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Bon Prix well on pace to be named Alberta’s champion claimer

Oct 24,2022 Curtis Stock for Horse Racing Alberta

Horse racing is full of stars. Some are just playing on bigger stages and running for more money. Take Bon Prix for example. The five-year-old claimer put together a five-race winning streak from the beginning of August through to the start of this month. This past Saturday at Century Mile he appeared to have made it six in a row only to be disqualified from first and placed second for interference in the stretch when he came across in front of Dreadnaught just past the eighth pole.

“He’s my star. That’s for sure,” said Jim Wyness, Bon Prix’s trainer and owner. “You couldn’t ask for a better horse. “He won’t quit. He’s got a huge heart and he just never quits trying. “He crossed the finish line in front in six straight races.”

Either way it’s been a remarkable run that has him well on pace to be named Alberta’s champion claimer. After going winless in his first four races, Bon Prix got his first win this season on August 5 when he drove up six wide and came from mid pack to win a five and a half furlong sprint going away running for a $6,000 tag.

Who knew then that Bon Prix was going to make that a habit? After all, Bon Prix never won a single race all of last year. But two weeks later Bon Prix won again against $5,000 company this time going six and a half furlongs. In that race Bon Prix went right to the top, opened a five-length lead at the top of the stretch and won by three.

Like clockwork, running every two weeks, Bon Prix scored one more time completing the hat trick on September 3 when the chestnut stalked the pace three wide going five and a half furlongs. Again he won by three open lengths. He was just getting started.

On September 17 he won another five and a half furlong race. This time he really had to earn it. Bumped leaving the gate he duelled on the outside of Big Al’s Vision. Racing head to head Big Al’s Vision briefly poked his nose in front but Bon Prix, as usual, wasn’t about to call ‘uncle.’

A fighter, Bon Prix was asked for one more gear by jockey Jose Asencio and he found it as Bon Prix came back on to win by three-quarters of a length. “He digs in all the time,” said Wyness. That was win No. 4.

Number 5 came wire-to-wire. Breaking from post seven on October 1, Bon Prix was away sharply and never looked back holding Zicatela, who had been running against tougher company in allowance races and also contested the Red Diamond Express, safe by a length and three-quarters. The victory was worth $9,600 giving Bon Prix earnings of $41,190 on the season. By comparison the horse won only $4,201 all of last year. “He was a tired horse last year,” said Wyness, who lives on a farm in Olds. “I bought him in Toronto in July and I immediately gave him some time off. He didn’t race at all in August and September.”

Then, last Saturday, Bon Prix almost made it six in a row. It would have been a remarkable victory given that Bon Prix - in a five-horse field - was four and five wide throughout and still got home on top.

“He gets better every time I run him,” said Wyness, who bought Bon Prix - sight unseen - in a package deal of four horses. “The other three never turned out. But this one sure has. He’s surprised a lot of people.”

Unraced as a two-year-old, Bon Prix was always well meant. Purchased for $30,000 as a yearling he is a son of Palace, who won two Grade I stakes - the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap and the Forego - thereby becoming the only multiple Grade 1 winning sire by the late prominent sire, City Zip.

In his career Palace won 12 times for earnings of $1.5 million. “Bon Prix looks just like his daddy,” said Wyness, 81, who has been training thoroughbreds - mostly on the B Circuit - for some 50 years. Bon Prix’s dam, De Belle, was well bred too being sired by Dehere, the North American champion two-year-old of 1993.

“I grew up with horses in northern Alberta,” said Wyness. “My dad was a grain farmer. He owned four quarter sections. He grew wheat, barley, rye and hay. “The town we lived in had 22 people. It was about an hour’s drive from Grande Prairie. “I’d ride a horse to school. We’d hitch a toboggan behind horses. I always loved horses.”

While Wyness worked for Shell Oil for 32 years as far north as the Arctic, he trained thoroughbreds on the side. “It was a hobby then. But it’s still a hobby now; it keeps me alive,” said Wyness, who only has one other horse he trains, Charming Vintage, who he claimed for $3,500 at Phoenix’s Turf Paradise in March.

In 13 starts for Wyness, Charming Vintage has no wins but has managed three seconds. “Last year I had six horses but it got to be too many,” who never won a single race with any of them. “Two is a good number for me. I don’t want to overdo it anymore,” said Wyness, who has someone clean the stalls every morning while he does the feeding and walking.

And then along came Bon Prix. “He’s a beautiful horse to handle. He’s quiet. Like a baby,” said Wyness. “I can drop the shank and go and do something else and he’ll just stand there waiting until I get back. He doesn’t have a bad bone in his body.”

A horse who relishes peppermints - “I keep my pockets full of them” - and carrots, Bon Prix loves to eat. “He eats like a pig,” said Wyness. “He loves his oats and hay. I give him a full pail of oats and he eats it all up right away.”

There are two very different things about Bon Prix, who started his career winning his maiden debut at New Jersey’s Monmouth Park before being shipped to Florida’s Gulfstream Park where he won a $16,000 claiming race.

One is that - other, of course in a race - he never has a rider on his back. “I use a pony to gallop him. And just slow gallops. “ “I worked him in the spring but he hasn’t had a workout since May. I don’t want anybody on his back. He doesn’t need it. It takes too much out of him. He wants to feel free and bounce and play as he goes and I’m certainly not going to change that now.”

Bon Prix, who has won $45,390 this year, will make just one more start before the thoroughbred season ends at Century Mile next month.” “He’s had a great run. I’ve never had a horse like him. “ “The best I had before this one was Benji By Storm,” he said of a horse he trained in the late 1990’s, who won his last three starts and seven of his 54 appearances while adding 10 seconds and six thirds. “He was good. But not as good as Bon Prix. But then not too many horses are.”

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