Early this year, thoroughbred breeder Cam Ziprick of Russell was in a quandary as to what to name one of his best yearling colts, born April 1, 2009. In the business of horse racing, picking just the right name is imperative. You want something that indicates the horse is fast and a natural-born winner.
On Feb. 20, fellow Russell native Jon Montgomery set Canada on fire when he won gold in skeleton at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. Almost as quick as it took him to cover the icy track, Ziprick christened his chestnut colt Jon's Golden Run.
The public will have a chance to take a look at Jon's Golden Run, along with 48 other babies, on Aug. 29, when he goes on the auction block at the Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society (Manitoba Division) annual yearling sale, which begins at 2 p.m. at Assiniboia Downs.
Unfortunately, Canada's most famous auctioneer won't be there to bring down the gavel on the special yearling. "I would love to get top dollar for him," said Montgomery over his cell from somewhere on the Kananaskis Country Golf Course near Banff, Alta. "My fiancée, Darla Beschamps, and I will be with my parents Joan and Eldon in San Francisco for a few days."
"I don't know if that (naming the horse for Montgomery) is a curse or what," laughed Ziprick, from his farm just outside of Russell. "You want to name the horse after someone who goes fast, but you never know, he (the horse) could turn out to be a turtle."
"Hopefully he'll be a quick turtle," quipped Montgomery, who has only seen photographs of the horse so far. "If he can do 146 kilometres per hour the way I did, he'll be the fastest horse on the earth."
The yearling's lineage would seem to indicate he'll be a good one. His dad is Bob and John, who won almost $1 million, including the Wood Memorial, a top New York stakes race. Mom is Sheza Honey, who also comes from a strong lineage of winners, and his grandpa is Honey Jay.
"I have known Jon's parents for a long time," said Ziprick. "My wife Sherisse told him about it when he came home for the celebration in his honour last March. I'm not sure how he reacted. I think he was more overwhelmed with the celebration than he was about the horse at the time."
"He (Ziprick) hit the nail right on the head there," said Montgomery. " I was definitely overwhelmed. You grow up in a community of 1,600 people, and suddenly you show up one day and there's 8,000 people on the street, all there because of you. That's really something to behold.
"At the time I particularly didn't understand it, but I think it's really cool to have something that is actually alive named after me. Except for my nephew who was named Riley, which is my middle name."
Coincidentally, just like Jon's Golden Run, Riley is also a yearling, having been born Nov. 1, 2009.
Still a baby, it's impossible to predict just how successful Jon's Golden Run will be, but Ziprick says all signs are pointing to the positive. "He's a big strong colt. His legs are correct, he has lots of muscle, and he has a really neat attitude. He likes to do things. You don't have to force him to lead, or anything. He's always willing, and he plays a lot. He is mentally mature, and right on schedule."
By mature, Ziprick points out that of the eight yearlings he has up for sale this year, "Four of them, I have to make work. The others, including Jon's Golden Run, are pawing at the door every morning to get going. When I put Jon's Golden Run in the Equi-cizer, he's always eager to get started, and goes round bouncing and playing. That's always a great sign when they want to go like that."
Ziprick has no idea how high a price Jon's Golden Run will bring in. "I would guess from $5,000 to $8,000. I don't know what the market is going to be like, with the economy and all. If it's not enough, I will bring him home and race him myself."
The first opportunity he gets to check the colt out, Montgomery says he'll drop a small wager on his nose.
"Oh yeah, absolutely."