McKague born to run
Five-year-old winner of Phil Kives Trial the epitome of class
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 12/08/2022 (299 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Assiniboia Downs trainer Carl Anderson is a walking advertisement for the T-shirt slogan ‘Old Guys Rule.’
The same could be said of trainers Gary Danelson and Murray Duncan, but the 77-year-old Anderson is the latest of the three master horsemen to teach the youngins a thing or two about how to properly prepare and manage a racehorse to keep winning year after year.
Anderson saddled McKague on Wednesday night to win the $20,000 Phil Kives Trial for Nearco Ltd., which is owned by Bill Drew and his wife Shelley. McKague wasn’t favoured in the race, that honour went to Delvecchio, who was sent off at 3/5 and ended up in a tight spot between horses for most of the race. McKague went to the post as the second choice at 2-1 under jockey Stanley Chadee, Jr. and received a picture-perfect ride, but he worked all the way to the wire.
Class and classy.
Class has two meanings in racing. The first refers to the level a horse races at, be it $2,500 claiming races, allowance races or stakes. Classy is used to describe a horse that always gives their best, a horse that digs deep to find more when the pressure is on. McKague fit both descriptions on Wednesday night. In simpler terms, he was the perfect horse.
McKague forced the pace outside Delvecchio’s stablemate Bitethebulletpro, duelled that one into submission on the final turn, and was immediately taken on by Crowned Royal into the stretch. Instead of wilting from his earlier efforts, McKague found more every time his jockey asked for it and turned back a surprisingly strong bid from Crowned Royal, drawing out late to win by three-quarters of a length.
Bred in Manitoba by his owner, McKague was sired by Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) winner Secret Circle. His mother, Northern Cotton, was purchased by Drew and his then partner Jerry Beyer at a two-year-old in training sale. Northern Cotton won a Maiden Special Weight race at Assiniboia Downs and later placed fourth in a restricted stakes in Florida.
Bred to Secret Circle on the advice of veterinarian and Manitoba Jockey Club board member Dr. Ross McKague, who does extensive homework on stallions as a Manitoba breeder, Northern Cotton produced the veterinarian’s namesake on May 25, 2017, on McKague’s farm in Brandon.
Obviously, the horse wasn’t named McKague when he was born, but because Dr. McKague had helped Drew with selecting a stallion and on numerous other horse-related questions, Drew decided to name the horse McKague — without telling the human.
Drew was a little worried about what McKague would say if McKague the horse wasn’t a runner, but how could the horse not be? He shares his birthday with both Dr. McKague and trainer Carl Anderson, May 25.
McKague the horse learned his early lessons courtesy of expert horse breaker Florent Rivard and spent his first year at the track with trainer Gary Danelson, as Anderson was retired at the time. The horse was intelligently managed by Danelson and Drew and was put away for the season after finishing second and fourth as a two-year-old.
Anderson took over the training of McKague for his three-year-old season and won the $30,000 J. W. Sifton Stakes with his new charge. The next year, as a four-year-old, McKague finished a game second to multiple Manitoba-champion Langara in the $35,000 Phil Kives Stakes, the same race he just won the prep for on Wednesday.
McKague has now compiled a record of 5-5-5 from 17 starts and earned more than $100,000. His trainer owns a record of 1,170-1,040-1,013 from 6,752 starts and purse earnings of $5,971,210 according to official Equibase statistics. And those stats include more than 10 leading trainer titles in Saskatchewan, one leading trainer title in Canada (1989), and four Gold Cup winners — Black Is Beautiful (1982), Secret Cipher (1983), Deputy Country (2004) and Albarino (2005).
What are the chances McKague could add his name to the Gold Cup victory list?
Well, his owners still have a 27-year-old gelding on their farm north of Oakbank, and until two years ago they also had a 34-year-old gelding. The first was a 40th birthday present for Bill Drew, and the second was a gift for their daughter when she was 10.
“We had to keep them,” said Drew, who still looks after McKague every winter at their farm. “I love being around horses. And they deserve a good life.”
McKague will have all the time he needs.