Thursday, April 22, 2010

Queen's Plate Profiler: Big Red Mike, Essence Hit Man and Joey's Best

It's always a pleasure to speak to a trainer about a horse they're truly excited to be conditioning. On Wednesday morning, I was up early to visit the Woodbine backstretch and had a chance to speak with two trainers regarding a trio of Queen's Plate contenders.

Audre Cappuccitti smiles at Joey's Best

In Barn 5, I met up with Audre Cappuccitti to discuss the progress of Joey's Best and Essence Hit Man. A little later in the morning I sauntered over to Barn 25 and spoke with Martha Gonzalez regarding popular Plate pick Big Red Mike.

Martha Gonzalez with unraced two-year-old Glory Game

These mini-interviews are part of my ongoing Queen's Plate Profiler series. Please feel free to click on the links to read earlier profiles of Captain Canuck and Race for Gold.

As well, curious readers can click into the 2010 Queen's Plate Contenders page for the latest rankings, results and workouts of the horses making a push towards the Plate.

(As always, please double left click the photo to enlarge the photo and then use your "Back" button to return to the blog post. Enjoy!)

Neither of Joey's Best or Essence Hit Man are Queen's Plate eligible at this point. However, with a few good results to start the campaign it would not be surprising to see either horse supplemented to the big race for a fee - a not so uncommon practice.

After a pair of tough starts in 2009, Joey's Best broke his maiden in style triumping over a field of Ontario sired two-year-olds in the Kingarvie Stakes.

The Trajectory gelding was seventh and last at the half, but made a strong move on the second turn, taking over by midstretch for a commanding win over Frost King Stakes runner-up Bold Canadian covering 1 1/16 miles in 1:46.06.

Joey's Best made his first lifetime start from the one hole versus an inexperienced field who started left and pinned the young gelding to the rail effectively ending his chances. Next out, Joey's Best had an outside post in a six furlong event and managed a second place finish behind well-respected Dashing Tom.

Audre Cappuccitti and Joey's Best

Essence Hit Man broke his maiden August 6th in a five furlong sprint over Loveyouallthetime and Ready Response. The wellbred Speightstown colt (El Prado Essence) rocketed to the lead and never looked back winning in a time of :57.20.

Both horses are owned by Gordon Cappuccitti who is part of the Cappuccitti family’s potato business, operating in Alliston as Ontario Potato Distributing Inc. (Insert your own 'that's no small potatos joke here.')

TDH: Joey's Best is a homebred, right?
AC: Yes, my husband (Gordon) bred him. This is my first Trajectory. He's turned out pretty nice. I don't know if he'll be a Queen's Plate contender, but he will certainly go through his Ontario-sired conditions and we'll see how he does. There isn't anything for him right now in the book. Maybe we'll run him in a non-winners of three as he's certainly ready and it's only seven eighths and he wants to go long that's for sure.

It's easy to imagine Joey winning a race by a neck

TDH: He does have a long string of works on his form.
AC: Yes. There's just hasn't been anything for him. He's a non-winner of two and this book has a non-winner of three so we'll likely head there.

TDH: He had a nice win to start his career in the Kingarvie.
AC: That was a mile and a sixteenth but he's only had three races so it remains to be seen how good he is. He just got an excellent ride in that race. Patrick (Husbands) sat off the pace, moved outside, and just came running by them all and won easily.

TDH: You also have another excellent three year old named Essence Hit Man.
AC: Hit Man is probably going to go in the Stakes (Woodstock Stakes) race this Sunday. With Hit Man, he hasn't had a race this year which is unfortunate. I don't like running them in a Stake right off the hop. I sent him to Florida for six weeks and they started him up about the fifteenth of February for three or four weeks and then I got him and I was able to breeze him a couple of times but not enough to put him in the prep unfortunately. The Woodstock will be a really tough place to start but there's nothing else for him. It's been a long time since he's run... and it's certainly asking a lot but I think he'll run well. He's feeling good.

(TDH Note: The Woodstock is shaping up as a very tough race. Check out the Entries).

Essence Hit Man and his main man Errol

TDH: Hit Man is a Speightstown horse...
AC: They usually like to sprint....

TDH: And they also like the grass...
AC: He had one race on it and it wasn't really a fair shot so I'm going to try him again.

(TDH Note: Essence Hit Man's mum is El Prado Essence whom Cappuccitti trained to win back-to-back George C. Hendrie's in 2002-03.)

The famous Cappuccitti colours

TDH: Who will be riding this pair of horses for you?
AC: Patrick (Husbands) will be on Joey and Chantal (Sutherland) will be on Hit Man. Chantal has been breezing him and rode him last year. Todd (Kabel) won with him but unfortunately he's not here, but Chantal has been breezing him. Patrick - I put him on the horse and he'd never even sat on the horse before, but he's a good rider and just really fit with him so I'll keep him on as long as he's available.

Essence Hit Man plans to shoot down all comers in 2010 on the road to the Queen's Plate

If Joey's Best can improve upon his already solid 2009 form, no doubt Husbands will be keeping his dance card open for Joey's Best.

* * *

Shuffling over a few streets, and a few dozen photos along the way (stay tuned for another photo essay tomorrow), I found myself in the barn of Nick Gonzalez which is overseen by his wife Martha.

Portrait of a Queen's Plate Contender

Big Red Mike has been a bit of a buzz horse locally and partnered up with jockey Emma-Jayne Wilson for a nice win last year for owners Terra Racing Stable. First time out, Big Red Mike settled into ninth position in a six and a half furlong event. Fellow Plate contender Roman Games was sitting in fifth position and stalking sharp fractions of 22.80 and 45.40. Into the stretch, Roman Games pounced first and assumed the lead hitting the wire first. Moving just a little too late, and from further back, Big Red Mike finished fast on the outside.

In his next start, Big Red Mike switched tactics and was in the lead by the half in a seven furlong MSW and simply pulled away from the field through the stretch hitting the wire in 1:23.20 for a nifty 77 Beyer Figure.

Big Red Mike recently made his first start of 2010 and fought gamely along the rail to finish second keeping nemesis Roman Games in his rear view.

TDH: Where did Big Red Mike spend the Winter?
MG: I have a farm in Ocala, Florida and he went there. He stayed there for thirty days and was turned out. We trained him there - we have a half-mile track - until he got to the point that he needed to be at a big track and then Brian Lynch had him (at Palm Meadows) and he came back in great shape. Brian did a great job with him.

TDH: Big Red Mike finished second in his first start of 2010. How did he come out of that race?

MG: He actually came out of that race great. He needed a race. The inside was terrible that day and he was pinned in the whole way. It was just one of those trips and the horse that beat him had already run a race. I'd run against him again and I think their roles would switch around.

Mike JUMPS the shadow as Florida-bred Just Call Me Roger got up in time for the win

TDH: It looked like he jumped a shadow at the wire...
MG: Actually, at the wire with those new finish posts quite a few horses do it depending on the point the sun's at. That's all he did. He saw the shadow and he wasn't very graceful about it! That was part of the problem as he caught his feet as he was doing it but we got lucky as a horse can hurt themselves but he didn't.

A distracted Big Red Mike reaches for my business card

TDH: What did you think about the distance?
MG: I think he'll go further. He just needed to get a race into him. He's training a lot more relaxed. He'll start to come good now.

Just Call Me Roger the victor over Big Red Mike and Roman Games

TDH: What's next for Big Red Mike.
MG: We're looking for a two-turn allowance race. We're debating on a couple stakes races, but I think he's going to head for a two-turn allowance and get that into him. If you're heading to the Plate, it's a long distance and you need to be tight and fit.

Big Red Mike made a big effort through tough fractions on this day

TDH: What's the personality of this horse?
MG: Mike's great! He had a little tendency, as you saw with him jumping the shadow, of over reacting to stuff so I wasn't surprised by that because it's kind of his nature. But he's a very kind horse. Just a big gentle horse.

Big Red Mike, tongue out, shows he has a big sense of humour

And I can add that after having spent just a little bit of time trying to capture a photo of the big fellow that he is certainly an active and alert horse!

* * *

I hope you enjoyed the mini-interviews. I'll try my best to catch up with more Queen's Plate contenders over the coming weeks. Don't forget, Mobilizer is entered in Keeneland's 7th race today- a 1 3/16M event on the all weather track. Also entered in this race is Chiefswood Ontario-bred Macallan. Corey Nakatani retains the mount on Mobilizer for trainer Roger Attfield. To see full entries, please CLICK HERE. (TDH Note: Mobilizer has been scratched. Bah.)

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