When it comes to owning thoroughbreds, it's a fairly special moment when you get your hands on a good horse. Chrissy Windsor, who has worked as a groom for trainer Mike Keogh since 1993, has rubbed many a talented colt in her career - - including the multiple stakes winning Mobil - - but this year it's a horse she owns that just might be a special one. His name is Welloiledmachine and he broke his maiden second time out like a good thing. Although he wasn't the first horse Windsor looked at, she's always known she wanted a Mobil of her very own.
Chrissy Windsor and her Romeo aka Welloiledmachine
"We went to the sale a couple years in a row and one horse we really liked was Mobthewarrior but he went way past our price range. He’s done quite well," says Windsor. "My husband Dennis and I went to the sale a year later and walked around with Mike and when they brought him (Welloiledmachine) out, I knew I wanted him."
The dark bay Mobil gelding, out of Sleek and Powerful, was purchased at the 2009 Canadian-Bred Yearling Sale.
"He was broke up here and went to South Carolina with Mike for the winter to Aiken," recalls Windsor, who it turned out would spend 2010 looking after a baby of a different sort. "I found out I was pregnant with my son Tristan so I didn’t work here (with Keogh) last year. I took a year off and he ran twice."
Chrissy grooms six friendly faces in Keogh's barn
That first start was a five furlong sprint on August 15, 2010 and the gelding ran evenly to finish about three lengths behind second place finisher Tinker. Welloiledmachine would face Tinker once again on September 4th, this time going seven furlongs and the gelding demonstrated a marked improvement rating along the backstretch before making a move into the turn racing away to a three and a quarter length victory over his rival. Unfortunately, his season came to and end to have a chip removed from his ankle.
Over the off season, Welloiledmachine spent another winter with Keogh in Aiken and has returned to Woodbine a better horse.
"He’s matured so much," says Windsor. "He just seems more relaxed. That’s the way Mobil was too. Mobil was a tougher horse and I’m hoping he can be half as nice."
He could win by a neck...
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In 2003, Mobil and Wando were the talk of Woodbine. The stablemates were the top three-year-olds on the track. Although Mobil was expected to be the Plate winner, it was Wando who would would win the Guineas and go on to take the triple crown.
"It was great," recalls Keogh. "At the risk of sounding greedy, it’s just a shame they weren’t a year apart. I really believe I could have won the triple crown two years in a row."
The copper Wando is still looking fit!
Keogh is blessed with a loyal staff and the trainer is appreciative of their efforts - - to the point that the staff get to visit Gus Schickedanz's famous Schonberg Farm each season to select which new horses they'd like to groom when they arrive at Woodbine.
"Chrissy loves the horses number one," says Keogh. "She’s been doing it for a long time so she picks up on a lot of things. She’s very conscientious. Chrissy and Amanda Irwin, she rubbed Wando for us, they get their pick."
They've got legs and she knows how to groom them
Windsor lights up as she recalls the first time she laid eyes on Mobil.
"I first saw him up at the farm," says Windsor. "Every year we’d go up there and my friend Amanda and I would check out the babies and make our picks and tell Mike which ones we wanted. As soon as I saw him I knew. He was in the sale and they didn’t get what they wanted for him so he came back and I saw him and he was just gorgeous. Amanda picked Wando. What a great time we had with those two."
Mobil was a fine animal with a temperament that demanded respect. An orange pylon was placed outside his stall and passers by would make wide turns around the pylon if they knew what was good for them. The mean streak worked well for Mobil and the tough son of Langfuhr won the Simcoe and Cup & Saucer stakes in his two-year-old campaign at Woodbine.
The frisky Mobil enjoying a sunny day last summer
"He wasn’t as bad they make out," says Windsor. "He was a lot harder on the guys. He would go at you, but he never bit me once. We kept a big orange pylon in front of the stall because he used to grab people as they were walking by. He had quite the personality."
Mobil's three-year-old campaign started out well enough winning the Queenston and then captured the Plate Trial on Windsor's birthday. The Queen's Plate should have been his crowning glory, but it wasn't meant to be.
"He bled really badly. It’s always hot on Plate day and I felt horrible for him because he tried so hard and still finished second," says Windsor. "You don’t know if they’ll come back to be the same after that but he won stakes races until he was five years old."
Wando and Mobil complete the exactor in the 2003 Queen's Plate
Mobil would win the Vigil and Dominion Day Handicap at the age of four and he was a determined second to Lerosdesanimaux in the 2005 edition of the Woodbine Mile.
"I was so high on him that I thought he would win everything," states Windsor. "He tried so hard in every race. We shipped away with him too much tougher races like the Arlington Million, Met Mile and the West Virginia Derby. He was running against much tougher horses there."
Windsor still takes the occasional trip to visit her old friend who is flourishing in his new career as a stallion.
"Mobil loves cantaloupe," says Windsor. "I bring it up to the farm and cut it all up for him. I’ll call him and he comes running."
Where's my cantaloupe?
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Welloiledmachine came running a little too late in his three-year-old debut on April 17th finishing sixth in a race won by the well-regarded Reade Baker trainee, Bear's Chill. However, there's more to that effort than meets the eye.
"He galloped out real well in that race with Bear’s Chill," says Keogh. "I’ll run him two turns next and if he runs well then we might think about the Plate with him".
Welloiledmachine is blazing a trail to the Plate
The lightly raced fellow showed such a marked improvement in his second start as a two-year-old that it's only natural to expect a better showing next out.
"He likes to train just like his daddy," says Keogh encouragingly. "Mobil was a real tough customer to be around and he didn’t take any prisoners. He’s not like that, he’s a kind horse but he likes to train like Mobil did."
Trainers will often speak about how well a horse galloped out and Keogh is no different. For him, the race after the race is a key element of his training method.
"In the back of our mind we’re always thinking the Plate," starts Keogh. "In the spring if I’ve got a horse I think can go to the Plate I always tell the jocks to make them gallop out to try and get more seasoning into them. When I work horses I always gallop them out an extra quarter of a mile to try and get more foundation."
Watch Welloiledmachine and Jim McAleney(dark silks, red cap)gallop out strong
The thought of owning a potential Queen's Plate horse is too much for Windsor to fathom.
"It would be amazing," says Windsor. "It would have been amazing to win with Mobil but for your own horse to win it…"
Windsor is cautiously optimistic about her maturing horse.
"I like the fact that he’s not a nervous horse," says Windsor. "He doesn’t need to go out there and rush. He knows how to pace himself which I think is good. I’m just hoping he looks after himself and comes back healthy. I don’t want him to hurt himself."
Of course, Windsor has more horses than just Welloiledmachine to concern herself with in Keogh's barn. In addition to her own budding star, Windsor looks after five other animals.
"Because I wasn't here last year I’m starting fresh again," says Windsor of her young crew. "I’ve got a couple two-year-olds here and I hope they’ll be nice. One is Never Stop Looking who is a half to Mobil Unit."
Mike Keogh with Mobil Unit
The groom is also responsible for the care of Woody G, Silver Spring and Dixie Belle. However, it's the horse she calls Romeo that makes her daydream.
"We call him Romeo because it was either a trip to Italy or get him," laughs Windsor. "I’m hoping he’ll pay for a trip to Italy. My son and him have the same birthday, March 1st. We're hoping it's an omen."
What are you (Never Stop) Looking at?
For Windsor's sake, let's just hope that when it comes to reach the wire first that her Romeo is a fighter first and a lover second.
Welloiledmachine could be this year's Queen's Plate sleeper pick
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Truth be told, the story of Welloiledmachine was a pick up piece. I actually stopped by Mike Keogh's barn to check in on the speedy Say No More, a Langfuhr gelding who dominated a five and a half furlong allowance event on April 28th. It was his second win in four starts to go along with a gritty third place finish in the Cup & Saucer stakes as a two-year-old. The April 28th performance was strong enough that I ranked Say No More at #15 on my list of Queen's Plate Contenders but it turns out the speedy fellow is not on the Plate trail.
He's a goer...just not for the Plate!
"We decided on that last year," says Keogh. "We ran him in the Cornonation Futurity just to see and he proved to us that he doesn’t get two turns. He was there up on the lead and then when they straightened out down the lane he was done. We're not going to push him, you end up ruining a horse doing that. That’s not his game."
Nudge Nudge, Wink Wink, Grin Grin...SAY NO MORE!
Although Say No More won't be a goer for the Plate, there are plenty of other options for Keogh.
"He was very impressive the other day. I think he’ll get a mile one turn," says Keogh. "I work most of my horses on the training track dirt and he's done well there so I might take him out of town...I think he’d get a mile on the turf here because of the one turn as well."
There will be plenty to say about Say No More come turf season
Say No More's next start will come in Saturday's Queenston Stakes which is shaping up to be a very competitive race with Bear's Chill, Black N Beauty, Oh Canada and Sensational Slam all nominated. Keogh expects that Say No More will be able to rate in this event.
"I would imagine if Reade Baker's horse (Bear's Chill) is in there he’ll be on the lead anyway," says Keogh.
While Say No More will drop off my list of contenders when I update the list this Monday, he could very well be replaced by yet another Keogh horse in Oban. This well-bred fellow will have no qualms about going a mile and a quarter.
"He’s by Pleasant Tap, who is a son of Pleasant Colony," advises Keogh. "He’ll get the distance because of his sire. Oban is the type that drops himself out of it and comes with one run."
Oban chases home Enduring Star and Jojo's Mojo
Oban is still a maiden but he's getting plenty of foundation having already made two starts in the 2011 meet. On April 9th, Oban closed from well back to finish third in a six and a half furlong sprint. Two weeks later Oban returned in a two-turn event closing for third in a race won by winter-raced Enduring Star. Keogh is keen on Oban's chances as the distance increases.
Oban will improve as he stretches out
"The mare is Oliva who was by Danzig and she was a half sister to Wando and I only got to run her twice. She was second first time out and then she broke her maiden and we had to retire her. Her progeny have mainly been sprinters. I had a nice little filly out of her a couple years ago called Tapenade," starts Keogh. "So, I went to Lauri (farm manger Lauri Kenny) and Gus about breeding to Pleasant Tap because he’s a son of Pleaseant Colony which is a great source of stamina. He’s still a maiden but he only ran one time as a two year old. I was very encouraged by both his races so far this year. Especially the two turn race last week as the top two (Enduring Star and Jojo's Mojo) were nice horses."
With two races under his belt, Oban will take a quick break and return to the track in three weeks time to try and break his maiden. In the meantime, life is good for the big fella who was enjoying a pint of Guinness during our photo shoot.
My pint glass is never this full!
"Oban gets a pint every day," laughs Keogh. "We tried Welloiledmachine on it but he’s not keen on it. Oban likes it though. He likes a banana and the skin. In fact, I think he likes the skin better than the banana."
Punters filling out their second round of selections for the Queen's Plate Fantasy Challenge will want to make sure they include Oban in their top ten to avoid a banana skin of another sort.
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Click into this link for more on the 2011 Queen's Plate.
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