It’s not as if Raider needs a rainmaker to follow her around. But it wouldn’t hurt either. Not long after the skies opened up like something out of the apocalypse at Century Mile on Sunday afternoon, Raider, a four-year-old filly, splished and splashed her way to a half a length victory in the $50,000 RedTail Landing Handicap.
She was like a kid whose eyes widened to saucers after finding a giant mud puddle or like a golden retriever plunging into a lake to pick up a shot duck. If Raider liked water any better they would have named her Mark Spitz. She’d probably even prefer water wings to a bridle.
Raider has run on wet tracks four times in the last two years. She’s won them all. Tell me that’s just a coincidence and I’ve got some lake front property on a canola field to sell you.
“She definitely likes an off track,” said owner Curtis Landry. “But I’m not sure it isn’t simply that mud doesn’t bother her as much as some other horses. The thing about Raider is that nothing fazes her. She’s just so laid back and calm. Whether it’s in the barn or on the track.”
Whatever the case her results on off tracks are pretty stunningly evident. Sunday, with a well-judged ride by jockey Prayven Badrie, Raider was taken back to fifth during the early going while stablemate Ruffenuff - the winner of the previous filly and mare stakes race, the May 20 JetSet and also owned by Landry - took a hard-earned lead while being pressed in no particular order by C CU At Eau Claire, Cry Uncle and Daz Lin Dawn.
“The fractions set her up perfectly,” said winning trainer Greg Tracy referring to a first quarter in 23.33 and half a mile in 46.01 which were faster than the older boys went in the earlier Spangled Jimmy which Stone Carver won wire-to-wire while setting fractions of 23.57 and 46.34 seconds.
So yes, the early pace in the RedTail Landing - formerly the John Patrick - were as helpful as a boy scout escorting an elderly lady across a busy road. But let’s not rule out the mud either.
Raider, 2018’s Alberta Three-Year-Old Filly Champion, certainly proved her affinity for the wet stuff last year when she won the June 1 Chariot Chaser coming from fifth and last under a patient ride from Rico Walcott, the July 13 Northlands Oaks where she prevailed by half a length and the Aug. 4 Sonoma where she powered away to win by a length and a quarter. All three of those races were on off tracks too.
As much as Raider obviously loves rain and goo, Landry and Tracy both said there’s something that the well-proportioned daughter of the former Edmonton-stakes-winning mare Montero likes just as much: a target.
“She wants to knock heads with horses down the lane,” said Landry. “She likes to have something to run at. If Raider gets the lead too early she has a tendency to loaf and pause for another horse or two to come up and give her a battle. It’s almost like it’s a game. It’s almost cost her a couple of times,” said Landry referring to the Oaks when she got the lead at the top of the stretch looking like she was going to win by half a dozen lengths but instead took her foot off the gas pedal until Miss Back When made her run again. She had done the exact same thing in her previous start too when the same Miss Back When made her have to regroup."
“She never wins by a whole bunch,” said Landry.
“She barely wins her races,” concurred Tracy. “She waits for other horses to come at her. She just sits there and just gets there at the end.”
While it’s nerve wracking for her connections it’s probably simply fun for Raider. Either that or she doesn’t want to embarrass anyone. Tracy said Raider, who was purchased at the 2016 B.C. Yearling Sale, does the same thing in the mornings when she works. “You can’t work her by herself. She has to have company if you want to get a good work into her.”
To help prevent Raider from playing the waiting game on Sunday, Tracy ran her without blinkers for the first time so that she could better be able to see anything coming from behind. “I’ve been opening up her blinkers a little more for quite a while,” said Tracy. “I planned on taking them off as she went longer.”
Sunday’s win over the late charging Smart Fix who took second at 20-1 odds was Raider’s first of the season. But if Sunday - or last year for that matter - are any indication there’s plenty more coming. “I think she’ll have a good year,” said Landry. “I think she’s really going to like that big, long lane at Century Mile.”
Starting off her 2019 campaign at Sunland Park in New Mexico, Raider was a good second in her first race of the season, faltered badly in her next outing when she finished seventh and then ran third In the JetSet. Tracy believes Raider’s puzzling seventh place finish was either due to the fact that the rail wasn’t the place to be at Sunland that afternoon or that she bounced off her game 2019 debut.
“The track was deep on the inside that day and she tried to come up the rail. The winner came really wide. She trained good going into that race but she came back really tired. I think it was either the deep rail or she could have bounced off her first start of the year. She ran pretty hard that day.”
As for the JetSet third-place finish Landry said that stake was at six furlongs while the RedTail Landing was at a more preferable seven panels. “Ruffenuff is probably a better sprinter than Raider,” said Landry. “Six furlongs isn’t Raider’s game. She more prefers seven furlongs.”
Or even farther. “The longer the better,” said Tracy noting that both the Oaks and the Sonoma were a mile and a sixteenth.
While Raider loved the off going, Ruffenuff apparently didn’t. “She might not have gotten a hold of it very well. Or it could have been how quick they went too. The first quarter and the half were pretty fast.”
While Sunday’s card was another big stakes-winning day for Tracy, it was also another big day for trainer Tim Rycroft, who saddled the afore-mentioned Stone Carver in the Spangled Jimmy for Riversedge Racing Stables. Leading every step of the way Stone Carver won by a pretty comfortable length and three-quarters over Moon King with stablemate and race favourite Trooper John third.
While Raider won in 1:24.79, Stone Carver got the job done in 1:22.91. “He beat my good horse,” Rycroft said referring to Trooper John. “I think (Stone Carver) is pretty legit. I don’t want to make excuses but I don’t think Trooper John liked the track very much while Stone Carver certainly did. He ran a huge race. They weren’t getting to him at all."
Stone Carver’s win was hardly a fluke given that it was his third in a row with his previous victory coming in a track record 1:03 flat for five and a half furlongs.
“I was really impressed by his last race. He was flying on the front end but he wasn’t stopping; he was widening his lead at the wire. He’s got a high cruising speed and he can still kick away at the end. I think he might be a real good miler,” Rycroft said of the $35,000 (US) Keeneland, Kentucky yearling sale purchase, who is by Birdstone, who won three of New York’s most historic Grade 1 races: the Champagne, Belmont (defeating Smarty Jones) and Travers and whose first crop produced Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird and Belmont winner Summer Bird.
Rycroft and Riversedge almost didn’t enter Stone Carver in the Spangled Jimmy. Instead they were thinking of splitting up the Stone Carver - Trooper John connection by only running Trooper John in the Spangled Jimmy and sending Stone Carver to Winnipeg for a $30,000 stake.
“I talked to the owners (Norm Castiglione and Robert Vargo). I was worried about the ship to Winnipeg. It’s 13 hours both ways and we agreed to stay at home and run both of them in the Spangled Jimmy. We knew Stone Carver would be competitive here so it looks like it was a good decision.”
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