Thursday, June 10, 2010

Ex-NHL Goalie Curtis Joseph Hopes to Score in the $500K Woodbine Oaks

Most athletes will tell you that consistency is the key to success.

The partnership of former NHL goalkeeper Curtis Joseph, agent Don Meehan and conditioner Sue Leslie represent a model of consistency with 25 wins and 89 top-three finishes from 196 career starts. The trio has set a high standard for themselves and going into Sunday’s Budweiser Woodbine Oaks, they are hoping their Moment of Majesty will raise the bar to another level.

“Curtis is very excited and I’m very excited for him,” said Leslie earlier this week in the comfort of her office in barn 38 on the Woodbine backstretch. “He’s put a lot of money into the game and it’s nice to see him get a quality filly.”

Sue Leslie and Moment of Majesty

The partners have one stakes winner previously in Millennium Allstar, who took the 2001 Achievement Stakes, finished second in the Queenston and Plate Trial Stakes, before finishing eighth in the Queen's Plate.

“I got introduced through his agent Don Meehan because Don owned a horse in partnership with (ex-Leafs forward) Gary Leeman,” explained Leslie. “Donnie brought Curtis to the races one day and the rest was history because Curtis fell in love. He came first as a fan and then dabbled in one horse with Don and he’s now breeding horses and very passionate about horse racing.”

Joseph, a three-time NHL All-Star and a member of the 2002 Canadian gold medal winning men’s hockey squad in Salt Lake, knows a thing or two about success. Leslie believes that Joseph’s athletic achievements provide a unique perspective.

“He’s very knowledgeable and his understanding of what it takes to be an athlete helps him really understand what it takes to make a good racehorse as really the principles are the same,” began Leslie. “There’s the raw talent aspect of it but then there’s the process of getting that raw talent out. There’s also the injury aspect of the game and hockey players spend most of their lives injured so he appreciates that. He’s been a fabulous owner and a great asset to the game.”

Joseph is far from being a hand’s off owner.

“He was here last week on the backstretch,” smiled Leslie. “His schedule is tough, especially when he was playing. He’s got three boys all playing hockey and in school. He gets here when he can and does his best to make all the races. He’s certainly up on the Internet on all that’s going on.”

Perhaps he’s even reading this blog. (Hi Cujo!)

The safe hands of goalkeeper Curtis Joseph

The emerging horseman has taken an interest in the breeding side of the game and it appears his ability to adapt to the nicks of nurturing a new talent is as quick as his glove hand.

“Curtis and I used to do the breedings together,” said Leslie. “But I’ll be honest with you it was Curtis that really pushed for Saint Liam. He’s educated himself very well in breeding and the statistics of the sires and for some reason he had a very strong bias toward Saint Liam and the nick worked out well and everything I do on my end worked out well so away we went.”

Joseph was in attendance at the Woodbine Oaks draw on Thursday, where Canadian Olympic figure skater Joannie Rochette oversaw the proceedings, and explained the moment of majesty behind the breeding of his star filly.

“I saw him (Saint Liam) in the Breeders’ Cup like everybody else...,” grinned Joseph. “It’s tough to knock a sound-minded fast horse. His stud fee was fifty thousand and I thought it was well worth it.”

With more than $140,000 in the bank, that stud fee appears to be a sound investment. Of course, not every well-bred horse can work out, as was the case with Moment of Majesty’s dam.

Saint Liam inspires Curtis Joseph in the 2005 Breeders' Cup Classic

“I bought the mother for Curtis as a racehorse from Keeneland and she got injured very early in her career and it really compromised her ability to run unfortunately,” started Leslie. “But, Curtis also enjoys the breeding side of the business so he decided to breed her.”

Leslie and Moment of Majesty share a moment

The pairing with Saint Liam provided Leslie, Meehan and Joseph with a rather green filly that Leslie named Moment of Majesty. Or, “MOM”, as she is known around the barn.

“As a two year-old she was a nervous filly and lacked confidence,” said Leslie. “She was quite immature mentally. We knew we had a good filly, she has a gorgeous stride and she has class about her but we probably raced her one more time than we would have liked as a two year-old because mentally we were trying to get her to adapt to the pressure of racing.”

Fortunately, MOM grew into herself over the winter in rather heady surroundings.

“Over the winter months she went to Florida and the early part of winter she spent at Mark Casse’s farm,” advised the conditioner. “And then she went to Roger Attfield’s barn at Palm Meadows because that’s close to where I reside down there. She’s the only horse I took south as I didn’t want to take help. And of course - with Mark and Roger, you can’t do any better than that.”

Moment of Majesty is maturing with every race

No doubt any horse could benefit from a bit of time under the watchful eye of such leading horsemen, and then Leslie arrived to add the finishing touches with a little help from her top jock Rob Landry.

“At Palm Meadows once we got her out there you could just see her growing into herself,” recalled Leslie fondly. “Rob Landry was on her every day, other than when he got hurt Since she got back here (to Woodbine) Rob has really done a tremendous job getting her to settle. She’s a mature woman now. She has a completely different outlook to going out and doing her job. She’s not intimidated and really coming into herself. I think she’ll even grow into herself more as a four year-old to be honest…she’s just in a good place right now.”

Moment of Majesty opened her 2010 campaign with an allowance win

And that’s bad news for the eight-horse Oaks field that have quite the developing talent to contend with this Sunday. Moment of Majesty goes into the Oaks off an impressive third place finish to champion Biofuel in the La Lorgnette Stakes.

“We entered into an allowance race that day,” laughed Leslie. “We didn’t want to go to the La Lorgnette but the allowance didn’t fill so we didn’t think we could get her to the Oaks without one more race and going two turns.”

Jockey Rob Landry in the hockey puck splattered silks of Curtis Joseph et al.

Punters looking for an edge this Sunday should take note of the following statement regarding the running of the La Lorgnette.

“Unfortunately the race set up without a lot of pace,’ stated Leslie. “We would have preferred for Rob to be off the pace and make a run but they went a half in 50 and she’s got natural speed so he tried to nurture her a bit early but she was taking objection and Rob did the right thing and let her go.”

With both Embur’s Song and Resentless promising to make fast fractions on the front end, there will be plenty of action for Landry and his mount to chase this weekend.

“Hopefully we’ve worked on her enough since that time to be content to race behind horses and to have this long relaxed loping type of gallop,” offered Leslie. “We’re hoping on the day of that we can get her to come back. If we can’t, we can’t. She’s coming into the race in good order and we just have to hope. It’s a tough field.”

Moment of Majesty gets the job done first out in 2010

Joseph and Leslie see eye-to-eye on race strategy.

“I think a stalking trip. She hasn’t had that chance the last few races because there was no speed in the race,” smiled Joseph. “Hopefully there’s a little speed in the race and we can stay near the lead and close.”

Though speaking days apart, the pair’s identical approach is a bird’s eye view into what has made this partnership so successful.

“If they both run the way they have historically you would think there would be a pace in there,” contemplated the conditioner. “Mind you, I think that kind of pace works to Roger’s advantage too with Ernfold. I have a lot of respect for Roger’s ability to get a horse ready for the right day and from what I can see she’s coming into the race to perfection. We’re going to have two tigers in front of us and one behind us that’s how I see it.”

Here's looking at you, kid.

The man they call Cujo believes his filly is in with a shout.

“I’m really just happy to be in the Oaks. She’s a special filly and we’re lucky to have her,” said Joseph mischievously. “She is always improving. She’s got speed but she can get the distance too.”

* * *

If you enjoyed the above interview, be sure to check out my previous Oaks features on Resentless and Roan Inish.

Here's the field for the Budweiser Woodbine Oaks

PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer
1 Isabeau's Elegance (ON) C Fraser 121 M E Casse
2 Resentless (ON) C Sutherland 121 I Howard
3 Roan Inish (ON) D Moran 121 C M Costigan
4 Tee Game (ON) S Callaghan 121 M J Doyle
5 Oil Painting (ON)P Husbands 121 J Carroll
6 Embur's Song (ON)G K Gomez 121 T A Pletcher
7 Moment of Majesty (ON) R C Landry 121 S Leslie
8 Ernfold (ON)J McAleney 121 R L Attfield

Here's the field for the Plate Trial

PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer
1 Ghost Fleet (ON) L Contreras 126 S C Attard
2 Big Red Mike (ON)E R Da Silva 126 N Gonzalez
3 Mobilizer (ON)J C Jones 126 R L Attfield
4 Hollinger (ON)T Pizarro 126 R L Attfield
5 D's Wando (ON)E Wilson 126 I Black
6 Captain Canuck (ON) G K Gomez 126 J Carroll
7 Giant's Tomb (ON) P Husbands 126 M R Frostad
8 Mobthewarrior (ON) E Ramsammy 126 G de Gannes

If you believe the Plate Trial came up a few horses short, you're right.

Sunday's first race at Woodbine is a mile and an eighth allowance featuring Plate contenders Forever Awesome, Who We Gunna Call, Mudder at the Bar and Rules of Honor. While Woodbine's fourth race is a mile and an eighth MSW featuring Smart Sky and Miami Deco.

By end of day Sunday, the Queen's Plate field will be all but cleared up.

* * *

Every once in awhile, you'll find my work posted in venues other than TripleDeadHeat. My recent profile of trainer Carolyn Costigan is now up for view on the Blood-Horse website; a view into some of the top contenders for the 2010 Queen's Plate is online at Down The Stretch; and a recent day and night of job shadowing harness driver Rick Zeron was the cover story for this month's edition of TROT Magazine.

It's always fun to see my work in print or online so many thanks to those that have reached out to support!

As you might have already guessed, I'll be at Woodbine on Saturday to cover the Woodbine Oaks. What you might not have guessed is that I'll be part of a handicapping seminar put on by Woodbine Entertainment Group starting at 11AM.

The Seminar Pro-Panel includes the Daily Racing Form's Bill Tallon, broadcaster/handicapper Dawn Lupul, broadcaster/handicapper Elissa Blowe and a possible special guest Oaks jockey.

The seminar topic is "Handicapping the Woodbine Oaks" and will feature handicapping tips for the big race, information on the key players and an opportunity for the "experts" to answer customer questions. Elissa Blowe will be moderating the forum which promises to be a lot of fun.

Perhaps there will be a chance to talk about the Woodbine Oaks Extreme Betting Contest.

“Play the Extreme Betting Contest at Woodbine on Woodbine Oaks Day to test your betting skills against other players for your chance to win from $1250."

* Play with real cash bets of any type and amount on the Woodbine Race Card.
* Guaranteed Prize Pool of $2500.
* $25 Entry Fee + $50 Bankroll = $75 Buy-In
* Register NOW at the Woodbine Racetrack Player’s Services Desk”

I hope that all readers will consider coming out early on Sunday to enjoy the seminar, enter the contest and watch an afternoon of world class racing at Woodbine.

* * *

Those readers keeping track of Queen's Plate contenders will be interested to note that Ian Black's Stormy Lord is now pointing towards the Charlie Barley Stakes on his preferred turf surface.

Stormy Lord headed back to the turf

Stormy Lord is entered in the fourth race on Friday which is the prep for the Charlie Barley going seven furlongs on the turf. Stormy Lord broke his maiden at first asking going six furlongs on the grass and the front-runner went on to take the allowance prep for the Summer Stakes. Although Stormy Lord would finish fifth in the G3 Summer, the two year-old completed a strong season by running second in both the Cup and Saucer Stakes on turf and in the Coronation Futurity on Polytrack.

Woodbine - Friday June 11th - Race 4

P# PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L
1 4 So Elite (KY) C Fraser 119 M E Casse 2/1
1A 8 King's Command (KY) C Fraser 119 M E Casse 2/1
2 1 Royal Rage (KY) P Husbands 119 D Cotey 15/1
3 2 R Shining Hope (ON)S Callaghan 121 N Gonzalez 6/1
4 3 Stormy Lord (ON) J McAleney 121 I Black 5/2
5 5 Grey Whizz (KY)O Moreno 1145 T Attard 8/1
6 6 Just Call Me Roger (FL) R A Dos Ramos 121 G de Gannes 3/1
7 7 Sangore (KY) D Clark 119 J F Walls 12/1

* * *

Ontario-bred Manitoba Miss will try the G1 Ogden Phipps Handicap on Saturday versus the talented Unrivalled Belle who got up in the final yards to head Rachel Alexandra in the Grade 2 La Troienne at Churchill Downs in April. Richlyn Farm’s Manitoba Miss, a daughter of D’wildcat was third in an optional claimer at Calder in her most recent start.

PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer
1 Funny Moon (KY) 4/F A Garcia 117 C Clement
2 Life At Ten (KY) 5/M J R Velazquez 116 T A Pletcher
3 Unrivaled Belle (KY) 4/F K J Desormeaux 119 W I Mott
4 Pumpkin Shell (KY) 4/F E S Prado 112 D G Donk
5 Manitoba Miss (ON) 5/M R Maragh 112 G Weaver

* * *

Bill Tallon is a busy man and fortunately for Woodbine handicappers - an informative one. The DRF writer always delivers a solid punch of information in his articles and his review of Mark Casse's Oaks Contender Isabeau's Elegance is no exception:

Isabeau's Elegance returned to Woodbine in early April and made her local bow in a 6 1/2-furlong maiden race on April 18.

Sent off at 32-1, the filly performed gamely in finishing second behind the favored Platinum Exchange.

"I thought she had a big shot that day," said Casse.

Slated to make her next start here May 9, Isabeau's Elegance acted up at the gate and was scratched.

She was on her best behavior when she returned less than two weeks later, pressing the pace and prevailing by a nose with rider Corey Fraser in the irons for the first time.

"I'd kind of always thought she was an Oaks-type filly," said Casse. "She's a big, tall, lean filly who looks like a route filly."

The same article features meaningful nuggets of info on Plate Trial contenders D's Wando and Ghost Fleet. Click click!

* * *

Phew! That's a lot of info for one blog post. I have a bundle of photos from my recent backstretch visit and some neat shots of figure skater Joannie Rochette at the Oaks draw which I'll save for a Saturday photo essay.

Joannie Rochette: Gorgeous, graceful and pretty sure she's about to drop the Oaks Trophy!

As always, you can keep up-to-date with the latest in the world of horse racing by clicking into my Woodbine News page.

1 comment:

wendyu said...

Love the silks!!