As unique as the Canadian Derby draw itself, there is an equally interesting field assembled for the 86th edition of the iconic race.
For the second time since 2009, the Run for the Daisies will go post-ward with a full field of 12 contenders. Despite the discrepancy in the morning line odds, there are several intriguing story lines entering Saturday’s headliner.
There is truly a horse for every fan in the field, and story lines to thrill even the most discerning race goer.
Alberta loyalists have several hometown connections to cheer for. Centrefire is an Alberta bred with pride in his pedigree. Highfield Stock Farms are synonymous with success among the elite in the industry. Timeless Tales represents perennial leading breeder Bar None Ranches and Xtreme Denigray is a product of Calmar Stables who owned 2003 Derby royalty Raylene.
There is no shortage of girl power in this year’s line up. In addition to two fillies competing, there are two female trainers looking to make history, as well as one determined rider to make her mark on the race that has eluded every other lady jockey to date. Krista Carignan will be back to ride Aztec Key for trainer Craig Smith for a second consecutive time. She will attempt to capture the crown to become the first female rider in history to hoist the derby trophy high overhead.
Veteran trainer Joan Petrowski has already written a couple of chapters in the derby archives. In 2007, Footprint and Real Simard would bring home her first derby win, followed by a thrilling last minute upset by Jorge Carreno and Toccetive five years later. If Raphael Zenteno Jr. could make that same perfectly timed bid for the wire aboard her filly, Quality Lane, Joan would become the only woman in history to three-peat!
Twylla Bensmiller will have two live chances for her first derby win to join Petrowski and company in what only few female trainers have done before her. Purple Heaven had the enviable position of picking first post, and chose the three hole being assigned 8/1 odds. Xtreme Denigray will be more of a long shot on the board at 20/1 starting from post 9.
The Canadian Derby has been coined by many “a rider’s race”. If you are of like-mind, then perhaps you will be cheering for an experienced jockey with a derby win or two, or three under his belt? Rico Walcott will be looking to win a record third consecutive derby and his fourth in just six years. Blue Dancer will be in the very capable hands of one of the most dominant jockeys in the history of Alberta Thoroughbred racing. The only other rider in the field with a derby win to his credit is Pedro Alvarado. This Hasting’s veteran is a two-time derby champ with victories aboard Alabama Rain and most recently Tommy Danzigger in 2009. Alvarado will pilot Afleet In Time for two-time derby champion Robertino Diodoro, who will compete for a training hat trick in the iconic race.
Family ties are strong in this year’s derby. In 2011, jockey Raphael Zenteno rode Freedoms Traveller to perhaps the most emotional derby victory in history. This year, his son will hope to follow in his footsteps. Raphael Zenteno Jr. will pilot Quality Lane in a quest for Derby glory, with what would be an historic trifecta. A father/son derby winning duo, a filly, and a third win for female trainer Petrowski.
Brother’s and business partner’s Craig and Steve Smith look to make history with Aztec Key and add another derby win to their families repertoire. Stepfather and veteran trainer Rod Cone would undoubtedly have winning advice after his storied 1998 victory with A Fleet’s Dancer.
The Walcott brother’s have already made history capturing four combined Canadian Derby titles. Rico’s older brother Rickey won this race 12 years ago with an unforgettable stretch drive aboard Raylene!
With a star-studded cast, story lines galore and only two days to pick your favorite, there is sure to be no lack of excitement and intrigue in the 86th Canadian Derby on Saturday, August 15th. Come join us at Northlands Park Racetrack and Casino, or tune into the live broadcast on CTV from 5-6pm.