09/15/2011 12:32PM

Northlands: Fall Classic stakes come up tough


Racing Secretary Jason Teague has every right to be pleased with how entries went for Alberta Fall Classic Day this Saturday at Northlands Park.

“We were thrilled to see such great support,” he said. “The betting public is going to love the field sizes and the competitiveness of the races.”

A total of 62 horses have been entered in the seven $50,000 stakes races that make up the bulk of the 12-race card. Usually short-priced favorites dominate the day, but beginning with the Sturgeon River Stakes for 2-year-old fillies in race 4, and ending with the Alberta Breeders’ Handicap for 3-year-olds and up in race 11, all of the races appear to be competitive events.

Hastings-based Arkhill and My Lucky Thirteen look like the main players in the mile and a sixteenth Alberta Breeders’ that drew eight horses.

Arkhill had success in Alberta as a 3-year-old in 2008, winning the $125,000 Alberta Derby at Stampede Park and the $95,000 Ky Alta at Northlands. He comes into the Breeders’ as a sharp horse for trainer Monica Russell. He compiled a 2-1-3 record from 6 starts at Hasting while racing in claiming races for his owner and trainer Craig MacPherson. He also has a solid record going 1 1/16 miles, winning 2 of 3 starts.

My Lucky Thirteen has started three times in 2011, and they have all been solid efforts for trainer Twylla Bensmiller. He romped by four lengths when he made his seasonal debut in a second-level allowance race going 6 1/2 furlongs July 6 and came right back to win a one-mile $40,000 optional claiming race July 29. Bensmiller tried My Lucky Thirteen in the $75,000 Speed to Spare, finishing fourth in the grueling 1 3/8-mile race won by Senor Rojo on Aug. 20.

My Daddy’s Girl could be the shortest priced favorite of the day in the one-mile Sturgeon River. Trained by Greg Tracy, My Daddy’s Girl will be shooting for her third stakes win in a row following wins in the Filly Sales Stakes and the Bird of Pay.

The main threat is Top It Up who finished second in the Bird of Pay for trainer Diana Feuerheim.

The mile and a sixteenth Beaufort for 3-year-olds is anyone’s race. None of the eight horses entered have won at the distance and Celtic Touch, an impressive winner of a maiden special weight race going one mile in his second career start for trainer Ron Grieves on Aug. 26, looks as good as any.

The one-mile Alberta Oaks is just as puzzling as the Beaufort but at least Spirited Winner is a proven stakes winner going the distance. The bad news is her last win for trainer Joan Petrowski was in the Sturgeon River a year ago. She will appreciate the class relief after chasing Embellished in four of her five starts this year.

Mr. Shadar will be trying for his third Fall Classic win in a row and should be favored in the 6 1/2-furlong Red Diamond Express. Trained by Rick Hedge, Mr. Shadar won the Beaufort in 2009 and the Red Diamond last year. He is winless this year, but he is coming off a third-place finish behind Salt Flat Speed in the Sun Sprint Championship, and is clearly the one to beat.

Two Horn Unicorn might be questionable going a mile and a sixteenth in the Distaff, but she has a class edge and will likely be favored over Topasannah in the 9-horse field.

Silver Baubles should appreciate running against Alberta-breds in the Alberta Premier’s Futurity after chasing Dougs Buddy in the Edmonton Juvenile and Birdcatcher. Kiribrassy, Golden Cup and Northern Yankee are other possibilities in the one-mile race that drew 10 horses.