Most top level race horses are bred in Kentucky with some coming from other racing hotbeds such as Florida, California or New York. For years a popular Kentucky Derby betting axiom was to eliminate any horse that wasn’t born in the Bluegrass State. That may be changing somewhat–the current race favorite, California Chrome, was born in California and the Todd Pletcher trained We Miss Artie hails from the Canadian town of Bellwood, Ontario.
We Miss Artie is a sizable longshot to win the Kentucky Derby but should he pull the upset it would be even more stunning due to his country of origin. We Miss Artie’s great great grandsire Northern Dancer became the first Canadian horse to win the Kentucky Derby fifty years ago. We Miss Artie is one of only 1,900 thoroughbred foals born in Canada every year compared to over 22,000 born in the United States. His breeder, 75 year old Richard Lister, is clearly enjoying his success:
“I’m delighted. He’s the best horse I have ever bred.”
Lister is actually scaling back his racing business in response to the Ontario Government’s shortsighted decision to cancel an agreement to install slot machines at racetracks in the province. He says its a horrible move for Canadian horses:
“The government’s decision, which was based on a lack of information, scared the heck out of me. It put a crimp into what is a great industry. We had elevated breeding in Canada to a point where our horses can compete anywhere.”
Canadian horseman Mike Carroll remembers seeing We Miss Artie as a foal:
“I remember him as a foal, he was good looking. He developed into a handsome horse with a big walk to him.”
Lister is taking the 50th anniversary of Northern Dancer’s win as a hopeful sign:
“Hey, it was exactly 50 years ago that Northern Dancer won the Derby, I got my bottle right here to catch some lightning.”
The Kentucky Derby will take place on Saturday afternoon at Louisville’s Churchill Downs race track. 19 horses are in the field, all three year old thoroughbreds. The race is the first leg of the Triple Crown.