Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Photo Essay: Big Red Mike and Roan Inish star on Woodbine Oaks Day

Over the course of four polytrack races run at a mile and an eighth at Woodbine on Sunday, some thirteen Queen’s Plate eligible horses ran the route slower than the 1:50.41 posted by Plate Trial winner Big Red Mike. Left reeling in the wake of the Tenpins gelding in the Plate Trial were seven Plate eligible horses including Canada’s reigning two year-old champion Hollinger, stakes winner Ghost Fleet and the highly regarded D’s Wando and Giant’s Tomb.

In the race following the Plate Trial, three Plate eligible fillies - Roan Inish, Embur’s Song and Resentless - contested the $500K Woodbine Oaks. Roan Inish battled bravely with an indefatigable Moment of Majesty to win the Woodbine Oaks in a time of 1:50.53. Embur’s Song finished third and is still being considered for the ‘Gallop for the Guineas’, while Resentless now seems unlikely to challenge the boys on July 4th.

(To read my full report on the Woodbine Oaks, please click on this link. And for a profile of the impressive Moment of Majesty, please click here.)

Sunday’s card of racing started with a mile and an eighth allowance featuring the Plate eligible entrants Forever Awesome and Who We Gunna Call. The race was won by Kentucky-bred So Elite in a time of 1:51.89 with Who We Gunna Call rallying late for show money and an outside shot at convincing his connections of a Plate appearance. Forever Awesome faded through the stretch ending up sixth.

Who We Gunna Call - third on Sunday

Woodbine's fourth race was won by the lone Plate eligible Smart Sky for trainer Michael John Doyle in a time of 1:52.52 following a gruelling stretch battle with Miami Deco.

Smart Sky looks sharp, guy, in the Woodbine fourth

Of note, for their efforts on Sunday Big Red Mike earned a 94 Beyer compared to the 93 earned by Roan Inish. Smart Sky’s effort garnered the maiden-breaker an 83 Beyer number.

And the point of all this is? Despite Big Red Mike’s big battling effort, the Nick Gonzalez gelding is still likely to be long odds on Queen’s Plate day behind Mike Keogh’s Artic Fern and Mark Frostad’s Hotep. Regardless of the fact that the Plate Trial winner has gone on to win the big event on 24 occasions, including the past two runnings won by Not Bourbon and Eye of the Leopard, the betting public will put their dollars on the famous red and gold silks of Sam-Son Farms who are likely to boast three entrants - Hotep, Giant’s Tomb and Dark Cloud Dancer .

None of that, however, matters to the connections of Big Red Mike who celebrated a huge effort from a very feisty fellow. The front-runner was a bit frisky in the paddock and then reared up and tossed jockey Eurico Rosa da Silva during the post parade.

"He was walking so relaxed outside, but once he (Big Red Mike) came inside the track, he turned to, "I'm the Man." I really loved that. He is just a great horse," explained Rosa da Silva. "He is very comfortable. We did just a nice pace. The horse that came beside me (Mobilizer), he is a very, very, nice horse, but this horse fought so hard. I am very proud of him."

Big Red Mike led at every pole under constant pressure from Hollinger and Mobthewarrior. Into the stretch, the Roger Attfield-trained Mobilizer dived to the rail to challenge the pacesetter as the duo hooked up for a heated stretch duel. Da Silva’s outside position on Big Red Mike kept Mobilizer and Jono Jones pinned to the fence in what might have been the difference maker in this event.

The pair fought tooth and nail to the wire but Big Red Mike inched away in the final strides to win by a half-length. Mobthewarrior held on for third just three-quarters of a length back, but a half length in front of fourth-place finisher Giant's Tomb. Hollinger faded to finish last while the remainder of the field failed to fire.

Big Red Mike wins the Plate Trial

Gonzalez was pleased with his geldings big effort.

"It looked like it was a race without a lot of speed in it," said Gonzalez. "Even though we tried to get him (Big Red Mike) to relax in the morning, it didn't look like it was time to do that today, so we tried to let him ride his own race, and he did it."

Hollinger would appear to have an excuse as reported by Bill Tallon in this DRF Report:

Hollinger, undefeated in four starts last year as Canada's champion 2-year-old male, also disappointed in his seasonal bow, ending fourth in the seven-furlong Queenston.
"He seems okay," Attfield said Monday morning. "He's a little stiff in his back.
"When you run that badly, you can't blame riders, or pace, or anything. Something's bothering him. That's my job to find out what.
"But I can't see him going on to the Plate off those two races."

The same Tallon piece purports that supplementing Moment of Majesty to the Plate is still under consideration:

Mobilizer, who was beaten a head by Big Red Mike as the runner-up in Sunday's Plate Trial, is definitely heading to the Queen's Plate.
But the move is not as cut and dried for Moment of Majesty, who ended just a head behind Roan Inish as the second filly to finish the Woodbine Oaks.
"I wouldn't say 'no' right now, but I'm not that excited about the idea of going to the Queen's Plate," said Sue Leslie, who trains Moment of Majesty and owns the filly in partnership with Curtis Joseph and Don Meehan.
"She peaked the day she was supposed to, and I don't know how she's going to be at her best again three weeks later.
"It's all going to depend on her. We're going to see how she is two weeks from now."

So, what does this mean for the Queen’s Plate picture? It might still be too soon to tell. Certainly we are looking at two fillies crossing over to face the boys, and possibly a third if conditioner Sue Leslie has a change of heart regarding Moment of Majesty.

Embur’s Song would appear to be a strong candidate to run as Rob Longley reported the following for the Toronto Sun:

Pletcher wouldn’t rule out a return trip to Woodbine for the Plate, even though the filly is lightly raced and laboured late.
“I think, it’s worth considering,” Pletcher said of the Plate, which is an eighth of a mile longer. “She seems to like the track here at Woodbine. If we can work on getting her to relax a little, it’s worth taking a shot.”
Of course, a Plate purse of $1.5 million might factor into Pletcher’s decision. That and the fact there are no real standouts picture after longshot Big Red Mike took down a couple of highly touted colts in Sunday’s Plate Trial.

Roan Inish gets home in front of Moment of Majesty and Embur's Song

Based on how the Queen's Plate picture currently stands it should be safe to say:

IN (11): Artic Fern, Hotep, Big Red Mike, Mobilizer, D’s Wando, Smart Sky, D’s Wando, Giant’s Tomb, Dark Cloud Dancer, Captain Canuck, Roan Inish

LIKELY (3): Mobthewarrior, Ghost Fleet, Embur’s Song,

POSSIBLE (4): Who We Gunna Call, Essence Hit Man (still not eligible, probably sprinting instead.), Stormy Lord (won on the turf last Friday and headed to Charley Barley barring a change in plans), Hollinger (depending on injury status)

Feel free to comment if I’ve missed a potential contender.

I will update my Queen’s Plate Contenders page accordingly this week.

* * *

Perhaps lost in the shuffle of all these Plate events was a smart turf win for Josie Carrol’s Somme in the Alywow Stakes. Somme rallied between rivals to win her first stakes in the $118,000Alywow covering 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:15.42 in the turf sprint for 3-year-old fillies.

Somme horses are faster than others

There was also an excellent turf winner in Perfect Shirl, a half to Lady Shakespeare, who broke her maiden in the tenth race in dynamic fashion under Chantal Sutherland for trainer Roger Attfield.

Perfect Shirl in a sparkling turf victory

* * *

Last and certainly not least, it's impossible to get through a weekend roundup without mentioning the incredible performance by undefeated Zenyatta to win her 17th consecutive race.

Zenyatta - Simply Perfect

This seems like a good place to end this blog post and get on with the photo essay!

(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!)

I started my day as part of an Oaks Handicapping Panel with Elissa Blowe, Dawn Lupul and Bill Tallon or 'Beauties and the Beasts' as it was popularly billed...

You knew it was an important day as TVG was in da' house!

"When there's something strange in your neighbourhood, WHO WE GUNNA CALL..." (That's the two-horse!)

Unfortunately, Dan Loiselle called So Elite's name first...but Who We Gunna Call finished third and might still make the Queen's Plate

There were two presentations being made following the second race. The first presentation included a cheque for $4500 payable to Ernestine's Women's Shelter while the second was to present the Avelino Gomez Award to jockey Stewart Elliott.

All the jockeys came out to watch the second race

D's Legend Storm was an impressive winner of the second race

Here's the presentation to the deserving folks at the Ernestine's Women's Shelter

This presentation was quickly followed by a presentation to Stewart Elliott

Race three brought the running of the Alywow Stakes and one of my favourite local fillies - Amazon Belle

Barracks Road is a filly worth fighting over

No Explaining wants to know where her jockey is...

Wait...there she is!

Quite a few punters had an eye on Noticin' You

Emma-Jayne Wilson shows off her infamous 'game face' aboard Officer's Dream

More than a few bettors made notes about Sharp Secretary

Somme handicappers thought this horse might win

And though she had a hard time finding a lane in the stretch...

Somme hits the wire in front in the Alywow

I headed up to the third floor to watch the next few races with my friends. It turned out to be an eventful period as Queen's Plate eligible Smart Sky broke his maiden and punched his ticket for the Queen's Plate

Smart Sky heads to the winners circle for the first time

Just as soon as I put the camera down, the field arrived for the fifth race a horse short. It turns out Charlie Bull bucked his jockey and decided to go for a sprint around the E.P. Taylor turf course european style. Add this one to your watch list...he looked pretty handy on the weeds.

I made my way back downstairs for the Plate Trial. Out in the walking ring, Big Red Mike was busy giving Ghost Fleet a piece of his mind - PFFFFBBBBBTTTTT!!

The powerful hind-end of D's Wando

Ghost Fleet disappeared on this day but don't be surprised if he makes an appearance July 4th

Supporters of Giant's Tomb were looking for a big effort

The handsome Hollinger

With one look, Mobilizer says he's the new stable star

Tyler Pizarro lookin' like he means business aboard Hollinger

Mobthewarrior's gameplan was to attack the leaders

Big Red Mike bucked Eurico in the post parade...

Turns out the big fella was in a hurry. He needed to get around the track, collect a trophy, and back to the barn for his dinner. Here's Big Red Mike leading the field past the wire for the first time.

Big Red Mike really was in a hurry to get home

Shortly after taking the above photo, I was surprised to see my seminar partner Dawn Lupul saunter by on horseback. The host/track announcer was working on-track (literally) for CBC

Meanwhile, Big Red Mike continued his wire-to-wire rush around the track. Here he is surging away from Mobilizer...

And at the wire, it's Big Red Mike!

A trio of disappointed contenders return but live to fight another day

Here comes Big Red Mike back to the waiting arms of friends

It doesn't get much happier than this...

Actually, maybe it does, Big Red Mike seems pretty pleased with himself here!

And then the moment was topped again when winning jock Eurico Rosa da Silva was greeted by his biggest little fan

This, I'm positive, was the happiest moment of the afternoon

Then again, it's only the eighth race and up next is the $500K Woodbine Oaks. Guaranteed we'll have a few smiles following this race.

Trainer Todd Pletcher has had plenty to smile about this Triple Crown season - could Embur's Song add to the glory?

Ernfold looking vibrant in the walking ring

This feisty filly would prove a handful in the Woodbine Oaks. Surprised she didn't win the photo finish by an ear!

Oil Painting - pretty as a picture

The ridiculously cute Resentless

Oh hello! Roan Inish is pretty cute herself

Tee Game ain't playing around

A stoic Garrett Gomez leads Embur's Song to the track

A courteous Todd Pletcher signs an autograph for Woodbine fans

Out of the gate and it's Embur's Song dragging Gomez to the lead

The strong filly leads the pack past the wire for the first time...

Hops! Check out the elevation as Embur's Song leaps into her stride. Wow!

As the field turns for home an epic battle commences between Embur's Song on the rail, Roan Inish between horses and Moment of Majesty on the outside

The trio of competitors throw it down!

But at the wire it's Roan Inish who gets her head in front along the rail

Jockey Davy Moran couldn't be happier

Conditioner Carolyn Costigan cracks a smile

Robert and Nora Costigan join daughter Carolyn as they walk Roan Inish to the winners circle

A trophy for the family...

Davy Moran is keeping this one for himself!

A well deserved bath for Roan Inish

Moran deserved more than a glass of coca-cola in the press box following the race but he had horses to ride on Monday back in Ireland. No rest for the wicked!

Congratulations to all the competitors on a brilliant Woodbine Oaks / Plate Trial Sunday at Woodbine.


David said...

I think this might be the year for the fillys in the Plate! Embur's Song would be a very tough horse if they could get her to relax but the added pressure of the Plate might be too much for her. Roan Inish looks to love distance so I would think she would run well! You can never count out Sam-Son and Hotep looks to be the boy to beat.

Andrew said...

Some fun photos Keith. I'd say my favourite has to be the one of Smart Sky in the winners circle from above.