Perseverance paying off for Wagner

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON

, Last Updated: 8:03 AM ET

If One Only can match the perseverance of his owner Cory Wagner, the pair might find the winner's circle in this afternoon's $300,000 Canadian Derby.

After searching for six months for a Derby contender - and watching eight potential deals fall apart - Wagner finally found One Only on the final day of July.

Buying the thoroughbred for $40,000 US and paying an extra $10,000 to fly him to Edmonton from California for today's Derby at Northlands Park, it's not exactly a typical transaction.

Most owners would love to have their Derby horse picked out months in advance and give a trainer plenty of time to work toward the ultimate goal in Alberta racing.

NO BREAKS

But Wagner couldn't catch any breaks in his remarkable search for a top three-year-old this past winter or spring.

"We have had about four or five claims that we were either out-shook on (lost the draw between multiple potential buyers) or didn't pull the trigger at the very last second," said Wagner.

"And we exhausted every possibility for a private sale."

The Strathcona County resident actually watched three private deals crumble to pieces.

"We had one (deal) four weeks before the Derby. The horse raced a close fourth in a $100,000 stake at Saratoga (in New York) and we had a deal set for $140,000," Wagner explained.

"In principle it was done. A vet looked at (the horse) and found a chip (on a leg) and said he couldn't recommend (I) spend that kind of money.

"I kind of threw in the towel after that."

But that's not quite true.

When trainer Robertino Diodoro spotted One Only entered in a $40,000 claiming race at Del Mar racetrack near San Diego on July 31, he convinced Wagner to stay in the hunt for one more day.

A claim was entered - and finally some good luck arrived.

"I think there were three claims in for that and we ended up winning the shake for that. Hopefully it was meant to be," he said with a hopeful tone.

The Northlands Park morning-line oddsmaker has One Only pegged at 6-1 odds.

In a field of 10, he's the fourth choice.

Based on those odds, history is not on Wagner's side.

In the last 10 years, there hasn't been a single Derby winner with odds higher than 5-1 at post time.

But Diodoro is convinced this three-year-old gelding - who hasn't started in a stake race this season - is a solid contender.

"I think he is legit," said Diodoro on the winner of four of eight starts this year. "The horse shipped good. He is happy. The old saying - happy horses run good."

GOOD STORYLINE

It would be quite a story if he runs good and wins.

Wagner spent nearly $2,000 downloading racing forms on computer screens this year looking for a Derby horse.

"Being born and raised in Edmonton, I have probably been to the last 15 or 20 Derbys," he said after watching his runner have a final training lap.

"For me, it is not a dollar and cents sort of thing. It is a race I really want to win.

"Everyone wants to win the Kentucky Derby, but this would be sort of my Kentucky Derby."

The 79th Canadian Derby goes to post at 4:40 p.m. today.


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