09/22/2009 11:00PM

Gilkers take another shot at derby

Ryan Haynes
Tommy Danzigger will be trainer Rob Gilker's second starter in the British Columbia Derby.

VANCOUVER, British Columbia - A lot of people get hurt when stock markets crash, but in the case of trainer Rob Gilker and his wife Vicky, a downturn in the market in 1989 turned out to be the best thing that could have happened.

Vicky was working at the Vancouver stock exchange in 1989 where she met Lindsay Semple, a prominent horse owner at Hastings. Semple had horses in training with Daryl Snow, and since times were slow in the financial markets, Vicky convinced Semple to let her work with Snow at a training center where Semple had some of his horses.

"When the market crashed it was miserable there, so I talked Lindsay into making Daryl reluctantly teach me how to gallop horses," Vicky said. "It turned out I thought I knew more than I actually did."

Rob is a blacksmith as well as a trainer and he was shoeing horses at the training center when he met Vicky. They were married in 1995 and have worked as a team since then.

"He's the optimist, and I'm the pessimist," Vicky said. "I worry too much and he jumps right in."

On Sunday, they will run Tommy Danzigger in the Grade 3, $275,000 British Columbia Derby at Hastings.

They are both optimistic about Tommy Danzigger's chances in the B.C. Derby and are hoping for a better experience than when they ran Rules of War in the 2004 derby. Gilker claimed Rules of War out of his 3-year-old debut for $15,000 and won three races with him, including the Richmond Derby Trial. Two steps out of the starting gate in the B.C. Derby, he stumbled and lost his rider. Rules of War only ran three more times and then died from clostridium difficile, a bacteria that can cause diarrhea and other serious intestinal problems.

"He was a special horse to us and before Tommy the only horse we ever had that ran in the B.C. Derby," Gilker said. "He wears Rules of War's old halter as a good luck charm."

Tommy Danzigger won't need any luck if he runs as well as he did while winning the Grade 3, $300,000 Canadian Derby at Northlands Park on Aug. 22. He probably won't get away with setting the kind of slow pace that allowed him to easily hold off the late move by Scorewithcater, however.

"They won't go six furlongs in 1:16 on Sunday," Gilker said. "But he doesn't need the lead, and we'll just have to see how the race shapes up. He has gears he hasn't used, and we would like to find out how deep they go."

Vicky said: "He couldn't be doing any better, and I've never been on a horse that does it so effortlessly. Last year as a 2-year-old, he was pretty gangly and he didn't know how good he was. The stride kept getting longer and longer, and everything has fallen into place for him this year."

Gilker ranks this as the best year of his training career.

"I won the Canadian Derby and have won more stakes races this year than I have in all my years combined," he said.

There is a good chance Gilker's stakes totals will increase Sunday. As well as having the likely favorite in the B.C. Derby, he will saddle Bank Emblem in the $50,000 Bar & Grill Express. Despite getting squeezed back at the start, Bank Emblem won the PNE Presidents in his last start and is the one to beat in the six-furlong Bar & Grill.

Four from Emerald expected for derby

The B.C. Derby is shaping up the way officials at Emerald Downs and Hastings had hoped the inaugural Pacific Challenge would. Four of the nine horses in the derby are shipping in from Emerald, including the first two finishers in the $75,000 Emerald Downs Derby - Winning Machine and Rooster City. In the Pacific Challenge, just one horse from Emerald ran at Hastings and one from Hastings shipped to Emerald for the three challenge races there.

Trainer Doris Harwood was happy with the way Winning Machine and Noosa Beach, second in the $50,000 Seattle Slew Handicap on Aug. 2, have settled in at Hastings. They galloped over the track for the first time Tuesday morning.

"They went out there like gentlemen and handled the new environment with no problems," Harwood said. "Even Noosa Beach, who is 17 hands, handled the turns beautifully. I am here to enjoy the race and I just hope they have clean trips. If they get outrun, well, we have done the very best we could with the horses, and that's all you can ask for."

Miss Kay Dee Raine's odds figure lower

Trainer Gary Saitz is expecting another big effort from Miss Kay Dee Raine in the $125,000 British Columbia Oaks on Saturday. Miss Kay Dee Raine just about pulled off a big upset in the $55,000 Hong Kong Jockey Club when she stretched out to 1 1/16 miles for the first time. Sent off at 24-1 with Alan Cuthbertson aboard, Miss Kay Dee Raine came from off the pace to lose by a nose to heavily favored Tierra Del Feugo. She was coming off of a win in a $25,000 claiming race going 6 1/2 furlongs.

"We always knew she could run long but we couldn't get a race for her," Saitz said. "The light kind of came on when she won sprinting, and we were pretty confident going into the stakes. She came out of her last race in really good shape, and if she continues on I expect her to run a big race on Saturday."