The 86th Canadian Derby is shaping up to have much more depth than originally anticipated. In fact, this year’s edition of the Run for the Daisies could be the most impressive in recent memory.
What looked to be a one horse race at first glance, is becoming more diverse by the moment. A dominating Blue Dancer, who has swept every local prep race in impressive fashion, is not intimidating his adversaries. The derby roster is quickly evolving into an exciting field of nominations, filled with talent, promise and surprise.
Local punters are eager to tout Blue Dancer’s natural early turn of foot. There is no questioning his freakish speed, but the untested distance is the equalizer. Greg Tracy will be a double threat in this years $200,000 affair with the leggy chestnut Centrefire. With two exciting young talents, boasting different running styles and attributes, Tracy has his bases loaded.
Another local trainer with a couple of live shots is Twylla Bensmiller. Purple Heaven has proven his worth with several stakes placed efforts this year, holding his own with the best of the best. Stable mate Xtreme Denigray is a recent surprise contender to many, without a presence in the local trials, but his thrilling victory in the 2015 Alberta Derby has proven his legitimacy in the field.
Ryan MacLean is living the derby dream for a second time in just four years. In 2011, his super filly Embellished battled the boys for a chance to make history, and this year, he trains Timeless Tales for another shot at Derby glory. MacLean boasts high training percentages each and every season, and together with Wilde Racing Stable, they have proven a formidable duo. A recent claim come derby contender has exceeded all expectations and continues to impress.
Generation horseman Craig Smith has definitely injected the element of surprise in recent weeks with his wild card stud colt’s surprising debut in stakes action. Aztec Key entered the Count Lathum a virtual unknown and competed with much more authority than his form suggested. The greenest of the bunch, this long shot colt out finished his odds with a top three finish in the recent fifty grander. A fresh horse with only three starts this year, and a pedigree to suggest he should relish the distance, could prove threatening on derby day.
Last year, veteran horseman Tim Rycroft and Riversedge Racing Stable’s derby hopes fell through in the final hour, as they were unable to acquire their prospect. This year, as they enjoy a career season together, their luck is beginning to change. 4 am Monday morning, their derby hopeful arrived from Toronto in the name of Academic. This stakes winning filly boasts an impressive resume and has single handedly renewed their hopes for derby victory. Combined with powerhouse owner Bear Stables, this filly could make history as only the fifth filly in 86 years to capture the crown.
Official nominations close Wednesday, August 5th at 10:00am. The derby draw will follow one week later to reveal the official field of this year’s iconic race. Stay tuned!