When the retirement of Canada's 2010 Horse of the Year, Biofuel, was announced this week, it got me to thinking about who might be in line for the award this year - - and the varied paths horses have taken recently to earn the honour.
Biofuel - - Thank you for the memories!
In 2010, a three-year-old Biofuel won Horse of the Year with a perfect three-for-three record at Woodbine, all in stakes, combined with a pair of excellent efforts on the road in G1 races. In June of 2010, Biofuel was 3rd in the Mother Goose and a month later was second in the Coaching Club American Oaks as the well-regarded Devil May Care took both races.
Certainly, the best match for this HOTY route is Inglorious. The Woodbine Oaks / Queen's Plate winning filly, with the benefit of a May 15th score in the La Lorgnette, enjoys a perfect three-for-three record at Woodbine. She was also competitive in a pair of graded stakes at Fair Grounds to start her campaign, finishing 2nd in the G3 Rachel Alexandra and 4th in the G2 Fair Grounds Oaks. Given a break following her classic Canadian double, she'll make her next start on August 20th in the G1 Alabama Stakes at Saratoga. She's currently sitting third on the 2011 earnings list behind only Animal Kingdom and Shackleford, having banked an incredible $1,087,616.
For one season, he was our Champ(s)
In 2009, Champs Elysees was named Horse of the Year despite winning only one race - - the Canadian International at Woodbine. The turf-favouring son of Danehill started his campaign at Santa Anita and worked his way east to race his last four starts on the famous E.P Taylor turf course. The Juddmonte bay was 3rd in the Nijinsky, 2nd in the Sky Classic, 4th in the Northern Dancer and a winner in the International to complete his career on a high note.
With much great turf racing ahead of us at Woodbine, it's far too early to speculate on who might turn out to be our top turfer. Windward Islands was impressive in winning the Nijinsky and could have won the Singspiel with a cleaner trip. We can't forget that fan-favourite Rahy's Attorney won the G3 Pan American and was second in the G2 Mac Diarmida earlier this year. The Ian Black trainee shares a barn with Stormy Lord, who won the G2 Connaught and the Ontario Jockey Club, and Fifty Proof who won the G3 Eclipse and placed in the King Edward and Nijinsky. A win by any of the above in either the Woodbine Mile or Canadian International would sway many voters.
Horse of the Year in 2008 - - Thank ya, Thank ya very much
In 2008, Fatal Bullet was named Horse of the Year in an eight-race campaign that started with the sprinter being made available for $62,500 when romping to a three and a quarter length victory in April at Woodbine, and ended on a second-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Sprint behind Midnight Lute. In between, Fatal Bullet captured the Bold Venture at Woodbine, the Tom Ridge at Presque Isle and the Kentucky Cup at Turfway. His only poor effort was an eighth-place finish in the G2 Woody Stephens trying seven furlongs at Belmont.
Hollywood Hit, with a win last week in the Bold Venture, has a firm hold on the championship belt for best Woodbine sprinter. The five-year-old Cactus Ridge gelding won the Karl Boyes at Presque Isle in June and a fourth-place finish in the Vigil, when trying to rate. Last year, Hollywood Hit traveled to Keeneland for the Phoenix, where he finished a competitive second - - perhaps the Terry Jordan trainee can take the gelding's new stalk-sprint show on the road and pick up some graded earnings?
There are other names out there worthy of mention.
Ralph Biamonte's brilliant two-year-old Banner Bill is three-for-three to start his racing career having captured the Victoria and Colin Stakes.
And what about Embur's Song? The Todd Pletcher trainee has won four stakes races in a row - - the G3 Doubledogdare at Keeneland, the Hendrie at Woodbine, the Windward at Presque Isle and the Ontario Matron back at Woodbine - - and is doing so in sizzling front-running fashion.
It's hard to look past Inglorious at this stage of the season, but there is plenty of racing left at Woodbine, and on the road, for other contenders to beef up their resume. Will this year's HOTY earn their respect at home in our classics or on the turf? Will they travel and pick up money in graded events south of the border or make a splash in the Breeders' Cup?
Feel free to share your thoughts on who has the inside edge for Horse of the Year in the comments section at the bottom of this blog.
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In case you slept in this morning, Frankel turned on the jets and pulled away from Canford Cliffs to win the Sussex Stakes.
"This is a brilliant horse..."
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Last week we were treated to a quartet of stakes races at Woodbine. The aforementioned Hollywood Hit was an absolute monster in the paddock on Wednesday night. The big fella romped about the paddock like he owned the place and then proved it on the track, swooping by Essence Hit Man with enough in the tank to keep Signature Red at bay. Jockey Jim McAleney said his horse, "had dapples on top of dapples" in the post-race interview. There was no doubting his form on that night!
Hollywood Hit wins the Bold Venture
Weekend Romance remained undefeated in 2011 by winning the Passing Mood with a strong early run through the stretch. The Catherine Day Phillips trainee later suffered from exhaustion following the race (See more below), but there was no denying her effort to win her first stakes race.
Weekend Romance wins the Passing Mood Stakes
The Ontario Matron was meant to showcase a return to form of Biofuel, but (as noted above) the reigning horse of the year came out of the race with a chip in her ankle. That said, the natural athletic ability of Embur's Song is impressive. She looked every bit a winner in the walking ring and proved it on the track with a fine front-running effort.
Embur's Song wins the Ontario Matron
On Saturday, front-runners such as Woolly Bear and Kara's Orientation took advantage of a firm turf course and a rails-out configuration to wire competitive fields. On paper, everything was setting up just right for Fifty Proof for Sunday's Nijinsky Stakes...but then the clouds opened up on Saturday night and the firm turf was soaked to a grade of 'yielding'. Could the rain have played the part of equalizer allowing Windward Islands a shot at tracking down the imposing Fifty Proof? Or, perhaps, Windward Islands was simply too good on the day - - especially if you consider he would have won the the Singspiel if a hole had opened up in the stretch run. I'll look forward to watching these two battle again. Windward Islands demonstrated an impressive turn of foot under jockey Emma-Jayne Wilson and the horse is in fantastic form.
Windward Islands wins the Nijinsky
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“He seems to be fine with taking back as long as you don’t take a hold of him. You let him do what he wants"-- shrewd words from trainer Terry Jordan about the speedy gelding Hollywood Hit. Anyone who watched this well-built horse strut the paddock last Wednesday knew the horse meant business.
Hollywood Hit stares down the competition in the paddock
RACE CALL OF THE WEEK
"It's Lady Zeva into the far turn and she is leaking oil quickly...Lady Zeva about to be swallowed up here", growled Dan Loiselle as the ship-in filly, under an ambitious ride from Schemlin Montoute, gave up her ten and a half length lead down the backstretch.
Lady Zeva tries to steal one at Woodbine
Woodbine Wednesday Night: $100K Guaranteed Pick 4
Every Wednesday night, Woodbine offers up an incredible $100K Guaranteed Pick-4. For more details, check out the selections of WEG experts on WEG's Wednesday Thoroughbred Pick-4 page. More info also available on Woodbine's Facebook page.
This and That
A fire in the barn is every horseman's worst nightmare. When lightning struck a barn at Three Chimneys last week it could have been a disaster, but night watchman Billy Kutchman and Assistant Broodmare Manager Jennifer DeLaittre braved the burning barn and rescued the two horses. The Thoroughbred Times reported, the fire that destroyed a broodmare barn:
One mare was taken to a veterinary clinic for precautionary reasons and was doing well Monday morning. The other mare was resting comfortably at Three Chimneys on Monday.
“Thank you to Jennifer DeLaittre and Billy Kutchman for their life-risking, heroic effort in saving the two mares in the Spinster Barn and to several other grooms who rounded up the horses in a nearby pasture to keep them out of harm’s way,” Three Chimneys President Case Clay said in a statement. “We were so, so lucky no lives were lost, horse or human. I can’t stop thinking about Billy and Jennifer. They are heroes in my book.”
There are bad claims and good claims, but the following piece from THOROEDGE recognizes a GREAT claim and some brilliant training detailing a horse that was Claimed for $16k and Sets a Track Record Just 28 Days Later:
Straight from this horse trainer’s mouth/blog:
“You must find your horse’s optimum cruising speed to fight high lactate levels, which results in muscular fatigue.” – So true, this is termed V200 on this blog. Training at this pace, which is different for each individual horse, greatly improves stamina in the presence of lactic acid. You can’t eyeball this speed, the important stuff is going on inside the horse and is objectively quantified by an onboard HR/GPS monitor. If you leave this up to the horse (especially a maiden), you are almost always going too fast.
Posted in the comments of the above blog is a link to a story about the trainer in question, Chris Crocker, who has overcome cystic fibrosis to make a living as a trainer/jockey/horseman - - the story by Thomas C. Dozier of Progress-Index is a must read. Absolutely inspiring, it's the tale of a man with a One Track Mind:
No matter what the size of his operation, Crocker's outlook remains good.
"Here is the way I look at it," Crocker thought. "Everything I have gone through and what I have overcome it is just wonderful to come out each every day and work with horses. And the more work I do the happier it makes me."
Something his mother saw in him all along.
"Chris has always had compassion for animals and loves the excitement of bringing these huge animals to their maximum potential," Liz said. "He knows life is precious and he doesn't waste his time on things he's not serious about. Just a few years ago he was living from moment to moment and now he's enjoying every moment of what used to be an impossible dream. Who couldn't enjoy that?"
Crocker experienced a brief stay at St. Mary's Hospital for dehydration before the Colonial Downs meet got underway.
"I am kind of used to setbacks by now," Crocker said. "But I don't let it get in the way. I am going to try and do it and I have a tendency to push myself. I don't say what I can't do I looked at what I do."
Making it as a jockey is no easy task, but Prayven Badrie has made the journey from Trinidad to Winnipeg and is taking life step by step as this Sun story sings, New kid on the block: Young rider adapts to drastic change in life:
“It’s nice out now but when I first got here, I had a hard time,” Assiniboia Downs jockey Prayven Badrie recalled Thursday. “It was very cold and my nose was bleeding, and I wanted to cry. It was terrible weather.”
Badrie, who just turned 21, was also trying to make his way alone as an apprentice jockey in a country that he was experiencing for the first time in his life. And even rookie Canadian jockeys have to prove themselves before owners and trainers will give them a chance to ride their mounts.
“I’ve never been so far away from home for so long,” said Badrie, who lost his mother two years ago. “But it’s nice. It was really hard for me when I first came. I could not get a horse to start off because they didn’t know me. But now, I’m getting started because they know me. It’s picking up now.”
A lot of folks fell in love with Weekend Romance for her hard-fought win in the Passing Mood, but the DRF reports that Weekend Romance gets vacation after heat stroke scare (see bottom of story):
With Luis Contreras in the irons for the first time, Weekend Romance shot to the front in the Passing Mood.
“She was real aggressive,” said Day Phillips. “There wasn’t much you could do, except not fight her too much.
“She was good enough to hold on, but it was a little tense in the last sixteenth.”
The tension mounted post-race as Weekend Romance began experiencing difficulties returning through the tunnel to the backstretch area.
“She had severe muscle cramping, due to heat stroke,” said Day Phillips, adding that Weekend Romance was unable to continue on her own and was removed via horse ambulance.
Weekend Romance seems to have overcome her ordeal, however, and now will be getting a well-deserved break.
Still Need More?
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Inglorious enjoys a nice, light snack
Fifty Proof gets a little love
Weekend Romance loves the E.P Taylor Turf Course
Medabuck takes a spin around the willows
Burmah Star shines in the walking ring under Caroline Duquet
Niigon's Princess gets the sponge treatment
Eurico Rosa da Silva spends some time with a Charming Beauty
Medabuck hoped to earn a few dollars for Patrick Husbands
Niigon's Princess and her prince, Justin Stein
Sinister Quill hoped to add another feather to her cap
Zee jockey Emma-Jayne and her horse Zee Beauty
Luis Contreras started his stakes weekend with a Weekend Romance
Omar M leads Ariana D to the track
Biofuel looking slick in the walking ring
Dancing Raven on her toes in the paddock
Embur's Song makes a striking paddock appearance
Would Indian Apple Is have been a better name for a colt?
Stormy Illusion and Richard Dos Ramos
Musketier hoped to fire late in the Nijinsky
Fifty Proof heads from walking ring to the track in about six strides
Guipago stays cool in the shade
Smiles are free!
Muksketier makes himself known
Hailstone and Jesse Campbell storm to the track
Life is a breeze for Windward Islands
Windward Islands surges to the lead
At the very least, I think we can all agree on, Year of the Horse