When Riversedge Racing Stable Ltd. (partners Robert Vargo and Norm Castiglione) stepped up to the plate at last year’s Alberta Yearling sale with a final bid of $95,000 for HIP #85 many local observers speculated that this was a king’s ransom to pay for a horse slated to race in Alberta under the current purse structure. It may not have made any economic sense in this jurisdiction but then did the record price of $16 million paid by Tabor/Magnier/Smith in 2006 for an untried racehorse make sense in any racing jurisdiction?
Turns out that The Green Monkey, a beautiful specimen shown below, couldn’t run much and to add insult to injury his offspring to date have not been any quicker than he was on the track. Luckily Monkey resides in Ocala, Florida in a private paddock at the Hartley/DeRenzo Farm in a setting fit for a ‘King”.
Getting back to the story at hand, Norm shelved big bucks for the colt and then yet another no no that the race gods do not look kindly upon – he names the colt after himself and includes the fact he paid big bucks for him, thus the aptly named Norm’s Big Bucks. A winner at Northlands right out of the box, he came back on Monday to capture the $50,000 Sales Stake for 2 year olds restricted to Canadian bred horses sold at the annual Western Canada CTHS Sales. He made it look ridiculously easy, jogging to victory – it was 38 lengths back to the 5th place finisher. In two starts Norm has made a touch over $33,000 net for his owners. He is on track to reach payout this year baring any physical problems and also looks like a horse that may compete at the higher level elsewhere. We do wonder though what was going through his owners minds who were seated at their customary table in Colours when at the 3/8 pole it looked like Special Kiss owned in part by Norm Cuthbertson of Chuckwagon fame and wife Judy who ran The Colonel’s barn for years, launched a bid and looked like he could possibly match strides with Norm to the wire. Turns out this horse was also bought at the same Yearling Sale (Hip #57) for $94,000 less than Norm. The old saying is that “you never know where a runner is going to come from”!
The 2 year old Filly division of the Sales Stakes was a more competitive event with the maiden Saveitforarainyday besting Parcam Cowgirl by a diminishing neck. The disappointing part of this Stake was of the original nine fillies nominated to the race only five went to the post. There was some type of kerfuffle with respect to Something Better who in the end was deemed not to be eligible for the race. Rather than stay in the barn and wait for another day, the partnership took their ball and went across the mountains to run in the BC Debutante Stake on the same day. With Rico Walcott in the irons, Something Better led every step of the way and got the 6 ½ furlongs in a lively 1.18.3 which is excellent time for a 2 year old racing the first time at the distance. Babies don’t usually ship from Northlands to Hastings Park with any kind of success, thus the locals dismissed her changes as she went off at nearly 9/1. Had she run in the Northlands Stake she may well have gone off at 1/9.
We are not sure why Blue Dancer who we have touted as the best older horse in training at Northlands failed to enter in the Sun Sprint on Monday. Albeit it was a cutback in distance from 1 1/16 miles to 6 ½ furlongs but we feel he has enough speed and class to have won the race with relative ease. No Blue Dancer meant that there would be no beating the 2015 Horse of the Year Killin Me Smalls who made it look easy winning the $50,000 event.
Star Jockey Rico Walcott chose to ride at Hastings Park on Monday. As we previously mentioned he got the job done with Something Better. His best effort however was on his customary west coast mount - Snuggles. Turing for home she was full of run and looked about to devour the field when she nearly clipped heels swinging to the outside while behind horses. Regaining her composure instantaneously she dove to the rail in midstretch to win going away by a length and one half. If Rico is the best rider around these parts then Snuggles is without doubt the best three year old filly in Western Canada.
In racing the old saying is you are only king for a day. Robertino Diodoro was winning races at an amazing clip in the US when a losing streak of about 0/15 suddenly happened. He entered not one but two horses at Del Mar in Stake races this last weekend where his runners would be first or second favorites. A personal trek from the Midwest to the place “where the turf meets the surf” to oversee the California operations was in order. The 2 year old filly My California failed to deliver at odds of 3/5 by finishing third beaten by more than six lengths. Jockey Tyler Baze said it best when asked by the Media guy as to what went wrong – he simply said “she was not fast enough”. We are not sure that particular excuse is in the trainer’s book of excuses used on owners when their horses lose. Then on Sunday crack sprinter Subtle Indian was bet down to 2/1 in the ‘Win and You’re In” Grade 1, 6 furlong Bing Crosby. Bobbling at the start and setting a pressured pace of 21 & 43.3 fractions he retreated to finish last to winner Lord Nelson who just tagged the Indian at the wire in their last start. What was most disappointing with this result is that Subtle Indian is now in all probability questionable for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint which will cause a lot of Albertans to change travel plans and skip the event.
When you have a horse, there is always tomorrow to look forward too. Sure enough on Monday, Inside Straight came through for Diodoro and southern Alberta owner Randy Howg in winning the$75,000 Manitoba Derby at Assiniboia Downs. His second entry in the race Solve, even though not highly regarded in this corner, actually ran a bang up 4th in the race. We have since learned the Solve had some legitimate excuses so both horses will set hoof at Northlands this Friday and commence prepping for the Canadian Derby. We were somewhat surprised that Wayne Dehr who is normally in all Diodoro win pictures was not in the Manitoba Derby Winner’s Circle. However the simulcast reception was less than satisfactory so in truth he could have been in the pic but we just could not see him. It was also nice to see that just prior to ending his ten minute interview and thanking what seemed to be 99% of all Canadians, owner Randy finally remembered to thank Robertino for securing Inside Straight and getting him across the wire first.
Triple Crown winner American Pharaoh’s baby sister American Cleopatra made her debut at Del Mar on July, 31 a winning one. Whereas American Pharaoh did not break his maiden at first asking the filly did. Rhetorical question – how was she get away at 7/1?
Finally best laid plans of mice and men. The racing world was awaiting the August 20 $1 million Pacific Classic at Del Mar where the mare Beholder would take on among others the colts California Chrome and Dortmund. Low and “behold” Beholder lost to the 3 year old filly Stellar Wind in the Grade 1 Clement Hirsch. This now suggests there will be no such meeting in the Pacific Classic. Appears that Beholder has lost a step from this time last year.
For the first thirty-four (34) days of the meet, wagering on the live product totaled $9,742,564 compared to $10,842,291 for the same period last year which represents a $1,099,727 (10.1%) decrease.
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 $150,301. It should be noted that there was a mandatory payout of the High 5 Pool at Assiniboia Downs on Derby Day. An additional $435,000 was bet in addition to the $260,000 carryover for a total of $695,760. We would think that if the Northlands jackpot is not hit soon, it should be shut down until Canadian Derby Day with a mandatory Payout. We would think that an additional $500-600 thousand would be added to normal wagering that day.