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It all made sense at the time

Mare couldn't run, foals neither... until magic struck with Goldencents

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Goldencents gets in a workout at Churchill Downs on Tuesday. The colt with Manitoba connections is third-favourite at 5-1 heading into Saturday's Kentucky Derby.

MORRY GASH / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge Image

Goldencents gets in a workout at Churchill Downs on Tuesday. The colt with Manitoba connections is third-favourite at 5-1 heading into Saturday's Kentucky Derby.

Phil KIVES has made a lot of amazingly awesome business decisions over the years.

His infamous Patty-Stacker? Jackpot. Miracle Brush? Kives needed to hire more people at K-Tel, just to count his money. That thing "that sliced and diced and julienned fries?" Decades later, they're still tucked away in the backs of kitchen cupboards all over North America.

So it was probably just inevitable that sooner of later Kives -- the Winnipeg entrepeneur behind the legendary maker of all things quirky and plastic, K-Tel -- was going to make a bad business decision.

And boy, did he ever when a couple years ago Kives sold a mare named Golden Works -- who never amounted to much on the racetrack or in the breeding shed -- to some Kentucky interests for the relatively tiny sum of $7,000.

Seemed like a good deal at the time. But what Kives didn't know -- had no way of knowing, really -- was that the new ownership would give Golden Works another go in the breeding shed, breeding her to an equally unknown stallion and somehow this time giving birth to magic -- a three-year-old colt named Goldencents who many are picking to win Saturday's Kentucky Derby.

The impressive winner of last month's Santa Anita Derby, Goldencents is listed as 5-1 on the Derby morning-line, making him the third favourite in the 20-horse race. But those odds will likely decrease by race-time, particularly after a column in the Washington Post on Thursday by Andrew Beyer -- horse racing's most influential handicapper -- in which Beyer annointed Goldencents a no-brainer to win in Louisville.

"In Saturday's Derby," wrote Beyer, "there is a colt whose most recent speed figure towers over his rivals' and whose running style ought to give him a significant tactical advantage. I'm not going to be distracted by any handicapping subtleties. I'm betting on Goldencents."

If Beyer is right and Goldencents wins, it would be an unprecdented victory in thoroughbred racing's marquee race for the tiny and underfunded Manitoba breeding industry, which, ironically enough, is presently in a fight for its very survival after the NDP announced in January that they were cutting $5 million from the VLT revenues and betting levies that Assiniboia Downs receives every year.

The other by-product of a win by Goldencents on Saturday, of course, would be that his mother, Golden Works, plus her future offspring, could suddenly be worth millions.

Which, as Kives knows only too well by now, is a lot more than $7,000. All of which raised the obvious question as Kives took in the opening news conference of the 2013 Assiniboia Downs live thoroughbred race meet: Is that the worst deal you ever made?

"I've made a lot of bad decisions in my life. That wasn't the only one," said Kives with a laugh.

"But she couldn't run. And I had a couple of foals out of her after I made her a broodmare and they couldn't run either. So I got rid of everybody... What was I supposed to do? Why keep her?"

Downs trainer Emile Corbel recalled training Golden Works, but giving up on what he recalls as a crazy horse before he even got her to the track once.

"She would run laps around her stall, around and around. She'd run all day," Corbel recalls. "It got so I had to put tires down in her stall to try to stop her. Terrible, really bad.

"I didn't even want to run her."

The irony is the mother of Golden Works was Body Works, a brilliant mare who won 14 stakes races at the Downs and a total of $253,000 lifetime.

Did genius skip a generation -- and somehow get even sharper in the process? The answer comes late Saturday afternoon in the shadow of a pair of iconic Kentucky spires.

 

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 3, 2013 C5

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