Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Confused horse figures things out, could be Derby surprise

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Are you the kind of person who loves to back a long shot?

If so, do I have a horse for you in Monday's $75,000, mile-and-one-eighth Manitoba Lotteries Derby.

Listed at a probable 10-1 odds (official morning line comes out on race day), OK Indy, a chestnut gelding broke his maiden over six furlongs back on June 11 in spectacular fashion.

When the gates opened that day, OK Indy, with Janine Stianson in the saddle, simply stood there until he had given up close to 20 lengths to the rest of the field before swinging into action.

Jaws began to drop when the OK Indy began to close the gap, taking the clear outside path, and finally take over on the home stretch to win by a neck over Stick Em Up and Imironhide.

The $5,000 claimer, owned and trained by Bert Blake, was sold immediately after the race to Riley Kling for an undisclosed price and since has shown promise.

On June 29 OK Indy moved up to the mile, and with nine-time Alberta leading jockey Perry Winters in the saddle, he finished third. Then, on July 13, Winters rode him a mile again, this time into the winners circle.

OK Indy is in the company of some other pretty good three-year-olds, led by El Grayling (2-1), a dappled grey colt, trained by Emile Corbel and ridden by Downs' leading rider David Lopez, and Hammers Bullet (3-1), a bay gelding, trained by Clay Brinson with Mark Anderson in the saddle. Next comes the grey/roan gelding Gotatigerbythetail (5-1) who is trained by nine-time Downs leading trainer Ardell Sayler, at 5-1, with Rohan Singh up.

"I think he's got a little bit of a chance in this one," said Winters at the Downs' press conference Wednesday. "He's breaking out of the gate a little bit better now. He's only run three times, but he gets better every time out. The further he goes the better he'll get. He really likes the distance, for sure."

Rounding out the Derby field are: Big Blue Caboose (15-1), with Jocelyne Kenny up; Flexiplus (12-1), with Rocco Bowen in the saddle; Pulgarcito (7-2), with Tyrone Nelson up; Tannat (25-1), with Dean Butler in the irons and UR Burning Daylite (8-1), ridden by Ry Eikleberry.

OK Indy's trainer Guy King was a little more cautiously optimistic than his jockey. "You don't want to get too confident, because there's all kinds of things that can happen. He's got to improve as much from his last race (one mile) to be there (1 1/8 miles). We figure if he does improve as much as he has shown in the last couple of races he should be a contender."

The Derby is Assiniboia Downs' crown jewel of stakes races, taking place this long weekend. On Friday, the $15,000 Gold Strike Mile for three-year-old fillies holds the spotlight.

On Saturday, the $25,000 mile-and-1/16th R.J. Speers for three-year-olds and up is centre stage.

Sunday's featured race is the $25,000 Winnipeg Sun Stakes for fillies and mares three-years-old and up, while backing up the Derby on Monday are: the $25,000 five-and-one-half furlongs Graduation Stakes for two-year-olds and the $50,000 one mile Assiniboia Oaks Stakes for three-year-old fillies.

On a final note, when asked which horses OK Indy was going to need to beat in order to win on Monday, Kling shot back, "we've got to beat them all."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 28, 2011 $sourceSection0

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