A standardbred horse racing star will be showing what it’s got at Track On 2 Horse Racing and Event Centre on Sunday.
Record-setting standardbred Shark Week will be the top attraction at the Lacombe-area track. The five-year-old became the first horse in Western Canada to pace a mile under 1:50 when it clocked in at 1:49.1 during the $14,000 Preferred at Century Downs near Calgary in June.
Shark Week has racked up $264,475 in earnings for owners Lorne Duffield and Rod Hennessy, a pretty good return on a horse they picked up for $6,000 at a yearling sale in 2019. Rod’s son, Mike Hennessy, of Lacombe, will be holding the reins when Shark Week takes to the track Sunday afternoon in one of 10 races on the card.
Track on 2 co-owner Kurt Belich is excited that such an equine celebrity will be making an appearance only two days after the track celebrates its fifth anniversary.
It is a reflection of the quality of the track, which Kurt and the other owners, his wife Kyla Belich and Ross Morrison, have been improving every year.
If conditions are right Shark Week has a shot of breaking its record on Sunday, he believes. The track record of 151.1 set last weekend will definitely be in its sights.
What has been a successful racing season wraps up on Sept. 17 at the track, co-owned with Kurt’s wife Kyla Belich and Ross Morrison.
“The track is in really good shape,” he said. “It’s one of the best tracks, I think, in Canada now. Our times have been fantastic.”
Race days that once drew 200 to 500 people are now seeing crowds in the 400 to 700 range.
The racing calendar is also getting higher profile stake races.
“In the horse racing world that’s a really big thing. We’ve never had stake races like that before.”
A pair of recent stake races for two-year-olds had a purses of $70,000 each and two four-year-old stake races had purses of $25,000 each.
“Altogether, we had about $220,000 in purse money we gave out last weekend. We’ve really come a long way.”
The track’s maintenance team has been upgrading the track in sections, digging down 60 to 90 cm and creating a base with rock and fibre cloth. A mixture of sand and clay goes in next topped by a “secret recipe” of sand.
“You want the track to be solid, but you still want the track to have some give. The give is so the horse has a cushion when its hoof hits the track.
It absorbs the impact, so it doesn’t hurt the horse,” he explained.
“If it’s too soft, that’s no good either because now they can’t run fast.
“We’ve probably redone half the track so far. It’s been a big undertaking to get us to this point.”
“Now, we’re getting the races that show our track is in really good shape and we’ve had fast times.
“It’s kind of a big thing for us, having the stake races and the big purses, and now we have (Shark Week) coming. We’d normally not have this horse coming, but because the track is so good and they feel comfortable with it they are willing to run their horse on this track. If the track wasn’t good, they wouldn’t run with us.”
Meanwhile, improvements are also being made in the gaming centre, which has 80 slot machines and eight VLTs. Twenty-four machines were recently replaced with newer versions with more on the way this fall.
Post time is 2:15 p.m. on Sunday and admission and parking are free.