Aug 292018



(Yogi Berra)

Well one would think that 3 of the 4 owners of Sky Promise felt somewhat vindicated after their horse crossed the wire first in the 89th and final running of the Canadian Derby last Saturday. Relief would best describe their emotions when this year (unlike last year) there was no claim of foul lodged– about the only objection that could have been claimed by the other runners was that the horse ran too fast!

Topo is kinda glad that his term as the only Roving Rodent Reporter on the planet is coming to the end as not being able to select a Diodoro or Riversedge horse in these classics is getting emotionally draining.  Topo may not be real but he is a realist – fear of choosing one over the other will result in privileges being revoked by one of the Parties.  Topo likes Suites at Churchill Downs on Ky. Derby day; seating at the Terrace tables at Saratoga and plane rides, so we tread lightly as it’s not every day we can hob nob with the rich and famous.

Let there be no mistake, the Nation knows that the Mouse of the People is a crack handicapper.  We truly believed that Craig MacPherson’s B.C. import #7 Day Raider possessed the talent and pedigree to win and at odds of $7.95/1 represented real value.  Not to be confused with coulda, woulda, shoulda Topo was one length short of yielding an additional $200 for his personal Mouse pad and the wallets of his loyal followers.  As it was we risked $144 and got back $123.50 for a net loss of $20.50 which was the equivalent of the Derby day parking fee at the Park.  Topo does not pay to park at the Park.

This year’s Derby winner is owned by: The Wiest boys (the father/son combo of Rick & Clayton), R6 Racing Stable (Tim Rollingson family) from Lethbridge and newcomer to the Derby scene Norm Tremblay of Grand Prairie.  With the exception of Norm the others were part of Chief Know It All’s victory in 2017. Norm has been a big supporter of Diodoro over the last few years having invested significant amounts of LIRA (Topo never converted to Euros) in young and proven bloodstock so it was gratifying to see he and wife Natalie being rewarded accordingly. The partnership’s other entrant in the Derby Hynford made the early running but retreated after a mile.  Word is that he is starting an early vacation in Phoenix and will rest up for a winter campaign.

Even though a quick 2 week turnaround, Sky Promise is scheduled to race in the BC Derby on Sept 8.  The loyal followers will recall in our previous column – all things being equal, we don’t think anyone will beat Weekend Wizard in the race.

Trainer Diodoro has won on the track, 4 of the last 6 Canadian Derbies.  Assuming there is a continuation of the race at the new track near Leduc, they should rename the race The Diodoro Derby.  There is not much more to be said about Robertino’s overall career training record having recently won his 2,000th race. When pressed to confirm whether or not last year’s Canadian Derby victory or non-victory with Chief Know It All (official results pending a year later) was included in the number – he shot back something about not knowing if any of his Northlands wins are in the total!!

As of this writing, his 2018 stats look like this: 177 wins from 774 starts with purse earnings of $4.25 million US.  With the exception of the one victory at Northlands all others have come at US racetracks.  To put this in prospective, the total thoroughbred purses available in Edmonton and Calgary will at best be around $8 million CDN for all of this year so right now his runners have won the CDN equivalent of 70% of what the total purse pool is here – no wonder he picked up and moved his game up to another level about 10 years ago.  No bad for a local horse guy who started training his grandfather’s 2 horses at Stampede Park in 1995.

The Spoils of Victory

The Morning after – Topo (with credentials) Groom Kim Dunsmore with Blanket of Daises

& Sky Promise stabled at Hall of Famer Red Smith’s shedrow.

The End of An Era

Topo has fond memories of Northlands – too numerous to mention.  A fair number of Stakes wins and many victories for the Team since the 70’s with modest investment.  Like most of the fans and participants we are still not quite sure why they are exiting the game.  Let’s not name names (ok let’s – the two past Presidents) were not horse racing friendly as they were more interested in arenas and condos.  So how’s that working out for them so far?  No new arena, and whereas Vision 2020 was a great pipe dream, it lacked a small detail: WHERE WAS THE $20 MILLION+ GOING TO COME FROM?  One could say hindsight is in fact 20/20 but there was no shot that either of these things were gonna happen. So exit both those guys. No resistance offered by the entity overseeing the racing industry when Northlands threatened that they were on the way out – wonder why that was?

Nevertheless, it is what it is and – Tiz Over.   Over the years the Northlands racetrack management has been widely criticized on how they run their business.  Topo has learned over the years no matter what track one is at – Horsemen and customers in general live and love to complain. Whereas some bitching is justified, many of their deficiencies would be considered petty by normal business standards.  If one looks at the big picture, Northlands sustained the industry in Alberta from 2008-2016.  After Stampede Park exited the racing business in 2008, Northlands was the only major racetrack in the province due to the fact the “iconic, state of the art Facility” at Balzac was about 10 years late in the making.  We never hear many accolades thrown Northlands’ way thanking them for making purse money available from their slot machines to carry the business as a whole going forward during the lean times.

Topo has had great relationships with the Northlands management – from Les Butler to Chris Roberts (Topo’s co-creator) and finally Scott Sinclair. The job of Racing Secretary is not only thankless but a no win situation since it is impossible to please all Horsemen all the time. Topo tips his hat to Fred Hilts and Jason Teague for jobs well done.  Finally there have been many track announcers ending with Matt Jukich son of Hastings announcer Dan Jukich.  No disrespect to those not mentioned but if Topo had to pick two of his favorites he would go with Luke Kruybosch and Mike Dimoff.  The one guy who was excellent in his own right but it was not his primary function at the Park was Chris Roberts.  As previously mentioned watching Roberts in the booth, Topo was amazed the guy did not use any type of aids like crayons or even look at the program much to call the race.  He made no errors – obviously he has a photographic mind.

As a final gesture of goodwill Northlands put on an excellent Gala the night before the Derby recognizing many of the longtime industry participants. A post Derby Party was held and furthermore, they discreetly added $3,000 to the advertised purses for each of the 8 overnite races carded on Derby day.  Topo acknowledges Scott Sinclair for all the goodness he bestowed upon him during his tenure as the #1 Racing guy at the Park.

There seems to be light at the end of the tunnel for thoroughbred racing now that we have said bye-bye to individuals in power that based decisions on politics rather than business sense.  Next step is for the industry to stop hearing Appeals on stewards judgement calls so that there might actually be more money to spend on marketing and bloodstock rather than legal fees.  Memo to the Regulator – change the Alberta Rules of Racing to come on board with the rest of North America where Stewards decisions are final.  If you don’t have faith in their decision making capabilities then make the required changes. Having decisions vetted by people who have no expertise and cannot be contested for reversal are is as many have said – A JOKE!!

The RRR has enjoyed this no paying gig over the last few years, but now it’s time to call it a day.   Topo plans on returning to Northlands when there is no one there and everything is locked up.  The only thing that will be stirring in the Plant will be the Mouse of the People.  Finally – what ever happened to Cathy Kiss the Northlands suit that gave Topo the proverbial flush and “kissoff” from their website?  Another mortal that Topo outlasted.




Topo Turning out the Lights at Northlands Park on August 25, 2018.

  3 Responses to “TOPO’s CANADIAN DERBY #89 RECAP – IT’S DEJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN!!! (Yogi Berra)”

  1. Well said Topo. Especially about Stewards judgement call of a race being sacrosanct. The $120,000 fee charged by one of the Trubunal could have funded two more days of racing. Insiders getting rich at the expense of the Horsemen- a common theme since the creation of HRA.

  2. Really enjoyed all Topo’s reports hope someday he or his son will be back again.Thank you Topo.
    Enjoy the rest of the year.

  3. Topo’s grasp of the English language and his writing skills rival those of two notable scribes from Edmonton.
    The multiple Sovereign Award winner and true friend of Thoroughbred horse racing Curtis Stock as well as the legendary Jim Coleman.
    Excellent article Topo !

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