Race # 8-The British Columbia Derby-Grade III
1 & 1/8th Miles on dirt for Three-Year-Olds
Post Time: 5:25 P.M. PST
Analysis by Michael Patricks
The proverbial ribbon and bow has been placed around many of the mainstay tracks from across the country as the racing calendar transitions from summer towards fall. Del Mar, Saratoga, and Ferndale all concluded on Labor Day Monday and a hearty congratulations goes out to Bob Baffert and his team for taking down two of the meet’s banner races with Collected prevailing in the Pacific Classic at Del Mar and West Coast pulling away in the Travers from Saratoga. Also, a tip of the cap to trainer Ari Herbertson for saddling Noble Nick to victory in the C.J. Hindley Humboldt County Marathon from Ferndale. ‘Nick’s victory in the Marathon gave Ari’s father Scott back-to-back victories in the race, having won last year’s installment with So Elite. All of these competitors are scheduled to be showcased on Breeders’ Cup weekend from Del Mar on November 3rd and 4th, where the turf meets the surf.
Ferndale is a small track falling under the “bull ring” nomenclature of racing parlance and creates a natural segue to the Saturday write-up which is the 72nd running of the British Columbia Derby from Hastings Park. Ten three-year-olds will run nine furlongs around three turns in the meet’s most prestigious race. Let’s dive right in and figure out who will be posing for pictures.
1-A.P. Zona 5/1 ML– Former $40,000 claim leads the Canadian brigade heading into the Derby. Ironically, ‘Zona was claimed by Blaine Wright who will send Riser to post as the favorite and horse to beat. In his last start, ‘Zona was sent off at odds-on in the last local prep for this race and was out-finished by 36/1 long shot Hunters Appeal, a remote 20/1 from the outside stall on Saturday afternoon. The latter came back to flounder at 2/1 in a subsequent allowance race. Respect the blue-collar grit and tenacity he typically brings, but instincts are telling me that he may end up a bit of an overlay from the morning line price and lack a turn of foot that others may possess. He’s caught in the wash and rest assured the thrust of the spin cycle will be fully cranked and generally unforgiving; looking elsewhere.
2-More Power to Him 12/1 ML– Lunch pail-toting type began in northern California racing over Tapeta as a juvenile, twice clearing the first-level allowance hurdle as a Cal-bred. The Slew’s Tiznow colt then tried turf a couple of times before diving into the deep end of the pool in the Snow Chief at Santa Anita, acquitting himself decently at long odds and beaten just three lengths. July began his transition to dirt surfaces with his trip up to Emerald Downs and he closed decently for third from a wide barrier in the Seattle Slew and then stepped forward quite nicely in his last start in a small field after hopping at the start, beaten just under two lengths by today’s favorite. A much more savory price surrounds him going off the morning line appraisal and jockey Rocco Bowen skips a day at Emerald to follow him up to Hastings; nice blowout over the surface on Monday and it looks as if there is speed to set up his run; upset special.
3-Chief Know It All 3/1 ML– Red tagged for $100,000 at Churchill back in June of this year and was trained up to his victory in the Canadian Derby for new trainer Robertino Diodoro. Chief Know it All had to survive a three-horse battle to the wire with Trooper John and Double Bar (who he’ll see yet again on Saturday) but the grey was resolute in deep stretch. How much did that race take out of this colt? Style-wise, ‘Chief likes to be up close to the action and stalk and pounce at the opportune moment. Fitness is not an issue since he just won at 11 furlongs, so the real question is readiness coming back in just three weeks. His only real bad race came in a Grade III at Oaklawn in February and his numbers measure up on paper. He’s got a fighting chance and I’d recommend including him in part of your party; contender.
4-Parsimonious 30/1 ML– Received his diploma in a handout from the Hastings Park paymaster and was given first place purse money in allowance/optional claiming maiden race over the local strip after the winner presumably came out of the race with a bad test. Now he faces the prospect of battling it out with the toughest horses in his class in only his third lifetime start. Given that he’s never actually been first to the wire—and the fact that he’s lost ground through the lane in both lifetime starts—I wouldn’t fault you a bit if you’re feeling quite frugal and unwilling to part with any of your hard earned cash in honor of the equine namesake akin to that of Mr. Thrifty; tossing him right out.
5-Double Bear 10/1 ML– Former $20,000 claim is an interesting commodity and typically comes with a respectable effort. He was part of the three-way battle to the wire in the Canadian Derby and finished well ahead of the rest of the field. His usual rider follows him to Hastings today but a couple big questions loom: Does he need the lead, or is he versatile enough to stalk and pounce? Riser should be in front early and if Double Bear is insistent on leading early then he’ll be in complete submission when they hit the final turn. Also, he’s never run outside of Northlands Park before, can he take his racetrack with him and still be effective? Double up on Double Bear and you’ll likely need a double shot of Jack Daniels to take you to double vision; dicey as dicey gets.
6-Driller 15/1 ML– All too happy to play best man to the groom with seven second place finishes from his 11 lifetime starts. Driller is versatile and has no problem running with the pack but seems to lack the ability to penetrate to the promise land. He had an open lengths lead in his most recent race and was all-too-happy to surrender late to Handsome Chef and serve it up on a silver platter for him. Handsome Chef, Hunters Appeal, and A.P. Zona have all had his measure and I’m not particularly high on any of them. Can he win? Unlikely. Can he hit the board? It’s possible. However, his inability to close escrow when called upon means I have little depth of interest in including him; will have to dig deep to prove it.
7-Trooper John 7/2 ML– Son of Colonel John is a real nice race horse and have to respect his win percentage and relentlessness he has displayed at times to achieve victory. He’s won going short and long, with inside trips and outside trips, on the lead and off the lead, and has been able to ship and win to boot. It’s hard to fault a horse for running out of steam in the eleventh and final furlong and the cutback in distance to nine furlongs should do him great favors. It will be interesting to see how ‘John and Chief Know it All approach tackling Riser since Riser will likely be the speed of the speed. Expect both riders to know where the other is in an effort to get the jump on reeling in Riser when called upon. The barn bats .300 for a reason and his body of work says he’ll be in the picture late once again; Trooper should arrive on the scene in the stretch.
8-Handsome Chef 20/1 ML– As mentioned above, Driller let him have the top prize last time and he was able to get the score at a healthy price of 13/1. He gets bonus points for breaking his maiden against winners but this is a tall and steep ladder to climb off his win. If the pace is lively then he could find himself running into the battle and he will be a huge price, but the problem beyond traffic difficulty for him will be that there are suave, debonair types that hail from le Cordon Bleu that can cook faster, longer, and with even better plate presentation in the process. He has failed to Beyer over a 69 and that’s just simply not good enough to get the water to boil; looks like a line cook in this cast.
9-Riser 5/2 ML– Had formed a nice rivalry with stable mate Aqua Frio but escapes that runner today in his Grade III debut. Riser has been ultra-competitive in all of his four dirt races and there is no reason to think that won’t continue on Saturday. He’s got the speed of the speed and will take some beating on the front end. He’s had five weeks recovery time off the Emerald Derby and lands a strong pilot in Aaron Gryder for the riding engagement. The distance is not a question coming off his last effort and the string of Mid 80’s Beyer speed figures continues to build. It’s not always easy for horses to take their show on the road but he’s well-traveled and looks tough; the one to beat if he takes to the turns and can avoid dueling.
10-Hunters Appeal 20/1 ML– Had his 15 minutes of fame when he upset the Winston Churchill Derby Trial at 36/1. In that event, the face fell apart much like a soup sandwich when Driller ran out of steam and A.P. Zona failed to uncork his usual rally, thus allowing Hunters Appeal to step up and take center stage for a day with the addition of Blinkers. He was bet like he was something in his follow-up effort, but came with a middling effort even though he was chasing faster splits than he had seen the race prior. One school of thought is that he wasn’t fully cranked and that it was only a prep race for this spot on Saturday. The contrarian viewpoint is that he regressed to the mean most recently and that his one strong race is the outlier to his ordinary form. My belief is that he is not enough horse to seriously threaten. A 74 Beyer speed figure is inadequate and he will be at risk of being wide at every turn, losing precious ground against competitors he will need every conceivable advantage possible in order to soldier on and stick it out; he’s not for me.