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Big stars shine on big stakes day at Ajax Downs

A new champion was crowned and a reigning champion kept his title on an incredible day of Quarter Horse racing at Ajax Downs on Monday, October 9. 
 
Had to Be Ivory, one of the most exciting young horses to be seen at Ajax in almost a decade, kept his unbeaten record unblemished with a three-quarter length score in the $119,750 Alex Picov Memorial Futurity, the richest race for Quarter Horses in Canada.


Had to Be Ivory (New Image Media photo)
 
The giant two-year-old, owned and bred by Carol and Jaime Robertson and trained by Carol’s husband Bryn, got in gear late in the 400 yard dash to win over the speedy filly A J Chick in 15 over a track listed as ‘heavy.’ The Ontario-bred posted an impressive 101 speed index for his time of :19.940.
 
“I have never had a two-year-old like him,” said Robertson. “He is running ‘open’ times, he seems to get better with every race. I don’t even know what to say; we bred him, loved Had to be Fandango, his mother, and he’s even better than his mother.”
 
Had to Be Ivory, a son of Ivory James, won all five of his races in 2017 and earned $69,531.
 
Ridden by Tony 'TP' Phillips, Had to Be Ivory will now enjoy a winter rest at the Robertson's HiIlerin Farm in Hillsburgh, ON before preparing for his three-year-old season.
 
Earlier on the 10-race card, last year's Horse of the Year, Country Boy 123, overcame a slow start, some early bumping and stuck his neck out to win the $92,676 Alex Picov Memorial Championship, solidifying his position as the top older horse.
 
The four-year-old gelding, owned by Ruth Barbour and also trained by Bryn Robertson, was ridden to the nail-biting win by Cory Spataro of Innisfil, ON.
 
Country Boy 123 defeated longshot Albertt while stablemate One Famous Glass, who surprised the champ in the Bank of American Challenge, did not handle the greasy track and finished sixth.
 
The winning time for 440-yards was a sharp :21.710 for a 102 speed index.
 
“We kind of missed the break a little bit, either the ground broke away from him and the track is a little bit greasy,” said Spataro, who has now won five stakes on Country Boy 123. “I did try to bide my time a little but I knew I had a lot of horse. I kind of waited the first 200 yards and then the last 200 plus I started asking him for everything he had. He really earned it today, he had to work hard.”
 
Barbour, who bought Country Boy 123 three years ago for $7,200 (US) at the Heritage Place Yearling Sale in Oklahoma City, rides her champion each day at her Grey Winds Farm in Hillsburgh.
 
“It is incredibly rewarding,” said Barbour, who has a veterinary practice and also owns a few Thoroughbreds. “But it takes a village and we have a great village and Cory did an incredible job.”
 
Country Boy 123, a Michigan-bred by Country Chicks Man, has won 11 of 18 career races and five of his six starts in 2017. His career earnings are $163,122.
 
The big bay will have one more race in 2017 as he will start in the $75,000 (US) Indiana Championship at Indiana Downs on October 21.
 
The afternoon at Ajax Downs also featured a very popular pumpkin giveaway in which more than 100 pumpkins flew off the shelves and were decorated by kids in attendance at the track.
 
Wagering on the 10-race card bettered the same Holiday Monday card from 2016 by almost 10 per cent.

Three Mondays remains on the Ajax Downs calendar for 2017 with a first race post time of 12:55 p.m.

By Jennifer Morrison

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