The marquee event of the Northlands thoroughbred the 87th running of the Canadian Derby is carded as the 11th race this Saturday August 20. We certainly hope that concerts and thoroughbred racing can co-exist at Northlands as a successful result may bode well for the future. We further hope that concert customers will also wager on the racing product offered as this is the biggest day of business for the Alberta horseracing industry.
This week’s column will be dedicated strictly to an analysis of the race for our readers. For full disclosure, your scribe has a vested interest in the outcome being a partner in the ownership of #1 Hold the Giant. A superstitious owner or fan could take a return to post position #1 by a Riversedge runner as a favorable omen since in last year’s Derby the filly Academic owned by Riversedge and the truly charismatic character Dany Dion (Bear Stables) beat the boys in the Derby by a relatively easy 8 lengths from the one hole. This year the colt who has raced strictly in Western Canada replaces the filly and there is no Bear. Although we are subjective in our thinking, our Team obviously believe we can win the race or we would not have put up the $3,000 for the opportunity to run in it. Winning the Derby is tough and winning them back to back is doubly tough unless your name is Diodoro.
Having said that, this year’s rendition of the race while lacking in a standout offers a very competitive field which presents the most desirable of wagering opportunities. We will now comment on the others in the race in post-position order.
2. Sorryaboutnothing. This colt has been running in Southern California for North America Horse Company with his last start in a $50,000 claiming event. His 2016 form is dismal and nothing on paper suggests a form reversal in this race. His only positive is that he looks like he can get the Derby 1 3/8 mile distance but probably not fast enough to make a difference. Pass.
3. BC Charlie. Owned by Calgarian Don Danard, Charlie has done all his running at Hastings Park in Vancouver. His last start on BC Cup Day resulted in a second in a restricted Stake for BC breds going 1 1/16 mile. Don insists that the horse “can run all day” which is fine but can he run fast enough to hit the board? You may want to consider including him in your exotic wagers.
4. Law Master.We cannot recall the last time that Dale “Colonel” Saunders had an entry in the Canadian Derby. This brings the late Charlie Whittingham to mind who stated he would not run a horse in the Ky. Derby unless he thought he could win the race. Charlie entered Ferdinand in 1986 and Sunday Silence in 1989 – they both won so maybe the Colonel is taking a page out of Charlie’s books and thinks he can win in here for owner Charlie Garvey who invests enough cash in the industry here and elsewhere in North America that a $90,000 prize would go a long way in paying training bills. Notwithstanding the ‘good feel” aspect of Law Master, he will have to step up his game from winning a stake race in Grand Prairie. We realize that the Colonel is a master in getting horses ready to go the marathon distance, however there is nothing in his past performance that suggests he is will be on the money at the wire. One should always respect a Saunders runner so you are on your own whether you wish to invest or not.
5. Access This. What is interesting about this Peter Redekop runner is that he was very competitive in Stake action at Emerald Downs in Seattle, but in his subsequent race in the Alberta Derby in Grand Prairie he fell short by a head at the wire to Law Master. A close review of his past performance indicates he would still be eligible for a Non-winner of 2 lifetime. Richard Hamel flies in from Vancouver to ride the horse which shows some sort of confidence. However, we can’t see the horse winning his second life time race in the Canadian Derby.
6. Ruck.For those of you who are sentimental – this is your horse. Owner Calmar Stables (Dr. Kevin Lung and Rick Mah) were major players in the Alberta thoroughbred Industry at the turn of the century. Ruck’s dam – Raylene was their standout runner who amassed nearly $1 million (CDN) in earnings and beat the boys in the 2003 running of the Canadian Derby. The partners have spared no expense by breeding Raylene to the most fashionable Ky. stallions. Ruck the mare’s best runner to date, ran second in the slop to the superior mud runner Inside Straight in the Manitoba Derby. We thought he ran well in the race especially for his first time on an off track, going 1 1/8 mi which is a quarter mile less than the Derby. There is no reason to believe he cannot move forward off this race. All in all it will be great to see the return of Calmar to Northlands on Saturday.
7. The Accuser.Ran a bang up second in the Count Lathum on July 16. We had to watch to replay to see if something could be learned by this performance. The race set up for closers with the front pair getting the half in 46.4. which is very quick going a mile and 1/16. In all probability his style of running will be compromised in here as there appears that a speed duel will not develop. To close from last in a field of 12 when there is no pace up front that will crater will make it most difficult to get up in time regardless of the fact this horse’s credentials are not bad going into this.
8. Ready Intaglio.The biggest knock on this guy is that his name is hard to remember and difficult to pronounce. There is no doubt about his ability being a winner of the last two Stakes at Northlands which makes him a top contender. Interesting to note that he has been in the money 13/15 lifetime starts. We are somewhat puzzled by the fact he was nominated for the Manitoba Derby but did not ship to race. It should be noted however that the training connections of the horse are no strangers in getting horses prepped for the Canadian Derby winning the 2010 edition with No Hesitation. Whereas he is a come from behinder he can lay closer to the pace and will not have as much to do as Accuser. Based on past performance, this is strictly the horse to beat.
9. Lord Vancouver.The Hall family of Vancouver had an involvement in the original Lord Vancouver a 1968 foal who was sired by the great George Royal. The pedigree of this Lord Vancouver suggests strictly speed which is his running style. It looks like he can get a mile and 1/16 but can he go the Derby distance? We think not unless the track is super speed biased on Derby day. His regular rider Hastings Jockey Denis Araujo will pilot him in the race.
10. Northernlocomotive.Lost all chance at the start of the Count Lathum when the jockey lost his stirrups at the start of the race. He did come back on August 12 to break his maiden going a flat mile. It looks like his running style suggests he can get the distance but these may be a touch too much for him to handle.
11. & 12. Solve & Inside Straight.Trainer Robertino Diodoro was not in attendance at Tuesday’s Derby post-position draw which is a good think since the firey Italian would have been livid with the post positions his charges drew for the race. Reports are that super-agent Bob Fowlis expressed his displeasure at the draw for at least Inside Straight since his primary meal ticket Rico will ride the horse and coming out of Post #12 on a 5/8 mile racetrack is normally not good for business. Diodoro has won 2 of the last 3 Derbies with Broadway Empire and Edison. Last year Afleet in Time confirmed he was not a top contender thus the Trainer’s winning streak ground to a halt at two. This year his runners could both be right on the money. Both ran in the Manitoba Derby with Inside Straight winning and Solve running a very close 4th. Reports directly from onsite Assistant Rob Atras who has recently developed a tendency to drive fast on Edmonton streets, and now the Trainer of record who always makes an appearance for Stake races no matter where his charges race in North America, are indicating that these two horses are training “super”. As we indicated in previous columns, it is impossible to find the cat in the picture when it comes to Solve, but the guys on the front line suggest he is ready for a top effort. Another omen, Inside Straight is owned solely by Randy Howg who will have about 100 of his closest friends and family in attendance, was a partner in Broadway Empire. Furthermore, the Solve partnership includes; T. Graling, T, Rollingson and C. and R. Wiest all longtime supporters of the Diodoro North American operation. If you believe that Trainers know their charges best, the dark horse for the Derby is Solve.
In closing we wish to recognize Shirley Vargo. Shirley who passed away earlier this summer was a great racing enthusiast. She accompanied Team Riversedge to Northlands on numerous occasions over the past years so that she could watch their horses race live. So that her memory and love of the game lives on, husband Robert Vargo in cooperation with Northlands has established the Shirley Vargo Memorial which is carded as the 10th race on Derby Day. The intent is for the race to be an annual event and Robert has graciously donated funds to supplement the purse offered for the race.
We encourage all our fans and wagering customers to attend the Derby this Saturday and remember the old saying – best early and bet often!