Tommy Rycroft, a beer in one hand, a handshake in the other, leaned back against his chair and did nothing but grin following Born in a Breeze’s victory in Saturday’s $50,000, one-mile Spangled Jimmy. “Tough s.o.b.,” said Rycroft after edging out 7-5 favourite Trooper John - trained by his son, Tim, and the always resilient Double Bear by half a length.
Incredibly, just as they had in last year’s Canadian Derby, Trooper John and Double Bear dead-heated for second - an occurrence as rare as finding an elephant on Jasper Ave.“(Born in a Breeze) gives you everything he’s got every time,” continued Tommy, who is having a very solid season. “He just doesn’t quit. Last time out he finished second by a neck to Trooper John but that was going six furlongs and Born in a Breeze isn’t a sprinter. I knew he’d like the extra distance."
“The kid did too,” said Rycroft, 78, referring to 40-year-old well-seasoned jockey Wilmer Galviz. “Wilmer told me before the race that he would win it and he was right. He gave him a perfect ride. Just the way we planned it. I told him the speed would be there so just tuck in behind it and thats what he did.”
Getting away in fourth, Galviz sat and waited as Double Bear and Killin Me Smalls duelled through opening fractions of :23 2/5 and :46 4/5 seconds. Then, when Killin Me Smalls called it a day, Galviz made what was probably the winning move when he moved up on the outside of Trooper John, briefly pinning last year’s Horse of the Year for a few seconds.
“When I saw Trooper John drop inside I went to the outside of him,” said Galviz, a very impressive newcomer to the Alberta jockey colony arriving here this spring from Trinidad - that country’s leading rider on three occasions. It worked out perfectly. When I asked him he responded beautifully. I couldn’t have asked for anything better. To win a stakes race in Alberta is wonderful.”
Tim Rycroft agreed that Galviz’s cagey, veteran move down the backside was probably the separation maker. “They both race rode hard. Galviz made a smart decision. Trooper John had to wait a bit and that was likely the difference in the outcome. I take nothing but good things about Trooper John’s effort.”
Neither could Dale Stark, a co-owner in Born in a Breeze along with Lewis Mail and Tommy Rycroft. “What a horse. He leaves it all out there on the track,” said Stark, who is one of Tommy’s nephews. “I’ve had a million $3,000 claimers and I finally got one that can run. He’s the kind of horse you are always searching for."
“To beat a horse as good as Trooper John is really special,” continued Stark, a former jockey in the Alberta bushes who even rode for Tommy. “I wasn’t much of a rider but Tommy kept me employed.”
Stark, Mail and Tommy Rycroft got Born in a Breeze when they dropped in a $32,000 claim for the six-year-old stallion last November at Toronto’s Woodbine racetrack. “It was actually Riley who picked him out,” said Tommy, referring to his other son. “Riley went to Toronto to scout out a few horses for us to claim and he told me about Born in a Breeze. “I said if you like him, lets got get him.”
Riley did. “We claimed him off his form,” said Riley, a former trainer now jockey’s agent for both Galviz and the equally solid Rigo Sarmiento. “He had been running against stakes and allowance horses in Toronto and giving it one solid effort after another. “I watched a lot of film of his replays. It’s tough to find horses like him. Thirty-two thousand was the cheapest he had ever run for. So we took a shot.”
After the meet ended at Woodbine, Born in a Breeze was sent to Phoenix, Arizona’s Turf Paradise racetrack where he upset a tough group in the Turf Paradise Handicap at odds of 14-1 getting the mile and a sixteenth in 1:41 2/5 which was just a couple of ticks off the track record.
"He only won by a head but he was boxed-in in the stretch. If he gets out sooner he probably wins by a couple of lengths,” recalled Tommy, who said he got his first thoroughbred when he traded one of his cows for a horse named Junior Todd way back in 1965. “My dad rodeoed and competed in chariot racing. He wasn’t much into thoroughbreds. But I always liked thoroughbreds.”
Sent off as the 3-1 second favourite, Born in a Breeze returned $8.50 to win. “Make sure you credit my staff,” said Tommy. “I’ve got really good help. They do a helluva job."
“We’ll see how he comes out of the race but the plan is to run him in the next stake,” Tommy said of the June 30 Fred Jones. “Look at him,” said Riley pointing towards his dad. “He’s having the time of his life. He’s having a lot of fun. This is what horse racing is all about.”
Follow me on Twitter at CurtisJStock