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Alvarado hoping cycle will continue in Sunday’s 64th running of the BC Derby

September 24, 2009     E-mail this page to a friend!

If there is any validity to the phrase “three times lucky”, veteran jockey Pedro Alvarado will find out on Sunday, September 27, at Hastings Racecourse.

That’s the date of the 64th running of the $275,000 BC Derby, the "crown jewel" of the local thoroughbred racing season.

Alvarado will be looking for his third career BC Derby victory, the other two having come three years apart: 2003 and 2006. Will the cycle continue in 2009?

A repeat of Alvarado’s ride aboard Tommy Danzigger in the Canadian Derby at Northlands Park on August 22 would complete the hat-trick.

With a cagey ride from Alvarado in Edmonton, Tommy Danzigger fought off a late move by Scorewithcater and won by 1½ lengths. Scorewithcater had beaten Kentucky Derby Mine That Bird in the Borderland Derby at Sunland Park in February and figured to roll over the Canadian competition.

Tommy Danzigger, owned by Edgar (“call me Ted”) Smith and trained by Rob Gilker, is expected to be the favorite come Sunday’s BC Derby start.

The BC Derby has been the premier event in local racing dating back to the post-War years. It is run annually during the third week of September and is the richest and most important race of the season.

“It’s our showcase event of the year,” says General Manager Raj Mutti. “The horses, of course, are always the main attraction. If a racing fan wants to watch a special event this year, the BC Derby is it!”

Legendary and Hall of Fame horses such as George Royal (1964), Travelling Victor (1982), Imperial Choice (1985) and Regal Intention (1988) all recorded BC Derby victories on their way to stardom. George Royal, foaled in Cloverdale, was the first BC-bred horse to win Canadian Horse of the Year honours (1965).

Modern day winners of the BC Derby include Horse of the Year in 2008, Krazy Koffee; Celtic Dreamin (2007); Halo Steven (2006); Spaghetti Mouse (2005); Flamethrowintexan (2004) and Roscoe Pito (2003).

They are all fascinating stories.

The talent goes deep for this year’s anticipated 12-horse field for 3-year-olds going 1-1/8 miles at Hastings.

There’s a bit of a Cinderella story unfolding with trainer Mel Snow’s Ganbei, a stunning $60.30 winner in the Richmond Derby Trial on September 7. Ganbei is on a three-race winning streak since discovering middle distance assignments are to his liking. Apprentice jockey Geovanni Franco was in the irons for the Richmond Derby Trial win and Snow isn’t about to change things.

Ganbei’s first-ever stakes victory, it should be pointed out, was by the slimmest of margins when the photo finish showed him winning by a neck over Gather de Justice, who’s back for revenge in the BC Derby.

Owned by Glen Todd and Parick Kinsella, Gather de Justice had won three consecutive claiming races under jockey Mario Gutierrez prior to the loss to Ganbei. Gather de Justice has the reputation of being what is known in the trade as an “honest horse,” having won seven of 18 career starts and rarely finishing worse than third. Todd and Kinsella, leading owners for the past two years at Hastings and threatening to make it three in a row this season, are looking for their first BC Derby title.

Swift Thoroughbreds and trainer Dino Condilenios aren’t about to give up on Almost Time despite his last-place finish in the Canadian Derby. Almost Time has had some dandy dust-ups with Tommy Danzigger, having beaten him in the Jim Coleman Stakes on May 9 and finishing second in the BC Cup Stellar’s Jay on August 3.

Clearly of the upset variety will be Senor Rojo, owned by Tres Hombres and trained by Dave Forster. Senor Rojo finished third in the Richmond Derby Trial and second in the Chris Loseth.

Trainer Barb Heads will be on assignment to look after the fortunes of Jersey Town on behalf of Kelowna-based owner Charles Fipke who’s had some outstanding horses on the major U.S. circuit. Jersey Town has been shipped into Vancouver from New Jersey and it might be interesting to note that three of his last four wins have come on sloppy tracks.

There are three entries from Emerald Downs: Quinalt, Winning Machine, and Rooster City, all with impressive records.

While the BC Derby is the marquee event, the September 26-27 weekend at Hastings includes five major stakes with purses valued at more than $500,000. On the Derby undercard September 27 are the Sir Winston Churchill Handicap ($50,000) and Derby Bar & Grill Express ($50,000). The BC Oaks ($125,000) and Delta Colleen Handicap ($50,000) are the feature races on Saturday, September 26.

Start time both days is 1:50 p.m. and admission is free at Hastings Racecourse.