Hi again, folks! Great to be back!
Although the weather still says "cross-country skiing," get ready for what I consider to be the biggest-ever opening weekend of live horse racing, just 10 days away.
Yes, the 60-day live-race season opens Sun., May 5, at 1:30 p.m., but the day before that, Sat., May 4, will make Manitoba history.
That’s because it’s Kentucky Derby Day and, for the first time, a horse with Manitoba breeding, Goldencents, will not only be among 20 horses racing in the $2 million Derby, but should be among the top three or four contenders. Can you imagine if he wins? Someone said if that happens, the Golden Boy atop the Manitoba Legislature deserves to get a makeover, with the Golden Boy getting a golden partner. What do you think?
So how did a province somewhere in the boondocks suddenly make it to the big leagues in horse breeding?
You can thank Winnipeg horse owner, Phil Kives, better known as the innovator of K-Tel "as seen on TV" products. He bred the mare who foaled the Kentucky Derby hopeful. The mare, named Golden Works, raced at Assiniboia Downs in the mid-1990s. She didn’t accomplish much on the track but she had great genes: Her mother, Body Works, was one of the most famous and popular mares ever to race at the Downs. She won a whopping 14 stakes races and almost $253,000. That’s amazing for a Manitoba bred.
But her daughter wasn’t doing that much on the track or in the breeding barn here so Kives took her down to Kentucky where he sold her for $7,000 at an auction. That’s where her genetic background found the perfect match: a graded-stakes-winning stallion by the name of Into Mischief. The resulting foal was a gorgeous chestnut colt the new owners named Goldencents. He cut such a dashing figure that the famed coach of the Louisville men’s basketball team, Rick Pitino, and his partners ponied up $52,000 to buy him. It turned into a fortuitous purchase. In only eight months of racing, Goldencents has won four of six races including the prestigious $750,000 Santa Anita Derby and has earned $1.25 million. So, regardless what happens on Derby Day, the colt has already done Manitoba breeding proud.
So you see now why May 4 for the Derby and May 5 as opening day both loom as important dates. And, hey, if you’re a golden couple, celebrating your 50th anniversary this year, the Downs has a treat awaiting you during the Victoria Day holiday weekend. Two days, Fri., May 17 and Sat., May 18, have been set aside to honour Goldencents’ breeding success. If you’re "gold," you get to dine free. The way that works is this: When you book reservations for four or more of your family or friends, your buffet is totally on the house. Call the Downs at 204-885-3330 to reserve your table.
And, continuing with the glitter, everyone has a chance on Derby Day to win a solid gold one-ounce wafer! How? I’m saving that for next week’s column.