You learn something new every day at the racetrack. On Sunday I joined a friend for a stroll around the E.P Taylor turf course to inspect the teletimer equipment. As it turns out, the casings of the lazer beam stations that tick off the fractions of each race sometimes double as luxury condos for bees.
We all scrape by just fine at the track!
Walking the turf course is a learning experience in itself. As we lumbered around the clubhouse turn, it soon becomes apparent that we were in for an uphill battle. With much effort, we made our way to our destination on the backstretch - - easily marking off the slowest quarter in track history. Staring down the length of the backstretch run provided me with a fuller appreciation of any horse that could make the mile and a half jaunt of such races as the International on the lead.
The road is loooong...
The task of checking for, and evicting, any of our winged squatters is simple enough. A quick knock on the casing and running away does the trick. Once satisfied we're not about to be stung, we return and remove the casing and clean off the honeycomb. Not every casing is actually a home - - the bees tend to make their homes in the trees surrounding the course, but in order to keep our times correct, this process has become somewhat routine.
I've learned that the bird and the bees love these timers
But enough about the birds and the bees, there was plenty of buzz around Woodbine this weekend as the running of the Ontario Damsel marked the return of the gorgeous Roxy Gap. The multiple stakes winner was one of three Mark Casse trainees in the seven-horse field, the others being I'dratherbeatthespa and Bingo.
Although I'd like to say I bet the winning horse up, down and across, I was one of a few surprised folks in the press box who sang along in the stretch run as Woodbine's leading rider, Luis Contreras, stamped his authority on the race with B-I-N-G-O and Bingo was her name-o. Roxy Gap, who experienced a bit of a rough trip while running on her wrong lead, was up late for place, just in front of Isabella Bay.
Bingo was a free square in Saturday's Pick 4
On Sunday, ten top turfers contested the G2 Dance Smartly Stakes over nine furlongs on the E.P Taylor course. With the rails out on the turf course, Never Retreat got first jump over the favoured Bay to Bay and held on strong for the win.
It was a superb race visually as the front-running War Tigress was swallowed up by a cavalry charge of horses at the top of the stretch, as Never Retreat, under a confident ride from jockey Shaun Bridgmohan, assumed the lead and put away a game Mekong Melody with plenty in reserve for a one and a quarter length win. A rallying Bay to Bay was up for place, half a length in front of Mekong Melody. Miss Keller, Canada's champion turf female in 2010, put in a late rally to complete the superfecta.
Never Retreat, a daughter of Smart Strike traveled 1 1/8 miles over “firm” going in 1:46.48, after early fractions of :24.87, :48.37 and 1:11.34.
"She's a filly that's so relaxed sitting off of horses and when she made the lead she was looking around for competition," said Bridgmohan. "I switched sticks left-handed and she gave me what I needed."
Never Retreat stepped forward in the Dance Smartly
Wednesday evening's card featured a compact field of five horses for the Ontario Jockey Club Stakes. What the field lacked in size, it made up for in quality with Ian Black's graded stakes winner Stormy Lord taking on 2009's champion two-year-old Hollinger and Sam-Son Farms multiple stakes winner Hotep.
Top Prospect led the field through the early fractions of the seven furlong turf sprint until Jim McAleney asked Stormy Lord to make his move, taking command at the top of the stretch. With Hollinger and Officeinthevalley trying in vain to catch Stormy Lord, McAleney and the four-year-old son of Stormy Atlantic held strong to win by a length.
Stormy Lord answered his backer's prayers in the Ontario Jockey Club
Quote of the Week
"Nothing bothers her, she can do anything. In the final analysis, she never retreats," David Block, part of the Team Block ownership group, who was on hand at Woodbine to witness Never Retreat win the Dance Smartly.
Race Call of the Week
"Riding the rail at the quarter pole is Northern Passion. Northern Passion appears to have some run - - scoots through on the inside, tight quarters and this filly went through there like a good horse!" - - Dan Loiselle dishes out the praise for Mark Casse's latest Woodbine winner.
Who's a good horse? Northern Passion breaks her maiden at Woodbine
This and That
The draw for Sunday's $500,000 Prince of Wales, the second leg of the Canadian Triple Crown, was held on Wednesday. Although the Queen's Plate winning filly, Inglorious, is taking an understandable breather off of two long-distance efforts in a short span, there is still a talented field of seven contesting the event. The London Free Press reports, Oh Canada jockey looking to make Canadian history:
Krista Carignan, a Canadian woman who knows a thing or two about winning at the border oval. She was the leading jockey at Fort Erie Race Track last season.
Let's not forget the post position guest drawmaster. New York Rangers defenceman Daniel Girardi, a Welland, Ont., native, made the picks for Sunday's race.
Of course, you can't talk about the Canadian nature of this race without mentioning that it is the second jewel in Canada's Triple Crown of horse racing.
If Carignan and Oh Canada manage to win the the $500,000 stakes race, there will be a little extra icing on the patriotic cake. If she steers the gelding to the finish line first, Carignan will be the first woman to win the Prince of Wales.
"I'm really excited to ride in a Triple Crown race," said Carignan, adding that a home-track race makes it extra special. "It means a lot, knowing that all the people that matter to you are right close by.
"I'm thrilled to be riding Oh Canada. I was actually pulling for him to win the Queen's Plate."
Carignan said winning the No. 1 post position is an important factor in the race. Even so, the horse goes off at 12-1 odds.
"Every little edge helps. It's the shortest way around the track, so we've got to take advantage of that."
New York Ranger defenceman Dan Girardi drops the 'puck' as Mike Keogh and Krista Carignan square off
Here's the field for the race:
Post / Horse / Jockey / Trainer / Morning Line Odds
1 / Oh Canada / Krista Carignan / Robert Tiller / 12-1
2 / Pender Harbour / Luis Contreras / Mike De Paulo / 3-1
3 / Hippolytus / Tyler Pizarro / Mark Casse / 2-1
4 / Welloiledmachine / Jim McAleney / Mike Keogh / 15-1
5 / Oban / Emile Ramsammy / Mike Keogh / 12-1
6 / Bowman’s Causeway / Eurico Rosa Da Silva / Chad Brown / 4-1
7 / Check Your Soul / Patrick Husbands / Roger Attfield / 7-2
They say you shouldn't fall in love with a racehorse...and Eugene George went on the Record this past week regarding the lovely Milwaukee Appeal - -Kitchener horse owner reluctantly sells special lady:
How do you say goodbye to a lady you love?
It’s never easy.
“When you part with someone like that, it’s a very difficult decision,” Kitchener business person Eugene George said on Tuesday. “But it had to be made.”
George, 81, wasn’t talking about Patricia, his dear wife of 59 years.
He was talking about his recent decision to sell a horse — a very special horse.
Milwaukee Appeal was the best horse the George family ever owned. In 2009, she won the Woodbine Oaks and finished third at the Queen’s Plate.
Oaks winning mare Milwaukee Appeal
Sportswriter Mike MacAdam was at Woodbine last week and enjoyed a tour of the backstretch which he noted in his blog post, Flowers and berries:
With commuters and travelers buzzing all around us from the great, sweeping tangle of highways and runways northwest of downtown Toronto, it was a glorious morning for a workout. Sunny sky, a little breeze and the mysterious dark-brown Polytrack, upon my first-ever inspection, speckled with what looked like tiny colored ice cream sprinkles.
The first thing you notice, of course, is the sound, or lack thereof. I had read about no kickback and the muffling effect of synthetic racing surfaces that eliminates that thump of hooves that gets in your gut when you're at a track with conventional dirt. Still, all I could think when I watched the seven-furlong first race trackside on Thursday was "Who hit the mute button?"
MacAdam's also supplied interested readers with the lowdown on why Inglorious is taking some time off after her spectacular double in the Woodbine Oaks and Queen's Plate, in a piece entitled, Queen’s Plate winner pointing to Alabama:
Skipping the Prince of Wales for the Alabama also affords Carroll some time to allow Inglorious to comfortably recover from the Queen’s Plate.
“Part of it was timing,” Carroll said on Thursday. “She’s run five races already, and pretty close together. That last race, she made it look easy, but it’s never easy when you go a mile and a quarter against the colts. I said to the owners that I could see us get a little tired in between.”
Inglorious, a daughter of Hennessy out of the Smart Strike mare Noble Strike, will continue light work until the middle of next week, when she will breeze for the first time since the Queen’s Plate.
The ship to Saratoga is not arduous, and Carroll doesn’t have to worry about weather disruptions on Woodbine’s Polytrack, so they’ll stay in Toronto until a day or so before the Alabama.
Still Need More?
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.
(Double-left click on the image to enlarge it and use your "BACK" button to return to the Photoblog)
Inglorious was out for a light jog earlier this week
Gallop to the sun
Conditioner Carolyn Costigan warms up on the Polytrack
David Moran breezes by on the Poly
Roger Attfield and his pony, the ex-racehorse Daddy Cool
Inglorious shines in the morning sun
Outrider Robert Love silhouetted on his morning watch
Did you yell 'Bingo" in the stretch run?
the gorgeous Roxy Gap gives the eye
Hoi Ann hides her eyes behind the blinkers
Never Retreat isn't backing away from the camera
Bay to Bay was closing late in the Dance Smartly
Jenny's so Great looking pretty good!
Mekong Melody was humming along just fine on Sunday
Team Attfield tacks up Miss Keller
No Explaining necessary
Valli With a Vow promises to do better next time
War Tigress lets out a mighty roar
Forest Uproar surprisingly quiet in the walking ring
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I was carried to Ohio in a swarm of bees