I awoke a little before 6AM this morning and found myself surprisingly wide awake. In little more than twenty minutes, I was standing on the rail at Woodbine watching horses go through their paces.
It seems like an odd way to start the day, but with the calendar nearing the end of October there are precious few days left in the 2009 meet to enjoy the sights and sounds of the backstretch. This was simply a case of enjoying what you have before it's gone.
A little before 7AM. It's dark. It's cold. It's time to work
It's next to impossible to take photos this early in the morning. The sky is pitch black and any action shots blur streaks of colour across the frame. Instead of shooting photos, I stand and watch the horses gallop by in bursts of speed and frosty breath.
Trainer Brian Lynch tells me that Champs Elysees in in the detention barn awaiting a flight to his new life at stud. The International winner is an early departee. Soon, more horses will depart for warmer locales in Florida and California.
Sun meets the morning creating a tri-colour sky
As the fiery orange sun rises, the sky is bruised in shades of purple over the far turn where horses make moves that win races. Despite the promise of light, it's no less cold and turning to face the harness barn the sky is still pitch black.
With hands jammed in my pocket for warmth, I watch with a couple trainers as a shooting star sprays across the sky and then breaks into three pieces. It must have been a meteor. The camera sits uselessly in its case. That could have been an incredible photo.
Turning 180degrees provides perspective. The track's only halfway lit yet
It's always the same when the sun rises over Woodbine, but it's beautiful nonetheless
Tired of the cold, I headed over to Ian Black's barn. Rahy's Attorney is recovering nicely from Saturday's big win in the Bunty Lawless over Sand Cove. The champ could well be looking at back-to-back Champion Turf Horse honours.
Over a quick coffee, I chat with apprentice Caroline Duquet and trainer Skippy Bowen about Chantal Sutherland's four-win afternoon on Saturday at Woodbine. A tentative over/under is set for Sutherland's Sunday mounts. Duquet, who was looking forward to her first-race mount on Stolonboy (3rd place finish), would be heading to Fort Erie to steer the favourite in the last race. That's a long day of work.
Chantal Sutherland scored four on Saturday
Coffee break over and I say a quick hello to Rahy's Attorney and the mint-munching Wollemi Pine aka Toogie - the latter is my favourite horse at Woodbine. The Kinghaven horse has a plethora of pace on either of Woodbine's surfaces but is one laid back dude of a horse who has three goals in life: 1. Run fast. 2. Fool visitors into pulling his Gene Simmons' sized tongue. 3. Eating mints.
Rahy's Attorney won yet another Stakes race on Saturday
To Rahy's immediate right is the lovable (and speedy) Wollemi Pine
I was surprised to discover that the talented Southdale is back at the track and feisty as ever. Southie could be back in action at Payson Park when Black's stables sprint south for the winter.
Look who's back! A healthy Southdale is back in the barn
Leaving the shedrow, I catch a quick glimpse of Cool Gator. The youngster has a tough Stakes event Sunday afternoon.
Cool Gator goes for a Stakes win this afternoon at Woodbine
As I was leaving the backstretch, I happened upon a brunching Bogue Chitto. The surprise place finisher in the Nearctic could be back on track for the Kennedy Road Stakes. The five-year-old is alert and seems content to graze and watch the horses stroll by.
Bogue Chitto dressed for the weather
It's always enjoyable to spend a morning on the backstretch. Nearing 9AM, I head to my car and make my way home to watch Liverpool take on Manchester United. Fernando Torres scored an impressive opener and David Ngog finished the job as Liverpool beat the reigning Premiership champs by a score of 2-0.
Not a bad way to spend a Sunday morning. They should all be like this.