This Sunday marks the 36th running of the Canada Day Stakes. These days the race is for fillies and mares 3-and-up, who will compete for a $30,000 purse, but this race wasn’t always for fillies and mares. That restriction has evolved over the years, as has the purse structure. Today we remember Wescana Stable’s Lexico, the winner of the inaugural running of the Canada Day in 1976, when the purse was $5,000 and there was no sex restriction.
The list of previous Canada Day winners is impressive to say the least. After Lexico won the first running, the next four winners were tough guys Turn to Rule, Victor’s Pride, Merry’s Jay and Intercontinent. The latest female winners are also an impressive bunch including Miss Missile, Preservata, Golden Stripe and Ruby’s Big Band. So why honour Lexico?
Well, I believe Lexico is the only horse to have ever run at the Downs, who was also in the Kentucky Derby – and not just any Derby, he ran in the 100th running of the “Run for the Roses” in 1974. Granted, he finished 22nd in a field of 23, but he still made it to the big show.
In April of 1976 the American-bred and Venezuelan-raced Lexico was purchased at Gulfstream Park in Florida for $100,000 by Glen Ball for Wescana Stables. Back in the mid ‘70s Marcel Chartier’s Wescana Stables was the most powerful stable at the Downs and Glen Ball was “The Man,” with all due respect to Clayton and Don Gray, who dominated the top trainer list through the ‘70s.
You name it and Glen Ball did it for Wescana. He was scout, purchaser and trainer and helped Wescana dominate the local stakes in a fashion never seen before with horses that included Lexico, Macale, Taboga, De Cat and Medieval Time.
In March of 1976, just prior to Ball’s purchase, Lexico ran in the $63,300 Grade II Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park. In that 7-furlong race he had the lead at the 6-furlong marker with a split time of 1:09 1/5 (the record at the Downs was 1:10 1/5), but tired late and finished fourth beaten only 4 ¾-lengths by none other than Foolish Pleasure, the winner of the 1975 Kentucky Derby.
Glen Ball described Lexico as a good horse, but hard to control. Ball gives full credit to Lexico’s regular rider, Jimmy Anderson, for the way he handled the well-mannered but strong-willed horse. Glen’s son, Rick, who worked Lexico, said “he was used to being worked bareback, so when you put a saddle on him he thought it was race time, and he was ready to go! Man was he tough to gallop, you had to stand up on him just to try and keep control!”
Lexico’s career at the Downs had its ups and downs, and spanned less than two years. In his first 6 starts at the Downs in 1976 however, he won three times, finished second twice and fourth once after the saddle slipped. In addition to winning the Canada Day, Lexico won the Inaugural Handicap and the River Park Handicap.
Of particular interest is the fact that Lexico was routinely assigned weights of 124 to 127 pounds. In the 1976 Gold Cup, one of his more lackluster performances, he spotted winner Sea Reason 10 pounds.
Lexico was plagued with injury problems in the latter part of 1976 and ultimately was sold to Dacotah Thoroughbred Stables in a package with Taboga for $55,000. He pulled up lame in his final race on August 28, 1977 and was officially retired to stud in 1978, when it was determined that he was just never going to get sound enough to make his way back to the racetrack. But just think for a minute about what he’d accomplished.
How much racehorse would you have to be, to best a Kentucky Derby winner like Foolish Pleasure for six of seven furlongs in 1:09 1/5 and then only get beat 4 ¾-lengths?
Next Post Time for Live Racing: 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 27, 2012