08/27/2014 10:53AM

Koffee Grinder still the horse to beat in British Columbia Derby

Four-Footed Fotos
Koffee Grinder, the winner of the Stellar's Jay Stakes, likely will remain the favorite for the British Columbia Derby, despite a second-place finish in the Richmond Derby Trial.

VANCOUVER, British Columbia – The Pacific National Exhibition ends Monday, and although the mini-doughnuts will be missed, it means the major races at Hastings are just around the corner. On Sept. 14, the features will be the Grade 3, $150,000 British Columbia Derby and the $100,000 British Columbia Oaks.

Last Friday, the two major preps for the Derby and Oaks took place, and both favorites – Koffee Grinder in the Richmond Derby Trial and Ole’s Miss in the Hong Kong Jockey Club – finished second. Both races were contested over 1 1/16 miles.

Koffee Grinder probably didn’t lose his status as the local favorite for the Derby, but Ole’s Miss may have relinquished her spot as the top local 3-year-old filly to Dawselina.

Koffee Grinder’s loss to Slice of Red, who is trained by Robbie Anderson, probably was more due to circumstances. Ole’s Miss had a perfect trip, and Dawselina just put on an impressive display of speed and class in her front-running win. It was her second straight stakes win for trainer Pedro Alvarado.

[Hastings: Get PPs, watch Friday's card live]

At first, trainer Craig MacPherson was disappointed in Koffee Grinder’s performance, but after taking everything into consideration, he realized it actually was a pretty good race for the son of Grindstone.

Everything about the race changed at the start, when the only pure speed in the field, Solemnly Swear, broke awkwardly. That left Slice of Red, with Keshan Balgobin aboard, and Distillery in front, and they couldn’t have gone any slower, posting a pedestrian half-mile time of 49.57 seconds. Koffee Grinder was sitting in a stalking position in fourth.

“Robbie’s horse really came home fast,” said MacPherson. “My horse was running at the end, too, but he just couldn’t make up any ground on Slice of Red. He came out of the race in good shape, and we would rather lose this one than the next one.”

Slice of Red won the race with a fast fourth-quarter split of 23.23. He was coming off a dull effort in the B.C. Cup Stellar’s Jay and paid $61.70 for his 2 1/2-length score. Anderson wasn’t surprised by the strong performance, though.

“We expected him to run well in the Stellar’s Jay, but he came back with a bit of mucous,” said Anderson. “We also slowed him down a bit in his prerace work, and it seemed to work out well.”

Prior to the Stellar’s Jay, Slice of Red zipped five furlongs in 58.80 seconds, compared with an easy half-mile in 49.40 five days before the Derby Trial.

“We were high on him right from the start, and we always knew it was in him,” said Anderson. “He seems to be on the right track now, and the timing couldn’t be better.”

If Dawselina had run in the Derby Trial, she would have been 15 lengths in front after the first half-mile. Instead, with Richard Hamel aboard, she was dueling with Fire Beauty while posting an extremely fast time of 46.15 in the Hong Kong Jockey Club. Her trainer, former jockey Alvarado, was impressed with the performance.

“I can’t believe she went that fast early and was able to hold off Ole’s Miss,” said Alvarado. “There aren’t many horses that can run hooked like that and keep going.”

Alvarado likes the way she is holding her weight going into the biggest race of her career in the Oaks.

“She just loves to eat, even when she’s sick,” said Alvarado. “If anything, she is a bit overweight, but she is obviously plenty fit. The great thing about her is that you can do anything with her in the mornings.”

Alvarado would know. He exercises most of his horses, but he usually lets whoever is going to ride them work them before a race.

“As a jockey, I wanted to get to know them before I rode them,” said Alvarado. “Richard was riding her for the first time, and he was very impressed when he worked her a half-mile before the race – more so after.”