Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Remembering Bessarabian

Hours after Ariana D scored in the Bessarabian Stakes at Woodbine, it struck me how fitting it was that a Pennsylvania-bred hit the wire first.

Bessarabian was foaled in 1982 in Pennsylvania, but came from classic Canadian roots. A daughter of Vice Regent (himelf a son of Northern Dancer and Canada'a leading sire for thirteen seasons) out of the winning Ontario-bred Tete De Linotte. Bessarabian was American on paper but belonged to Woodbine.

As a two-year-old, Bessarabian won the GII Gardenia and also notched victories at Woodbine in the GIII Natalma, Ontario Debutante and Mazarine Stakes. However, her season ended on a sour note when sent off as the favourite in the first running of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at Hollywood Park. As Bessarabian negotiated running room through the stretch, long shot Fran's Valentine veered wide bumping another horse off stride and into Bessarabian who never recovered. The disruptive Fran's Valentine won the race but was disqualified and Outstandingly was bumped into the win position.

Fran's Valentine bothers Bessarabian in the 1984 Juvenile Fillies

Bessarabian returned to the track as a three-year-old to great success winning on the road in the Princeton Handicap and Hibiscus Stakes as well as the Lady Angela, Ontario Collen and Selene Stakes at Woodbine. The talented Eaton Hall Farm filly engineered a second-place in the Coaching Club American Oaks - a race won by Mom's Command who captured New York’s Triple Tiara also scoring in the Acorn and Mother Goose Stakes.

Lady's Secret defeats Mom's Command in the 1985 Test

In 1986, a four year-old Bessarabian hit her full stride winning the Tattling Handicap along with Woodbine's Ontario Matron, Seaway, Breeders' Cup Handicap (now the Dance Smartly) and Canadian Stakes. The Mike Doyle trainee earned honours as Champion Older Mare in Canada for her efforts.

Bessarabian retired a millionaire having won eighteen of her thirty-seven starts. As a broodmare, Bessarabian produced only four foals, the most notable being the stakes-winning Dagda, born in 1992 sired by Alysheba.

When Bessarabian was at her peak, I was just a 12 year-old kid hanging on the rail. I was enamoured with two ladies at the time - Bessarabian and Lake Country - one from Pennsylvania, the other from Ontario but to a kid they were just Woodbine horses.

This past Sunday at Woodbine, Pennsylvania-bred Ariana D rallied down the middle of the track to win an exhilarating rendition of the Bessarabian Stakes. A daughter of Rock Slide out of Derby Tie (Black Tie Affair), there's nothing distinctly Canadian about the filly, yet, but a recent DRF report notes that she'll be back again, according to owner Bill Thompson, Jr.

Ariana D, whose seven victories from 17 starts all have come on synthetic surfaces, will be heading back to Thompson’s Maple Lane Farm in North Carolina.

“She’ll enjoy a couple of months off, and we’ll plan a campaign for her for next year,” said Thompson. “I expect she’ll be back at Woodbine at some point.”

I hope Ariana D will return to Woodbine as a five year-old and give me reason to be nostalgic for another Pennsylvania bred. Her first visit certainly left me wanting more.

Ariana D wins the Bessarabian at Woodbine

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Ian Black's Fifty Proof arrived safely overseas ahead of Sunday's Japan Cup. Click into this story for a photo of Fifty Proof and report courtesy of Japan Racing:

Fifty Proof, the sixth of eight overseas-based horses set to take on the Japan Cup on Nov. 28 at Tokyo Racecourse, arrived Thursday morning at Narita International Airport. The 4-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 in Shiroi, Chiba Prefecture, where he arrived at 11:18 a.m.

Assistant trainer Tyler Gaskin 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.”

Fifty Proof is trained by Ian Black, an Englishman long based in Canada. Black is not new to Japan having fielded Rahy's Attorney in the 2008 Mile Championship. Rahy's Attorney finished 4 lengths off the winner in ninth place.

If you click into that link above, there are daily reports on all the competitors, with new photos updated constantly.

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My Google news reader scours the web finding all sorts of odds and ends about Canadian horse racing. This morning, Google pointed me in the direction of the following video made by ColossoVision.Ca which demonstrates a high-definition jockey cam used in a race at Hastings Park.

It's cool to watch the jockey bouncing up and down in the saddle while racing side-by-side with a fellow competitor. The frequent shoulder checks and proximity to the horse on his inside gives one a real sense of the in-race excitement. I'd like to see this used as part of in-race coverage. Check it out below! (No, this is not a paid advertisement!)

Jockey Camera at Hastings Park

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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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