It was a hectic weekend of results for Canadian-bred horses across North America. A trio of horses - Queen'splatekitten, Sensational Slam and Elite Alex - tried and failed to win their way into the Kentucky Derby.
Older horses such as Miss Blakely, Grand Adventure and No Explaining raised our spirits with solid performances south of the border, and a bevy of three-year-old boys and girls raised their profiles on the path to the Queen's Plate and Woodbine Oaks.
However, the most impressive performance of the weekend was put in by four-year-old Essence Hit Man who won the Jacques Cartier in track record time of 1:08.16 for six furlongs.
Essence Hit Man - It's easier to take his picture when he's standing still
I caught up with Audre Cappuccitti, conditioner of Essence Hit Man, earlier this month and wrote a piece, Backstretch Banter: A Hit Man Grows Up that detailed the Hit Man's improved appearance.
On Sunday, Essence Hit Man carried top weight of 124lbs against a field that included former Horse of the Year Fatal Bullet and stakes winner Signature Red. The Speightstown gelding burst from the gate and never looked back. The fractions were a scintillating 21.98 43.86 55.49...and considering the track record for five furlongs is 56.41, you really have to respect these splits!
Cappuccitti advised host Jeff Bratt in the post-race interview that she would still like to try Essence Hit Man on the turf and at a longer distance this season. It will be interesting to watch the future workouts of Essence Hit Man as he points to his next event.
Essence Hit Man zooms to victory in the Cartier
** In Sunday's ninth race at Woodbine, three-year-old filly Harmony Lane broke down along the backstretch sending jockey Emile Ramsammy to the polytrack. There was a delay as an ambulance arrived to take Ramsammy to the hospital. An unconfirmed report on Sunday night advised that Ramsammy is alert and moving his hands and feet. I'll update this post if/when something more official is reported. Let's hope and pray that the journeyman will be back on his feet and in good health soon.
*** Update 9:15PM on Sunday night via Woodbine's News and Notes page:
Emile Ramsammy injured in on-track spill :
TORONTO, April 17 - Veteran jockey Emile Ramsammy, who was injured in an on-track spill in Sunday's ninth race at Woodbine, has been released from a local area hospital.
"Emile is doing well and is looking forward to getting back in action as soon as possible," said Neal Wilson, Ramsammy's agent. "Fortunately, he didn't break anything."
Ramsammy entered the 2011 campaign with over 2,100 lifetime wins.
Get well soon Emile
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Rolling back to our failed Kentucky Derby hopefuls, let's start at Oaklawn Park where Elite Alex needed to finish first or second to boost his graded earnings into the realm of contention for one of the twenty spots in the 2011 Kentucky Derby. Unfortunately, the Afleet Alex colt out of Catch The Moment, was in the second flight throughout and failed to respond to Calvin Borel when needed finishing ninth at odds of 6-1. Archarcharch would surprise the punters winning the event at the expense of the favoured The Factor.
Archarcharch wins the Arkansas Derby
Queen'splatekitten and Sensational Slam were in a similar position to Elite Alex needing to win to get into the starting gate for the Kentucky Derby. Queen'splatekitten had a terrible trip stumbling out of the gate and then rushing up near the leaders before understandably packing it in during the stretch run to finish seventh. Sensational Slam was never a factor finishing last. The winner, Brilliant Speed, was brilliantly steered by Joel Rosario from farthest off the pace to catch Twinspired by a nose.
With all three Canadian contenders off the Kentucky Derby trail, expect to see these animals lined up for a shot at the $1M Queen's Plate.
Please click on this link to see the updated 2011 Kentucky Derby Graded Earnings List
Brilliant Speed wins the Blue Grass Stakes
Sovereign Award winner Grand Adventure put in a fast-closing effort in the Shakertown Stakes to finish second behind Stratford Hill. The winner is owned by frequent Woodbine winner Eugene Melnyk, while Grand Adventure is a prominent Sam-Son Farms runner. The Canadian influenced exactor paid $79, eh.
So close! Grand Adventure rallies to finish second in the Shakertown at Keeneland
Roger Attfield seems to be enjoying his time at Keeneland. On Sunday, Attfield sent out Woodbine regular No Explaining to win an allowance event over the turf. Stablemate Perfect Shirl finished fourth.
No Explaining (IRE) captures an allowance tilt at Keeneland for Roger Attfield
The finale at Keeneland on Sunday saw the return of Hollinger, a well-regarded Roger Attfield runner on the 2010 Queen's Plate trail, on the turf. Attfield also sent out Don Cavalo who led the field into the stretch where he was overtaken with much grace by Baryshnikov. Don Cavalo held on for second over stablemate Hollinger who ran evenly throughout. To watch the replay, click here.
Miss Blakely, a five year-old Ontario-bred Smart Strike mare, won the South West Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Friday. To see the video click here.
On the home front, the aptly named Oh Canada stood tall in the Woodstock Stakes holding off a rallying Black N Beauty.
Oh Canada wins the Woodstock
Although Oh Canada also won the gallop out of this event, I was impressed with the showing from Black N Beauty who started slow in his first trip over the Woodbine poly but was moving well late. I'll look for that one to improve second time over the surface.
Oh Canada wins the Woodstock
Although Kentucky-bred Eddington Limit won the under card MSW on Saturday at Woodbine, it was an impressive showing from Ontario-bred Blackstone Bay to get up for place.
Eddington Limit edges out promising Ontario-bred Blackstone Bay on Saturday at Woodbine
Here's a nice effort from Abbriana, a three-year-old Ontario-bred filly by Lemon Drop Kid out of Ain't She Awesome to earn the place at Keeneland on Saturday.
Adena Springs Ontario-bred Abbriana finishes second at Keeneland
Party Vow, a three-year-old Ontario-bred filly trained by Dale Romans, won a maiden event at Gulfstream Park on Saturday. The Broken Vow miss out of Boston Harbor was bred by Michael Byrne. To see the video, click here.
Check Your Soul, a three year old Ontario-bred colt trained by Roger Attfield, won Friday's fourth race on the turf at Keeneland under jockey Javier Castellano. The Perfect Soul fellow nosed out the victory for owner/breeder Charles Fipke in a time of 1:43.96. To see the video, click here.
Saturday's fourth race at Keeneland saw Red Ace, a three year-old son of Northern Afleet, take the field through much of the early racing in the mile and a sixteenth event holding on to finish second. He is trained by Steve Margolis for PeachTree Stable. Another Ontario-bred, Strike Oil, finished tenth.
Red Ace holds on for second
Sunday's sixth race at Keeneland saw Queen's Plate contenders Stunning Split and Imhotep finish in fourth and fifth position respectively. To watch the replay, click here.
On the undercard of Essence Hit Man's record time romp were a pair of three-year-old races with Queen's Plate implications. The sixth race saw Written Approval, a bay Belong to Me gelding owned by Kingfield Farms, drive to the wire first in a six and a half furlong sprint in a time of 1:17.28. Written Approval is trained by Catherine Day Phillips. To watch the race, click here.
The seventh race belonged to Bear's Chill, a three year old Artie Schiller colt, who made every call a winning one romping to a three and a quarter length victory in a time of 1:21.35. Second place finisher Alpha Bettor, a Kentucky-bred sent to post at odds of 35-1, was two and a half lengths in front of Ontario-bred Sardonicus who was all out in the stretch run. To watch the race, click here.
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I was at Woodbine on Saturday and endured the lashing rain long enough to snap a few photos from the walking ring and a quick snap at the finish line. It wasn't my bravest performance, but I managed to capture a couple worthy photos before rushing back to the warmth of the press box.
Bear Chocolated wasn't as sweet on this day
Black N Beauty lived up to his name
Divine Music will make some noise another day
Madman Diaries won't be writing about this performance
Top Pit Boss will put in some overtime in the coming weeks
The jury is still out on Top Prospect
Oh Canada...nothing funny here. He looked the business
Something Extra was pointing towards an improved effort
Oh Canada surges to the lead
The field is still chasing Oh Canada after the wire
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