By Greg Douglas – Dr. Sport
SCENE & HEARD: Ole Nielsen normally prefers to keep things to himself but that wasn’t possible when he wound up smack in the middle of racing’s spotlight following the 90th edition of the Canadian Derby last Sunday at Century Mile in Edmonton.
In the days leading up to what had been described as “arguably the best Canadian Derby field ever assembled”, Nielsen’s emotions got the best of him when he told Horse Racing Alberta’s Curtis Stock: “It has always been a dream of mine to win this race. I’m an Edmonton boy. I was raised here. I remember picking up empty pop bottles so that I could bet a $2 show parlay at Northlands. Winning the Canadian Derby would be a boyhood dream.”
It did, indeed, become, a reality as owner of the aptly-named Explode, declared winner of the $250,000 Derby after stewards disqualified Chicago invader Journeyman for interference following a dramatic stretch drive.
The stewards’ enquiry was quickly followed by a rider’s claim foul from Amadeo Perez, Explode’s regular jockey at Hastings Racecourse.
While Nielsen said he ‘thought’ there was a good chance the stewards would take down Journeyman, there was little doubt in the mind of trainer Mark Cloutier.
“From my vantage point Explode was herded out quite bit,” Cloutier said in the victory aftermath. “They went from the three-path to the six-path, or maybe farther.”
Nielsen’s story is, in a word, intriguing. He played junior hockey in Edmonton and at one point had a brief stint under legendary Edmonton Oil Kings coach Buster Brayshaw where a teammate was Glen Sather.
Nielsen graduated from UBC with a law degree in 1970 and purchased the awesomely successful Canmor Farms six years later. “I never told my lawyer colleagues I was involved with horses and never told the horsemen I was a lawyer,” he says.
Nielsen purchased Explode along with five other weanlings to put into the CTHS (B.C.) Yearling & Mixed Sale because, in his words: “We were short of horses in Vancouver. I had a $15,000 reserve bid on Explode which I thought was fair but nobody put up their hand.”
Explode’s Canadian Derby win was worth $129,000, bringing his career earnings to $210,342. The Nielsen-Cloutier-Perez trio will be looking to add to that number with the 74th running of the Grade 3, $250,000 BC Derby on Derby-Oaks Day, September 7.