Those who were on hand last Saturday at Northlands would have to agree that there is nothing better than watching quality thoroughbred racing on a warm beautiful day with an enthusiastic, energetic crowd of 10,000+ in attendance. The pomp and circumstance made the atmosphere electric and no other single race day event in Alberta can come close to the Canadian Derby experience. There were many first timers in the crowd and coupled with concert goers we cannot remember previous numbers on the tarmac and infield being as large as this year’s edition. For those seated in Colours (Dining Room) and the Private Suites, all indications are that the quality of the food and service was very good to excellent. As a matter of fact the connections of Inside Straight and Solve who entertained 100+/- guests in the Sky Paddock Suite were pleased with basically everything. Owner Randy Howg actually complemented Race Secretary Jason Teague on food quality which resulted in a bystander wise guy to ask – why are you giving him praise – he’s not the chef!
Riversedge Racing did find out one thing about their entrant in the Derby – Hold the Giant – in the future his best running will in all probability come at distances of one mile or less. As we said last week, this race is tough to win back to back but we were pleased that our horse was able to give an honest accounting of himself setting all the fractions for the mile. The old saying is that an owner will never do himself in knowing he has a good two year old in the barn. We believe that we currently have one or two of these so barring anything unforeseen and the horse god willing we should again make it to the post in 2017 for the 88th running of the race.
It’s only fitting to pat ourselves on the back every now and then. Readers who checked out our in depth objective analysis of the race would have noted that Ready Intaglio was tagged as “strictly the horse to beat”. Furthermore, our vast pipeline of informants revealed that Solve would run huge and was the “dark horse”. For the believers, a $2 Exacta on these two steeds returned a healthy $136.60.
Not only did the Derby go to the post at a very late 7:52 pm but the connections of the first four finishers as well as punters had to wait what seemed an eternity (actually about 10 minutes) while the Stewards reviewed the running of the race to make it official. Rico Walcott aboard the 4th place finisher Inside Straight lodged a claim of foul against the first two finishers. It’s not Rico’s style to lodge claims of foul indiscriminately so there had to be some merit for his action. A review of the head on replay revealed that Ready Intaglio on the inside and Solve on the outside may not have maintained straight courses down the lane causing the hole Rico was pointing his horse to close immediately. It was definitely a tough call for the Stewards so there will be no second guessing as to why they did not alter the order of finish. Had both Ready Intaglio and Solve been disqualified, third place finisher The Accuser would have been awarded the win.
We would think that the four shippers from Vancouver left on Sunday morning on a van heading back to the coast. We did not confirm with Calmar partner Rick Mah as to what was next for Ruck who ran a credible 5th in the race, however, in all probability he will return to Trainer Reade Baker at Woodbine. The two Diodoro charges will wait until mid-week for a van ride to either Canterbury Park or Remington Park in Oklahoma. Both came out of the race in fine order, as a matter of fact here’s Solve and Assistant Trainer Rob Atras the next morning at Northlands with neither lookin the worst for wear.
The 10th race on the card was the inaugural running of the Shirley Vargo Memorial. It looked that from the heavens Shirley was pushing along Riversedge’s Holler At The Moon who led by nearly 5 lengths turning for home. It seemed for sure the horse at 10/1 was home and cooled out when he just got nailed at the wire by Ted Graling’s Xtreme Denigray. Shirley’s better half Robert wishes for her love of the sport to be immortalized by having an annual race named in her honor. As previously indicated he generously supplemented the purse for this race and will continue to do so in the future.
The two fastest and most consistent distaff runners on the grounds are the 3 y o Onstaratatime and the 4 y o filly Hero’s Armor who won the Sonoma and City of Edmonton Distaff respectively with relative ease.
There is no doubt that Killin Me Smalls is regaining his 2015 form when he was crowned horse of the year. In the Westerner he finally got to his 2016 nemesis Blue Dancer who wilted under the pressured pace of 1.10 & change for six furlongs. The 2016 score is now Blue Dancer 2; Killin Me Smalls 1.
Inside the Numbers
Interesting to note that Kissininthetheatre who has raced exclusively in $7,000 company allyearwon the 13/8 mile $18,000 Northlands Marathon #1 (Race 8) in a time of 2.18.98. Going the exact same distance in the $150,000 Derby, Ready Intaglio recorded a winning time of 2:19:16.
Race goers on Derby Day did not seem to be bothered that the Derby Purse was $150,000 this year compared to $200,000 in previous years.
Wagering on the 11 race card (which included one Quarter horse race) totaled $1,166,075 vs $1,344,543 in 2015. On track wagering totaled $582,563 vs $649,181 last year. Before drawing conclusions we need to compare apples to apples. In 2015; 13 thoroughbred races were carded. Furthermore Derby Day 2011 to 2014 never offered less than 13 races thoroughbred races. So suffice to say had 13 thoroughbred races been on this year’s card, there would not have been a $178,468 decrease of total wagering with $66,618 of that amount being on track. As a matter of fact there is no question that on a level playing field, wagering would have increased this year.
For the first forty-four (44) days of the meet, wagering on the live product totaled $12,552,050 compared to $14,052,775 for the forty-five day period last year. In order to have a meaningful comparison the 2015 Canadian Derby handle was included in last year’s numbers.
It seems like no one is immune to a decrease in business. A stellar track like Del Mar announced that effective August 24 overnite purses will be cut by 5%. This is in addition to the purse cut put into effect prior to the start of the meet. Maiden races now go for a $63,000 pot which is very good but $7,000 less than the same race in 2015. As is the case universally, short fields seem to be the number one culprit for less business through the mutuals.
For those of you who were unable to watch the Pacific Classic on Canadian Derby Day, California Chrome proved he is the best older horse in training in North America and possibly the planet with a convincing victory over Beholder and Dortmund. This may be totally irrelevant but ever since DAP’s (Dumb Ass Partners) Steve Colburn disposed of his interest in the horse, Chrome has not lost a race and now has amassed lifetime earnings of $13.2 million.
The 3yo Medaglia d’oro filly Songbird remains unbeaten in 10 lifetime starts. On Saturday at Saratoga she captured the G1 Alabama which bring the total to six Grade 1 victories in her career. She has won her races by a combined 54.75 lengths or an average of 5.5 lengths per race. She is truly a superstar.
Next up the summer Derby at Saratoga – The Travers Stakes on August 27.