Maybe it was all that nutritious Timothy hay Emile Corbel feeds his horses that enabled Jon's Golden Run to demolish the field in last Friday's $50,000 Buffalo Stakes for Manitoba-bred two-year-olds at Assiniboia Downs.
Even though Corbel maintains that it's the best hay you can buy, he doesn't think it gave the horse an edge. As far as he's concerned Jon's Golden Run was born to run. "No," Corbel said. "It's his talent."
Downs CEO and track announcer Darren Dunn was certainly impressed. "With a flourish on the outside... like an Olympic champion... he does it," he exclaimed as the chestnut colt blew past six other horses, one at a time, as he smoked down the stretch to break his maiden. Second was Calitor (Chavion Chow up) and She's Regal (David Lopez up) finished third.
In his first two races Jon's Golden Run ran second on July 20 over five furlongs, and third on Aug. 26, in the six furlongs Sales Stakes.
This time, however, as jockey Rohan Singh rode Jon into the winner's circle, Corbel could be seen bowing deeply to his Manitoba-bred (Russell) colt.
Even though he had gone on record saying his horse would win the Buffalo Stakes, Corbel admits he had butterflies.
"At the quarter pole I was starting to take the fork and knife out to eat crow," he said, laughing.
For this race, Corbel had made a major change.
"No griping about riders, but I probably should have changed earlier (Prayven Badrie was up for the first two trips). "You know, when I was training for Phil Kives (K-5 Stables), he taught me a very good lesson about riders. We had a horse in the Manitoba Derby and I didn't want to take the rider off, and we ran bad. He phoned me later and said, 'loyalty will not make you wealthy.'
"Rohan told me two days before the race, 'they'll all be falling down at the 16th pole, and the fittest horse will win,' meaning they will all get tired down the lane, and that's when we're going to get them.
"He said it would be a game of patience and he was right. He played it exactly right."
"I was in a pickle the whole way, and had nowhere to go," recalled Singh, "and in that race and that kind of a situation it is too late to panic. I just had to wait and wait. I was thinking, hopefully I will get into the clear early enough to make a run for it."
Then Singh passed the credit for Jon's victory over to Corbel. "He's the man who did all the work, I just rode the horse."
"We taught the horse to run off the pace and not to panic," said Corbel, who added that the way he ran his first race, running second and having dirt kicked in his face, was a good learning experience.
"I called it back in March, that he wants to run a mile, just by the way he is built and the way he trained. In the last week, even Steve, my gallop boy, couldn't hold him after a mile-and-a-half."
A product of Cam Zipric's breeding farm and purchased for $7,000 by Edwina Larsen at last year's Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Association's yearling sales, Jon (named for 2010 Olympic skeleton gold medalist Jon Montgomery, also of Russell) has already paid his way with $38,329 in earnings.
Corbel said that Jon will take get some rest and relaxation for the rest of the year before coming back in the spring. "He's a big horse. He has a big shoulder and he has started to settle down. He still gets pretty rough in the morning, but in the race he is perfect. He'll relax, he'll go through horses, he takes the dirt and it doesn't bother him. That's pretty impressive for a two-year-old to do that.
"He's got some minor stuff starting to show up, so it is time he goes on the shelf. He's earned his rest."
The final three racing programs for this season begins tonight. Post time tonight and Saturday is 7:05 p.m., and on Sunday they go to post at 1 p.m.