Monday, June 14, 2010

Woodbine Oaks: A Thrilling Finish for Roan Inish

It couldn’t have happened to nicer folks.

That was the phrase heard over and over on Sunday following an exciting afternoon of racing at Woodbine. And that’s not to say that the rest of the contenders in the Budweiser Woodbine Oaks were any less congenial in the build up to the race, but there was simply something heartwarming in watching a family celebrate such an important win.

Roan Inish gets up on the rail for a narrow win over Moment of Majesty

Following the victory over Moment of Majesty and Embur’s Song, trainer Carolyn Costigan paraded her star filly in front of the Woodbine grandstand with a smile as wide as the brim of her hat. Robert and Nora Costigan, parents of Carolyn and owners of the triumphant Roan Inish, beamed with delight.

The Costigan family celebrate an Oaks win

To the untrained eye, the form on 11-1 shot Roan Inish might have seemed short a race going into the mile and an eighth Oaks, but the entire route had been carefully planned by the conditioner in a series of works bouncing back and forth from the main polytrack to the dirt training ring - and it was the conditioner herself putting the horse through its paces.

“You must remember she (Carolyn) was riding her every day and that’s a different kind of work,” stated Robert Costigan in the Woodbine press box following the win. “On a glance you would say these are pedestrian works but she wasn’t training to a clock, she was training to get out of it what she wants.”

The proud father drew an appropriate comparison.

“Look at the men that brought over the Mineshaft colt (Casino Drive) and they’d jog him so pedestrian,” started Costigan regarding the G2 Peter Pan winner. “You have to have confidence in what it is you’re trying to achieve and that Carolyn has in buckets. You don’t work for Mr. Bolger for two years without having conviction in your method.”

Jim Bolger is recognized as one of Ireland’s racing greats having trained such champions as Teofilo and New Approach. In addition to victories in the Irish 1000 Guineas, Irish Oaks and the Epsom Derby, Bolger also apprenticed conditioners Aidan O’Brien, Tony McCoy and Paul Carberry. Clearly, Costigan is in good company.

While apprenticing under Bolger, Costigan fortuitously met jockey Davy Moran who now rides Roan Inish.

“Davy was very good in helping Carolyn in her riding skills,” agreed the owner of Roan Inish. “And you saw the fruition of that today.”

Embur's Song led the Oaks field through quick fractions

Moran was quick to heap praise on the improving filly.

“She jumped good and got a lovely position,” began Moran. “They were going a nice pace so I got to take her back and get her travelling and when it came time to turn in, I saw Resentless under pressure so I got in behind Garret Gomez and he quickened a little bit after the straight. Roan Inish hit a flat spot, which she did on the day she won the Princess Elizabeth too, but once she straightens up and you get a few backhands into her she just took off. She gets the trip really well. I think the Plate will suit her down to the ground.”

Rob Landry and the resilient Moment of Majesty would not back down without a fight

The stretch run of the Oaks was a dynamic dog fight between Roan Inish and the terrier like Moment of Majesty who simply refused to back down. For the better part of the final fourty yards, the pair matched stride for stride with barely an inch of legroom between them.

“It kept her going (tight quarters),” admitted Moran. “In Ireland that’s the way they’re trained - in the middle of two to teach them to ride in tight tracks. When she got tightened up she knew it was time to go and it helped her to concentrate.”

Moran was impressed with the fight brought on by Moment of Majesty.

“I was delighted to get a lead into the straight but I wasn’t expecting to see Robert Landry (aboard Moment of Majesty) coming on the outside,” exclaimed the Irish pilot. “Fortunately, she picked up for me and she dug deep.”

The 27-year-old Moran has known Roan Inish from early days.

“Carolyn worked with my boss Jim Bolger in Ireland for experience and this filly was in training there as a yearling and a two year old,” advised Moran. “I did most of her pre-training and work on her at home and built up a good relationship with Carolyn and she invited me to come over and ride Roan Inish in the Princess Elizabeth (which they won in the fall of 2009). I was delighted for the experience.”

On the back of that experience, Moran believes the filly’s best work might yet come in the Queen’s Plate. The question of making the mile and a quarter distance was quickly dismissed.

“She’ll get a mile and a half,” said Moran with certainty. “But I think a mile and a quarter is meant for her.”

Roan Inish parades on the E.P Taylor turf

Sunday’s win leaves Roan Inish in the enviable position of having used the $500K Woodbine Oaks as a prep race for the $1M Queen’s Plate. Moran is hoping the race will sharpen the filly for a fight against the boys.

“Definitely, I think this will leave her spot on,” smiled Moran. “She hasn’t ran for awhile and this will get her ready. I think she’ll frighten them anyway!”

Roan Inish heads out Moment of Majesty to win the Budweiser Woodbine Oaks

The final running time for the Oaks was 1:50.53, just .12 seconds slower than the Plate Trial won by longshot Big Red Mike. There is the question of whether the Oaks might have taken something out of Roan Inish.

“She saves a little bit of energy herself but in fairness she gave me every little bit that last furlong,” said Moran. “She walked back pretty quiet so we’ll see how she is. I’m sure Carolyn will freshen her up this week.”

News of how Roan Inish came out of the Oaks was quickly available on Twitter where fans can follow the horse as she works towards the Queen’s Plate.

“Roan Inish appears to have come out of her race in good form. Great day for Davy Moran; already flying back to Ireland!,” came the Tweet mere hours after the race. And then on Monday morning a second update arrived on the Arravale Racing website:

The dust has yet to settle in barn 25 on the Woodbine backstretch. A wonderful day was had by all as Roan Inish took it handy walking an hour in the early morning and then out of the box for another hours walk before noon. She "ate up" or finished her dinner last night and left no crumbs from breakfast -indicating that she is comfortable after racing.

Breakfast rolls and Tim Horton's grub (donuts!) was brought into the barn courtesy of jockey David Moran and I can safely say that the staff are also in good form after the race as they "ate up" too!

A big thanks to CBC for the coverage given to the race, hopefully attendance may be influenced by this years events at Woodbine and the national coverage might increase viewing numbers -wouldn't it be wonderful to fill that grandstand?

Roan Inish and Moment of Majesty throw it down in the Woodbine Oaks

The Costigan family is committed to growing the sport of horse racing by engaging the fans directly.

“We hope to have a web cam set up in the next week so you’ll be able to watch Roan Inish live going toward the Queen’s Plate if we’re fortunate enough to get there,” said Robert Costigan.

As noted in a May 27th post here at TripleDeadHeat, Carolyn Costigan is also abundantly aware of the nuances of modern fans.

"When I was in the Darley Flying Start course one of the main themes recurring in the business was lack of youth - - kids under eighteen and the lack of interest racing holds for them" started Costigan. "Kids are spending all their time in front of a computer these days. They're just being social really. They have access and are looking for information. At the end of the day young people love horses and if you can provide them with free info about horses I think that's a winning combination."

Up next for the hands on trainer will be both a webcam and helmet cam to provide the public with a better look into life on shed row.

"I did a report at Darley on how to attract the next generation to the racing industry and the key thing was access through the Internet," said Costigan. "I'll have a live webcam soon so that hopefully if she (Roan Inish) is who we think she is you can look in on her whenever you like. People just want to have access to see them and know what they are doing day-to-day. So we'll start with a webcam and then the helmet cam so you can see some works from the point of view of the rider."

One can only hope that Canadian racing fans will get behind Roan Inish in the same way that fans south of the border have thrown their support behind boy-beaters Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta. Not to suggest that Roan Inish is the equal of those brilliant belles of racing, but Woodbine Entertainment Group would do well to build the Queen’s Plate as a girls versus the boys event and ride the enthusiasm of a family with the best interests of the game at heart.

A happy Roan Inish cools off following the Oaks

Given the excellent performances of both Moment of Majesty and Embur’s Song in the Oaks, the Costigan filly might expect some help in this potential battle of the sexes against Big Red Mike, Artic Fern and Hotep in the July 4th Queen's Plate.

* * *

A hearty congratulations to the connections of Big Red Mike - and especially assistant trainer Martha Gonzalez who was very engaging in a profile of Plate Trial winner Big Red Mike just a few short weeks back.

Ironically, both Roan Inish and Big Red Mike are located in Barn 25 on the Woodbine backstretch. No doubt Barn 25 was in fine form this morning!

Big Red Mike with a big effort to win the Plate Trial

I’ll have more photos from Sunday and a report on the Plate Trial up soon.

Battlin' Big Red Mike chillin' out in his stall

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