It was the race of the year that got Ready Intaglio the nod for Alberta’s Horse of the Year at Saturday’s Night of Champions thoroughbred awards dinner. Getting through one tiny hole after another in last year’s thrilling Canadian Derby, the three-year-old colt slipped between horses down the backstretch and then found one more hole at the top of the stretch which he ripped through en route to his narrow victory over Solve.
“I just took the shortest way around; the shortest way is the fastest way,” said winning jockey Shamaree Muir after he came from 10th place in the full 12-horse field. “I was on the rail just about every step. I think that was what made the difference. “He was relaxed and I just waited for the right time to make my move,” said Muir. “He’s the smartest horse I’ve ever ridden.”
Purchased privately by Eurico Martens and his wife Robbin for just $1,000 when the horse didn’t prompt a single bid at Kentucky’s 2014 Keeneland Yearling Sale, the Canadian Derby victory alone was worth $90,000. In 17 career starts - six wins, six seconds and four thirds - Ready Intaglio was now won over $200,000.
In addition to the Derby, Ready Intaglio won the Count Lathum and the Ky Alta stakes at Northlands as well as an allowance and an optional claimer at Phoenix’s Turf Paradise racetrack last season which also made him the runaway winner as Alberta's top three-year-old. Jim Meyaard, husband of trainer Amber, said Ready Intaglio will be pointed towards the May 27 Journal Handicap for his first start.
“He’s been training super. But he’ll likely need a race. Six furlongs isn’t his game anyway. He wants a mile. He wants a mile and three-eighths. He wants a mile and a half,” said Jim. “The longer the better.” Meyaard said he worked Ready Intaglio five furlongs last Saturday.
“I had him work against the gray horse (Mister Jangles), who broke 12 lengths in front of him. The black horse (Ready Intaglio) kept closing ground, they were head and head at the wire and then he ran off. “The dogs were up and they were well out onto the track and he still worked in 1:03 and change and did it well within himself. “He’s the real deal.”
In other awards announced Saturday at the Century Casino and Hotel Killin Me Smalls repeated as Champion Older Horse and Champion Sprinter and, while exact voting details weren’t released, was undoubtedly a close runner-up as Horse of the Year - a title he also won last year. In eight starts last year, Killin Me Smalls won three times, was second three times and third once.
Showing his great versatility, the six-year-old’s victories came in Sun Sprint going six and a half furlongs, the Westerner going a mile and a sixteenth and the Premier Handicap in Vancouver going a mile and three-eighths.
Already a winner this year when he handily won last Friday’s allowance race in 1:10 flat after speeding through early fractions of 22 2/5 and 44 3/5 on the front end, trainer Ernie Keller said Killin Me Smalls has been training as good as he ever has which can’t be good news for his opponents. Like Ready Intaglio, Killin Me Smalls is also being pointed to the Journal Handicap.
Elsewhere, other awards went to Caro’s Song as the top claimer, Ruffenuff as champion two-year-old filly, Norm’s Big Bucks as the champion two-year-old colt, Onestaratatime as the top three-year-old filly and champion Alberta-bred and Hero’s Amor as the best older mare. Norm’s Big Bucks broke his maiden by three and a half lengths, won the Sales stake by more than seven lengths and sped to a two and a half length victory in the Alberta Premiers. “I really believe he was a freak of nature,” said Tim Rycroft, who trained the precocious colt for Robert Vargo and Norm Castiglione. “He had so much in front of him. This race was just the tip of the iceberg for him. He was already special but he was going to be something very special.
“Rico (jockey Walcott) said he hadn’t even asked Norm’s Big Bucks when he broke down,” said Rycroft. “He said he hadn’t even thrown a cross at him yet. “He broke in a tangle was wide through much of the race and Rico said he was still sure the horse was going to win and win easily.” Ruffenuff was three for three last year - all in stakes races - capturing the Princess Margaret by almost seven lengths, the Bird of Pay by 12 1/2 lengths and the Freedom Of The City by 10 and 1/4 lengths.
Like stablemate Ruffenuff, Onestaratatime was also brilliant winning five of her eight starts while finishing second twice and third once. Onestaratatime took the Red Smith by six and three-quarter lengths, the Northlands Oaks by eight lengths, the Sonoma by four and a half lengths and the Alberta Oaks by nine. Hero’s Amor’s victories in the Mademoiselle - by nine lengths - and City of Edmonton Distaff - also wire-to-wire were enough for her to win the aged mare category.
The dancing queen, Caro’s Song, who prances briskly when she gets to the paddock and on post parade, was simply outstanding winning five of her seven starts. Like Ready Intaglio, Caro’s Song, who loves her peppermints, was also originally purchased for just $1,000. Winning $58,260 last year, Caro’s Song has won $179,257 in her career.
Other awards went to Rico Walcott as the runaway top jockey, Greg Tracy the more-than-dominant leading trainer, Riversedge as the top owner and Highfield Stock Farm the top breeder.
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