The scary thing about Shimshine is that the precocious colt is still learning what horse racing is all about. If he ever decides to get serious look out. “He still thinks it’s a game,” said jockey Rico Walcott after Shimshine very handily won Saturday’s allowance for three-year-olds which served as a prep race to the Aug. 25 Canadian Derby. “When he gets in front he likes to wait for another horse to come at him. Then he takes off again.”
Shimshine's official winning margin was a length and three-quarters over Regal Max, who had been pressed for much of the early going by Star Czar. But when you watch the replay a couple of times you realize it could have easily been four or five. Taken well off the pace - he was fifth after half of the one-mile race was contested - Walcott shook the reins on Shimshine down the backstretch and the colt pounced gobbling up ground like a snow plow.
“I thought he was too far back,” admitted trainer Elige Bourne. “I thought he isn’t going to run for me. “But then I heard the announcer say ‘Shimshine is making a move’ and just like that he had the leaders collared. “After the race Rico said to me ‘Did I have you worried?’ and I said ‘Hell, yes.’”
But Walcott wasn’t worried in the least. He knew how much horse he had under him like Beethoven knowing he had a few more notes to put down. “I waited as long as I could,” said Walcott. “In his last start he opened up four lengths and then he waited for (Star Czar) to come at him. I just didn’t want him to get the lead too early.”
Then, like a cat playing with a mouse, swoosh. Game over. “He went up alongside Regal Max and stayed there for a little while just to intimidate (Regal Max),” said Bourne, who is still wearing a walking cast after he broke his right leg below the knee as well as his right ankle horse after a horse he was aboard some eight weeks ago lost its footing in training, went up in the air and fell into the outside fence. “He does what he does and then he’s gone. It’s like he’s saying ‘This is how much horse I am, come and catch me.’”
Returning $7.40 to win as a lot of late money went on Regal Max making the latter the betting favourite, Shimshine got the distance in 1:39 2/5. Shimshine has now won six of his last seven starts - the only blip a third-place finish in last year’s Canadian Juvenile which Bourne called ‘a clunker.’ In four of those wins, Regal Max, who must be feeling as heartbroken as the Buffalo Bills who lost four consecutive Super Bowl games in the early 1990s, finished second.
“My horse ran big,” said Regal Max’s trainer Rick Hedge. “It didn’t help that Star Czar pushed him so hard early. But (Shimshine) was too much horse on this day.” Again.
“It was like the Alberta Premiers last fall in Edmonton. Regal Max took three runs at him that day and couldn’t get by,” related Bourne. “Regal Max is a nice colt too. And, like Shimshine, he’s an Alberta-bred too.”
You have to remember that Shimshine is a horse that was claimed by Bourne for Walter Petruniak’s White Pine Ranch for just $12,000 in the colt’s debut appearance. Since then, Shimshine has won close to $150,000. With, presumably, much more to come. He was also named last season’s Two-Year-Old Champion and top Alberta-bred.
“It looks like the voters got it right,” Bourne smiled knowingly. “He’s got a lot more horse power than I thought he had.”
Shimshine’s win on Saturday was the first time he had been asked to run a mile. And, it was just his second start of the year having won the Western Canada in his previous outing going six furlongs. Given how nicely he relaxed for Walcott and then came pounding at the end, the Derby’s gruelling distance of a mile and three-eighths shouldn’t be a problem. “What surprises me is all the people who didn’t think he would run on,” said Bourne, who never had a stakes winner in his barn until now. “You just have to look at his pedigree. He’s by Wilko who won the 2004 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Wilko’s sire is Awesome Again, who won the Breeders’ Cup Classic going a mile and a quarter. He also has Sky Classic on the bottom and he won going a mile and a half.”
“He’s got the distance covered. He’s also got a lot of speed. He was working three furlongs in :35 and change out of the gate before we claimed him. That’s one of the reasons I took him,” continued Bourne, who, before he started training thoroughbreds won just under 2,000 races as a jockey at Alberta’s bush meets in both thoroughbred and quarter horse races. “I’m not bragging but he’s good. When he’s on top of his game he’s tough to outrun.” No doubt.
Bourne said Shimshine loves to train. “I galloped him two rounds before Saturday’s race so he would be a little more manageable. “He goes three rounds just about every day and when he’s done he wouldn’t blow out a match. “When you tack him up and leg up a rider his eyes just light up and he jogs out of he barn.” Of course, it doesn’t hurt either that he has Walcott as his regular rider.
Rather amazingly that came by accident. “Larry Munoz rode him the first time after I claimed him and he ran fifth. Then I put Damario Bynoe on him for his second start for us and he ran second. I was going to ride Bynoe again but his agent took him off to ride another horse. “Somehow Rico was available. How lucky was that?”
Walcott, Alberta’s perennial leading rider, has been aboard for all six of Shimshine’s victories. “I don’t know how good he is and he probably doesn’t know either,” said Walcott. “He drops the bit and relaxes. You ask him and he picks it up again.”
The next start for Shimshine is scheduled to be the July 14 Count Lathum when they will stretch out to a mile and a sixteenth. That’s a race where Daily Racing Form writer Randy Goulding said Apalachee Bay, who exits a very sharp maiden victory, is scheduled to come to Edmonton from Vancouver to run in as well. Undoubtedly, the Derby itself will lure a few more out-of-town horses.
But Bourne isn’t too worried. “This is a nice colt; he’s awesome. “He eats. He sleeps. He’s fun to be around.”
It wasn’t always that way though. “He was on the stewards list and he was on the starter’s list when I claimed him. He was not an easy horse to deal with.” Perhaps just as a reminder of the fire that burns inside, Bourne was petting Shimshine Sunday morning when the horse suddenly reached out and bit him. “A good bite too,” said Bourne. “He likes attention but I don’t think he knows how to give it back. But I didn’t mind.” Not after what Shimshine has done for him anyway.
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