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The Canadian Derby, Alberta’s richest and most prestigious horse racing is still three months away. But after Above and Beyond’s six-length romp in Saturday’s $50,000 Alberta Sire Stakes Derby at Century Mile, the three-year-old’s connections are already dreaming of the Aug. 20 $200,000 Derby.
“We’re pretty excited about him,” said Chris Duggan, who not only owns Above and Beyond with his wife, Heather, but is also the horse’s breeder. “He came out fast. He won easy. The jockey, N’Rico Prescod, was already looking over his shoulder at the top of the stretch to see if anyone else was coming.”
There wasn’t. After duelling on the outside with Dark Storm Coming, Above and Beyond easily put Dark Storm Coming away around the turn and drew off to win by six lengths. The time for the six and a half furlong race was a very quick 1:17 1/5 after racing past the six-furlong marker in 1:10 3/5.
“We think he’ll even be a better horse at a longer distance,” said Chris, whose farm is in Camrose. “The Derby is a mile and a quarter. As the races get longer we think we can contend.”
Above and Beyond’s trainer, Jodey Payne, thinks so too. “I’m proud of the horse and proud of the performance. That fella has got some ability and potential,” said Payne. “He’s improving all the time. He gets better all the time. If he continues to progress, sure we’re thinking of the Derby. We were thinking of this year’s Derby for him last year too.”
“He’s an eager-to-go guy. He’s easy to get along with. He’s a smart horse,” said Payne, 60, whose dad, Roy, ran horses in the early 1970s in Alberta and then the U.S. Northwestern states. Above and Beyond showed promise last year too breaking his maiden by seven and three-quarter lengths and then closing well to finish second in last fall’s Birdcatcher stake.
Payne and the Duggans were thinking of this past Saturday’s race for a long time. “It’s the reason we got back into breeding,” said Chris of the race which is part of the new, lucrative Alberta-sired stakes program that was restricted to three-year-olds who are by a stallion that stood in Alberta for the 2018 breeding season. “With this program and the new track, Century Mile, coming, it made breeding very interesting again in Alberta. We bought some shares in studs and mares and then eventually doing the actual breeding.” The Duggans also finished second in last Friday’s Alberta Sire Stakes Debutante - another $50,000 Alberta-sired stake; that one for three-year-old fillies - with Sassy But Classy who closed up smartly behind romping winner Oneofthemgirls.
“The Alberta Sire program is a great idea,” said Chris. “It’s a great incentive for Alberta breeders.”
While the Duggans have bought mares in foal before, Above and Beyond is the first horse they actually bred themselves. “We owned the stallion, Iliad, and the mare, Fastology.”
Iliad is an intriguing story himself. A son of Ghostzapper, and a half brother to Melmich, who won or placed in 13 black-type stakes at Toronto’s Woodbine, Iliad was bought for $285,000 at the 2016 Ocala Breeders’ Sales’ March two-year-olds in training sale.
In his first start as a three-year-old for trainer Bob Baffert, Iliad won the Grade 2 San Vicente Stakes at Santa Anita, defeating eventual Grade 1 winner Battle of Midway. Then, being pointed to the Kentucky Derby, he finished second in the San Felipe defeating Gormley, who won the Grade 1 Santa Anita in his next start.
But an ankle injury prematurely ended his racing career and Iliad was retired to stud. “He bred for two seasons but then his sperm count went down to the point where he couldn’t breed anymore,” said Chris, who has been with Payne, who has trained Arabians, Appaloosas, quarter horses as well as thoroughbreds, for three years. “We ended up selling Iliad to Sherwood Park veterinarian Lana Delaney. Lana thinks he might be able to race again.”
Above and Beyond’s dam, Fastology, is another interesting story. “We bought Fastology with Greg Tracy in Seattle, Washington in 2016,” said Chris. “She won her first and only start at Hastings but then she got injured too and we turned her into a broodmare.”
Fastology has another runner on the ground: Fastestgirlintown. “She’s by Iliad as well so she’s a full sister to Above and Beyond,” said Payne, of the filly who is also owned by the Duggans. “She’s a good girl. A good filly. She’s just developing and progressing but she’s showing a lot of potential too.”
“At this stage, Fastestgirlintown could be as good, or even better, than Above and Beyond,” said Payne, who used to train on the California Fair circuit. “She’s very intelligent. She has a lot of ability.”
As well as Above and Beyond, Fastestgirlintown and Sassy But Classy, the Duggans also have a fourth horse to talk about: Lilbitspicy, who won a $35,000 maiden race which is also part of the new Alberta-sire stakes program. Lilbitspicy, who won at odds of more than 30-1, is also sired by Iliad.
The Duggans are no strangers to winners. Along with Shotinthedark Stables, the Duggans also owned Blue Dancer, who won the Edmonton Juvenile, Western Canada Handicap, the Ky Alta, the Count Lathum, Spangled Jimmy, Fred Jones and the Journal Handicap. Trained by Tracy, Blue Dancer even ran in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
Above and Beyond is now being pointed to the June 18 Western Canada Handicap, the same weekend that Sassy But Classy will contest the Chariot Chaser.
“The Duggans are great people,” said Payne, who said his instructions to Prescod were simply ‘Have a good time.’ “They are very passionate about horses and horse racing. I met them through a friend of mine. They were looking for someone to break some two-year-olds. I did that and we moved on from there. Hopefully we keep having successes. It’s started out good anyway.”
STOCK REPORT - Jockey N’Rico Prescod, 23, is a new rider in Alberta. “He’s from Barbados,” said his agent Bob Fowlis. “Ricky Walcott, Rico’s brother told me about him a couple of years ago. Ricky said he could really ride. He was the leading apprentice in Barbados last year.”
*Tracy said Oneofthemgirls, last year’s Two-Year-Old Filly of the Year after decisively winning the Sturgeon River and CTHS Sales stake, was very impressive winning Friday’s Alberta Sire Stakes Debutantee.
“I hope she can run longer. So far she has never run farther than seven furlongs but I think she can,” said Tracy, who has been Alberta’s leading trainer half a dozen times. Owned by Highfield Investment Group and Curtis Landry, Oneofthemgirls was the 2020 Alberta Yearling Sale topper. By Exhi out of the multiple stakes-winning Forestry mare Eustacia, Tracy brought Oneofthemgirls, as an agent, for $44,000.
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