You can’t blame local horsemen and race fans if they take ownership of the Year of the Horse and start calling this the Year of the Manitoba Horse. After all, this has been an extraordinary year for horses bred in Manitoba.
This is huge: 10 days ago, Goldencents, the colt born to a Manitoba mare, set a new track record at Del Mar, the southern California track that is the summer playground of Hollywood stars. He raced seven furlongs (7/8th of a mile) in one minute, 20.99 seconds. The previous record was 1:21.12. And he did it in gate-to-wire fashion without much urging — which means he could have gone even faster.
His mother, Golden Works, was bred in Manitoba by as-seen-on-TV marketing guru Phil Kives. Last year, you may recall, the colt had already done Manitoba proud by winning the Santa Anita Derby and the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. He’s earned $2.43 million and he’s only four years old.
On the same day that was happening, the annual yearling sale of Manitoba-breds was being held on the Red River Ex grounds next to the Downs and those horses were very much in demand. In fact, the 22 horses sold for $133,900, a 45 per cent increase from last year when 21 yearlings went on the auction block and fetched $92,300. That’s an average of $6,086 per Manitoba-bred compared to last year’s $4,395.
Among them was Gold N Sochi, a filly named for the Olympic triumph of Winnipegger curler Jennifer Jones and her team. Monica Prokipchuk bought the filly for $9,000. That certainly will be a horse to watch. The sales topper of $16,600 was a colt purchased by Barry Arnason, owner of heavy industry company Arnason Industries. His family has owned horses in Winnipeg and elsewhere for decades.
Several days before that, Arnason was in the winner’s circle celebrating the victory of another Manitoba-bred. His Yelling Timber had beaten two Kentucky-breds in the $30,000 Debutante Stakes for two-year-olds. That’s a rarity.
"Tell the world about Manitoba-breds," he said.
Because in the wings is another Manitoba-bred some think has the potential to become one of the greatest of all time — his Zdeno. The colt’s breeder, Cam Ziprick of Russell, Man., called him a "once in a lifetime" breeding success. He’s unbeaten in four races including the Winnipeg Futurity and Buffalo Stakes last year. A lung infection unfortunately kept him from being entered into the Manitoba Derby, but he’s better now and has been working out in the mornings. How much lustre will he add to the Manitoba brand?
In the meantime, racing continues Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. with one of the biggest races of the year, the $50,000 Winnipeg Futurity, taking place on Saturday. Come say hi at my Learn the Secrets stage before the races!