Friday, November 19, 2010

Giving Thanks...

A thank you is in order. The latest issue of Down The Stretch is on the stands, and at the track, and it features a story about me. I know what you're thinking - - slow news month.

Peter Gross, the editor of Down The Stretch, wrote the piece which he entitled, Keith McCalmont's TripleDeadHeat - Horse Racing's Best Blog. Now, if you're familiar with Peter's handicapping, you'll know he has a difficult time predicting first place. So, please take his enthusiasm with a grain of salt.

Truly, I'd have been happy with a title of, "TripleDeadHeat - A pretty good blog". Or even, "Hey you, read's not so bad." It's strange seeing my own quotes in a story, but it does make me pause and reflect on how far this little racing adventure has come in such a short period of time.

Audre Cappuccitti - Just one of the many friendly trainers I've met at Woodbine

In the past few years, I've met trainers and owners and jockeys and fallen for a lot of horses. A lot of horses.

Wollemi Pine, aka 'Toogie', was one of my Woodbine faves. He's now retired.

I've been afforded an opportunity to write for a variety of publications - - I was nominated for a Sovereign Award, and I even won an American Horse Publications Award for my piece on COSA, OHHA and the state of Ontario harness racing entitled Finding Leadership.

None of this would have been possible without Peter opening a window of opportunity and providing some much-needed encouragement. Thank you Peter! (And thank you as well to countless new friends who continue to push me in the right direction...)

Rachel Alexandra - 2009 Horse of the Year - What a beauty

For those of you that read the piece and were curious about the specific blog posts mentioned in the article, you can read them by clicking on the links below.

1. Interview: A Chance Encounter With Steve Asmussen
2. Boule d'Or - A New Beginning for an Old Friend
3. Gave Way, Grudgingly

* * *

If you're a fan of trainer Michelle Niehi, and why wouldn't you be - she's funny, talented and Canadian, please check out my hopefully humourous profile, under the headline of, Scientist and horse trainer a strange brew.

The ex-scientist turned horse trainer proved to be a candid interview and wasn't shy to poke a little fun at the hockey game that broke out in the winners circle following the Breeders' Cup Marathon when her horse, Prince Will I Am, was disqualified.

Fight! Fight!

While Niehi was disappointed to see her horse taken down, she is thrilled with how Prince Will I Am came out of the race and could be pointing to a long-distance event near you. (I wonder if Niehi would consider the meet-ending Valedictory here at Woodbine.)

Prince Will I Am wins the 2010 Jamaica Handicap

Hers is a story of finding what you want in life and pursuing it through heavy traffic.

“When it boils right down to it, there’s a lot of reasons to why I did what I did and the timing,” states Niehi, of eschewing her life in a laboratory. “But the condensed version is that when you look around you and everyone is doing a job so they can do what they love to do on the weekend. Or everyone around you is working really hard to reach a goal and be successful…but at the end of the day, they can reach it or not reach it, and they’re equally unhappy for some reason. Well, I just didn’t want that to be me.”

Hers is also a story of being called a hoser. Sure, laugh all you want. It's just a stereotype. I don't understand why Americans think us Canadians end all our sentences with 'eh'. Oh...

Take off, eh?

* * *

Woodbine's own Fifty Proof, trained by Ian Black, is settling in well in his new digs in Japan as he prepares for next Sunday's $6.1M Japan Cup.

Fifty Proof with assistant trainer Skippy Bowen

Brisnet reports, Voila Ici, Fifty Proof settle in ahead of Japan Cup:

Canadian hopeful FIFTY PROOF (Whiskey Wisdom) arrived Thursday morning at Narita International Airport. The four-year-old gelding traveled from Canada to Japan with a stopover in Chicago to arrive at 8:20 a.m. Thursday and was then transported to the JRA Horse Racing School Quarantine Center, where he arrived at 11:18 a.m.

Tyler Gaskin, assistant to trainer Ian Black, said all was well.

"His body temperature is at its best and he is as he always is," Gaskin said.

Plans were to bring Fifty Proof onto the track on Friday.

"Then, we'll await further instructions from the trainer."

Black is not new to Japan, having fielded Rahy's Attorney (Crown Attorney) in the 2008 Mile Championship (Jpn-G1). Rahy's Attorney finished about 3 3/4 lengths off the winner in ninth place.

The lightly-raced Fifty Proof currently sports a mark of 9-4-3-0 and exits a fifth-place finish in the Canadian International S. (Can-G1) run at Woodbine on October 16. He was runner-up the previous month in the Northern Dancer Turf S. (Can-G1).

Fifty Proof will be paired in the Japan Cup with his regular rider, the 30-year-old Canada native Justin Stein, who has been riding since 2005.

Fifty Proof is a tall glass of whiskey

Even more coverage of Fifty Proof's journey can be found in a DRF Report, Joshua Tree tops Japan Cup shippers:

The invading octet will be led by Canadian International winner Joshua Tree and includes a single North American hopeful, Canada’s Ian Black-trained Fifty Proof, the fifth-place finisher in the Canadian International.

There was a single defection from the foreign contingent Thursday when trainer Ed Dunlop announced that his English and Irish Oaks winner, Snow Fairy, would skip the 1 1/2-mile Grade 1 contest as she has not fully recovered from her victory in the Queen Elizabeth II Commemorative Cup at Kyoto on Nov. 14. Snow Fairy will be aimed at either the 1 1/2-mile Hong Kong Vase or the 1 1/4-mile Hong Kong Cup at Sha Tin on Dec. 12.

* * *

Sunday's feature race at Woodbine is the $150,000 Bessarabian Stakes for fillies and mares at seven furlongs.

La Rocca is la-lovely

The DRF reports, Jordan hopeful La Rocca can outrun her odds in Bessarabian:

“I think it’s a very contentious race,” said Jordan, who trains La Rocca for owner Peter Redekop. “I’m hoping, more than knowing.”

La Rocca, a Kentucky-bred 4-year-old, was purchased privately here in the summer of 2009 and went on a western Canada swing which netted wins in the Sonoma at Northlands and the B.C. Oaks at Hastings.

Back at Woodbine this past spring, La Rocca finished third on three consecutive occasions before notching her most important win to date in the $150,000 Ontario Matron at 1 1/16 miles.

But a return trip to Alberta produced a last-place finish in the 1 1/16-mile City of Edmonton Distaff. La Rocca was making her first start in more than two months when she finished fifth here last time out in the Ontario Fashion, a seven-furlong race for fillies and mares.

“Six furlongs is a little short for her,” said Jordan, noting that La Rocca had made up some ground late and was beaten by just four lengths.

“I think probably her best distance would be a mile, so seven furlongs should be okay.”

La Rocca has turned in bullet drills both before and after the Ontario Fashion, with her latest a four-furlong breeze in 47.80 seconds under the stewardship of assistant trainer Anita Bolton.

“She’s coming around,” said Jordan. “We did a little work on her, and it seems to have helped.

“She’s a very nice filly.”

Terry Jordan and La Rocca hope they've selected the right race

The field for the Bessarabian Stakes
P# Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L
1 Meriwether Jessica (NY) 5/M L A Garcia 119 R A Violette, Jr. 15/1
2 Indian Apple Is (ON) 4/F L C Sutherland 121 R P Tiller 4/1
3 Sugar Again (PA) 3/F L L Contreras 118 M Benson 3/1
4 Much Obliged (KY) 5/M L* P Husbands 115 M Pierce 8/1
5 Hooh Why (FL)4/F L E Ramsammy 119 D C MacRae 6/1
6 Impossible Time (ON) 5/M L J C Jones 124 R L Attfield 5/1
7 Sharp Secretary (NY) 3/F L E Wilson 118 L Richards 12/1
8 Moonlit Beauty (ON) 4/F L T Pizarro 119 J P Le Blanc, Jr. 30/1
9 Authenicat (ON) 5/M L E R Da Silva 115 J Carroll 15/1
10 Waccamaw (KY) 4/F L G Olguin 117 R M Gorham 12/1
11 Sweet Lorena (NY)6/M L W Martinez 117 K R Smith 20/1
12 La Rocca (KY)4/F L S Callaghan 119 T Jordan 20/1
13 Ariana D (PA)4/F L O Moreno 117 L Silvera 30/1

* * *

There was a hint of controversy in the second race at Woodbine on Friday. Ron Gierkink advised via Twitter, just moments before the race, Woodbine: delay for the 2nd

David Garcia refused to ride Alfie Preston in the second, and Lanscott Fray has picked up the mount. Additionally, Itsallintheglass is now scratched after getting loose.

This Tweet immediately brought to mind the Life At Ten debacle in the Breeders' Cup Distaff, when the aforementioned mare was reportedly not herself pre-race - - and yet still left the gate, with tons of money backing her on the tote, to leisurely jog the event.

For a slightly lesser stake, and at considerably higher odds (30-1), Alfie Preston left the gate and showed early speed before backing up at the far turn and eased down the lane. In the words of track announcer Dan Loiselle, "Stopping abruptly there was Alfie Preston who plummeted to last in an instant."

I will attempt to dig up a bit more info on this when I'm on track at Woodbine tomorrow. Needless to say, I hope the horse is okay...

Alfie Preston - Eased at Woodbine

* * *

While yesterday's post covered the weekend road trip of Golden Moka to Aqueduct for the Discovery Handicap; Blue Laser to Delta Downs for the Delta Jackpot; as well as the on-track feature Kennedy Road Stakes, I neglected to mention a very good reason to come to Woodbine on Saturday. The Woodbine Media Department advises:

LongRun Day at Woodbine, slated this year for Saturday, November 20, will feature a free calendar giveaway, an autograph session with some of Woodbine’s top jockeys, a photo
opportunity with Time Alert, a 21-year-old son of the immortal Secretariat, as well as some great Christmas gift ideas for sale.

LongRun Thoroughbred Retirement Society, whose adoption and placement programs help find homes for thoroughbreds in Ontario, will once again offer a little bit of everything for racing fans, starting at noon.

The calendars, which will be available from noon until 3:00 p.m. on the second floor at the LongRun display, have been generously sponsored by the Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association of Ontario (HBPA) and feature many of LongRun’s thoroughbreds enjoying their retirement.

The LongRun Calendar features a photo of Eurico Rosa da Silva taken!

Time Alert will be available for photos until 2:00 p.m. by the Hall of Fame entrance (west side of the racetrack) starting at noon.

“Woodbine’s support has been an immeasurable help in assisting our mission to find homes for our valiant thoroughbreds who are no longer able to compete at the racetrack,” said Vicki Pappas, LongRun Chairperson. “The H.B.P.A.’s annual sponsorship of this calendar, which highlights the beauty and versatility of the thoroughbred, has proved to be one of our best marketing tools.”

“Woodbine Entertainment Group (WEG) invites racing fans to celebrate our equine athletes and support LongRun’s vision that our beautiful thoroughbred racehorses deserve a dignified retirement,” said Jane Holmes, WEG’s Vice President of Corporate Affairs.

For more information on LongRun, please visit the LongRun Thoroughbred Retirement Society website.

I hope to see you there. If you can't be there, but feel like being generous, there is a nifty PayPal Widget on the right margin of this blog where readers can make donations to the good horses of LongRun Thoroughbred Retirement Society. Winter is coming folks and every horse deserves a new blanket - - if you can, why not pitch in a dollar or two!

Saturday's Feature - the $150,000 Kennedy Road Stakes 3 & Up, 6 Furlongs
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Forgetthestorm (ON), C Sutherland, 115, J Carroll
2. Signature Red (KY), L Contreras, 119, S C Attard
3. Ravalo (KY), J Sanchez, 115, D H Barr
4. Fatal Bullet (FL), E R Da Silva, 126, R Baker
5. General Brock (KY), T Pizarro, 115, E R Charalambous
6. Field Commission (ON), E Ramsammy, 117, D J Vella
7. Paso Doble (KY), E Wilson, 115, D C MacRae

* * *
With so many retirements lately, it was disheartening to learn that Lookin At Lucky had been purchased by Coolmore and retired to stud. By default, I suppose Fly Down wins the 2010 Breeders' Cup Classic Survivor Pool.

Survivor Pool champion - Fly Down!

The Classic winner, Blame, is retired to stud at Claiborne Farm. Second place finisher, Zenyatta, is off to make some little Z's, and now the third place finisher Lookin At Lucky is off to stud duty. That leaves fourth place finisher, Fly Down, to lead the 2011 Handicap Division - provided he's not off to Saudi Arabia with his new ownership.

A recent DRF post looks lamented, Looking Ahead To The 2011 Handicap Division:

Blame, Quality Road, and Travers winner Afleet Express have all recently been retired to stud. Rail Trip and Crown of Thorns are scheduled to come back, but physical issues make them shaky propositions. So when it comes to the 2011 handicap division, it looks like it will rely even more on graduating 3-year-olds than it usually does.

There is good news in this regard, for there are several quality 3-year-olds who figure to help populate the older male division next year, led by Lookin At Lucky. Now, we don't yet know for sure that Lookin At Lucky will race next year at 4, but the latest comments from his camp make it seem like there's a good chance he will. And if he does, as divisional champ last year and likely divisional champ again this year (Incredibly, Lookin At Lucky would be the first 2-year-old male champ to repeat at 3 since Spectacular Bid 31 years ago), Lookin At Lucky would begin 2011 as the pro tem leader of the handicap division.

Well, without L@L, there is certainly going to be a lot of pressure on BC Juvenile winner Uncle Mo to keep the excitement on a high for the 2011 Breeders' Cup Classic. Are we sure, we can't bring Zenyatta back for just one more year?

* * *

Keep track of the latest horse racing news by clicking into TripleDeadHeat's Woodbine News page or join in on the conversation by following TripleDeadHeat on Twitter.

Still need more? Check out my archived posts including Feature Stories and Photo Essays.

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