The Woodbine backstretch is now open and horses are keeping warm by galloping around the training track and sand ring. If the Facebook reports are accurate, it's cold out there. I'm looking forward to a first backstretch visit of 2011, and hopefully in slightly warmer climate, later this week. The first day of the Woodbine Thoroughbred meet is scheduled forSaturday, April 2 and runs 167 dates to December 4.
It's February, so it's time to talk Queen's Plate contenders. No, really. It was an unusually busy weekend at Gulfstream as three top contenders started - Queen'sPlatekitten, Strike Oil and Hothersal - and two hit the wire in front.
Queen'sPlateKitten scampers to victory at Gulfstream
(Joe Ganley/EquiSport Photos)
Queen'sPlateKitten, recently purchased by Mill House from breeders Ken and Sarah Ramsey, closed on a soft pace to win by a little more than a length in a one mile turf tilt. The QPKitten showed an impressive turn of foot rallying wide down the lane and hit the wire in a time of 1:36.73 which was good for a 77 Beyer Figure. QPKitten lost his debut on the turf to Sam-Son Farms prospect, Thespian's Fate - - that one came back to a troubled trip at Fair Grounds. QPKitten bounced back from that first defeat with a runaway maiden breaker over the Woodbine polytrack and now adds this GP turf score to an increasingly impressive resume. A possible next start is the Palm Beach Stakes. To watch video of the Gulfstream win, click here.
Coronation Futurity winner Strike Oil didn't look so slick on Saturday as he made his first start of 2011 in tough company at Gulfstream Park. Competing in a nine furlong allowance event, Strike Oil never really got into the race and finished last of six starters. Well regarded Shackleford, a Dale Romans trainee, romped by just over two lengths in front of Casper's Touch who nosed out El Grayling for place. To watch video of the race, click here.
Hothersal, an Ontario-sired son of Smart Strike - Steel Shed (Theatrical), was an impressive winner on Sunday at Gulfstream absolutely blowing up a twelve-horse field with an explosive stretch run to win the mile and a sixteenth turf tilt in 1:43.34. Owned and bred by Eugene Melnyk, Hothersal earned a 79 Beyer for the effort. Trainer Seth Benzel guested on Steve Byk's excellent At The Races radio program on Monday and confirmed that Hothersal is full of potential.
"As soon as he came in to us he just showed a lot of ability," said Benzel. "This horse has a tremendous way about him, a temendous way of moving and a presence about him that you pick up on..."
Hothersal finished second in his first start in a turf event at Aqueduct last November when compromised by a wide trip. The winner of that race, Data Link, has since come back to win an allowance race on the turf at Gulfstream.
"That first race was just his raw ability," said Benzel. "He ran a winning race but got himself beat by the lack of seasoning and not really having that one race underneath him. That being said, from the move from that last race to this race, Eibar Coa who rode him in both starts said look, 'you’ve made tremndous progress with him in a short period of time. He rated for me well and when I asked him to accelearate he almost threw him out of the saddle he had that type of acceleration'.
When Byk pressed about future race targets, Benzel confirmed that the Queen's Plate is certainly in the picture.
"He’s an Ontario bred. The Melnyk operation is top notch. They tell you what they think they have before they send him to you and when they sent that colt they hinted he might be a possible Queen’s Plate horse,' confirmed Benzel. "I think the other day he took one step towards that. He has a ways to go but I think the colt is talented and we’re loking forward to bringing him along."
Listen to the full Steve Byk interview with Seth Benzel online by clicking here. To watch Hothersal winning at Gulfstream, click here.
Also on Sunday at Gulfstream, top filly Embur's Song made a lacklustre debut finishing last in a seven furlong AOC. Sent to post as the even money favourite, the speedy Ontario-bred trained by Todd Pletcher, showed early promise before fading in her first start since last July at Woodbine. To watch the 2011 debut of Embur's Song, click here.
Embur's Song burns up the Woodbine poly
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Popular Ontario-bred mare From Gray To Gold notched a win at Laurel Park on February 5th in a $25K Claiming Event under apprentice jock Forest Boyce. Now trained by Guadalupe Preciado for B C Stable, From Gray To Gold stalked willingly before splashing wide through the sloppy stretch to win the five and a half furlong race in a time of 1:06.18. The grey mare was bred by John Carey and raced last season at Woodbine for Lorne Richards before being claimed by Scott Fairlie. From Gray to Gold travelled to Parx with Fairlie at the end of the Woodbine meet and was claimed by Preciado for $25K on December 3rd. This ultra-consistent six-year-old mare has a record of 35-12-7-4 and earnings of $325K. To watch From Gray To Gold win in the slop at Laurel, click here.
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Emma-Jayne Wilson and Chantal Sutherland are confirmed as part of the the second Lady Legends event to be held at Pimlico. A recent Facebook press release from the organizers notes:
Lady Legends will make a repeat performance on Friday, May 20th 2011 at Pimlico Race Course. Please come and join them and help us raise money for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Research. You will see the great ladies of the past; Barbara Jo Rubin,P.J. Cooksey,Gwen Jocson,Andrea Seefeldt Knight,Mary Russ Tortora,Mary Wiley Wagner,Jennifer Rowland Small and Cheryl White. We also will have the present female jockeys compete
in a female jockey championship. Those riders consist of: Chantal Sutherland, Anna Napravnik,Rosemary Homeister, Emma-Jayne Wilson, Vicky Baze, and Forest Boyce. Call 410-542-9400 for ticket information.
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It recently came to my attention that Southdale is back in action preparing for a 2011 campaign. The five-year-old son of Street Cry breezed two furlongs over the Payson Park dirt in 26.40 this morning. Southdale was an impressive winner of the G3 Durham Cup last October at Woodbine.
Southdale wins at Woodbine
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For the sole purpose of sharing a brilliant photograph, I'll make note of Twirling Candy's victory in the Strub at Santa Anita this past weekend.
Second behind a fast pace set by Indian Firewater, Twirling Candy took the lead rounding the final turn and bounded home by 4 1/2 lengths while completing the 1 1/8-mile distance in a superb time of 1:46.53, three ticks off the track mark of 1:45 4/5 established by Star Spangled in 1979. Seven 4-year-olds contested the Strub.
The Candy Ride colt bettered Spectacular Bid's seven-furlong track mark at Santa Anita when timed in a sizzling 1:19.70 in the Malibu Stakes on opening day, December 26th.
He's only getting better, and faster, and as you can see in the photo below by Alex Evers - - jockey Joel Rosario could not be happier.
Joel Rosario still beaming after capturing the Strub with Twirling Candy
(Alex Evers/EquiSport Photos)
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Finally, in a recent post I asked for Canadian racing outfits to let me know if they're getting into the action on Twitter. I'm happy to report that Cara Bloodstock have joined the Twitterverse and you can follow their tweets here @CaraBred. A recent tweet noted that Cara Bloodstock is featured in the February 5th edition of the Blood-Horse. To read the piece, click here. You can visit Cara Bloodstock on their website CaraBloodstock.Com.
If you've recently joined Twitter, please follow me @TripleDeadHeat.
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