Expectations of a track record breaking performance from either Hollywood Hit or Fatal Bullet in Saturday's Bold Venture Stakes were spoiled by a strong headwind and a superb ride by jockey Emma-Jayne Wilson on Smokey Fire.
Emma-Jayne Wilson and Smokey Fire partnered up for a mild upset in the Bold Venture
The pre-race atmosphere in the walking ring was intense as four souped-up sprinters snorted, postured and stomped amongst the willow trees. Jockey Jim McAleney strolled by as I snapped photos and we were both forced to stop for a moment as Hollywood Hit asserted his presence in our proximity and the jock was quick to quip, "These are real sprinters."
Hollywood Hit glams it up in the walking ring
With multiple graded winner Fatal Bullet and multiple stakes winner Hollywood Hit preparing to do battle, there was an air of expectation that something great was about to be witnessed. The amped up sprinters marched about the walking ring with an attitude normally reserved for stallions but it was all business once the call came for, "riders up!"
Smokey Fire rages in the Bold Venture
The sense of expected order would barely last two jumps when Fatal Bullet started slowly which allowed Hollywood Hit to make the lead uncontested. Hollywood Hit romped down the backstretch with the wind at his back in fractions of 21.91 and 43.56 which might have been a little too quick for this six and a half furlong event. Jockey Eurico Rosa da Silva quickly hurried Fatal Bullet into the mix and pressed Hollywood Hit around the turn and into the stretch which boasted a gusting headwind.
As the leader turned for home, jockey Emma-Jayne Wilson, who had been content to stalk aboard Smokey Fire, tipped her charge out five-wide and gained the lead from Hollywood Hit at the sixteenth pole for an impressive win in a time of 1:15.78.
"It set up nicely for my horse, and he came with a big kick late," said Wilson in the winners circle.
On the walk back to the jock's room, I mentioned to Wilson that the win might have surprised a few folks. "Not me," said Wilson. "You know what made me think he had a chance. That last race we beat Signature Red and he's been cleaning up this year."
Sure enough, it was Wilson who piloted Smokey Fire to victory last November in the G3 Kennedy Road over Field Commission and Signature Red. The latter horse notched a huge victory here on Queen's Plate day to win the G2 Highlander Stakes over Heros Reward and Jungle Wave.
Smokey Fire certainly had an exemplary work tab and solid form coming into this event off an extended layoff, but it took a composed effort by both jock and horse to wait and rally past two top sprinters making their third start of the season. The win is the fifth for the lightly raced five year-old son of Smoke Glacken in just nine starts.
It could be that Woodbine will have a trifecta of terrific speed to cheer for in the Breeders' Cup sprint this November.
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There was another upset on Saturday's under card when Glory Game got the better of Kentucky Shipper, and Woodbine track record holder for 4.5F, Madman Diaries to win the Colin Stakes.
Glory Game glorious in the Colin
Madman Diaries and Brock N Rock sped through swift splits of 21.94 and 44.76 in the six-furlong sprint. A stalking Glory Game launched a four-wide bid on the turn and held off Madman Diaries to win by two lengths in a time of 1:09.93. There was some controversy as Glory Game drifted in late in the stretch but a stewards' inquiry resulted in no disqualification.
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Sunday's card featured a pair of stakes events including the G2 Dance Smartly on the turf and the Shady Well on the main track.
The Woodbine turf course continues to offer up dramatic finishes as the Roger Attfield duo of Mekong Melody and Ave were separated only by a nose in the $300K Dance Smartly.
Roger Attfield exactor Mekong Melody and Ave impress in the Dance Smartly Stakes
Mekong Melody and Patrick Husbands chased a front-running First Circle throughout, before taking over mid-stretch to hold off her hard charging stablemate in a time of 1:46.09. Points of Grace, who won this event in 2009, rallied for third.
There was little drama to be found in the Shady Well Stakes as the favoured Roxy Gap was an easy winner of the five and a half furlong sprint for Ontario-bred two year-old fillies. Roxy Gap made an early lead and won in a quick time of 1:03.14 over Tree Pose by two and a half lengths.
Roxy Gap kept more than enough space between her and her rivals to win the Shady Well
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As per usual, I snapped a silly number of photos at Woodbine on Saturday. One of the first things I noticed as I walked out to the track was the green flag over the winners circle which belongs to Terra Farms representing Big Red Mike's Queen's Plate win. The Juddmonte flags will fly until new winners of the Woodbine Mile and Canadian International are crowned.
What follows are photos from Saturday starting with the Bold Venture Stakes.
(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!)
Reade Baker and Eurico Rosa da Silva talk strategy in the walking ring
Blinkers on for Fatal Bullet on this day
Reade offers a leg up to Eurico
Emma-Jayne and Smokey Fire get ready to heat it up
Fatal Bullet works the post parade
Two thumbs up for Hollywood Hit's pre-race appearance
Where there's smoke, there's fire
Smokey Fire surges to the lead as Hollywood Hit tries to hold on
But at the wire, it's Smokey Fire!
Emma-Jayne Wilson and Smokey Fire return to the winners circle
Trainer Sid Attard tries to put out Smokey Fire in the pouring rain
Here's a photo of several folks that weren't surprised by the result!
The seventh race featured a full field of maiden babies sprinting six furlongs on the E.P Taylor turf course. The standout colt, based on breeding and connections, was the Roger Attfield trained Stormy Rush. The Stormy Atlantic colt was bred by Gulf Coast Farms and is owned by Robert Harvey and A. Wortzman.
There would be no surprises in this event as a confident Jono Jones urged the colt to the lead through the stretch and went on to win quite easily.
What's the rush? Jono Jones and his Stormy Atlantic colt speed down the lane
Stormy Rush hurries past the wire first
First time starter, first time winner - Stormy Rush heads to the winners circle
The eighth race featured a few nice fillies and mares trying six furlongs on the near-dirt.
Something has caught the attention of Dancing Doris on this day
Sharp Secretary, recently second to Biofuel, is one to take note of
Tee Game wasn't a good play on this day
Cosmic Queen looked out of this world
But Dash It Dreamer dashed home first...she won three of four starts last year
And with the eighth race over, it was time to beat the traffic and get home before the rain started...again.
Jockey Krista Carignan makes a wind-aided walk to the parking lot on her way from Woodbine to Fort Erie where she is leading rider
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