Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Aikenite Flies

A special thoroughbred with an obvious Aiken connection is bringing acclaim to his home town on the stakes racing circuit. Aikenite, a 4-year-old owned by Dogwood Stable, has been having a great 2011 so far and is rapidly becoming one of the city's favorite sons.

Aikenite started out the year with a second place finish in a race in March. Then, in April, clinched a 21/4 length victory in the Grade II Commonwealth Stakes at Keeneland. On May 7, Kentucky Derby day, he was entered in the prestigious $348,900 Grade II Churchill Downs Stakes on the Kentucky Derby undercard. He drew the number one position (not his favorite) and was sent off as the seventh choice of the betting public. But his jockey, John Velasquez, gave him a great ride, letting him sit off the pace for much of the race, and then sending him home in the stretch. He ran down the race leaders to win by a nose and take home a winner's purse of over $200,000.

In his next race, the $500,000 Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont Park on May 30, Aikenite came in fourth. It was a fast race: the winner, Tizway, turned in the second fastest time for the race in its history. Aikenite is now being prepped for the Grade I Forego Stakes at Saratoga, and may even be headed to the Breeders Cup in early November. Cot Campbell certainly hopes that he is. In fact Cot has made an interesting wager with Lucky's Race and Sport Book in Las Vegas. At 10-1 odds, he has bet $5,000 that a Dogwood horse will win a Breeder's Cup race this year. Dogwood currently has 40 horses, including several promising 2-year-olds that have yet to show anyone what they can really do, so all of Cot's chances are not riding on his 4-year-old. But if he Aikenite does win, it will be sweet for Dogwood and for all his local fans.

On another note, Aikenite has so far banked over $700,000 in his race career. If he wins over $1 million, he will become eligible to be named the Aiken Trained Horse of the Year by the Aiken Thoroughbred Hall of Fame and Museum located in Hopeland Gardens. 

Sunday, May 1, 2011

SPCA Barn Tour

The fourth annual Aiken Barn Tour took place on Saturday, April 16. This tour, in which participants were invited to take a look inside some of Aiken's most beautiful barns, included eight properties, all of them located along Aiken's 302 equestrian corridor east of town. Barns on the tour included numerous private stables, all of them constructed within the past six or seven years, and all of them spectacular.

The tour started at 11 a.m., and for seven of the barns it was self-guided: people on the tour got a map and then drove themselves to the various properties. Many of the properties were quite close to each other. For instance, Peter Michaels's Quartermore Farm on Flowing Well Road was right across the street from Mary Guynn and Justin Pimnser's Dollamor, and right around the corner from Laura and Mike Regan's Evergreen Farm and the Hunt Box on Hickory Creek, owned by Jim and Gayle Curtiss. Other properties included Chequers, a lovely farm in Hatchaway Bridge Farms where Arthur and Sandy Vann breed Gypsy Vanner horses; Bridlewood, which is John Abbott's show hunter barn; and Windswept farm, a private dressage facility owned by Theresa and Pat Blewett.

The piäce de rÇsistance came at 2:30 with the guided tour of Crestview Farm on Cooks Bridge Road. This property, hidden behind massive electronic gates, includes barns, paddocks, pastures, polo fields, and pavilions, all custom-built to the highest standard and using unique materials. Although Crestview held the final game of the 2010 Silver Cup on its tournament field last fall, this was the first time that the public was invited to take a look at the barns. Visitors were impressed, to say the least.

After the guided tour, Crestview's president, Alan Meeker, put on an exhibition polo match on his field. This match featured numerous Aiken-based players, including Meeker himself, as well as several players who haven't spent much time in Aiken before, such as Carter Carnegie, who is the interim co-president and CEO of the Breeder's Cup, Ltd.

The barn tour got lucky with a sunny day and had a great turnout. All proceeds went to the Aiken SPCA, which is a nonprofit no-kill shelter. Just a few weeks after the barn tour, on May 19, the SPCA celebrated the groundbreaking of its new expanded facility, the Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare. The facility new which will include the SPCA adoption center, an educational and training center and a regional spay and neuter clinic, is scheduled to be completed in the spring of 2012.