Thursday, August 19, 2010

On my way to Saratoga: Woodbine News and Notes

It's been a busy week in the TripleDeadHeat household. The lovely Amy has turned our home into a factory as she prepares an order for two big retailers; my soccer team successfully scrapped out a 3-2 victory on Tuesday pushing us back into the race for promotion; and I'm almost prepared for a weekend in Saratoga!

I'm on my way to horse racing paradise...

I was honoured to have a story published in The Saratogian on Wednesday outlining some of the Woodbine-based success at The Spa. Click on the link to read the article entitled, Canadian horses shipped from Woodbine doing well at Saratoga Race Course this year:

Canadian shippers have demonstrated a measure of success at Saratoga this summer.

Five Canadian conditioners, as trainers are known north of the border — Roger Attfield (4-2-1-1), Mark Casse (7-0-1-2), Reade Baker (1-0-1-0), Audre Cappuccitti (1-0-1-0) and Sid Attard (1-0-0-0) — have combined for two wins, five seconds and two thirds, with Attfield leading the charge thanks to stakes wins in the Lake George (with Perfect Shirl) and De La Rose (with Miss Keller).

So, what’s the secret to Attfield’s perfect in the money percentage?

“No secret,” smiled Attfield from his office in Barn 4 on the Woodbine backstretch. “I just happen to be going with the right horses.”

With just a little more urging than it took John Velazquez to get Perfect Shirl up in time to capture the Lake George, Attfield continued, “Saratoga has those tighter turns which suits certain horses better but you know all three of those fillies that have been there so far have all been running well anyway. Perfect Shower had been training well and that’s why I sent him to the John’s Call. If he could have got through he would have probably won that race.”

Will No Explaining be the next Woodbine-based Spa success?

A big thank you to the trainers for their time and comments on this piece. Sunday's Lake Placid Stakes at Saratoga will feature Attfield's No Explaining and Casse's Exclusive Love. Local handicappers should also take note that Debbie England's Woolly Bear will race Friday at Saratoga in the Yaddo Stakes.

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The DRF's Bill Tallon is a good-humoured fellow. In addition to being a terrific reporter on the Woodbine beat, Tallon has a penchant for the pun that is much appreciated by this blogger. Click on the link to his most recent article and sink your teeth into this meaty opening line:

Trainer Roger Attfield will have plenty of stakes on his plate this weekend, with five starters at four different locations on Saturday plus another pair slated to compete here at Woodbine on Sunday.

Attfield himself plans to be at Arlington Park to saddle Ave for the Grade 1, $750,000 Beverly D. and Perfect Shower for the Grade 3, $150,000 Stars N Stripes. The Beverly D. is a 1 3/16-mile turf stakes for fillies and mares and the Stars N Stripes a 1 3/8-mile turf race for 3-year-olds and upward.

Attfield also will have stakes starters in Southern California, with Perfect Shirl heading for the Grade 1, $300,000 Del Mar Oaks, and in upstate New York, with No Explaining slated for the Grade 2, $150,000 Lake Placid.

Chantal Sutherland will be flying down from Woodbine to pilot Perfect Shirl in the Del Mar Oaks, a 1 1/8-mile turf race for 3-year-old fillies. The Lake George is a 1 1/8-mile turf race for fillies and mares.

Bill always gives his readers plenty to chew on.

Attfield will also be sending out Jacally in Saturday’s $125,000 Eternal Search and on Sunday, Spice Route will try the Grade 2, $250,000 Sky Classic, going ten furlongs on the turf.

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Woodbine will be represented in Edmonton this weekend by trainers Steven Chircop and Terry Jordan. Chircop sends out Kara's Orientation in the Canadian Derby while Jordan's La Rocca is entered in the Edmonton Distaff.

Kara's Orientation to try the Canadian Derby

Click on the link for the full story from the Edmonton Sun.

The 81st Canadian Derby — the highlight thoroughbred race of the year in Edmonton — goes to post Saturday at Northlands Park. (3:45 p.m. Derby post time, TSN, CHED, card starts at 11 a.m.)

No Hesitation has Post 4 in the field of 10 three-year-olds. Undefeated in four straight at Northlands Park this season, the grey colt continues to be on top of his game in morning workouts this week. Professor Pollard is the only Alberta-bred in the pack and will start from Post 6.

Meyaard approaches the race with a simple motto: “If you look after your horses, they will look after you.”

Toronto import Kara’s Orientation is the second choice on the morning line at 5-2 odds from Post 7. “I would have liked to be in post four, five or six,” said trainer Steven Chircop. “But he has enough tactical speed.”

The value in the race appears to be from Post 6 with 10-1 longshot Stachys, who just won the Manitoba Derby. Hauled almost 1,800 kilometres from his Minnesota base to Edmonton, Stachys has won three in a row.

The winner will receive $180,000 with $60,000 to second place. The entire Derby field with post position, odds and jockey: Gold Winner (Post 1, 20-1, Shannon Beauregard), Stachys (2, 10-1, Derek Bell), Gold Medallion (3, 8-1, Steph Heiler), No Hesitation (4, 2-1, Rico Walcott), Dyna Stroll (5, 6-1, Mario Gutierrez), Professor Pollard (6, 4-1, Anthony Salgado), Kara’s Orientation (7, 5-2, Emile Ramsammy), Ranger Heartley (8, 12-1, Tony Maragh), Judge Brew (9, 15-1, Ruben Lara), Distorted Dave (10, 12-1, Pedro Alvarado).

La Rocca ready to rock in the Edmonton Distaff

For more on the Edmonton Distaff, please click into this piece from the Edmonton Journal.

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Jennifer Morrison of Thoroughblog fame penned a piece for the Toronto Star entitled, Lawson heads parade into horse racing hall detailing some of the exploits of thoroughbred owner Mel Lawson:

Lawson’s famous red and black jockey silks of his Jim Dandy Stable have been flying past finish lines for almost 50 years. He is one of very few thoroughbred owners who have raced at Woodbine continually since it opened in 1956.

As a young sportsman, Lawson played in the Grey Cup in 1943 for the Hamilton Flying Wildcats and became the youngest quarterback to win a Grey Cup.

Later, he graduated in forestry at the University of Toronto Lawson and worked for his father’s lumber company until he retired in 2008.

His first foray into horse racing came thanks to many trips with his parents to the old Hamilton Jockey Club. He bought his first horse in 1964 and just two years later, Carodana became his first stakes winner, taking the Manitoba Derby at Assiniboia Downs in Winnipeg.

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The Globe & Mail's Beverley Smith prepared a charming obit on longtime Woodbine colour man Wayne Mercer which proves some folks truly are irreplaceable. Click on the link to read the story entitled, Silky smooth? Not without the colour man:

Wayne Mercer worked hidden away every day in a back chamber of the jockeys’ room at Woodbine racetrack, surrounded by gigantic washing machines and 12,000 jelly-bean coloured racing silks.

He was Woodbine’s colour man, and he was a genius at his job for 20 years, pulling the riding colours for jockeys to wear each day, until on Aug. 7, he didn’t show up for work, as he usually does, at 3:30 a.m. It wasn’t like Mercer to be late. The 63-year-old former tool-and-die maker had suffered a massive stroke and died the next day.

Since then, Woodbine employees have been scrambling to fill the hole he’s left in their hearts. And they’re no match for his memory.

The backroom boys called him Stumpy, because he lost a couple of fingers in a tool-and-die accident. In the back room, you’d better have a thick skin because Stumpy could give as good as he got. He was territorial over his colours and not given to losing arguments about them. If Stumpy ever gave you the finger, you were in trouble, said his boss, Bobby Bertrand, clerk of the scales in the jockeys’ room.

“He was by far the best colour man I ever had,” Bertrand said. “He was the most dependable. You give him the guy’s name [the horse owner] and he’d tell you what his colours looked like.”

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The Bruno Shickedanz hearing has begun. The Globe & Mail reports in a story entitled, Schickedanz defends horse's return to track:

Wake at Noon, Canada’s top thoroughbred in 2002, was euthanized June 29 after he fell and broke two legs during a workout at Woodbine racetrack in Toronto. It was the first time he’d stepped onto a major race facility since his retirement from competition in 2007.

At 13, the chestnut was old by racing standards, and the death of the popular former champion shocked the racing community. Following the incident, the horse’s trainer, Tom Marino, was banned indefinitely from Woodbine. The horse’s owner, Bruno Schickedanz, is barred from stabling or racing his horses there.

Schickedanz requested the tribunal hearing Tuesday in an attempt to have the three-person panel make Woodbine Entertainment Group reverse the ban. His lawyer, Frank Roth, characterized the incident as a tragic accident.

The hearing is ongoing with Woodbine presenting their case next week.

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And to end this post on a positive note, the New York Racing Association recently launched a Youtube video series named the NYRA Time Machine. The feature below is on 2009's undisputed Horse of the Year, Rachel Alexandra.

NYRA Time Machine: Rachel Alexandra Wins The 2009 Woodward

I was in attendance for the Woodward in 2009 and you can read my coverage and view a ton of photos by clicking into this post Photo Essay: Rachel Alexandra Romps At Saratoga and this post How Rachel Alexandra Helped Me Break My Saratoga Maiden

Hopefully, Ernie Munick will be playing in the Backyard again

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While there will be no posts at TripleDeadHeat until my return on Monday, you might hear a few Tweets. Hope to meet a few readers at the Big Red Spring! Don't be shy, come on over and say hello!

Meet me at the Big Red Spring...

TGIF Good Readers!

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