Lori Neyka thought something had to be wrong. Two years ago she was sitting on her couch surfing the internet when she came across an ad for an extremely well-bred stallion named Car Talk: a son of Bernardini out of a Deputy Minister mare.
“They only wanted $2,800 (US) for him. I thought this can’t be right,” said Neyka, who owns Empire Equestrian - east of Ardrossan - with her husband, Martin. “On his breeding alone he was worth way more than that.”
No kidding. In case you need reminding, Bernardini, who has gone on to be a top sire, won over $3-million taking races like The Preakness, Travers, Jockey Club Golf Cup, Jim Dandy and The Withers. Bernardini won the Eclipse Award as Three-Year-Old Male Horse of the Year in 2006.
Canadian-bred champion Deputy Minister, the leading sire in North America in 1997 and 1998, won eight of nine starts as a two-year-old including the Victoria Stakes (in track record time); Youthful; Clarendon; Colin and Bull Page. As a three-year-old Deputy Minister won two Grade 1 races: the Laurel Futurity at Laurel Park over 8 1⁄2 furlongs, and the Young America Stakes at the Meadowlands over 8 1⁄2 furlongs.
Further more, Car Talk’s dam, Mini Chat, is also the dam of graded stakes winner Dixie Chatter ($464,606) and graded stakes winner Rumor ($418,391).
“I thought are you kidding me,” said Neyka. “I had to take the chance.”
That chance is already paying off with Car Talk’s three-year-old son Sharp Dressed Beau winning this past Sunday’s $50,000 Western Canada Handicap in scintillating fashion for his second most impressive triumph in a row at Century Mile. But the story doesn’t end there. In fact, it’s just beginning. Sharp Dressed Beau, you see, wasn’t bred by Neyka.
“When I went to Oregon to pick up Car Talk, the former owners told me about two other yearlings by Car Talk that were for sale at the Montana Futurity Sale,” said Lori. “I wasn’t going to go all the way to Montana so I asked if I could bid over the telephone and they said ‘Sure.’ I didn’t see either of them. Not even a picture. I wound up buying the gelding for $1,600 (US).”
Sure enough that gelding was Sharp Dressed Beau, who got a picture perfect ride from Rigo Sarmiento to win the Western Canada by two lengths getting the six-furlongs in 1:10.06 with splits of 21.44 for the opening quarter and 44:46 for half a mile.
“Great ride. Super ride,” said trainer Rick Hedge, who trains six other horses for Empire Equestrian. "Sharp Dressed Beau ran a hell of a race but Rigo gave him a chance to run good. He let Coco Tiger and Thatsafactjack duel for the lead, settled in behind and then when the rail opened up he just exploded through the hole. It was pretty much the same thing he did in his last start. The chart shows him going wire-to-wire but Rigo let two other horses go by him by about half a length in between calls” said Hedge, who would normally be using his regular pilot Shamaree Muir. Unfortunately, however, Muir was in a spill back home in Jamaica, damaged his neck and will probably be sidelined for most of the summer.
“Rigo did everything Rick told him to do,” said Lori, who came from a Calgary equestrian event to watch Sharp Dressed Beau. “He had all the run in the world down the stretch. I watched the race and I’ve watched and re-watched the replay again and again,” continued Lori, who bought the former Empire Meadows training facility a dozen years ago.
The six-furlong Western Canada is considered to be the first prep race for the 10-furlong $250,000 Canadian Derby on August 18. But Hedge said even thinking about the Derby is “iffy” at this stage.
“I don’t know if he’ll go that far. Well, he’ll got that far but that’s the same with every horse. What matters is how fast they’ll go that far,” he laughed. “It would be nice (to run in the Derby). He relaxes now; he used to be all speed but he’ll settle now. He can go to the top; he can come from behind. Really, I think he’ll do anything right now and this race will definitely make him a better horse. He’s also grown a lot. Last year he was just a little guy. But he’s grown a full hand between August and this spring."
"But (the Derby) I don’t know,” he said again. “I have no real plan for Sharp Dressed Beau at this stage. We’ll just see what comes along, go day by day and see how he’s going and how he’s running.”
The third betting favourite, Sharp Dressed Beau paid $10.70 to win. Vancouver invader Call It a Wrap closed from a million miles to finish second; Coco Tiger held on for third. While Sharp Dressed Beau’s winning time was excellent. It wasn’t the fastest race of the day on Sunday given that Im Evin Im Leavin went in a track record 1:09.22 to take the $50,000 Chariot Chaser by an easy three-and-a-half lengths.
“What’s impressive about that is that they dug up the track and softened it,” said Im Evin Im Leavin’s trainer Greg Tracy. “There were some concerns that the track was too hard and too fast. If you look at the morning works and the races since they dug up the track they are all considerably slower. So to run that much faster is pretty impressive.”
Taking a wide trip - purposely so as to not get boxed in - Im Evin Im Leavin was much the best running to her 1-2 odds and paying $3.00 to win; $2.10 to place and $2.10 to show. The show payoff was so short because someone bet $10,000 to show on the three-year-old filly who is owned by Montana owners Wayne Bakke, whom Tracy has been training for a long time, Nathan Hoines and Tracy’s girlfriend Jodee Hoovestal.
“We’re teaching her how to rate,” Tracy said of Im Evin Im Leavin, who posted her fourth win in seven career starts. “I want her to be able to run long. I wanted (jockey Prayven Badrie) to take her back and keep her in the clear and that’s what he did.”
Coming into the Chariot Chaser, Im Evin Im Leavin had won back-to-back races at SunLand Park in New Mexico when she was taking on mostly aged fillies and mares and still won most easily. “In both of those races she was always close to the pace,” said Tracy. “In (the Chariot Chaser) I didn’t want that. I thought she ran really good.”
That’s an understatement. Not only was it a track record, Im Evin Im Leavin was under wraps a lot of the way. Down the backstretch while fifth and to the outside of Something About Me, Game of Inception, Exactly and Maxee, Badrie had a tight hold on her. And, when she advanced around the turn to take the lead she was still snug against the bit.
“She was under a pull while the others were all out,” said Tracy. (Badrie) hadn’t even started riding her when he got to the front.”
Bought for just $6,000 (US) at the Fasig Tipton Fall Sale in Kentucky, Im Evin Im Leavin was scheduled to make a start after her wins in New Mexico and prior to the Chariot Chaser. “We had her at Hastings Park in Vancouver for a stake but there was an accident in the gate,” said Tracy. “They had a car show close to where the starting gate was. Someone started up one of the cars and she crashed the front of the gate and went down. It turned into a real mess. She thrashed around and they even had to drive the gate away to get her freed. Fortunately, while she had a lot of cuts they were just little nicks. And she never swelled up. We brought her back to Alberta, jogged her, galloped her and with every step she seemed good. But you still never know.”
Because of the bad experience, Tracy also schooled Im Evin Im Leavin at the gate. There were no problems there either. “She stood good. Everything went good.”
Still Tracy worried. “I was afraid of filly Elige Bourne trained,” he said of Exactly, who would finish second. “She looked very impressive when she won by 12 lengths in her only start. You don’t know if there was something left in the tank that day or not. She was the unknown; she could have been anything.”
But, as it turned out there was no reason to fret. Im Evin Im Leavin won like a good thing. Im Evin Im Leavin’s next appearance is scheduled to be the July 1 $50,000 Sonoma going a flat mile. “The way she rated (on Sunday) the distance shouldn’t be a problem,” said Tracy.
STOCK REPORT - This past Thursday’s card which was cancelled because of the extreme smoke will not be made up. Instead racing manager Matt Jukich said that this Thursday’s very solid card, which will start at 5 pm, will have nine races. Furthermore, Thursday’s card has nine-horse fields in races 5 through 9 and no races with fewer than seven entrants.
“We’re expecting nine-to-10 races on both Saturday and Sunday too,” said Jukich.
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