Tuesday, 02 August 2022 19:28

Competition looking fierce as Derby Day approaches

Slaats and Dane Nelson in the stretch run of the Count Lathum Handicap at Century Mile on July 29th Slaats and Dane Nelson in the stretch run of the Count Lathum Handicap at Century Mile on July 29th Coady Photo/Ryan Haynes

Robertino Diodoro put on quite the show in Monday’s $100,000 Manitoba Derby running one-two-three.

The final stepping stone to the August 20 $200,000 Canadian Derby at Century Mile, Red Knobs took the mile and an eighth Manitoba Derby in the final strides defeating stablemate Great Escape. Clancy’s Pistol, the third Diodoro-trained entrant finished third and it was well back to the others. All three horses will come to Edmonton.

Claimed for $50,000 by owner Rob Nokes out of his previous start at Kentucky’s Churchill Downs on July 3rd, Nokes got all his money - and more - back quickly.

“I give all the credit to Mr. Nokes,” said Diodoro. “He’s the one who picked him out. He did some research and he asked me to take a look at him. (Red Knobs) is very well bred. Especially on the mare’s side. And he’s really healthy and sound.”

“August 20th will be here fast. At this time of the year with three-year-olds some get better and some go the other way. I think all three horses - Red Knobs, Great Escape and Clancy’s Pistol - are headed in the right direction. Clancy’s Pistol will go back to Ken Bell, who owns the horse, and I’ll train the other two up to the Derby.”

Diodoro will still have to deal with several Alberta horses - especially Slaats, who won the $50,000 Count Lathum at Century Mile on Friday night.

“Slaats is a solid horse. I know him a bit from Phoenix where he was running,” said Diodoro, who got his start training horses in Alberta before becoming one of the top trainers on the planet. It’s going to be interesting.”

Slaats’ trainer Jim Brown thinks so too. “I think Slaats’ toughest competition is going to be the ones who are shipping in,” said Brown of the horse owned by Kirk Sutherland.

“Slaats probably ran his best race in the Count Lathum. He got a nice pace he was comfortable with and he was a determined winner. He’s kind of a punk: a little bit cheeky. He’s still a colt but he’s a pleasure to work with.”

Fourth during the early going Slaats moved in between Asyoubelieve, Alberta’s champion two-year-old last season, and Glava down the backstretch before pulling away from those two and then holding off the late charge of Itsmyday to win by a length and a half. The Count Lathum was contested at a mile and a sixteenth. The Derby is a mile and a quarter.

But that doesn’t really concern Brown. “His breeding doesn’t suggest his best distance is a mile and a quarter but with the right scenario I think he will go further. He’s very versatile. He can run up close, he can come from well back and he can run from the middle of the pack.”

Like Red Knobs, Slaats was also a $50,000 claim - this one out of a winning race in Phoenix, Arizona on March 30.

“We were looking at a couple of pricier horses and then this one came along and he looked better than the more expensive ones we were looking at,” said Brown. “His form was pretty good and he had ran at some tougher tracks. So we took a shot. It’s been a good claim so far. The plan is to go into the Derby. He came out of the Count Lathum really good. It was a tough race but he bounced out of it quickly. He ate his dinner and he’s ready to go. I’ll train him up to the Derby with lots of jogging and long gallops.”


Jockey Rico Walcott put a scare into a lot of people when he collapsed and had to be taken by ambulance to the hospital Friday night at Century Mile.

It turned out to ‘only’ be heat exhaustion and severe dehydration. But the memory of Walcott’s successful malignant brain tumour operation three years ago resonated unnervingly.

Ten times Alberta’s leading rider, Walcott rode Great Escape in Winnipeg and figures to be back on him in the Canadian Derby.

Earlier on the Winnipeg card, Walcott got his 1,500th victory with Soy Tapatio in the Harvey Warner Manitoba Mile.

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