Every track has them—horses that are local legends, not because they excel at the highest level on the national (or international) stage, but due to the relative degree of success they achieve with their talent and limitless heart.
In New Jersey, it’s Joey P. New Mexico has Peppers Pride. In Pennsylvania, there’s eight-year-old warrior Stringtown Wonder. In Alberta, Canada, it’s a tiny five-year-old mare named Tanika.
An $18,000 Keeneland yearling purchase in September 2005 (Hip #3950), Tanika has earned her owners over $440,000, with 11 wins, 9 seconds, and 1 third in 24 starts—never finishing worse than fourth, and winning multiple stakes at Assiniboia, Northlands Park and Stampede, from 6.5f to 9f. Broken and trained by Rod Haynes until his retirement in 2007, and now trained by Barry Brown for two Edmonton dentists, Kevin Lung and Rich Mah, who form Calmar Stables & Ranch, Tanika was 2007 Champion Three-Year-old Filly, as well as 2008 Champion Older Mare, in Alberta.
A Kentucky-bred daughter of Orientate, out of the Dixieland Band mare Bandango, her dam is a half-sister to G3 Arlington Matron winner (and G1-placed) Indy Groove, out of the G3 Arlington Heights Oaks victress Niner’s Home who was a half-sister to G1 Super Derby winner Home at Last. Tanika has a three-year-old half-sister Corbina (More Than Ready), owned by Heiligbrodt Racing Stable, who is in training at Saratoga under Steve Asmussen, and a two-year-old half-sister Pucker Up Baby (Purge).
Running where she does, mostly in Alberta, it’s hard to find race replays for Tanika, but you can view her victory in the 2008 Matron Stakes at Assiniboia here, with regular jockey Stephen Heiler up. It’s hard to believe that such a tiny mare has repeatedly carried 123 and even 125 pounds vs. her competitors.
In her first 2009 start, the five-year-old mare beat a field of males in an allowance/optional claimer race. That effort was followed by consecutive second-place finishes, in the 6.5f Wild Rose Handicap at Northlands (by a closing ¾ length), and the 8.5f Vancouver Sun Handicap at Hastings, the latter a tough fought battle which she lost by a neck, with a new jockey for the first time in her career. After failing to place in the 8f John Patrick Handicap at Northlands with Heiler back aboard, she ran in the 8.5f Madamoiselle Handicap, with a new jockey—and for the first time in 23 outings on Lasix. Unfortunately, she finished a distant third behind Summer Song.
When Tanika ran in the 8.5f City of Edmonton Distaff this past Saturday, it was only her second race with Lasix, and again she was minus her former regular rider Stephen Heiler, this time in favor of Woodbine jockey James McAleney, in town to ride Stylish Citizen in the CAN-G3 Canadian Derby. After briefly gaining the lead as they entered the stretch, Tanika faded to second behind favored Summer Song.
So, while I loved watching Careless Jewel destroy a nice field in the G1 Alabama, and my girl Nan nearly catch Internallyflawless in the G1 Del Mar Oaks, my real interest this weekend was Tanika, gutting out yet another tough race.
Win or lose, sometimes it’s the tiny stars that shine brightest.