Mark Anderson knew he had a winner on July 26 when Hammers Bullet, a dark bay Kentucky-bred gelding, turned in an unbelievable five-furlong morning workout time of 59.6 seconds.
"I think that was ballistic fast, with the way the track has been," said the jockey after he and Hammers Bullet won the $75,000, mile-and-an-eighth Manitoba Lotteries Derby Monday in front of Big Blue Caboose (Jocelyne Kenny up) and Gotatigerbythetail (Rohan Singh).
"I was just kind of letting him work out the last little 16th, and asked him a little bit to gallop out strong. It felt like a 1:02 and change, almost a 1.03, but when I pulled up Jared Brown was on the turn with a stopwatch. He said, 'do you know how fast you were? I got him at 59.3 (Equibase has it at 59.6).' Boy, it's really deceiving how easy he covers ground."
The win was the third stakes victory for Anderson this long weekend, having taken the $25,000 Graduation Stakes for two-year-olds on Balooga Bull in Monday's sixth race, in front of Gospel Gall (Singh) and My Ponies Painted (David Lopez). On Friday, Anderson won the Gold Strike Mile Stakes for three-year-old fillies on Kommando Kate. Right of Center (Lopez) and Prairie Eclipse (Rocco Bowen) followed him across the line.
In Monday's ninth race, Anderson's game plan was to have Hammers Bullet sit off the pace and let Big Blue Caboose and UR Burnin Daylight fight it out up front, but it didn't work out that way.
"I really thought they were going to hook up, and I was going to sit about two or three off of them. But early on I saw UR Burnin Daylite just drop the bit, and was pulling up a little, so I thought I better keep an eye on this other one, and make sure he doesn't steal the race. So we just stalked him, and bided our time, until I kind of felt someone moving from the back side of me, and that was when I asked him, and he responded."
Anderson gave Hammers Bullet's trainer Clay Brinson credit for the win. "Clay had him ready, had him lined up perfect, and credit due to him, that was a heck of a job."
"I knew that this horse was dead fit for this race," said Brinson, who had left the gelding in the hands of trainer Jared Brown for a week to get used to this track. "If he had been beat, it wouldn't have been because he was short, it would have been because he was beaten by a better horse. But he dug in. He is a game horse.
"But Caboose hung on like a bulldog today, and I think that was because no one was pushing him on the lead and he kind of had it his own way. My horse had to go after him, but that horse ran a great race too."
In other stakes action over the weekend, Tourmaline, ridden by Dean Butler, won the $50,000, one-mile Assiniboia Oaks Stakes for three-year-old fillies on Monday. Finally Flying (Prayven Badrie) and Jilleah (Lopez) were second and third.
On Saturday, Gustavo Ortiz rode Doc's Friend to victory in the $25,000, one-and-a-sixteenth miles R.J. Speers Stakes in front of Wicked Vow (Singh) and Retap (Tyrone Nelson). Sunday saw Lopez ride Witch's Coven to victory in the $25,000, one-and-a-sixteenth miles Winnipeg Sun Stakes. Ruby's Big Band (Singh) was second and Ballistic Blond (Anderson) was third.