Monday, May 31, 2010

Photo Essay: A Grand Adventure at the Connaught Cup

This is a Woodbine post but I simply have to commend the fantastic win by Quality Road in the Met Mile on Monday at Belmont Park. The four year-old was hounded from gate-to-wire and still had enough left to shrug off a late challenge from Musket Man to win impressively. Is he the best four year-old horse on the continent? I think so.

Quality Road a quality winner of the Met Mile at Belmont Park

Track announcer Tom Durkin always keeps it interesting and the Met Mile call was simply special. With Quality Road trying to take the lead at the quarter Durkin acknowleged, "Le Grand Cru is right there and not going to let him get away..." as jockey John Velazquez pushed his horse forward. Quality Road would keep his lead but deep in the stretch Musket Man made a burst that had Durkin bellowing, "Musket Man is firing! Musket Man firing at Quality road..." and at the second mention Velazquez peaked under his arm and decided one more crack of the whip was required and his horse responded accelerating way for the win. As the horse crossed the wire, Durkin exalted, "Classy, consistent Quality Road."

I couldn't agree more.

Trainer Todd Pletcher was full of superlatives following the race.

“It was very impressive, and watching him come back and seeing how he hardly took a deep breath, it’s unbelievable how talented he is, especially when you consider he was spotting the runner-up seven pounds and coming off a four-month layoff," said Pletcher. "John said he kind of spanked him one time, to give him a friendly reminder to keep to the task to the finish line, but it seemed like he had something left and galloped out really, really well."

Quality Road gets it done earning a 114 Beyer

(Photo by EquiSport Photos/Dianne Boothe)

Clearly Quality Road has speed to spare and at a variety of distances.

“He’s such a versatile horse He set a track record at Saratoga at 6 ½ furlongs and two track records at Gulfstream at 1 1/8th miles, and he showed today he’s a brilliant miler," gushed the trainer. "He took the race to everyone and kept on. Just brilliant."

Where to next?

“We’ll see how he comes out of this," said Pletcher cautiously. "There might be a race between now and the Whitney [Grade 1, Saratoga, August 7], or not. We could take a look at the Suburban [Grade 2, July 3, Belmont Park], but you want to make sure he’s still peaking in November, too, so you want to be careful how many times you take him over there. But my first impression was that this was not a taxing race.”

* * *
And now on with the Connaught Cup!

I'm not really that superstitious a person but Sunday really felt like a day I should have stayed home and left the track for another day. On the twenty minute drive to Woodbine I was cut off not once, but twice, by luxury cars. The first was a Mercedes who simply assumed the lane in front of me because as a matter of fact, he does own the road. The second, was an erratically lane changing Lexus driver who picked lanes the way I pick the bottom of the triactor and after changing his mind for the third time decided against both signaling and shoulder checking.

Honestly, I could forgive the poor driving on most other days but the dude had his family in the car. What's wrong with people?

So I cursed my way into Woodbine and after applying half a bottle of sun tan lotion to protect my pale, amoeba-ish skin, I headed to the press box elevator which had decided to take Sunday off. Fair enough. This should have been my third strike and sure sign that today was a day for laying down and avoiding. But I'm Irish and stubborn and climbed six floors to the press box and after eight races I finally cashed an exactor to prove my point that I could pick a winner no matter how much money I had to spend.

(Incredible that after such a lacklustre performance, I would win the Thoroughbred Racing in New York Met Mile Handicapping contest by picking six winners out of eleven on the card, missed two more in photos and even picked against Quality Road with the rallying Musket Man.)

I am to handicapping what Mitch Williams was to closing baseball games.

At any rate, enough of my whinging. What follows is a photo essay recap of the card including race replays.

(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!)

Who needs an elevator when you've got stairs. Welcome to the fourth floor! Keep going...

Private boxes? I'll say...

The most important man at Woodbine. They've cleared out a full level just for him...but who does he high five when he hits the daily double?

Sunday was HBPA day at the races...check out their website

While I enjoyed my time in the press box I soon headed back to the walking ring to snap photos. The third race featured a full field of fillies and mares sprinting six and a half furlongs on the turf. One of my favourite local horses, Amazon Belle, was making her turf debut and I intended to cash!

Caroline Duquet hopes to find her thrill on Aspetuck Hill

Kain's Vow and Richard Dos Ramos promise to win another day

Renee Kierans keeps the TVG viewers informed from the walking ring

Trainer Mike Doyle gives Omar Moreno a leg up on Bodua

TDH fave Amazon Belle struts the walking ring

Emile Ramsammy uses Brewtiful Girl as a ladder

Needless to say, I did not find the winner as Chantal Sutherland rode a beautiful race guiding Moonlit Beauty to a front-running win at 11-1 for owner William Gierkink.

At the wire it's Moonlit Beauty in full stride!

Two beauties

Chantal Sutherland and Moonlit Beauty head to the winners circle

Trainer Mark Casse (far right) presents to William Gierkink - father of DRF scribe Ron Gierkink (blue shirt, far left)

Moonlit Beauty loved the lead to win the Woodbine third

After a great afternoon of racing in front of a busy Woodbine grandstand the stage was set for the G3 Connaught Cup featuring the classy G1 winning Rahy's Attorney, G2 winning Field Commission and Jungle Wave and G3 winning Grand Adventure. The Connaught would be run at a distance of seven furlongs which made for an interesting pace scenario and virtually guaranteed a close finish.

The versatile Field Commission can win on any surface at a variety of distances

Major Marvel couldn't make it two in a row

Niagara Thunder hoped to make a little noise

Jamie Attard leads Jungle Wave to the track

Aline Allain keeps the big horse calm in the walking ring

Grand Adventure sticks his nose up at a tote board not listing him as the favourite...hmmmph!

2008 Queen's Plate winner Not Bourbon would make his turf debut a good one closing well

The Passager and Rob Landry are gonna ride through the city tonight

Successful Mission kept the tack room busy lettering up the saddle cloth

Gerry Olguin and Cherokee Heaven. (That ad on Gerry's leg is for his wife Robin's store, The Jock's Room, click the link for great deals on racing related accessories!

Jimmy Mac shows a little love to Rahy's Attorney

The race would be a swift one on a burning hot afternoon. Patrick Husbands kept Grand Adventure in good position racing about three lengths off the leaders down the backside while Successful Mission and Major Marvel sprinted fractions of 23.34 and 45.44. Favoured Rahy's Attorney, from the two-hole, simply could not getting going on this day lacking racing room until far too late finishing sixth. Grand Adventure, from the far end of the gate, raced wide but safely and took the lead mid-stretch to win by a length over a closing Field Commission. Jungle Wave got up for third. Grand Adventure's final time of 1:19.83 was just .45 of a second off the course record set in 2004 by Soaring Free.

And down the stretch they come!

Grand Adventure rallied on the outside to win the G3 Connaught Cup Stakes

Happy connections greet Grand Adventure and Patrick Husbands after a deserved win

Jockey Jono Jones checks out the race replay aboard Not Bourbon

Everyone's a winner, baby!

Grand Adventure cools off after a hard day's work

Just another day at the office for Woodbine's top jock Patrick Husbands

Grand Adventure a great rally to win the Connaught Cup

* * *

Bill Tallon packs a punch of information in a DRF report entitled Grand Adventure sets sights on Woodbine Mile reporting that Field Commission is headed to the Nearctic; Giant's Tomb is on course for the Plate Trial; Audre Cappuccitti is still considering sending Essence Hit Man to the Queen's Plate; and the filly Resentless might just be back on track for June 13th's Woodbine Oaks:

Frostad, while not about to make comparisons, can foresee a Woodbine Mile in Grand Adventure's future.

"He won at a mile as a 2-year-old, and I wouldn't see why he wouldn't handle it now, especially with the way he ran the other day," he said.

The Woodbine Mile will not be run until Sept. 19, however, and Frostad's immediate decision will be whether to bring back Grand Adventure in the $300,000 King Edward here June 27 or the $200,000 Highlander on July 4. Both the King Edward and the Highlander are Grade 2 turf races.


Trainer Ian Howard caught the filly galloping out six furlongs in 1:13 and pulling up seven furlongs in 1:27.

"It was better than I could have hoped for," said Howard, who was breezing Resentless for the first time since she came down with a virus and miss 2 1/2 weeks of training after winning the seven-furlong Fury on May 1. "After that, we definitely have a chance to make the Oaks."

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1 comment:

Ernie said...

Keith McCalmont: a deserving champion who beat professional handicappers and wise guy know-iit-alls at their best game, New York Racing.

Canada's lucky to have you!!!!