JUST as Humphry Bogart and Lauren Bacall were a perfect match on the silver screen, owner Barry Arnason (Arnason Farms & McEwen & Partners) and trainer Emile Corbel are hoping jockey Larren Delorme and Key Largo will be a perfect fit Monday in the 1 1/8-mile running of the $75,000 Manitoba Lotteries Derby at Assiniboia Downs.
The dark-bay Kentucky-bred colt, by Fusaichi Pegasus, out of Mary, by Cat Thief, has been in top company before. He broke his maiden as a two-year-old at Churchill Downs on Nov. 9, 2009, and won again on March 9 as a three-year-old at Gulfstream Park. Both times he covered the mile distance, with a claiming tag of $50,000.
Claimed for $50,000 by Corbel, based on his two wins, Key Largo has struggled a little this year due to a virus that has affected a number of horses at the Downs.
"He's a big, good looking horse and he's got a great stride," said Arnason. "Right now his coat is all dappled out. The coat of a horse really shows a lot about its health. When it has a nice shine to it, and it's dappled out, it's an indication that the horse is very healthy."
On June 19 Key Largo finished well back in the Golden Boy Stakes, and on July 10 he was beaten by Cherokee's Goal in the Harry Jeffery Stakes.
Corbel, Arnason and Delorme all agree this is not the same horse that ran those races.
"I have only been on him once in a race but I breezed him twice and jogged him a couple of times. It seems like he's really on his game. When I rode him in the Harry Jeffery he wasn't 100 per cent but now he couldn't be any better," said Delorme, the current leading Downs rider with 42 wins.
"When he came back here he got left at the gate in a six-furlong race on June 2," said Arnason, "but he came closing like crazy. Then he got into the stakes race June 19, and he just didn't come back right. There had been a virus going through all kinds of horses here, but now he's healthy and feeling good.
"This colt's bred to go the distance," added Arnason, who is hoping for a little payback after the loss to Cherokee's Goal on July 10. "... Clayton (trainer Gray) has Cherokee's Goal in great shape. I wish him the best of luck, but I hope he's running behind us."
In addition to Key Largo, (6-1 on the morning line), the field includes: Cherokee's Goal (9-2); Chief Counsel (1-1); Kind Regards (6-1); Mankato Strike (15-1); Mr. Malabar (30-1); and Stachys (3-1).
The Manitoba Lotteries Derby isn't the only stakes race this weekend. Saturday will see the $30,000 R.J. Speers leave the gate, while on Sunday it's the $30,000 Winnipeg Sun Stakes.
Joining the Derby on Monday will be the $30,000 Graduation, and the $50,000 Assiniboia Oaks Stakes.