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Earlier this year Final Jeopardy was considered strong enough to be on the Derby Trail. Only that was the Kentucky Derby Trail. Now, Final Jeopardy is back on the Derby Trail. Only this time it’s Sunday’s $250,000 Canadian Derby Trail at Century Mile and then the $250,000 B.C. Derby in Vancouver.
In what is arguably the best Canadian Derby field ever assembled with a classy group of 12 entered, Final Jeopardy would still - despite all the talent on each side of him - appear to be the much the best. After all, Final Jeopardy, now owned by Peter and James Redekop of B.C., is a horse that ran second to Code of Honor in his last appearance in the Grade 3 Dwyer Stakes at Belmont, New York.
If you aren’t familiar with Code of Honor you should be. Code of Honor just happens to be one of the top three-year-olds in North America. He was placed second in the Kentucky Derby; he won the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth in Florida and he ran third in the Grade 1 Florida Derby. Furthermore, Code of Honor is one of the main threats in next week’s Travers Stakes.
Talking about the Dwyer which Final Jeopardy lost by just over three lengths, Final Jeopardy’s jockey Irad Ortiz told Blood Horse magazine “He ran so good. I don't have any excuse, we just got beat by a better horse. We were second-best today. He never gave up. It's just that the winner is a good horse, too. He gave me everything he had.”
“He should be favoured,” said Dr. Bryan Anderson, racing manager for the Redekops. And he is with the morning line on Final Jeopardy set at 8-to-5.
Another Vancouver horse, Explode, who won the last local prep for the Canadian Derby, is the second favourite at 4-1. Miltontown, one of two horses that trainer Robertino Diodoro has sent to Alberta is next at 6-1 while Journey Man, who has won his last two starts at Arlington Park in Chicago, is the fourth choice at 8-1.
But the story line is still all Final Jeopardy, who as well as running second in the Dwyer in his last start, July 6, also finished fourth in the Peter Pan. He was also good enough to be entered in the Wood Memorial, one of the Kentucky Derby’s main prep races. Final Jeopardy ran sixth in the Wood but he had excuses getting squeezed at the start of the race.
“He looks like a monster,” said Diodoro, who has won three of the last six Canadian Derbies which would have been four of the last six until a judicial review by Madam Justice J.M. Ross disqualified 2017 Derby winner Chief Know It All on Tuesday afternoon. “On paper Final Jeopardy looks to be five to six lengths the best horse,” said one of Miltontown’s owners, Clayton Wiest, who also co-owned Chief Know It All and last year’s winner Sky Promise. “If you ran the race 10 times, maybe Final Jeopardy wins it nine times,” said Wiest, hoping that the tenth time is going to go Miltontown’s way.
How exactly does a horse like Final Jeopardy wind up in Edmonton? “We heard the horse was for sale,” said Anderson. “The previous owners, Gary and Mary West, have too many horses. They buy 50-60 babies a year at auction and they are almost only looking for Grade 1 and Grade 2 winners. “Our main veterinarian happened to be in the area; he looked at him and liked what he saw. Then trainer Phil Hall went down and looked at him and he liked what he saw too.” A sales price was not disclosed but sources indicate it was around $450,000.
Another reason why Final Jeopardy is in Edmonton is the $250,000 Derby purse which is up $50,000 from last year and $100,000 from two years ago. “I’m sure the purse had quite a bit to do with it,” said Hall. “And the Derby distance - a mile and a quarter - should help too. Jason Servis, who was Final Jeopardy’s previous trainer said a mile and a quarter wouldn’t be a problem.
“He’s a Cadillac,” said Final Jeopardy’s exercise and work rider Brad Cuthbertson, son of the great W. Canadian jockey Alan. “He’s a very nice horse. He’s big. He’s strong. He’s got a nice move to him. He just looks the part of a good horse. Horses like him have confidence; they know they’re the best.”
While post positions don’t mean a lot in a mile and a quarter race on a one-mile track like Century Mile, Final Jeopardy drew post eight at Wednesday’s post draw.
From the rail out the posts are:
- Call It a Wrap. Owned by the powerful Riversedge barn and conditioned by Alberta’s leading trainer, Tim Rycroft, Call It a Wrap finished second in his last three starts including the Manitoba Derby in his most recent appearance and then twice to Alberta’s top three-year-old Sharp Dressed Beau. A contender to finish in the top 5.
- Parking Permit. Third to Sharp Dressed Beau in the Count Lathum two starts ago. A definite longsot.
- Karizanga. Missed by a nose in his most recent start at Indiana Downs. Won a starters allowance at Churchill Downs. Should challenge for the show position.
- Ranger Up. Still a maiden but finished second in straight maiden races at Monmouth Park, Kenneland and Gulfstream. In the middle mix and could surprise for a bigger piece.
- Miltontown. Claimed for $50,000 at Churchill Downs expressively for this race. Same connections won last year’s Derby with Sky Promise. Trainer Diodoro said to throw the last race out as the horse got caught too far behind a speed-biased track and had traffic problems. Hard to ignore the Diodoro factor and gets the services of jockey Rico Walcott. Has been working extremely well including a half mile work in :47 seconds flat. In the top 4.
- Explode. Has won five of his last six starts easily taking two open stakes at Hastings Park and then completing the hat trick at Century Miles when he just got up in the mud in a race where he was looking around down the stretch and appeared to jump the starting gate tractor tires. Main contender.
- Journeyman. Never worse than third in six starts including back-to-back wins at Arlington. Third choice.
- Final Jeopardy. Top choice for obvious reasons.
- Equivocal. Scored a nice allowance win at Century Mile two starts ago but showed no run last time out. A longshot.
- Senor Friday. The other Diodoro pupil. Won the Harry Jeffries in Winnipeg in his last start. Earlier this year won the Turf Paradise Derby by open lengths in Phoenix. Middle threat.
- Flatout Winner. Had excuses in the mud in his last appearance when he was bumped hard leaving the starting gate losing several lengths at the break, made a good wide move down the backstretch before being taken back to the rail where he flattened out. Moved off the rail again he started to run again. The longshot play.
- Sharp Dressed Beau. Won the Western Canada and Count Lathum stakes at Century Mile looking very impressive. Third in the mud to Explode last time out. Distance is the question and post doesn’t help. In the middle mix too.
STOCK REPORT- There are three other stakes races this weekend. All powerful races. On Saturday there is the $75,000 Northlands Distaff for aged fillies and mares and the $100,000 Century Casinos Oaks for three-year-old fillies. In the former, Good Luck to You heads a strong field of nine. In the latter, Summerland makes the trip to Edmonton. She has won eight of 10 lifetime starts including a six-for-six run. Throw out the last race where she had breathing problems. Looking to topple her is Im Evin Im Leavin, who came so close to knocking off Exploded and the boys in her last trip. Throw out the Sonoma start where he really acted up in the starting gate. Also a factor is the well-conditioned Exactly sent out by Elige Bourne.
On Sunday in addition to the Derby is the $75,000 Century Mile which attracted a very solid field of 11 including Sir Bronx, who drew the outside post. Sir Bronx was last year’s champion sprinter and aged horse and he appears to be even better this year. The morning line favourite is Gato Guapo, whom Diodoro has also brought to Century Mile. Gate Guapo rarely misses a cheque.
Post times for the first race on Saturday and Sunday is 1:45 p.m. The Derby is the 10th of the 10-race card.
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