CHESTER - The distance from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Mountaineer Casino Racetrack and Resort is approximately 2,140 miles.
Airplanes make lengthy travel much easier for racehorses. And it's good that they do, because this is how far Taylors Deal will journey before heading to the post in Saturday's Grade 2, $750,000 West Virginia Derby.
"We've had Canadian horses run in our derby before," said Joe Narcavish, Mountaineer's racing secretary.
Courtesy Coady Photography
But Taylors Deal is stabled at Hastings Racecourse, which is just a few kilometers from downtown Vancouver, at the base of Western Canada's North Shore mountain range. The track is virtually adjacent to Burrard Inlet, a connector for the port of Vancouver to the Pacific Ocean.
Taylors Deal has traveled afar to display his talents before. He spent the past winter at Turf Paradise near Phoenix, Arizona, where he was a 2 -length winner of the Lost in the Fog Juvenile Stakes (named for North America's 2006 sprint champion) in December. In February, he was a 2-length winner of the 1 1/16-mile Turf Paradise Derby.
The winners' shares from those races have helped elevate career purse earnings for Taylors Deal to the current total of $105,447, gained from four victories and a pair of placings in seven starts. A gelding, he was bred in British Columbia by a partnership, and campaigns for North American Horse Company Inc., which is also Vancouver-based.
It's an outfit headed by Fred Todd and Patrick Kinsella, who are fond of quoting Winston Churchill. To wit, "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
Todd and Kinsella initially raced Taylors Deal for a $20,000 claiming tag - he broke his maiden at that level at first asking by 3 lengths. Then he was elevated to the allowance ranks; and after that to the stakes ranks. Taylors deal has been allowed the opportunity to climb the ladder, and he's been successful doing so.
And if pedigree is an indication, there's opportunity apparent in the bloodlines of Taylors Deal as well. His sire, Second in Command, was a multiple stakes winner at sprint distances, gaining black-type scores on a sloppy dirt surface and on the grass.
Fleet Amyanne, the dam of Taylors Deal, was winless in two career starts. But the branches of her own family tree contain top-and-bottom crosses with both Mr. Prospector, one of the great sires of the 20th century, and with the 1973 Triple Crown winner Secretariat.
Taylors Deal has shown evidence of speed. His final time in 6-furlong Lost in the Fog was 1:15.22. And he has displayed the ability to sustain that speed. His final clocking for the 8-furlong Turf Paradise Derby was 1:43.82.
The conditioner of record for Taylors Dream is Troy Taylor, who has won multiple training titles at Hastings, and has handled Todd/Kinsella runners since their company's inception. Taylor has been around long enough to have trained as such now-defunct tracks as Tanforan in Northern California and Yakima Meadows in Washington State.
His career resume includes a quartet of scores in hundred-grand events at Hastings, where Taylor is an icon on the backside. An assistant, Sandi Gann, often handles training chores on the road - as was the case with the victories by Taylors Deal at Turf Paradise.
In his most recent effort, the 1 1/16-mile Chris Loseth Handicap at Hastings on July 2, Taylors Deal exited the starting gate as the prohibitive favorite, but was in second position throughout and lost by 1 lengths. The horse that beat him was his stablemate, Devil in Disguise.
But Dunn, Kinsella, et al. still view Taylors Deal as the stable's best 3-year-old. They believe the West Virginia Derby's 1 1/8-mile distance is not beyond his ability. And they have told the Mountaineer racing office that they will bring in Mario Gutierrez to ride him.
Earlier this year, the 25-year-old Gutierrez was aboard Taylors Deal for his victory in the Phoenix Derby. And Gutierrez also guided I'll Have Another to victories in the Santa Anita Derby, Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes. Opportunity amidst difficult circumstances has been there for Gutierrez, too, and he tends to seize the moment.