Thursday, April 28, 2011

Lucky Number Seven: Woodbine Entrants Dominate Friday's Elkhorn at Keeneland

If I didn't know better, I'd swear Friday's ninth and feature race at Keeneland, the Elkhorn Stakes, was actually a Woodbine event. Seven of the eleven starters are Woodbine-based horses and, of that seven, four are Ontario-breds. This battle-tested group, ranging in age from four to nine years old, will tough it out over twelve furlongs on the turf. Rahy's Attorney, the 2-1 morning line favourite, will be ridden by top Woodbine jock Emma-Jayne Wilson for trainer Ian Black.

Rahy's Attorney and exercise rider Tyler Gaskin

Rahy's Attorney, champion of the 2008 Woodbine Mile, has been re-invented as something of a marathon runner at the age of seven having captured the mile and a half Grade 3 Pan American on March 26 in his latest start at Gulfstream with Wilson aboard. Trainer Ian Black had previously entered the Crown Attorney gelding in a nine furlong and then an eleven furlong race leading into the Pan American to great effect.

Well-traveled Simmard is capable of surging to victory on Friday

Rahy's Attorney was second to Twilight Meteor going nine furlongs December 4th in the G3 Tropical Turf at Calder. The stretchout continued on February 19th at Gulfstream when Rahy's Attorney contested the mile and three eigthts G2 Mac Diarmida with a resurgent performance battling along the rail to finish second against Prince Will I Am in a field that included many of his Elkhorn rivals such as Simmard, Mint Chip and Musketier. Rahy's Attorney exacted revenge on Prince Will I Am by winning the above noted Pan American in his very next start hitting the wire three quarters of a length ahead of Musketier who had half a length on Prince Will I Am.

Pool Play dives into a deep group on Friday

Now settled into a new routine, Rahy's Attorney will take on a crew of familiar Woodbine faces including the Roger Attfield trained duo of Simmard and Musketier, the Mark Frostad pair of Windward Islands and Giant's Tomb, as well as Brian Lynch's Miami Deco and Mark Casse's Pool Play.

Miami Deco is a curious horse. The Limehouse colt broke his maiden in his sixth lifetime start by taking the third leg of the Canadian triple crown, the Breeders Stakes, at odds of 65-1. You can read about that effort in my stakes recap which included the following exchange with Lynch:

The affable Australian, who once worked as an assistant to the late, great Bobby Frankel, was honest in the face of the obvious question - how does he keep these mystery horses a secret.

“I'm not one that likes to promote a supplement that's going to be 60-1,” grinned Lynch. “Frankel always used to say to me, ‘don't tell me, show me’.”

Miami Deco was well beaten in his 2011 debut at Gulfstream Park but a show wager might be in order for those worried about what Lynch's charge might have on offer on Friday.

Miami Deco has won at long odds before!

Windward Islands got the better of Rahy's Attorney in the nine furlong Nijinsky Stakes at Woodbine last year with a powerful late kick under jockey Chantal Sutherland over a yielding course. You can read about that win in my stakes recap posted here. If the turf is wet at Keeneland on Friday, then punters might take note of the following excerpt from my Nijinsky recap:

Windward Islands found the wire in a time of 1:53.58 to surprise the small field after a year-long layoff.

"He's had some nagging problems all his life," said Frostad. "He's a little fragile, and we don't get too many races out of him, but he's a real high-quality horse."

The six-year-old clearly enjoyed the soft going. Let's hope the veteran gelding makes his next start sooner than later.

Windward Islands all alone on the Woodbine turf

Frostad's other entrant, Giant's Tomb, is embarking on a turf campaign following a three-year-old season that saw the Awesome Again fellow on the Queen's Plate trail where he would finish fourth. In two starts at Fair Grounds as a four year-old, Giant's Tomb has won an allowance turf event but was soundly beaten in the G2 Mervin Muniz Memorial.

Giant's Tomb is the prototypical dead closer

Of all the Canadian combatants for Rahy's Attorney, it is the uncoupled pair of Simmard and Musketier that will likely take the brunt of the public money. Attfield is enjoying an impressive Keeneland campaign with four wins, three seconds and three thirds from fifteen starts for an ITM of 67%.

Simmard prepared for this event with an easy allowance win going a mile and a half win on the Gulfstream turf. However, I suspect the favourite will be Musketier, who just like the Casse entrant Pool Play, follows Rahy's Attorney out of the Mac Diarmida and most recently the Pan American.

With all due respect to the American quartet of Rezif, Bearpath, Mint Chip, and Telling, it would seem a Canadian superfecta is in the cards. So, for one race only those 'cappers that like to batch out their selections should consider Rahy's Attorney and Musketier a strong 'Eh+'.

PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L
1 Rezif (KY) 6/G L C Roman 118 M Jacobson 20/1
2 Bearpath (KY) 5/G L F Lenclud 118 I R Wilkes 10/1
3 Simmard (KY) 6/H LA J Castellano 118 R L Attfield 8/1
4 Pool Play (ON) 6/H LA J R Leparoux 118 M E Casse 8/1
5 Mint Chip (KY) 4/G LA A Garcia 118 G R Arnold, II 30/1
6 Windward Islands (KY) 7/G LA R Napravnik 118 M R Frostad 8/1
7 Giant's Tomb (ON) 4/G LA J Graham 118 M R Frostad 30/1
8 Rahy's Attorney (ON) 7/G L E Wilson 120 I Black 2/1
9 Miami Deco (ON) 4/C L K J Desormeaux 118 B A Lynch 20/1
10 Telling (KY) 7/H LA S Bridgmohan 122 S Hobby 8/1
11 Musketier (GER) 9/H LA J R Velazquez 118 R L Attfield 5/2

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I spent a moody morning on the Woodbine backstretch on Thursday arriving at the track around 6:30AM to sunshine and warm air. In the distance, dark clouds threatened and as I made my rounds to the barns of various trainers for quotes for upcoming Queen's Plate reports the wind began to howl. It felt like end of days with the sky threatening to open up and unleash its worst.

An ominous cloud looms over the Woodbine backstretch

However, the sun was the silver lining of the day winning out in the end. I'll have more photos from my trip in a future post as the sky was playing some crazy tricks which made for fun photography.

The most interesting bit of news to share from that trip is that Irish jockey Davy Moran, who steered Roan Inish to victory in the Oaks, has arrived full time at Woodbine. with an unrestricted VISA, and teamed up with agent John Bell.

Newscastle United supporter John Bell was surely thrilled to see me in a Liverpool jacket

Moran is an accomplished rider who learned his trade under the guidance of the legendary trainer Jim Bolger, who has worked with well regarded jockeys such as Tony McCoy, Paul Carberry and Mick Kinane.

Davy Moran on the poly at Dundalk in Ireland...

You can read up about Moran's accomplishments in this excellent bio from the Irish Go Racing website:

2009 saw Moran consolidate his position in Jim Bolger’s stable, despite there being a number of talented apprentices based in the yard, and he continued to be successful in big races. Without doubt his most notable win of the season thus far came on the Bolger-trained Oh Goodness Me in the Group 3 Park Express Stakes at the Curragh on the opening day of the turf season and that filly gave him an excellent spin at the highest level when finishing third in the Irish 1,000 Guineas two months later. However, perhaps the most notable milestone for Moran this season came at Navan in June when, by riding Ard Na Greine to success in the valuable conditions race, he rode out his 3 lb claim and thus became a fully-fledged jockey. For many jockeys, losing their claim is the start of a downward spiral in opportunities, but Moran hit the ground running, as just two days after that win at Navan he gained his first winner as a fully-fledged jockey when riding the Michael Philips-trained Calle Aneto to success at Roscommon. He wrapped up what was a highly-satisfying campaign by riding Roan Inish, a former Jim Bolger inmate that was now trained by Tipperary native Carolyn Costigan in Canada, to the valuable Princess Elizabeth Stakes at Woodbine in Canada in October.

As the number two rider for Bolger, the Irish jock has built a solid reputation and I suspect he will become a go-to rider at Woodbine having proven himself with strong rides aboard Roan Inish to win the Princess Elizabeth and the Woodbine Oaks. The Woodbine jockey colony is getting stronger every year and Moran certainly adds quality to the competition.

...and here's Moran on the poly at Woodbine with Woodbine Oaks champ Roan Inish

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As always, keep track of the latest goings on in the world of horse racing by clicking into TripleDeadHeat's Woodbine News page or join in on the conversation by following TripleDeadHeat on Twitter.

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