Before Sunday's running of the Canada Day CANSTAR Stakes at Assiniboia Downs, owner Phil Kives of K5 Stables had been considering letting his six-year-old chestnut mare Golden Stripe retire in style.
That was, until Golden Stripe and rider Trevor Simpson nailed the $30,000, one-mile race wire-to-wire, winning by 13 lengths over Lucky Lady Go with Gustavo Ortiz up and Honorable Lady, ridden by Tim Moccasin.
As Kives saw it, his Manitoba-bred horse had more than paid her way up to Sunday's race, winning seven times in her 23 starts, earning him $198,352 before Sunday's victory.
Included among her wins were the Distaff and La Verendrye stakes in 2011, the Distaff and Canada Day Stakes in 2010 and the R.C. Anderson Stakes in 2009.
With temperatures hovering around the 30 C mark, Golden Stripe posted times of 23.2 seconds on the first quarter, 47.4 at the half, 1:12.2 three quarters into the race and 1:39.2 at the wire.
When it was suggested that his mare was like fine wine, improving with age, Kives wasn't sure. "I thought she was going the other way actually," he said. "She's six years old. I thought that maybe we'll run her once or twice this year. I thought we'd run her in this stakes race and then maybe call it quits. But she's running."
Befuddled, Kives tried to make some sense of Golden's Stripes's shocking blowout victory. "It's hot today," he said, "... I just don't know. I have no excuse why we took off like that and (other horses) didn't."
Five times Jamaica's leading jockey, Simpson, had come north for the first time this spring after winning one of his country's biggest races (the Jamaica 1,000 Guineas) on She's Traditional, a 99-1 long shot.
Here, however, he's been struggling, as going into Sunday's race program he had 79 starts, only 10 wins and $85,033 in earnings.
Still, he took the stakes win in stride. "I've been in a lot of stakes races in my career, so this race is pretty much like any other," he said.
"The horse was working quite well with me in the mornings, and Shelly (trainer Brown) told me that the horse liked it in front. Then when I read the program I realized that the horse was a front runner."
Kives said he had little to do with selecting the jockey. "He worked her once, and she (Brown) liked the way he worked her. Besides, most of the rides already had mounts, and he was really the best left. I don't know, I left it up to her, and I had very little to say about it."
Before leaving the winner's circle, Kives hinted at a challenger to Ardell Sayler's undefeated (6-0) super horse Balooga Bull in the $75,000 mile and-a-sixteenth Manitoba Lotteries Derby on Aug. 6.
In shed row at the Downs is highly touted Runaway Lion and Kives says we could get a peek at him sometime in the next two weeks, as he wants to run him at least once before the Derby.
Kives, who claimed him for $50,000 before he ever raced, says Shelly Brown is already working him into shape.
"We'll run him at least once before the Manitoba Derby," said Kives, saying they have to work out a few kinks he had picked up while being cared for at Woodbine in Toronto.