Some horses get into trouble. But with Regal Max it’s the other way around: trouble finds him. Anyhow, anyway, anywhere, the very talented three-year-old thoroughbred is a magnet for anything that can go wrong. The Murphy’s Law of horse racing, he would find the only mud puddle in the Sahara Desert. If there was one bad apple in a big bushel of otherwise juicy fruit, yup, Regal Max would pick the rotten one.
Even if it was a one-horse race, one way or another, Regal Max would probably still get into a predicament. “Crap just happens to him,” said trainer Rick Hedge who also co-owns the talented colt with Brian and Janet Alexander before quickly adding “A lot.” Truth is, trouble has been riding along on his back from Day One, when, in his career debut - which he had trained for beautifully - he cut up his hind legs.
In last year’s Birdcatcher Stake he was taken up so sharply that jockey Shamaree Muir almost had to bring him to a complete stop. Even then he finished second to Shimshine, last year’s Two-Year-Old and Top Alberta-bred of the year. On and on it went.
This year his opening salvo was again met with misfortune when Regal Max stumbled at the start and then was taken wide around the first turn.
Even when he wins he finds tribulation. He was three and four wide in last year’s Two-Year-Old Sales stakes but still won by eight lengths which showed just how good he can be.
Last Saturday at Northlands he overcame trouble again. Three wide around the first turn and down the backstretch, Regal Max appeared to have more than overcome the extra ground he had to travel. But just as he was about to engage Tensas Phil and go to the top, Tensas Phil ducked out right in front of him, carrying him to the middle of the track. Regal Max stumbled badly but somehow he still won. “That just shows his tenacity,” said Hedge. “When something bad happens to him he seems to get tougher. He never quits. He just keeps on running.”
Hedge had planned on entering Regal Max in this Saturday’s Western Canada which, despite being the first major prep race for this summer’s Canadian Derby, only drew a field of five. But when last Saturday’s allowance race for Alberta-bred non-winners of two came up in the condition book, Hedge changed his mind. “That win was worth $14,700 which would have been more if he ran second in the Western Canada,” said Hedge. “It really wasn’t that hard of a decision of what to do.”
Despite his problems, Regal Max has won $90,797 in his still-very-young career. Not bad for a horse Hedge purchased at the Alberta Yearling Sale for just $2,200. “I liked the colt a lot. I had looked at him and had him brought out of his stall three times before the Sale. “He was the eighth horse to go into the ring and I almost never bid on him. Nobody was bidding and I started to worry that I was missing something. “But he was the kind of horse that just jumped out at me. He was almost screaming ‘Buy me; buy me.’
“So I put my hand up in the air once and he was mine," related Hedge who said he then sold half of the horse to the Alexanders, longtime clients who also have Tara’s Way, last year’s champion aged mare, Sir Bronx, an older-stakes performer, the hard hitting Bud Time and a two-year-old in his barn. “I still don’t know why nobody else was bidding. He was by a first-year stallion, Max Forever, but he looked real good and I really liked his mare’s side pedigree," Hedge said of Regal Max's dam My Miss Emily, who competed in allowance and stakes races in Alberta and B.C.
Hedge said Regal Max, a dark bay with a big white blaze, showed potential right from the beginning. “He was never a problem. He’s as laid-back and quiet as the stable pony; and he has a super personality. “Now if he can just stay out of trouble…”
With Regal Max out of the Western Canada picture, Shimshine will almost certainly be favoured. A winner of four in a row last summer, trainer Elige Bourne has carefully trained Shimshine forwardly to this spot. But it will be his first start of the year.
Also making his 2018 debut will be the forward-looking Mr. Meaner, who is owned by the Alberta Thoroughbred Race Club - a collection of 150 people who put up just $300 apiece and don’t have to pay any training bills or any further cash calls. “It’s amazing the way it has worked out. For just $300 you have a stakes horse,” said trainer Craig Smith. “It doesn’t get much better than that.” Come Saturday afternoon the Alberta Thoroughbred Race Club may have a stakes winner.
“I think he’s real legit,” said Smith, of the three-year-old, who won two of his three starts last year - all extremely impressively breaking his maiden by six and three-quarter lengths and then following up with a sparkling four and a half length tally in an allowance race. Mr. Meaner’s only loss came in his debut when he stumbled out of the gate and then was four wide yet still only lost by three parts of a length.
While Mr. Meaner is bred for speed - by Spring At Last out of Time On My Hands, the latter victory showed that he will rate and come from off the pace if necessary. “I was extremely pleased with that race,” said Smith, who has forgone his 10 per cent training bonus in order to try and get more fans into the sport. “He didn’t grow a whole bunch over the winter - he’s still pretty small - but he gets over the ground so good.”
Mr. Meaner, who drew the rail while Shimshine will start from the outside fifth post, has also been working fantastic - drilling four handy furlongs in 47 seconds flat last Friday - the best of 25 workers at that distance. “He’s sharp,” enthused Smith.
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