Story by Chris Lomon / @ChrisLomon
June 3, 2021 – Ivan Dalos, just as he has every year since 1998, will be wearing a proud smile when the horses load into the gate for Saturday’s 153rd running of the Belmont Stakes.
For over 40 years, he’s been one of North America’s most successful Thoroughbred owners and breeders, a passionate horseman with a sizable trophy case to showcase his impressive array of accolades and awards.
The number of champions Dalos has bred is a lengthy and enviable list, one that includes Victory Gallop, a colt that went on to achieve great success as a racehorse and sire, including his stirring score in the 1998 Belmont Stakes.
“It is a real trip down memory lane,” started Dalos. “I recall he was very precocious. I was just a little operation at the time and had a little farm with the mare [Victorious Lil]. I went to visit him [he was foaled and raised at Joanne Clayton’s Darrowby Farms in Loretto, Ontario] when he was about four or five weeks old, and the lady kept him at the barn so that I could see them come out. They came out and they went onto this hilly pasture. This little guy, he just took off and the mare couldn’t keep up with him. He was running, she was chasing him and he was not to be caught.”
Victory Gallop would eventually show that impressive turn of foot, but instead of being the one chased, he would methodically track down his rivals, one by one, until he was the one who couldn’t be caught.
It’s precisely what the son of Cryptoclearance did 23 years ago at Belmont Park.
And what a victory it was.
After finishing a hard-charging second to Real Quiet in the Kentucky Derby – Victory Gallop was last behind 14 horses at the half-mile pole – the bay settled for the runner-up prize to Real Quiet once again, this time in the Preakness Stakes.
In the Belmont, he went one better, denying Real Quiet the chance for Triple Crown immortality.
Victory Gallop also delivered a first that day, becoming the first Canadian-bred to win the third jewel of the U.S. Triple Crown. He is the only one to hold that distinction.
“This is a great boost for breeding in Ontario,” said Clayton at the time. “There you go folks, we can raise a champion racehorse on Ontario grass, with Ontario water and Ontario feed.”
Dalos, who has won some of Canada’s biggest races and produced a long line of champions, remains modest of his connection to the Belmont champ.
“It was at the beginning of my horse-breeding experience, so I was nowhere near as experienced as I am now in recognizing talent. It’s very hard to tell with young horses, to know if they will go on to greatness. I’ve had horses that showed absolutely nothing as babies, but they turned out to be great racehorses, and others that you felt might be good, they didn’t have the heart or gumption to compete. It’s hard to judge them when they are so young. But obviously, things worked out well for Victory Gallop.”
The multiple graded stakes-winning owner isn’t interested in taking a victory lap over the accomplishments of Victory Gallop, who was inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 2010.
Instead, what drives Dalos is in crafting the blueprint for his next stable star. He remains a student of the game, immersing himself in learning the latest techniques in the world of breeding.
It’s that dedication to detail, among other things, as to why Tall Oaks Farm is still a major player in Thoroughbred racing.
The outfit’s broodmare band continues to carry Victory Gallop’s legacy forward. Victorious Ami, Galloping Ami, Keen Victory, Keen Mischief, Keen Success, and Silver Ami are Victory Gallop offspring. He is the grandsire of racehorse and future broodmare, Golden Ami.
Tall Oaks is also home to star stallions like Ami’s Flatter, Amis Gizmo and Ami’s Holiday, and champion racehorses like Channel Maker, Johnny Bear, Gamble’s Ghost and Ami’s Mesa.
Dalos is excited to see who might follow in their hoofsteps.
“Of course, I was proud to see Victory Gallop win the Belmont. I had never had a horse in an American Stakes at that point. I only had horses running in Canada that I had bred, but this was the first big horse, so to speak. I was immensely proud. We made history. But I try not to look back, other than what the learning experience of previous endeavors has taught me. Every horse I’ve been connected to has done that for me. I always try to repeat success or find more.”
Being in the position to chase the next win, he’ll happy tell you, is a victory in itself.
And while he continues to be a forward thinker, Dalos will take a moment this weekend, perhaps the same time it takes to run the Belmont, to remember the handsome, high-speed colt that streaked across a hilly meadow just over 25 years ago.
“I recall watching the Belmont all those years ago and thinking, ‘This is the little guy that I watched running around when he was four or five weeks of age.’ I can still picture that day at the farm and then watching him win the race. Those are good memories.”