Outspoken author and 60’s activist Hunter S Thompson wrote “anything that gets your blood racing is probably worth doing.” Reserved and reticent Thoroughbred trainer Dale “Colonel” Saunders would shrug off most of Hunter’s written advice, with the exception of doing what gets your blood racing. Dale has spent almost 50 years training race horses, because that’s the one thing that gets him up before sunrise every morning!
Dale has entered Law Master (by Ready’s Image, out of Coquila Rose) in the 87th running of the $150,000 Canadian Derby on Saturday, his first entry in Alberta’s most prestigious Thoroughbred race since 2007. Law Master most recently shipped to Evergreen Park in Grande Prairie for the $50,000 Alberta Derby, which he won by a head and set a new track record for the 1 1/16 distance.
Law Master was purchased in July 2015 by Charles Garvey, long time Alberta horse owner. Charlie owns many horses, and races at Del-Mar, Santa Anita, Oaklawn, Canterbury, Turf Paradise and Northlands Park. His horse racing ownership started when he attended a CTHS yearling sale and together with his brother-in-law and father-in-law bought a yearling named Highland Leader and sent him to Dale for training. Highland Leader went on to win 26 races and over $459,000 and continued to race successfully until he was 12, and racing got into Charlie’s blood! Charlie has been an owner in the Saunders barn for over 20 years, and while most of his horses race in the U.S. now with native Albertan trainer Robertino Diodoro, he still purchases yearlings at the CTHS Sale, and always has some horses at Northlands Park.
After he was purchased in Kentucky, Law Master initially shipped to Robertino’s stable at Canterbury Park to race in the 2 year old races, and then to Turf Paradise with an eye on the winter sprint Stakes races. Law Master had a brief rest for an attitude adjustment (he went from a colt to a gelding!) and proceeded to run the fastest 6.5 furlongs of the winter meet at Turf Paradise. Northlands Park has a strong series of early Stakes races for 3 year olds, so Charlie decided to send the gelding north with Dale. As the horse has matured mentally and physically, he has started to relax and go longer distances. Charlie gives a lot of credit to both Dale for bringing him along, and to jockey Keishan Balgobin for his patience. Charlie thinks Keishan is suited to the horse, and are coming together to peak at the right time. There has been some good natured trash talking between Charlie and his trainer Robertino, who has Inside Straight and Solve in the race and very close friend Randy Howg who owns Inside Straight. Ideally, Charlie would like to dead heat with Inside Straight, but if that doesn’t happen he’ll take a win with Law Master! Charlie says “it’s been since 2007 since we’ve had a Derby entry, and it’s a thrill to be racing at home, with family and friends and the original trainer who got me started. It’s going to be a great day with the original crew.”
Law Master has a dedicated following from his home state of Kentucky, despite never having raced there. He was named in honour of Mr. Lawrence LaMaster, Thoroughbred owner and avid fan, member of the Thoroughbred Club of America and President of the luxurious Pendennis Club, where he hosted the annual Kentucky Derby Dinner and Party to celebrate Kentucky’s most prestigious race. Mr. LaMaster spent the Tuesday morning before the 2015 Derby at Churchill Downs visiting his favourite horses and friends the same as he did every year, when he suffered a fatal heart attack. His close friends and Thoroughbred breeders Phil and Mickey Owens immediately named a 2 year old colt for him, one who had a fun-loving personality and had a sparkle in his eye, just like Mr. LaMaster. The colt was sold in July at the Fasig-Tipton Horses of Racing Age Sale, and a number of Lawrence LaMaster’s family and close friends have been watching his race career since. When they read that Law Master won the Alberta Derby (knowing only that it was somewhere in Canada west of Woodbine!) they celebrated with a toast to their beloved Lawrence with a glass of his favourite Woodford Reserve bourbon.
By all accounts, Mr. LaMaster had looks, charm, and personality and lived his life based on Hunter S Thompson’s rule that anything that gets your blood racing is worth doing. He loved racing, and his family and friends love that his namesake is racing well, even if he’s not in their home state. Law Master’s win photo from Evergreen Park will be framed and placed in the hallway of the Pendennis Club alongside all of the framed photos of Kentucky Derby winners. On Saturday Mr. LaMaster’s 90 year old father, brother, and friends will gather to watch the Canadian Derby to cheer Law Master home!
A love of racing has inspired Dale “Colonel” Saunders to get up every morning for 47 years and go to the barn, a love of racing has inspired Charles Garvey to own horses in multiple jurisdictions and has given him some of his biggest thrills, a love of racing gave Lawrence LaMaster some of his best moments right until the very end of his life. A horse named Law Master will bring all of them together in the biggest race in Alberta during the Canadian Derby on Saturday!