Exactly became the first female to win the Alberta Derby at Evergreen Park, as the chestnut filly crossed the line in a time of 1:44.46 to win the 88th edition of the Derby at J.D.A. Raceway on Sunday afternoon. It was held at Evergreen Park for the fifth year in a row.
Striders Ring was second while Proud and Loud came third. Grande Prairie Derby winner, The Hybrid, finished third but was dropped to fourth following an inquiry. Its All Good was scratched by the vet. Exactly paid $4.40 to win to run the one mile and a sixteenth race on dirt.
“It’s awesome a female can outrun these boys for that kind of money, in this calibre,” trainer William H. Leech said, full of superlatives. “That’s awesome. That’s amazing. That is an amazing feat in thoroughbred racing for a female to out-run the boys.”
Exactly’s normal trainer Elige Bourne couldn’t make the trip to Grande Prairie so he asked Leech to handle the filly. The Lethbridge resident was in town because he had five horses sprinkled throughout the nine-race card on Sunday.
Previously, Leech witnessed the three-year-old’s prowess from a distance at Century Mile in Edmonton, but he never got a chance to handle her until the last few days. Leech said the filly was “just a dream to work with.”
“This mare is awesome, she cruised around (the track on Sunday),” Leech said. “Honest to God, the way she came back (to the barn), I thought she ran at 85 per cent. She’s that much horse. She wasn’t overly tired. The jockey (Rigo Sarmiento) did an excellent job. He picked his spot and asked her to run and no problem. It looked really good.”
Exactly, owned by Alexandre Dion, has five total races under her belt this year and has been in the money every time, with three wins and two second-place finishes. Adding the $29,362 purse from the $55,400 Alberta Derby, she’s now earned $60,528 this season so far. Not bad for a horse that cost $2,000 at auction.
Exactly did the run Sunday in 1:44.46, just off the track record of 1:44.23 set by Derby winner Regal Max in 2018.
“A filly really needs to have a big heart and a lot of grit to outrun the boys,” Leech said. “The boys are a little tougher, a little stronger and for a filly to go in against them - especially running a mile and a sixteenth - you have to have a lot of grit and power. It’s a great filly.”
Bourne was made available post-race from Edmonton and the former jockey was immediately struck by her presence when he first laid eyes on her.
“The first time I watched her work I went, ‘This is a machine,’ and she is,” Bourne said. “Even the races where she ran second she got bad trips that cost her the races. Did she have a clean trip on Sunday? I hoping she did because she hasn’t had one yet.”
Exactly ran second at the Sonoma Handicap and finished runner-up in the Chariot Chaser Handicap, both races were run at Century Mile.
“She’s a nice filly and I liked her when I started working with her,” Bourne said. “She was miserable to get along with, but now she likes the attention she gets. She’s done an about-face with her attitude. She got hurt getting shipped (to Grande Prairie), but she overcame that. She’s never had a chance to show her true potential.”
Fight in the trailer
As Bourne mentioned, Exactly got into a trailer disagreement with at least one of her stall mates on the way up to Evergreen Park.
“She’s a filly with some geldings,” Leech said, perhaps providing part of an explanation. “Maybe, she got horsing a little bit.”
Lucky, the dust-up didn’t cost Exactly too much in terms of injuries.
“(She) skinned up her knees and her legs a little bit,” Leech added. “When she got here, we had to do a lot of cold water hosing and wrapping legs and hand-walking her, just a lot of extra care. Thank God nothing swelled up or was real deep - just ripped the skin and hair off, but it could have been terrible.”
Good return so far
As previously noted, Exactly has earned over $60,528 for owner Alexandre Dion. The filly was purchased in April 2016. The breeder of record was Gary and Marie West Stables, Inc. in Lexington, Ky.
“That’s a hell of a return on your money,” Bourne said of the money earned so far by Exactly. “(When it comes to buying horses), a lot of it’s luck. You can spend a lot of money and get nothing. It’s a crapshoot when you buy. (Exactly’s) got a pedigree in her, but the stud was unproven and the mare was unproven.”
The Horses At Evergreen Park continue weekends in August.. Racing goes Friday and Saturday this weekend with 6 p.m. posts and Sunday at 1 p.m. Next weekend it reverts to just Saturdays (6 p.m. post) and Sundays (1 p.m. post) until the finale – Mr. Mike’s Paint The Park Purple – Race For The Cure day on Sunday, August 25.
- By Gordon Anderson, Daily Herald-Tribune