Do you believe in coincidence? Maybe you should.
Ten years ago trainer Robertino Diodoro won his first of four Canadian Derbies with the sublime Broadway Empire. Rico Walcott was the jockey. Broadway Empire started from post 11.
Fast forward to Saturday and this year’s $200,000 Derby at Century Mile. Diodoro is back with Heroic Move. Walcott, who now rides in Ontario where he really beginning to flourish winning the recent $200,000 King Edward at Woodbine, will ride. He will break from post 11.
“I thought that was kind of neat; pretty funny,” said Diodoro, now one of North America’s leading trainers. “I was watching (Tuesday’s) post draw from the airport in Louisville, Kentucky. There were only two horses left to have their post position assigned and post 11 was still open. I thought Broadway Empire won from post 11. Then American Blaze’s name was called and (trainer) Tom Rycroft took post 12.
“I was by myself and did a little fist pump and out loud said ‘Yes!’ Hopefully it works out the same as it did with Broadway Empire.” That certainly looks like a good chance.
While Heroic Move, who was third in the 10-horse $250,000 listed Iowa Derby, disappointed as the heavy favourite in the recent Manitoba Derby finishing a well-beaten second to Mano Dura, Heroic Move had plenty of excuses.
He ducked in at the start. He was bumped several times including by, of all horses, his stablemate B Minor. And he suffered a quarter crack during the race.
“I don’t like to make excuses,” said Diodoro, who was now eating pizza and having a beer at LaGuardia airport in New York as he headed for Saratoga.
“But the quarter crack which has been treated and healed had to have bothered him. I think that explains the way he didn’t finish as well as we expected. It had to have affected him. And, if you watched the replay close you can see - and I don’t think the jockey did it intentionally - the rider of one horse whipped Heroic Move across the face going into the first turn. He’s also still a green horse. I don’t think we’ve gotten to the bottom of him. He’s a nice horse.”
Diodoro also doesn’t think Heroic Move wants to be on the lead too early like he was in Winnipeg. “I think he’s a better horse coming from off the pace; I don’t think he wants to be on the lead. The whole race was kind of a disaster.”
Not the best shipper, Heroic Move arrived in Winnipeg just the day before the Manitoba Derby; he has been in Edmonton for over a week.
“He shipped well to Edmonton. He didn’t have any nicks or cuts or scrapes and he has settled in nicely.”
Owned by Arnold Bennewith, Rick, Clayton and Lana Wiest and Randy Howg, Heroic Move was privately purchased specifically for the $550,000 Western Canada Derby Series which began with Mano Dura’s impressive win in Winnipeg, continues Saturday with the Canadian Derby and ends with the B.C. Derby.
And, Heroic Move has worked well at Century Mile. Bob Fowlis, Walcott’s former agent, said Diodoro wanted Alberta jockey N’Rico Prescod to work Heroic Move in 50 seconds for half a mile this past Sunday.
“He went in exactly 50 seconds and N’Rico could barely pull him up,” said Fowlis.
As it was no problem for Broadway Empire, who won easily and then went on to win the Oklahoma Derby, Fowlis and Diodoro don’t think the 11 post will be an issue.
“There’s such a long run to the first turn at Century Mile that it shouldn’t matter,” said Fowlis.
“I’m happy with the post,” said Diodoro. “Especially given what Broadway Empire did from that post. What’s hard to believe is that was 10 years ago. As they say time goes fast when you’re having a blast.”
While Heroic Move will have plenty of betting support, track announcer and oddsmaker Dylan Beardy has undefeated Sunbird as the 3-1 morning line favourite. He has installed Heroic Move as the second choice at 9-2.
“Sunbird is unbeaten in four lifetime starts,” Beardy said of the lightly raced B.C. invader, who was perfect in two starts last year and unblemished 2-for-2 this year.
“He’s done nothing wrong. He won going a mile and a sixteenth last time out when he won a stake,” Beardy said of the black type Sir Winston Churchill Derby Trial at Hastings Park on August 7 where he was never really threatened. “And he has won over this track winning an allowance race.”
Owned by Pauline Felicella and the estate of of Nick Felicella and trained by the very competent Terry Jordan, Kentucky-bred Sunbird has worked very well over Century Mile’s surface going four furlongs in 47 seconds flat this past Sunday.
“I could be wrong because of the Diodoro/Walcott factor,” said Beardy. “Heroic Move is definitely going to be bet.”
Mano Dura is at 5-1 on Beardy’s list; Chase the Chaos, who won California’s El Camino Real and then ran fifth in the Preakness - the first horse, at least in recent memory, to run in a leg of the North American Triple Crown - is next at 8-1. Another California invader, Abeliefinthislivin is at 10-1.
Personally, Beardy gives 15-1 morning-line starter American Blaze, winner of the Turf Paradise Derby, a chance at a price.
“He won the Count Lathum at Century Mile and this race might set up well for him. But, honestly, this is such a strong field that I believe any of the first six morning-line choices could win.”
From the rail out the 12 Derby entrants are Flashin Aces. Mano Dura, Sunbird, Altitude, Kauai Dan, Abeliefinthislivin, Chase the Chaos, Green Amazon, Tshiebwe, Accidental Hero, Heroic Move and American Blaze.
It’s also a very strong 12-race card. In fact, arguably, it could be the strongest card ever held in Alberta.
In addition to the Derby there are three other stakes: the Century Casino Oaks, the Northlands Distaff and the historic Speed to Spare Championship.
Beardy has Air Force as the favourite in the Oaks. She has won four in a row - the last three all stakes - at Hastings Park. Then there is Force to Rekn With, who beat Big Hug in her last start, the Sonoma and Big Hug, last year’s Two-Year-Old Filly Champion.
In the Northlands Distaff, no one will be surprised if Infinite Patience doesn’t go off as the hot favourite. Beardy has her at 8-5 and is thinking “Even that may be high.”
Infinite Patience has 16 wins in 22 lifetime appearances.
Blazingbellablu is the second choice at 5-2. A stakes winner at Emerald Downs, Washington, Blazingbellablu “Is super ultra consistent,” said Beardy alluding to her record of 14 firsts or seconds in 22 lifetime appearances.
Then, in the Speed to Spare, Beardy has Smart As Me as the 9-5 favourite just ahead of At Attention at 2-1. “It’s going to be one of those two that will go off as the favourite,” said Beardy.
Smart as Me, who was based in Florida at Tampa Bay Downs, won the Century Mile Stake last time out by four lengths over At Attention. The defending Speed to Spare champion, At Attention has won four of his last five starts including the B.C. Cup Classic his last time out.
“It’s a really strong card,” said Diodoro, who has seen plenty of them and who will also send out last year’s Derby winner Great Escape - with Walcott aboard - in the Speed to Spare. “Especially the field sizes. You just don’t see full fields in four stakes races very often. Outside of the Kentucky Derby it’s usually eight horses in any hundred grand races. There’s not a lot of stakes races with 12 horses in them.”
“I can’t wait,” said Beardy.
STOCK REPORT - First post is 3:45 p.m. The Derby, the 11th of the 12 races, is slated to go at 9:15 p.m.
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