Who says you have to spend a lot of money to get a real good race horse?
The early favourite for the Aug. 20 $150,000 Canadian Derby is Ready Intaglio - a horse that owner Robbin Marten's husband, Eurico, purchased for just $1,000.
Saturday afternoon at Northlands Ready Intaglio rubber-stamped his Derby aspirations with another solid, come-from-behind victory in the $50,000 Count Lathum Handicap.
“I’ve trained a lot of good horses and this is one son of a gun with one really big engine,” said Jim Meyaard, trainer Amber Meyaard’s husband.
“And to think Eurico bought him for just $1,000 is absolutely amazing. The horse was consigned to the Kenneland, Kentucky yearling sale and he went through the ring with no sale. Eurico chased down the previous owner, gave the guy a $1,000 cheque and bought himself a Derby contender.”
Eurico Martens, who trains at Winnipeg’s Assiniboia Downs racetrack, asked the Meyaards if they would consider training Ready Intaglio in Edmonton with the idea that the three-year-old might just be a Derby contender.
Might? That’s like saying Nolan Ryan had a pretty good fastball or that Usain Bolt has a little bit of speed.
Make no doubt about it Ready Intaglio is the real deal.
Unhurried in seventh place in the 10-horse, Count Lathum, Ready Intaglio wasn't asked by jockey Shamaree Muir until the quarter pole. Entering the final turn of the mile and a sixteenth Count Lathum, Ready Intaglio responded with conviction. Advancing three-wide, the dark bay colt circled his foes and won going away - the length and a half victory over longshot The Accuser hardly giving his performance true justice.
“Amber is just pleased to have an opportunity to train him. I mean it wasn’t like this horse wasn’t doing anything before we got him. Eurico did a really good job with this horse; he was running first, second or third just about every time he ran him,” Jim said of the horse who has now been in the top three in 13 of his 15 career starts.
“You just had to look at his form to see that in all of his races he was looking for more ground.”
“The Derby’s mile and three-eighths distance isn’t going to be a problem at all for this horse,” agreed Amber, which is hardly good news for the rest of the Derby contenders.
Although, that said, both The Accuser and third-place finisher Autumn Song clearly look like they won’t be disappointed to see more distance either. Both The Accuser and, for the second straight time, Autumn Song, both lacked racing room in the stretch and both closed willingly when they finally found space to run.
“More distance isn’t going to hurt this horse either,” said The Accuser’s trainer Rob Chabot. “He was actually picking up the winner after being in tight quarters in the stretch.”
The Count Lathum was the second straight stakes win for Ready Intaglio, who won the June 18, one-mile Ky Alta stakes with a similar come-from-behind victory - rallying from eighth-place to win a photo over Hold the Giant. The latter briefly took the lead in the Count Lathum but was unable to withstand the late rushes of the top three finishers.
Winter-raced in Arizona where he won an allowance race and an optional claimer, Ready Intaglio finished third in his 2016 Alberta debut, the Western Canada Handicap. But that race was going just six furlongs and Ready Intaglio was just warming up when the race was finished.
The Count Lathum was one of six $50,000 stakes races on the card which can be best described - once again - as Greg Tracy, Greg Tracy, Greg Tracy, Greg Tracy.
The leading percentage trainer at both Northlands and in all of North America for any trainer with at least 100 starts, Tracy sent out the winners of The Northlands Oaks (Onestaratatime), the Princess Margaret (Ruffenuff), The Edmonton Juvenile (Fall At Last) and The Fred Jones Handicap (Blue Dancer).
Onestaratatime, Ruffenuff and Fall At Last are all co-owned by Don Danard’s Red Diamond Stables.
Danard owns Onestaratatime with Curtis and Darrell Landry, and Ruffenuff and Fall At Last with Curtis Landry.
Blue Dancer is owned by C&H Duggan Farms and Shot in The Dark Stables.
Of Tracy’s four winners Fall At Last was clearly the most impressive which is saying a mouthful given that Onestaratatime won by eight lengths, Ruffenuff - a first-time starter - won the abbreviated three-horse-field Princess Margaret by six and three-quarter lengths and Blue Dancer easily led from wire-to-wire in the Fred Jones.
Fall At Last, however, was simply on another planet.
It wasn’t just that Fall At Last won by a gasping 12 1/2 lengths it was how he did it. Just a two-year-old, Fall At Last sped through the fastest early fractions - 22 1/5 for the opening quarter mile; :a scintillating :44 3/5 for four furlongs - anyone can recall for a juvenile in Alberta.
And that was over a track that, while rated as fast, was still wet from very heavy rain on Friday. Just as impressive was that Fall At Last wasn’t stopping as he got the six furlongs in 1:11 2/5.
Watching the race, Danard said he was saying “Whoa, slow down, slow down. But then I looked back and nobody was coming.”
Curtis Landry was thinking and saying the same. “I was yelling ‘Give him some air, man,’” Landry said in the jubilant winner’s circle.
“It was most impressive,” said Danard.
“He’s always had a lot of speed,” said Tracy. “But we’ve got to find a way to get him to rate a little better. I’ve tried training him in the mornings behind other horses trying to get him to slow down. But he just wants to go, go, go.”
Jockey Keishan Balgobin, who came to Edmonton this year from Vancouver where he was one of that circuit’s top jockeys, wasn’t worried about the torrid fractions.
“He was going fast but I still had a tight hold on him,” said Balgobin, who also rode Blue Dancer in the Fred Jones. “I’ve never been on a faster two-year-old.”
The other stakes winner on Saturday’s star-studded program was Hero’s Amor in the Madamoiselle for fillies and mares.
“She’s a gutsy mare,” trainer Tim Rycroft said of the four-year-old who romped from pillar to post crossing the finish line nine lengths in front.
A multiple winner last year when she took the Sonoma stakes at Northlands and the B.C. Oaks in Vancouver, Hero’s Amor was coming off a fourth-place finish which was much better than her form would indicate given that she was four-wide throughout the entire race.
Of note, Balgobin got the mount on Blue Dancer because Quincy Welch, who is in the middle of a torrid jockey’s race between himself and Rico Walcott, dislocated his shoulder in a spill Friday morning.
Welch’s agent, Graham NIblett, said his rider was told he didn’t break any bones but would still need two-to-three weeks to recover before he can ride again.
“He’s very sore,” said NIblett.
Welch, who rides first call for Tracy, was also slated to ride Ruffenuff but was replaced by Ismael Mosqueira.
“It was really bad timing given Saturday’s stakes races,” said Niblett.
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