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Oregon horse owner off and running to Kentucky Derby

April 28, 2009     E-mail this page to a friend!

By Jason Beem, Portland Meadows

Vic Carlson has been around athletics his entire life and loves the thrill of competition. As the Athletic Director for years at Jefferson High School in Portland, as well as a coach of several sports there, Carlson loved competing and the rush of winning. In 1988, the Portland Meadows regular decided to jump in and claim his first horse, Gonna Do It, with trainer Keith Drebin.

“If I remember right, Jody Davidson rode him in his first race for us here at Portland Meadows, and he didn’t run much,” said Carlson. “But he came back and won his next start and I’ve been involved in horses ever since.”

Carlson still lives in Portland and often takes in the races on Mondays and Tuesdays. He has enjoyed many successes over the years as a horse owner and as a pinhooker. Pinhooking is how Carlson came upon his Derby-bound sensation, Musket Man.

Carlson and his business partner purchased Musket Man for $15,000 at the 2007 Keeneland September yearling sale, one of the largest and most prestigious sales in the world.

“He was very grand looking,” said Carlson. “We tried to pinhook him and ended up just buying him back for $35,000. I just knew he was something, so we decided to keep him.”

As Musket Man continued to train up to his career debut, Carlson sold a controlling interest to New York based owner Eric Fein. Derek Ryan was pegged to be the horse’s trainer.

East Coast based rider Jose Lezcano rode Musket Man in his first couple of starts at Belmont Park in New York and Philadelphia Park. Musket Man won both of those starts and made his stakes debut in the $75,000 Pasco Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs. He won that race by a length and moved on to the Grade 3, $225,000 Sam F. Davis at Tampa. That would be the day Musket Man suffered his first defeat, finishing third, beaten by 6½ lengths.

Musket Man returned one month later on March 14th and won the Grade 3, $300,000 Tampa Bay Derby.

“He had a very troubled trip in the Tampa Bay Derby,” said Carlson. “He was steadied and didn’t have any room on the far turn.” Musket Man was a few lengths behind with just an eighth of a mile to go, but turned it on in the final yards under Tampa Bay’s leading rider Daniel Centeno.

Now Carlson and Fein knew they had a potential Kentucky Derby horse, so the decision had to be made where to run him in his final Derby prep. It was a toss up between the Grade 2, $500,000 Illinois Derby at Hawthorne or the Grade 1, $750,000 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct.

“Eric Fein is a New York guy and wanted to run in the Wood Memorial,” said Carlson. “But I wanted to go to the Illinois Derby. We compromised, he went to the Illinois Derby, and Eric got to put his regular rider, New York- and Florida-based Eibar Coa, on the horse for the race.”

Musket Man and Coa were bet down to 5-to-2 odds and cruised to an impressive win as the slight favorite. Then it was on to Churchill Downs!

“I’m not nervous, it’s business as usual,” said Carlson. “I’m sure I’ll have butterflies in my stomach as the race gets closer, but I get the butterflies even when I have a horse running in a claimer at Portland Meadows or Golden Gate Fields.”