As far as new faces at the races goes, one can’t do much better than the Century Horse Racing Club in Alberta, which not only brought together more than 160 fractional owners in 2019, but also campaigned a 3-year-old stakes-placed filly named Whoop It Up that was second in the Century Casino Oaks, third in the BC Oaks and earned $53,399.
This was the first year the club, which was launched in 2016, was operated by Century Casinos, the owner of both Century Downs Racetrack north of Calgary and the new Century Mile Racetrack near the Edmonton Airport.
“In reality, you couldn’t have asked for better horses for the first year we operated the club,” said Paul Ryneveld, managing director of Century Downs and Century Mile. “In the past, they had horses that won and that, but they hadn’t really fared all that well with the horses previously.”
Whoop It Up, a daughter of Champ Pegasus—Quick Approval, came to the club off a $6,250 claim on March 1 at Golden Gate Fields. Under the tutelage of Rod Cone, Whoop It Up finished second in her Alberta debut on May 11 at Century Mile and then rattled off four straight wins prior to her two terrific stakes performances.
“Unfortunately, she chipped her ankle. We had surgery done and we’re looking to bring her back for the club next year,” Ryneveld said.
The club also campaigned “a hard-knocking claimer” named Zucchini. The 4-year-old gelding trained by Craig Smith earned cheques in all but one of his 12 Alberta starts in 2019, making $22,004 for the club.
But it was Whoop It Up that brought the most excitement.
“We nominated her for the Century Casino Oaks based on the fact that she rattled off two allowance wins and was possibly competitive with some of the better 3-year-old fillies. We said, ‘You know what? We might as well.’ That was the attitude, let everybody have that experience that comes on Oaks day. They get to stand in the paddock before the race and get that experience,” Ryneveld said.
“We were hoping that she’d finish fifth, at least, just to pay for being in the race. So, when she finished second, Rod Cone actually said, ‘That’s the first time I’ve finished second in a race and felt like I won.’”
When Whoop It Up raced at Hastings Racecourse in the BC Oaks, Century Mile threw a party in one of its suites and over 30 people from the club came to watch her run via simulcast during a live standardbred card.
“I know that the people that participated in the club had a great time,” Ryneveld said. “In fact, there was quite a few of them, at least six or eight or 10, went out to BC to watch the horse when she went there. I know some owners wait a long time to race in two $100,000 stakes, not just one.
The club started in 2016 as a standardbred racing club at Century Downs, which only had harness racing at the time.
“That same year, I believe, a gentleman that was a horse owner and HBPA board member started up the thoroughbred club at Northlands and ran that for three years,” Ryneveld said. “He said in 2018, that he didn’t want to continue to run the club. We were opening Century Mile and I said that we could take it all in-house and so we brought the Thoroughbred Club in for the first time in 2019. We had two separate clubs, they were both Century horse racing clubs, but you could pay to be part of one or pay to be part of both.”
Ryneveld said the cost to join the club started at an early bird price of $250 and went up to $300. There was a discount of $50 if you joined both clubs.
“In 2020, though, we’re going to one price, one club and you get four horses – two standardbreds and two thoroughbreds,” he said. “It keeps it clean, in the sense that… some of the people live in Edmonton and some of the people live in the Calgary market… Whether the standardbreds are at your track or the thoroughbreds, your club horses are racing there.
“The purpose of the club is to make people better fans, give them that experience, the behind-the-scenes experience. They can brag that they have horses and they are not open to a lot of risk. They risk the fee that they pay at the beginning. Everybody in the standardbed club has always gotten their money back at the end of the year. In this case with the thoroughbred club, they actually made money.”
Ryneveld is also hoping lightning will also strike twice.
“We actually bought Whoop It Up’s full brother out of a sale in Washington. The sale was just a couple of days after her second-place in the Oaks. He went for next-to-nothing so we were, like, ‘might as well’ and we’re bringing him up to Alberta. He’ll be a 2-year-old next year. Whether he makes it to the track or not, we’re still going to have Whoop It All and then we’ll have another thoroughbred, so then they’ll actually have five horses in the club.”