The $200,000 Canadian Derby (Can-III) might not be a familiar race for many in the United States, but a well-known rider will be aboard the 7-5 morning line favorite when nine 3-year-olds head postward Aug. 25 at Northlands Park in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
Mario Gutierrez, who piloted I'll Have Another to victory in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and Preakness Stakes this year, rides Devil in Disguise from post 7 for trainer Dennis Terry. Glen Todd's North American Thoroughbred Horse Company owns the 3-year-old son of Smarty Jones. Todd has been a mentor for 25-year-old Gutierrez, who rode Devil in Disguise to victory in his past two races, including the $50,000 Count Lathum Handicap, the final local prep for the Canadian Derby Aug. 4.
"I always said we have a good Derby connection: the Kentucky Derby-winning jockey, Kentucky Derby-winning sire, and a Canadian Derby-winning trainer," Terry remarked.
Terry trained Haveigotadealforu to win the 1989 Canadian Derby, and as a jockey, rode two winners of the race in 1962 (Western Morn) and 1964 (Quick Quick). This year he brings quiet confidence into the 83rd edition of the 1 3/8-mile event.
"This horse is the real deal," Terry said. "He gives me confidence just by how tactical he is in his races, and how well-behaved he is in general."
Devil in Disguise already beat rivals he'll face in the Canadian Derby, including Toccetive and Alberta's champion 2-year-old of 2011, Dougs Buddy. Trainer Joan Petrowski conditions both and won the Canadian Derby in 2007 with Footprint. She is a 69-year-old native of Alberta and has been racing horses in the province for more than 40 years.
In their last starts, Toccetive rallied to a runner-up position by 1 3/4 lengths in the Count Lathum while Dougs Buddy vied with Devil in Disguise for the lead but weakened and wound up 3 1/4 lengths back in third.
"Dougs Buddy is certainly a horse that likes to be on his own on the lead," Petrowski said. "He seems to relax best that way when he can be up on his own. I do worry about the distance a little bit with him, so hopefully he can relax and get a breather early on."
Dougs Buddy started his career a perfect 4-for-4, dominating the juvenile stakes events at Northlands in 2011 for owner Doug Blair. His connections decided to give him a try in the $1 million Delta Jackpot (gr. III) in his only start outside Northlands, but after breaking in and getting bumped hard, he finished last of 10. After some time off he came back in June and won the Western Canadian Handicap at Northlands in his sophomore debut. Two starts since then for the Badge of Silver runner resulted in a fourth in the $50,000 Ky Alta Handicap and the Count Lathum third.
Toccetive, a son of Toccet who races for Southview Ag 1998 Ltd., has just two wins from 10 career starts but has hit the board in nine of those outings. In both the Ky Alta Handicap and the Count Lathum, he finished second, closing in late on the winners.
"He's been finishing so well in his last two races," Petrowski said. "He's just improving so much each start, and we galloped him out further after the last race and he sure seems like he should appreciate the added distance. I think he's just starting to find his stride. If he continues his progress and likes the distance, then there's no telling how good he can be."
Toccetive will have to be good enough to beat Ky Alta winner Up Jumps a Monster, a perfect 3-for-3 at Northlands. The Rob Chabot-trained runner has only lost once in five starts, coming in a troubled second last time out in the $75,000 Manitoba Lotteries Derby as the 3-5 favorite.
"If you watch the replay of the race, you'll see by the time they hit the turn after the wire, our horse blows right by the winner on the gallop out," remarked Chabot, who owns the Proud Citizen gelding in partnership with Tim Kane and Joshua Shayer. "The distance isn't something that concerns me at all. He can really do anything; he can go to the front, he can sit back off the pace."
In his lone start outside of Canada, Up Jumps a Monster more than held his own in an optional claimer at Tampa Bay Downs in February, winning by 1 3/4 lengths.