Friday, December 3, 2010

Making The Team and Closing Weekend at Woodbine

Nobody likes excuses. But, I swear, I've been really (really) busy. Although the posts have been less frequent the past two weeks, I'm happy to report that it is mostly because of other writing tasks outside of this wee blog.

Woodbine's new leading rider - Eurico Rosa da Silva

First - - I'm happy to announce that I have signed on as News Editor for Canadian Thoroughbred. The latest issue is now on the shelves and you can find my contribution in the Turf Talk section. It's an honour to contribute to such a longstanding publication and I hope to be more involved going forward. A big thank you to Jennifer Morrison for opening a door and keeping me on point during the stretch run of my first issue. I can't think of a better way to end what has been a great thoroughbred season.

I'm also very appreciative of the good folks at TROT Magazine who each month deliver a sleek magazine covering Canadian standardbred racing. This month, I contributed two pieces and I'm very happy with my story on driver Kurt Hughes entitled, The Road Back.

Two years after a devastating accident, former driver Kurt Hughes is struggling to find normalcy in a life that changed overnight. Now a C6 quadriplegic, there’s no question — he will never be the same. But together with his wife Colleen, and the support of a generous racing community, Kurt is working through the arduous process of rehabilitation with notable success. Though he may have to change his strategy, it’s clear he has every intention to continue the pursuit of his dreams.

When I travelled to Hamilton to meet up with Hughes and his wife Colleen, the last thing I expected to write was a love story - - but that's really what this piece is about. An inspiring young couple working together to beat the odds. To read the piece, please click into The Road Back.

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It seems like only yesterday I was snapping photos on the backstretch of horses prepping for the new season. (Check out my post Woodbine Winter Wonderland.)

A snow covered Woodbine earlier this year...

Now we've arrived at the last weekend of the meet and there's plenty to celebrate. Jockey Eurico Rosa da Silva will win his first rider's title, but is now on his way to New York for the winter. The Daily Racing Form reports:

Da Silva again has something completely different in mind following the end of his 2010 season here at Woodbine Racetrack, his destination will be the wilds of Ozone Park, N.Y., and a campaign at Aqueduct.

“I had a dream before, to come here, and now is the right time for me to come,” said Da Silva, who was in New York the other day to scout out the racetrack and look for winter lodgings.

“I was waiting for me to have a good meeting before I came.”

It’s not as if Da Silva hasn’t had good meetings at Woodbine before as he had been moving steadily up the ladder while increasing his win totals from 47 to 123 since coming to Woodbine in 2004.

But this year definitely marked a new peak as Da Silva soared to the top of the standings with the acknowledged help of his agent, Don Parente.

Da Silva had won 186 races heading into the final five days of the meeting, and although he will miss the final day while serving a suspension for whip infraction, he will end the three-year reign of Patrick Husbands.

“Always, I dreamed to be leading rider here,” said Da Silva, 35, who began his career in Brazil and has competed in Macao and Singapore but will be making his first long-term appearance south of the border.

Good luck to The Big A!

Trainer Mark Casse will once again lead the local conditioners and is closing in on the record for most wins by a trainer at Woodbine. The record is 89 held by Frank Passero Jr. who recently passed away. Casse has 84 wins going into the final weekend and sends out Pool Play as the favourite in Sunday's Valedictory Stakes.

Mark Casse with Barracks Road - one of his many winners in 2010

Jennifer Morrison reported in Thoroughblog that wagering on Woodbine racing increased by almost 9% in 2010. I'll take a closer look at the year in review in the coming weeks.

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Sand Cove staked his claim for Champion Older Male by winning the Sir Barton Stakes on Wednesday night.

Sand Cove on opening day at Woodbine

The DRF reports:

Sand Cove, a 5-year-old horse owned by Ralph Johnson and trained by Roger Attfield, won his fourth stakes of the season and has finished in the money a total of seven times while banking $392,983.

“He’s an iron horse, isn’t he?,” said Attfield, who watched the race from his winter home near Payson Park in Florida.

“I was just delighted. It just goes to show how we all get better as we get older.”

Sand Cove will soon be joining Attfield in the Sunshine State.

“I’ll turn him out until the new year, then start training him towards next season,” Attfield said.

Sand Cove wins the Sir Barton

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Earlier this week I noted the story of a show horse being ordered out of the country. (See the Toronto Sun report, Show horses face destruction) for details. It appears the story might have a happy ending as the Toronto Star advises: Possible reprieve for show horse

A court hearing to be held in Toronto and Ottawa by conference call Friday may provide a reprieve for a show horse ordered out of the country by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

The owner, Adriana Zerafa, is seeking an extension of an injunction to prevent the removal of two horses she imported to Canada from France, including an 18-year-old dressage stallion she planned to ride in equestrian competition.

‘We are working on an adjournment of that hearing to next week some time,” said her lawyer, Catherine E. Willson, on Thursday. Zerafa has also filed a notice of application to the court for review of the CFIA’s removal order for the horses.

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There has been no shortage of stories of troubled horses circulating the news wires this past week. Spiegel Online reported on The Sad Plight of Ireland's Abandoned Horses:

During Ireland's boom years, thousands of people bought horses as a status symbol. But with the economy in crisis, many owners can't afford to keep them. Some 20,000 abandoned horses are roaming Ireland and could face starvation this winter.

Before the crisis, Conor Dowling's callouts were usually for stray cats and dogs. That was in the good old days, almost three years ago, when Ireland was the booming Celtic Tiger and richer than ever before in its history. When his phone rings now, Dowling, an inspector for the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, gets ready to attach the horse trailer to his car. "70 percent of calls are about horses," he says. A stallion roaming across a street or galloping alongside a motorway. Or an abandoned racehorse found grazing on someone's lawn.

"We have a huge problem," says Dowling. His stables are full of horses that no one wants and it is becoming increasingly difficult to find new owners for them. "Hardly anyone dares say it aloud but we are going to have to put down a lot of these animals."

Ireland, which escaped decades of chronic poverty to enjoy an unprecedented boom, has had to apply for an EU bailout to stave off financial collapse. The plight of Ireland's horses illustrates the changing fortunes of this nation on the brink.

This morning, I was made aware of a similar story in Florida with ties to Canadian-bred, Rutgers Handicap winner, Gary Gumbo. Ocala.Com reports, Horses once highly valued now starving amid economic downturn:

This summer, Florida Horse Protection Association rescued Gary Gumbo, a Canadian-bred stallion stakes winner with $224,000 in winnings in 24 starts.

His Marion County owner relinquished the skinny 21-year-old horse to the Horse Protection Agency this summer.

He is living at Lambholm South in Ocala until someone adopts him.

Ocala horseman Kim Heath said she doesn't believe the area horse industry has ever been in such dire straights.

"A lot of people are giving away horses that used to be worth something," she said. "It was never this bad."

"It wasn't as bad … even in the Great Depression. This is the Depression for horses," she said.

Heath often helps Silver find homes for rescued horses.

But the cost of keeping the rescued horses, especially the 23 that were taken in, is expensive.

The mares and their foals must stay at a quarantine farm until they are given their shots and proven not to be diseased. The cost to house the group there is $115 per day. Silver already has another 84 horses at her Micanopy facility.

The Horse Protection has enough money for two more months of feed and then will be out of money, Silver said. The starved horses need better quality hay to put on weight.

It is stories like this that remind me of the good work being done by the folks at LongRun Thoroughbred Retirement Society. If you have a little extra to spare this holiday season, why not be generous and show a little love to our ex-racehorses. There's a PayPal widget on the right margin of the blog for those readers that are electronically inclined.

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Blood-Horse.Com's Maiden Watch series profiles today's ninth race at Woodbine - - a stellar field of two year-olds routing on the poly track.

Is today the day for Queen'splatekitten?

For the full report, click into A Five Star Day:

Queen'splatekitten (Kitten's Joy - Iteration by Wild Again) finished 2nd at a mile on yielding turf at Woodbine on October 30, in front of Serious Indeed. It was his only start. He is the second foal out of the placed mare Iteration. Iteration's first foal, the winner Pat's Kitten, is a full sister to Queen'splatekitten. Iteration is a half sister to four winners.

Why Dat (Whywhywhy - Rich Mist by Rizzi) has run 5 times, all at Woodbine. His best finish came in his most recent start, a mile and 70 yards Maiden Claiming race where he was 2nd. Why Dat is out of the winning mare Rich Mist. Rich Mist was a winner at 2, and earned $418,419 in her career. Rich Mist has produced 2 winners, one of which won at 2. Rich Mist is a full sister to 1 winner and a half sister to 3 winners.

Celestial Fire (Distorted Humor - Nashinda by Silver Deputy) has run 4 times at Woodbine. His best finish was third at 7 furlongs on the turf on August 29. Most recently, he was 5th at 6 furlongs on the Polytrack on November 21. Grade III winner Nashinda, dam of Celestial Fire, was 2 for 2 at 2, and earned $438,843 in her career. Nashinda is a full sister to 2 winners, including 1998 Queen's Plate winner Archers Bay. She is also a half sister to 3 winners, including stakes winner Foregone.

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The roof, the roof, the roof is NOT on fact, it's actually really cool.

'Cool roof' at racetrack helps environment, addresses youth unemployment

A new 14,000 square-foot 'cool roof' at Woodbine Racetrack reflects not only the sun's rays, but also the entertainment group's commitment as Partners in Project Green to 'green' their bottom line.
Partners in Project Green, an initiative led by the Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA) and the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA), is a growing community of businesses around Pearson International Airport working together to create an internationally recognized eco-business zone. The Cool Rexdale Eco-Roof Program is their first local endeavor towards those ends.

Launched Monday afternoon, Nov. 29, at Woodbine - the first business to participate in the Partners in Project Green's Cool Rexdale pilot project - the program was touted to help to improve the economic, social and environmental vitality of Rexdale, one of Toronto's priority neighbourhoods, said project lead Dennis Braun of the TRCA.

"To make a 'cool roof' a really smart decision, it has all the benefits of your triple bottom line: it saves energy inside your facility over the long-term; it helps to reduce the impact that your building's operations have on the environment; and finally, as we help to develop cool roofs as the go-to option for replacing roofs in the area, what we're doing is generating new opportunities for youth in the local area to start on a good career," he said.

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I'll end this post with a link to a very well-written piece by Terry Conway for ESPN entitled, The Galloping Ghost:

He was the first American equine idol. In the age when flickering black and white ten-inch television pictures were all the rage, Native Dancer stood alongside Milton Berle, Ed Sullivan and Arthur Godfrey as a television luminary in the mid 1950s.

Blessed with power, speed and playful charisma, Native Dancer regularly mugged for cameras and waggled his ears to the delight of his admirers. But more importantly, his image was easily recognizable in those grainy television images when viewers often had trouble zeroing in on the field of browns and chestnuts that all looked alike.

There was no mistaking "The Dancer." The color of gunpowder with a hint of white, his dappled gray coat made it easy for his growing legion of race fans to follow his progress over the course of a race. Pinning his ears back, streaking past rivals and thundering down the home stretch to snatch race after race, Native Dancer galloped into the hearts of millions of Americans.

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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.


Valerie Grash said...

Congratulations, Keith, on the new gig!!

Andrew said...


Great news! Congratulations! I will be eagely awaiting your first issue as you are definitely the right man for the job. Good luck,


Keith-TripleDeadHeat said...

Thanks Valerie and Andrew...I'm excited for the opportunity!

EquiSpace said...

Congrats on the News Editor job! Hope to see ya soon.