EVERYONE loves an underdog and there's a doozy for you in the 66th running of the Manitoba Derby on Monday.
Manitoba-bred Jet Again will face six rival three-year-olds including classy New Yorker Master Lightning and Indiana speedster Street Prancer in the $75,000 Manitoba Derby and he definitely has upset potential.
Derby day post time is 1:30 p.m. at Assiniboia Downs.
Post positions for the Manitoba Derby were drawn Wednesday at Assiniboia Downs' annual Derby Press Conference and 2-1 morning-line favourite Master Lighting drew Post 1 in the 1 1/8-mile feature, which highlights a stakes-filled card on Monday that also includes the $50,000 Assiniboia Oaks for three-year-old fillies; the $30,000 R. J. Speers for three-year-olds and up; and the $30,000 Graduation Stakes for two-year-olds.
K-5 Stable's Master Lightning is the logical morning-line favourite after running competitively against the best three-year-olds in North America earlier this year.
The recent $75,000 claim was only 81/2-lengths back in the Gotham Stakes-G3 at Aqueduct in March and last year he finished fifth in the Remsen Stakes-G2 behind superstars Honor Code, Cairo Prince and Wicked Strong, at the Manitoba Derby distance of 1 1/8-miles. Wicked Strong just won the $600,000 Jim Dandy Stakes-G2 at Saratoga -- extremely classy company.
"What do you think," said Phil Kives of K-5 Stable.
"Do we have a chance?"
Of course he had to be kidding.
His stable has already won the Manitoba Derby twice, with Plenty Chilly (1991) and Northernprospector (1996). He knows what he's doing. Top trainer Shelley Brown saddles the favourite. Leading rider Paul Nolan will be in the irons.
Mike McCarty's Street Prancer is the second choice on the morning-line at 5/2, not just because he's won twice running against tough Indiana allowance horses, but because his Eclipse Award-winning trainer Steve Asmussen is currently second in North America all-time by number of wins.
Jalon Samuel, a former champion apprentice in Barbados now in his first year at the Downs, has the call for a trainer who has won numerous graded stakes including the Preakness-G1, twice, with Curlin and super filly Rachel Alexandra.
Manitoba-bred and owned Jet Again was listed as third choice on the morning-line at 3-1, and while you might not get a big price, there's a very good chance you'll get a monster effort for your two bucks on Derby Day.
The three-year-old Going Commando gelding has improved dramatically this year for sharp horseman Jim Meyaard and his wife Amber, and his local ownership team of Barry Arnason, Cam Ziprick and Charles Fouillard. Meyaard says all systems are go. The crowd will go nuts if this guy is running at the end.
Rounding out the field are Golden Boy Stakes winner Northern Contract, who trainer Don Schnell expects to improve; long-shot speedster Storm Chance, whose sire Stormello was a game as they come; and two shippers from Alberta for horse whisperer Wally Pugh, both by Breeders' Cup Juvenile-G1 winner Wilko.
"The combination of local flavour and talented horses from Western Canada and the United States makes this Derby one of the most competitive in decades," said Assiniboia Downs CEO Darren Dunn.
"Looking forward to it!"