Looking for happy homecoming

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:23 AM ET

Jason Orman is looking for the perfect homecoming gift.

The Alberta native is returning to Northlands Park for the first time in 20 years for tomorrow's Canadian Derby.

Orman trains Gandolf from Post 6.

"I spent all my summers up there," said Orman, who was born in Calgary.

"I just had a lot of fun growing up there.

"I met a lot of good friends on the racetrack there."

Since he has been gone, Orman has been to the Triple Crown and back, chasing Smarty Jones - one of the legendary horses of this generation.

Orman conditioned Rock Hard Ten in 2004, who tried to derail Smarty Jones's Triple Crown bid in the Preakness Stakes.

Rock Hard Ten also competed against Smarty Jones in the Belmont.

"When we got beat in the Preakness, (jockey) Gary Stevens came back and said this is a really nice horse but Smarty Jones is something special," remembered Orman.

Rock Hard Ten finished second to Smarty Jones in the Preakness and fifth in the Belmont, four places behind the superstar runner.

Orman would love to have a horse of the caliber of Rock Hard Ten in tomorrow's Canadian Derby.

Instead, the son of a former Alberta trainer comes to Edmonton's big race with a longshot.

At 15-1, Gandolf is winless in eight career starts.

But don't count out the American invader for Orman, who is now 38-years old and training in southern California.

"We think this horse can get a mile and three eighths and he seems to be improving," said Orman.

"So for $300,000 (the purse of the race) we would take a shot."

John Elick - one of the owners - also calls Alberta home, which is a key reason why the horse has come north.


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