IN the world of horse racing, some of the biggest gambles happen off the track -- and one of Manitoba's top racehorse breeders just got a whopping reminder of that.
On Saturday, a handsome three-year-old colt named Goldencents blazed to a win in California's Santa Anita Derby, clinching a spot in the Kentucky Derby. As he streaked to the finish line, racing aficionados at Assiniboia Downs burst into cheers, and not just because the victory paid $15 on a $2 win ticket -- it also marked the first time a horse out of a Manitoba mare would earn a spot in North America's top race, according to the Assiniboia Downs.
See, Goldencents was born to Golden Works, who was bred right here in Manitoba by racing enthusiast Phil Kives, of K-Tel fame.
Here's the twist: Though Kives had high hopes for Golden Works -- her mother, Body Works, was one of the top mares ever to race in Manitoba -- the mare never really panned out as a speedster. "She couldn't run much, that horse," Kives said Sunday. "She had two foals for me, and they didn't run much either."
So he did what most pragmatic racehorse owners would do: He sold Golden Works to a breeder in Kentucky for $7,000. But when those new owners bred her to a top racer named Into Mischief, the colt that came out was Goldencents -- and he's already won more than $1.25 million on the track.
Kives, who owns more than 40 horses, estimated Golden Works could today be worth as much as $200,000, now that she's the mother of a big winner.
Does he wish he held onto the colt's mother? "Now I do," he chuckled. "That's horse racing... you never know. This one just jumped out of the clear blue sky, and I was very much surprised."
Well, you win some, you lose some -- and in a way, it's still a win for Manitoba. In a statement Sunday, Assiniboia Downs CEO Darren Dunn called Goldencents' rise "a huge boost" for the reputation of Manitoba breeders. "It shows the talent emanating from these parts," he said. "Even a top four or five finish in the Kentucky Derby will merit a celebration. But can you imagine if Goldencents wins it?"
If Goldencents -- who is owned by a group that includes University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino -- does make noise in the Derby, Kives probably won't be there to see it. Although he does own some horses in Kentucky, he has no plans to head down... at least, not yet.