A 'monster' hoss

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:22 AM ET

Betting the storyline - not the morning line - is often a good strategy in the Canadian Derby.

And nobody has a better story than Ookashada in tomorrow's 78th Canadian Derby at Northlands Park.

The three-year-old Vancouver import is named after an imaginary monster.

"Dave Harker came up with the name," said Mike Boylan, referring to his fellow co-owner.

PARENTAL PRANK

"(Harker) and his family used to go camping all the time and it was a mysterious monster that his parents had come up with and used it basically - told them that this monster was from the woods.

"If they didn't behave this monster would come down and get him.

"He grew up knowing this monster name Ookashada.

"Basically it was a legend to him."

If Ookashada wins tomorrow's $300,000 Derby, the gelding will become a legend.

With Post 7 in a seven-horse field, he's 7-2 on the morning-line.

Coming off back-to-back stake wins in Vancouver, Ookashada might even drop lower than that on the odds board come post time at 4:42 p.m.

But there is more to this story than his name and talent.

Trained by Toni and Mark Cloutier, the B.C.-bred runner has attracted significant interests from other investors.

But believe it or not, the current Vancouver ownership trio - which also includes Tony Zitco - turned down an offer of close to $250,000.

Ookashada was bought for just $15,000 as a baby. He enters the Derby with $280,000 in earnings.

"We are not in it for the money," explained Boylan. "We have all got passion for the sport.

"To have a horse this exciting, there is no value you can put on it."

A win tomorrow will bring another $180,000 to the bankroll.

Needless to say, there will be nervous energy flowing right through each owner after making the trip from the West Coast for Edmonton's highlight thoroughbred race.

"Words can't describe it," continued Boylan, who acts as the spokesman for the ownership group. "To get him to the races as a two-year-old is one thing. I have always watched the Canadian Derby and there have been other horses shipped out from Hastings (Park in Vancouver). To have a horse of my own is indescribable."

The last time Ookashada lost was in the Alberta Derby in June. He finished third to Amazin Blue and Footprint - who both return for this tilt.

BETTER SHAPE

But the B.C. invader is in better shape two months later, ready to tackle the one-mile and three-eighths marathon distance.

"This time I have some long races under my belt," said Mark Cloutier.

"I think my horse has a lot of confidence. I think he is going to do very well.

"For the bull-ring racetrack (five-eighths of a mile in distance) he has the perfect stalking style."

Now it is up to jockey Pedro Alvarado. If he can win his second Derby in three years, Ookashada's story will get even better.


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