Jun 272017

Sal says that when he was gleaning through Phil’s dog eared archives he noticed that periodically a scribe named Topo posted on Holybull.ca after he was given the Kissoff by Edmonton Northlands. Sal still hasn’t been able to find the next Dread Pirate Roberts, so Sal says that he’s pleased as pie that Topo’s back.

In the landscape of extinction, precision is next to godliness.

Samuel Beckett


Topo recently awoke from his slumber deep in a Coachella Valley mouse hole and was not at all pleased when surfacing and finding that the godforsaken weather down there was neither fit for mice or men.  What can possibly be accomplished when it’s constantly in the 120 F degree range?  The Team was so annoyed that the decision was made to pack up and make the trek north as witnessed by the pic denoted below.

Topo Nation has made it known that they thirst for the Mouse of the People getting back to his reporting duties and chiming in on noteworthy thoroughbred racing events as they happen.  Well your Roving Rodent Reporter (RRR) missed the Triple Crown – but did we really miss anything? – Mediocre crop of 3 year olds this year.

We are going to take a page out of the book from Topo’s human counterpart – Indian Charlie who posts during the year from sites of major Yearling Sales or at marquee US race meets.  For those of you who do not know Charlie (the human not the horse) you can visit his website indiancharlie.com and get for free his posts as they are written.  Not only are his offerings hilarious but his brash statements have led to an altercation with one trainer (Dale Romans) and his lifelong partner (Tammy) thus he is truly one of Topo’s humanoid heroes. He was sent to take anger management courses which would not apply to mystical characters like Topo.

INDIAN CHARLIE WORLDWIDE - We Never Let the Truth Get In The Way Of A Good Story

Looking at the remainder of the 2017 schedule – Topo will post directly from Saratoga during the Whitney (August 5 weekend) and provide insight for The Travers which has become known as the Summer Derby. We will also be posting for the only marquee event in Alberta – The final (maybe) running of the Canadian Derby at Northlands.  The year will close out with communiques from southern California including the Breeders Cup.  Topo’s policy is to provide the flock with winners as well as quality work that meets the highest literary standards.

For now though, we need to catch up on what has happened in Alberta and other locales during Topo’s sojourn.  So as a tribute to David Lettermen, let’s do a top ten list but only go to 9 since il nove would understand that this is as far as Topo is willing to count – for now anyway.

  1. “The Kissoff”

As they say what goes around comes around.  Topo’s weekly opuses on the Northlands website got the “CKissoff” from the pant suit at Northlands about 3 years ago for no apparent reason.  What’s more appalling to the rodent is that no one has ever come clean as to the lack of logic behind the flushing.  Kinda tough now to find out why since it looks like all the previous suits have left the corporate suite.  Oh well Topo survived whereas it looks like others drawing a pay cheque did not.  Topo remains appreciative of Phil and his stand since Phil got hit by a bus Sal for taking us in and allowing for the continued flow of artistic and literary writings.

  1. Departure of the Second best numbers guy in Alberta Racing.

Looks like the HBPA Manager finally made good on his 2012 threat to; quit, resign, fire himself or retire from his post.  Topo senses that he finally had enough of bashing his head against the proverbial wall and after twelve years at the post walked away on May 31.  Topo is a big fan of the HBPA whose motto is Horsemen Helping Horsemen. Topo estimates that about 99% of those who understand the fine detail of the business were appreciative of the Manager’s efforts of advocating for the Horsemen 24/7, however there is no doubt in Topo’s mind that there is one entity that is happy to see him go.

  1. Are we in or out of the Racing Business?

In 2016 Northlands did a lot of flip flopping on whether or not they wanted to be in the racing business for the long term.  First out, then maybe not, then in, then??? – Topo gives up.  The last word is they are out sometime in 2018.  Seems like they had a Vision 2020.  Topo doesn’t understand what that is – he knows that if humanoids go to the eye guy to get the eyes tested the result may be 20/20 Vision or somewhat better or worse.  Memo to the powers to be at Northlands – Vision 2020 maybe have been a good thing but if it comes with a $150 million price tag would it not have been a good idea to do some due diligence as to where the money was going to come from?  Having said all of this Topo has loved the Park over the years and basically had the run of the place as can be seen in the next photo.  Most will miss the place except for – here we go again – at least one entity.

Edmonton Journal – Stolte – Convention centre merger to save Northlands still puts debt on Edmonton taxpayers

  1. The Trifecta.

Let’s see – in 2004 there were two “A” racetracks in Alberta located in the hearts of Calgary and Edmonton – Stampede Park and Northlands Park.  One is gone, the other going.  To complete the Triactor  Bobby Allan’s Alberta Downs track located at Lacombe and referred to by some as “Saratoga North 40” which was built at the urging of the Regulator, has a For Sale sign on the Property – I guess no more turf Festivals at Chateau Lacombe.  If one had been able to place a Tri bet in 2004 that all of these tracks would be gone by 2018, the winning tickets would have paid at least four figures for a $2 wager.

  1. Two guys from Lethbridge.

There are a couple of thoroughbred owners that reside in the Lethbridge area that recently have done pretty well for a couple of “good old boys” from southern Alberta.  Terry Hamilton with a modest investment in the business has one of the premier turf runners in North America – Heart to Heart a 6 year old multiple Graded Stakes winner has amassed earnings of over $1.2 million.  Not bad for a $30,000 CDN investment.   Randy Howg recently won the G2 Oaklawn Handicap with Inside Straight a $70,000 private purchase from the connections whose Trainer was Todd Pletcher.  The four year old has now earned $753,000.  Randy is no stranger to the Northlands winner circle having had an interest in back to back Canadian Derby winners.  The stable is now concentrated in the US and includes the 2 year old filly in southern California (Gorgeous Ginny) an impressive winner out of the box who now awaits a Stake engagement presumably at Del Mar.   These guys followed the steps of one of the first Albertans who took Eastern Canada and to an extent the US scene by storm – Dany Dion.  Topo has to do some further investigating to find out what’s happening with Bear Stables.  It is noted that in 2017 he has only started 10 horses and has yet to visit the winner’s circle.  There was a time Dany used to race 10 starters a week never mind the first six months.

  1. A Rising Star – Riversedge Racing Stables Inc.

When Robert Vargo won the 2005 Alberta Derby with Knight’s Covenant he was hooked on thoroughbred racing.  In 2009 he teamed up with longtime friend and business Associate Norm Castiglione and Riversedge Racing was born.  Initially racing exclusively in Alberta, the operation has now branched out to Florida, various Eastern Seaboard tracks, Hastings Park and Emerald Downs.  The nerve center of the operation comprises of a showcase Facility about 10 km west of Okotoks located literally behind the  “Big Rock” which many of our historical buffs would know is a glacial erratic – Topo, however, does not know what this means exactly.

From 2009 to present Riversedge runners have earned more than $4.3 million from 1364 starts.  The Stable has won numerous stake races and in partnership with Bear Stables won the 2015 Canadian Derby with Academic.  Topo attended the post-race celebrations at Northlands’ Playbook Room that day and noted that Robert and Norm made a 5 minute appearance and quickly vacated to fly back to Okotoks.  These guys like to fly under the radar.  Last fall Topo’s keen racing eye tabbed Trooper John as the winner of this year’s Canadian Derby after romping in the Juvenile.  He has not disappointed so far this year by winning the two stakes he’s raced in. The caveat is that in all probability he will have to deal with a horse or horses that Robertino Diodoro ships in which cannot be ruled out since the fiery Italian lives to win this race.  For our loyal followers a trip to Riversedge to scout the place out would be time well spent.  If you mention to the proprietors that Topo sent you, instant access will be assured and you should be treated like family!

  1. Zio Robertino.

Speaking of Topo’s Italian friend, he continues to amaze.  Elevating his game from Alberta to the US he now races at: Turf Paradise, Canterbury, Oaklawn, Belmont, Santa Anita, Los Alamitos, Del Mar, Prairie Meadows, Churchill Downs, Indiana and PARX.  Topo may have missed one or two other tracks.  He seems to have no issues in attracting new owners and horses.  It would also appear to Topo that the owners are finding him and not the other way around and as we all know Diodoro will never turn down a horse.  His only downside is that the Italian temper gets the best of him and has been known to lose it with racing officials especially if a jockey comes into the paddock with the wrong silks in an Allowance race.  Topo implores him to remember that if you are not allowed in a paddock you can’t saddle your horse.   Barring something unforeseen in 2017 horses under his care should exceed total 2016 earnings of $4.6 million.                             The Northlands operation is a bit lite this year but as we just said he’ll gear up in earnest for the Canadian Derby and you can bet that Rico will be on board which could result in a similar tack room celebration as witnessed by the pic below taken after Edison’s victory in 2014.


  1. Jockeys Galore

One could observe that there are less owners and horses these days at Northlands but that’s not the case when it comes to riders.  Where have all these new fellas comes from?  There has to be 30 in the Jock’s room which would make it one of the best colonies we have had here.  This is good news/bad news for Super Agent Bob “the brain” Fowlis.  Topo knows for a fact that Bobby would like to have the Rules of Racing relaxed so that he could represent more than 3 riders – if he had his way he would like to represent them all!

  1. From Running a Racetrack in the Prairies to Running a Casino in the Maritimes.

Chris Roberts is the co-creator of Topo a mystical character who started out with a mythical bankroll.  Topo had a whole lot of respect for CR’s managerial skills and he has to be considered one of the best racing managers ever.  This is no disrespect to current Manager Scott who was and is still a supporter of Topo as can be seen by the pic denoted below when CR, SS, and Topo appeared on the Northlands in house TV selecting races for the North American feed on a Wednesday nite sometime in 2014.  Only issue was that these guys carried the whole show and Topo with Program in hand was waiting for his cue to chime in which never happened.

So CR moved on and all reports indicate that his excellent skill set is being applied at Casino Nova Scotia.  Obviously not satisfied with just running the day to day operations, he has branched out to now being a marketing guru.  He cut a TV commercial that thousands of his fans continued to share on Facebook for the longest time.  Quite frankly Topo got bored of watching this thing over and over again.  The jest of his current promotion is to offer on weekends all you can eat Lobster tails and Prime Rib for $9.99 which runs for four months. Lineups are massive and only about 600 patrons can be accommodated each nite so there is obvious discontent with those that are shut out – just like getting shut out at the betting windows.  Now Topo may not be real but he is a realist so asks this question – how can you possibly make money on this?  Food costs have to be in the area of $50 per person so a massive amount of incremental play in the casino is required for the credits to outweigh the debits.  To add insult to injury now the Food competitors are complaining that they are suffering financial stress due to this pricing structure.  Nothing good can come out of this except maybe if this initiative fails it may be an opportunity for CR to apply for a certain position in the Alberta racing industry that will become available in 2018 – the same one he should have got the first got the first time around!

We hope the Nation cuts Topo some slack with this offering since he is a little rusty.  We always promote our fans and customers to attend the races at Northlands and as we say – bet early and bet often.  Until next time…….

Those who tread among serpents, and along a tortuous path, must use the cunning of the serpent.
Thomas Becket


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