakes and a lot of horsemen going to have a tough
time …If I can sell horses during the break, that’s what I thought I would do.”
Major Custard is a real winner, having garnered $315,000 to date. He has been entered in the upcoming Brad Gunn Memorial stakes race. Marino surely hates to see him go, even at the right price.
“I think he deserves the chance to be racing in the United States.”
Marino has made his decision and hopes the other horsemen figure out what to do too.
“Horsemen are tough and resilient and they can bounce back. Alberta, I think, is
the future of horse racing in Western Canada and we just need to get past this.”