Footprint forward

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:23 AM ET

Is Footprint the next superstar thoroughbred at Northlands Park?

That is the $180,000 question this week because Footprint is the 5-2 morning-line favourite for Saturday's Canadian Derby.

The winner's share of the $300,000 race for the top three-year-olds in Western Canada is exactly $180,000 - meaning his career bankroll would double with a win to $360,000.

Not bad for being a $12,000 purchase two years ago by his local ownership group.

But there are more staggering numbers behind this chestnut gelding as he prepares to tackle the toughest field he has ever seen - at the longest distance he will ever see, one-mile and three-eighths.

Trained by Joan Petrowski, Footprint has won his last two stake races - the Count Lathum and Ky Alta at Northlands - by 12 lengths combined.

"Every time I ask him he explodes," said the gelding's jockey Real Simard.

"The last time, just past the quarter pole (in the Count Lathum), I asked him and he just went from second to fifth gear."

But to win on Saturday and stake claim as the inexpensive-turned-wonder horse, he's going to have to beat Amazin Blue - who denied Footprint the Alberta Derby in June.

Flying from California for Western Canada's top race, Amazin Blue is the second choice on the morning-line at 3-1.

The Alberta Derby champ has dropped to second choice for two reasons: Footprint's sudden rise during the summer and his own stumble in California.

Amazin Blue was soundly beat by eight lengths in an allowance race at Del Mar in July.

"It was on the turf," said California-based trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, "and I wasn't happy with it."

Making matters a little more difficult for Amazin Blue is the fact Simard is going to try to control the race from Post 1.

Footprint was given the last post position selection yesterday at the Derby draw, but Simard got what he wanted with the rail.

"My horse breaks really good and if the other people want to go by me, they are going to have to send a little harder to get by me," continued Simard, who won this race in 1998 with A Fleets Dancer.

"And if not, we can control our own pace."

Pace makes this race with the gruelling marathon distance.

And for Simard, there is more to worry about than Amazin Blue.

While this is one of the smallest Derby fields in the last 20 years, there is quality.

Weather Warning (Post 3) is coming off a four-length win in the Manitoba Derby, while Ookashada (Post 7) has back-to-back stake wins in Vancouver to his credit.

In total, it is a field of seven for Edmonton's highlight race of the year.

And if Footprint wins, Petrowski will have quasi-predicted the victory more than a year ago.

"I told Gerry Kipling (last year) that if he keeps riding we will put him on and we will win the Canadian Derby," recalled Petrowski.

Kipling has stopped riding this year. So, it is up to Simard to bring home the victory.


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