Back in February, three Alberta horsemen played golf in Tampa, Florida. There was owner/breeder Adrian Munro, his son, Tyler, and trainer Craig Smith.

“Adrian and Tyler are pretty good golfers; I’m not very good at all,” said Smith.

But something possibly ‘very good’ came out of that round of golf: CLASSY CITY, a three-year-old colt that looked most impressive this past weekend at Century Mile winning the Western Canada Handicap.

“A Fasig Tipton Digital Sale was coming up so naturally we were talking horse racing as we played golf,” said Smith, who was Alberta’s leading trainer last year.

“Adrian asked me if I had looked up Classy City,” Smith said of a handsome individual who had been running at Golden Gate Fields near San Francisco, California – a track which just closed after an 83-year run.

“When I said I hadn’t, Adrian told me to look him up; he liked him.

“So I did and I liked what I saw too. Classy City had run eight times – mostly at Golden Gate – and had been very consistent. He was only out of the money once going long. And he was stakes placed as a two-year-old.”

Smith and Munro then started talking dollars.

“We agreed that we would go to $55,000 for him.”

As it turned out they were able to buy Classy City for $50,000 (U.S.).

Classy City ran twice for Munro’s Highfield Investment Group at Golden Gate after the purchase. He ran a good second in an allowance race going a mile and then was third in another allowance race under the care of trainer Colleen O’Hagan, Smith’s girl friend.

That brings us to this past Friday at Century Mile and the $50,000 Western Canada Handicap.

It was just a five-horse field. But it was a very solid five-horse field.

Almost all of the attention was on Mr Fillip, a horse sent to Edmonton by trainer Robertino Diodoro. Purchased for $300,000 as a two-year-old, Mr Fillip notched a Beyer Figure of 98 when he won the Golden Circle stakes by more than 13 lengths.

The 98 Beyer is tied for the top 10 in all of North America this year for three-year-olds.

Mr Fillip was sent off at 1-5.

Then there was last year’s Horse of the Year, Itsallgoodman, making his 2024 debut.

Also in the Western Canada, which was going six furlongs, was Now N Later Gator. A winner in Phoenix this spring, Now N Later Gator had won his 2024 Alberta debut very easily.

Skipper’s Pride was also in the field and he had won his last two starts by more than 10 lengths – breaking his maiden by five lengths last October and then winning at Century Mile by five and three-quarter lengths on May 18.

“It was a short field but it was a loaded bunch,” said Smith.

While those other four horses all left the gate looking for the lead and racing four abreast, Classy City was the only one taken back.

Munro wasn’t expecting much of Classy City in the Western Canada. Neither were the bettors who let him go off at 16-1.

“Sprinting is not his forte,” said Munro.

“He wants to go long.”

So Munro wasn’t surprised that Classy City got away last and trailed by half a dozen lengths while the other four kept duelling through fractions of 22.22 and 45.40 for the first two quarter miles.

“I was just biding my time,” said Classy City’s jockey, Rasheed Hughes. “I could have moved anytime. I had so much horse. But I just waited.”

Coming to the top of the stretch, Hughes could wait no longer. Never leaving the rail, Classy City started to roll.

Unleashing a powerful kick, Classy City ran on to a two-length victory in a solid 1:01.61.

“It was very surprising,” said Munro. “I didn’t think he wanted anything to do with six furlongs. But the race set up for him and he got a dream trip. When Rasheed asked the question, Classy City was ready to go,” said Smith, who has a 40-horse stable this year.

“He got a great trip up the rail but it was a legitimate race. He was still running to the wire. They all were. But Classy City was going better than the others and that’s all there was to it.”

As well as the distance, Munro wasn’t sure how Classy City would handle the dirt either. The son of Classic Empire had run his previous eight races on the synthetic Tapeta surface at Golden Gate.

But his first two career starts were on the dirt and he ran very decently in those two races.

“I thought he would run better on dirt again than on Tapeta,” said Munro.

So did Smith.

“I worked him four times at Century and I thought he handled the track very well,” Smith said of a five-furlong work on May 5 and three four-furlong works.

The last two works – on May 16 when he worked in 46.80 – and May 31 – when he dialled in a move of 46.40 which was third best of 26 workers – were solid.

“The four furlong works were to put some speed into him since we knew we were sprinting in the Western Canada.”

What’s next is the question.

“Deep down the Derby is the goal,” said Smith of the August 24 $200,000 classic at a mile and a quarter.

But how do they get there?

The next step of the Derby Trail isn’t until the July 19 Count Lathum going eight-and-a-half furlongs.

But that’s more than a month away.

“There will likely be some open allowance races for him but we may have to travel with the horse,” said Smith.

“There’s the Golden Boy in Winnipeg and there’s a stake in early July in Vancouver.

“We have options. We’ll probably nominate to a couple of races and see what unfolds.”

“He’s a pretty straight forward horse. He’s easy to train. He does what you ask.

“If we can continue to get him to relax as we stretch him out we might have a very useful horse.”

“We thought we could improve on him,” said Munro, which, of course, is the goal of any new purchase or claim.

“There’s a lot of time between now and the Derby. We’re not going to rush anything. We’ll let the horse tell us what he wants to do out there.

“He was pretty thin when we bought him. He needed some groceries,” continued Munro.

Smith, 40, who has been training for 20 years, said O’Hagan did just that.

“She got some weight on him. Often as a horse matures they will put on weight.

“He’s well put together. He gets over the ground well. He’s still not a big horse. Far from it. But he’s pretty efficient the way he gets over the ground,” said Smith, who took 15 to Tampa this winter and came back with 22.

“He’s doing better and he continues to improve physically.”

The final words goes to Munro.

“We’re excited,” he said.