The live action on tap at the start of K-Days at Northlands was less than stellar with no stake races carded so we had to look elsewhere to find high quality racing action.
On Sunday, Songbird reaffirmed her placing as the best 3 yo in the land - never mind just the filly division. In the GI Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga she repelled the challenge of Carina Mia who collared the undefeated filly at the quarter and ran with her to to the three-sixteen pole but in the end the champ pulled away to a convincing 5 length victory. Saratoga is recognized as the graveyard of champions but not the case for Songbird whose record is now a perfect 9/9 including 5 GI Stake wins and earnings of just slightly more than $2.4 million. Despite the trainer not opting to take on the boys, we would have to think that pressure will come from all sides to point the filly to the August 27 Travers Stakes which is considered the summer Derby for 3 year olds.
On Saturday California Chrome making his return to the US from his winning effort in the Dubai Cup had to run every step of the way to finally put away Dortmund by a long neck at the end of the 1 1/16 mile G2 San Diego run at Del Mar. It should be noted that Dortmund making his first start in eight months is a very classy horse in his own rights having faced defeat in only two previous starts prior to the San Diego; a third and fourth in last year’s Kentucky. Derby and Preakness. In what is considered a very honorable and thoughtful move, the current owners of California Chrome announced they will donate a portion of his earnings during the remainder of his racing career to the V Foundation for Cancer Research.
Awaiting both California Chrome and Dortmund in the $1 million Pacific Classic which will be contested on August 20 at Del Mar is the mare Beholder who on Sunday in preparation for the race breezed 5 furlongs in 59.1. Her owner B. Wayne Hughes is the ultimate sportsman who is all about finding out who has the fastest horse. In last year’s Pacific Classic, Beholder trounced a strong group of males by 8 ½ lengths but the field did not include either California Chrome or Dortmund. After the race Mr. Hughes indicated he was looking forward to Beholder meeting Triple Crown winner American Pharaoh in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Unfortunately the meeting did not materialize as Beholder suffered a physical setback and was turned out for the year. The 2016 edition of the Pacific Classic will be the most anticipated race of the year.
Of interest to Albertans would be the result of the $150,000 1 1/16 mi. California Dreamin’ Stakes contested at Del Mar on Sunday. At odds of 18/1, Patriot’s Rule owned by Edmontonian Charles Garvey returned to the races off a one year layoff to run down a quality filed of turf runners including favorite Alert Bay. Customarily running near the back of the field, this time he was kept closer to the pace, split horses at the head of the lane and carried his momentum to score by a half-length. The 5 year old who has raced his entire career in California and has been trained solely by Robertino Diodoro, has amassed earnings of $471,000. One thing that continues to puzzle this corner is how is it that Albertan Wayne Dehr appears to be in every Diodoro win picture regardless of which side of the United States the horses win?
The highlight during the last three days of racing at Northlands was The Alberta Racing Club’s continued success when on Saturday their 2 yo filly Swift Sally Swift trained by Rod Cone came thru by breaking her maiden in the third race in only her second life time start. Rod reports that there had to be 75 very enthusiastic owners and friends in the Winners circle. Our readers may recall that the filly lost all chance in her initial start when she broke tardily in the 3 ½ furlong dash. She obviously moved forward from that experience as this time she went wire to wire. The Club has now recorded 2 wins, a second and a third from six starts. An excellent introduction to thoroughbred racing. We are now putting trainer Craig Smith on notice that the expectation is that the two year old Krissy Fortynine come thru for the Club in her next start!
The Canadian Derby trail starts in earnest on August 1 with the running of the Manitoba Derby at Assiniboia Downs in Winnipeg. A total of 15 three year olds have been nominated led by Count Lathum winner Real Intaglio. Trainer Robertino Diodoro has nominated Cable Jett, Inside Straight, Solve, & Way Striking. With the exception of Way Striking, the other three are owned by Albertans. Way Striking owned by Mercedes Stable is an interesting case having won his last start at Canterbury by 14 lengths travelling the one mile and 1/16 in an eye popping 1.41.4 – this is racehorse time! Trainer Greg Tracy has Moon King nominated and past Alberta trainer Don Schnell has nominated Langara. The most interesting name on the list is that of Ruck a Calmar Stable homebred racing at Woodbine who is sired by Lookin At Lucky out of their Champion mare Raylene. She beat the boys in the 2003 running of the Canadian Derby. All in all more than 50% of the nominees have an Alberta connection.
Starting to sound like a broken record but the truth - and we only speak the truth - is that this year’s wagering on our live product continues to trend downward. For the first thirty-four (34) days of the meet, wagering on the live product totaled $8,841,544 compared to $9,751,766 for the same period last year which represents a $910,222 (9.4%) decrease. The low point of the meet occurred on Friday July 24 with a 1 o’clock afternoon start resulting in wagering at a level not seen on A thoroughbred racing for a long time — if ever! On reflection with twenty-twenty hindsight it appears that afternoon post times during K Days are not in anyone’s interest since most of our customers and fans work during the day. There will be no racing on Wednesday July 27 with the lost opportunities being made up during the remainder of the meet. Furthermore, a 1:00 o’clock post time remains in effect on Friday July 29. One item that is disturbing from feedback received suggests many of our customers and horsemen did not know of the 1:00 post time last Friday. We would hope that Northlands and all others that have a vested interest in A track Thoroughbred racing spread the word about this coming Friday’s afternoon start to the card.
Once again the High 5 exotic wager was not hit by a single ticket over the last three days meaning that going into Friday’s action the carryover in the Pool now totals $137,545. Good luck with his wager on Friday.