Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Can Carroll repeat Queen's Plate success?

I caught up with trainer Josie Carroll over the phone on Tuesday night and the conditioner of Woodbine Oaks and Queen’s Plate champion Inglorious was in good spirits.

Inglorious on the Saratoga backstretch last summer

The miles have been adding up for Carroll who has been very busy over the winter months racing horses at both Gulfstream and Fair Grounds, while also overseeing the development of a number of promising young horses at Palm Meadows.

“Air miles, car miles, every kind of miles,” she laughed. “It’s been a busy winter but I’m fortunate to have some very nice horses so it’s worth it.”

Inglorious romps in the Woodbine Oaks, presented by Budweiser

The Queen’s Plate winner Inglorious, who is owned by Donna and Vern Dubinsky’s Donver Stables, made her first appearance on the work tab in 2012 on February 6 breezing an easy four furlongs in :50.60 at Palm Meadows.

“It went exactly as planned. It was just a nice gallop along for her,” said Carroll.

Carroll is reluctant to lay out a schedule just yet for the now four-year-old daughter of Hennessy-Noble Strike, but indicated that Woodbine would be the home base and a try over the turf is more than likely in the cards.

“I’m hoping so for the most part (to race at Woodbine), but I don’t think exclusively,” she said. “There’s great racing at home.”

The prospect of a turf start for Inglorious was brought to the forefront following the rousing performance by her half-sister, Dixie Strike, to win Saturday’s Florida Oaks over the lawn at Tampa Bay Downs.

“I think turf is something we’ll explore somewhere in the future,” admitted Carroll.

Inglorious wins the 2011 Queen's Plate

Given that Carroll trained Noble Strike, the dam of Inglorious and Dixie Strike, it’s safe to say she is more than familiar with the Sovereign Award nominated broodmare’s abilities and how that talent might best be coaxed from her filly.

That said, Carroll was quick to point out the differences between dam and daughter.

“Different personality’s altogether,” she said. “I think Inglorious is a much easier horse to train. A much more settled horse to train. Noble Strike could be a bit of a handful.”

Noble Strike, a bay daughter of Smart Strike-Green Noble, made 18 starts, most of them at Woodbine, compiling a record of three wins, three seconds and three thirds. Her best result being a length and a half score in the 2002 edition of the Belle Geste, raced at a mile and an eighth on the turf.

At that time, Noble Strike was trained by Ronald Burke for Arosa Farms. However, after moving to Carroll’s care, the mare would find the winner’s circle again on the turf taking a seven and a half furlong allowance at the Fair Grounds.

Carroll is well aware of the turf potential, but will not be jumping hurdles to put her filly on the lawn.

“It’s all speculation,” she said. “All I can tell you is at some point I’m going to try her on it.”

In addition to planning out a four-year-old campaign for Inglorious, Carroll is also attempting to become the first conditioner since Mark Frostad to win the Queen’s Plate in successive seasons. Frostad accomplished the feat with Scatter The Gold and Dancethruthedawn in 2000-2001 - - and a number of prominent trainers including Roger Attfield (multiple times) and Gil Rowntree, to name a couple, have pulled off an historic repeat.

King of England reigns supreme in the Woodbine walking ring

Carroll's quest rests on a trio of top prospects including the U.S Triple Crown nominated Canadian Navy and King of England, who are owned by Earle Mack, as well as the Donver Stable’s Forgotten Vow.

Canadian Navy, a gelded son of Pulpit-Maholo, was bred in Ontario by William D. Graham. The chestnut debuted on December 4 at Woodbine in a five and a half furlong Polytrack sprint and rallied from off the pace to chase home the well-regarded Kinghaven Farms runner Incredicat.

“I think he’s a very promising horse,” said Carroll. “He’s a tremendous mover and I loved his first race because sprinting probably isn’t something he wants to do and yet he did it quite brilliantly.”

Canadian Navy finishes second to Incredicat

Canadian Navy put in his first breeze of 2012 on February 4 covering four furlongs in :49.14 at Palm Meadows.

“He had a month off at Fair Hill and is just starting back,” said Carroll. “I think the break did him good, he did some growing up.”

Big things are also expected of King of England who has yet to work in 2012. The dark bay son of Lemon Drop Kid-Snow Lady, bred in Ontario by Christine Hayden, has a misleading record of one win, a fourth and a fifth from three starts as a two-year-old.

He debuted on August 7 in a six furlong main track sprint and, after a slow start, closed along the rail to finish fourth, defeated less than five lengths by Breeders’ Cup bound Excaper.

King of England would be crowned in his second start travelling a mile and seventy yards in 1:43.99 to defeat a top John C. Oxley Triple Crown nominated fellow by the name of Bluedacious.

King of England breaks his maiden

In his third start, King of England finished fifth in a loaded Grade 3 Grey Stakes field that featured a trio of Kentucky-bred Oxley horses including Prospective, Lockout and Bluedacious, as well as Excaper.

Carroll is also excited about a third Plate prospect, a son of Broken Vow-Unforgettable Too.

“The Dubinsky’s have a horse called Forgotten Vow that was fourth in the race Canadian Navy was second in,” said Carroll. “He ran a very good race.”

It would be wonderful story should Carroll manage to return to the Queen’s Plate with a Donver-owned horse.

Luis Contreras claps for Inglorious as Vern Dubinsky looks on

With Inglorious nominated as Champion Three-Year-Old Filly and the potential of Horse of the Year honours, as well as Donver Stables being nominated for Outstanding Owner, the entire stable will be looking forward to the Sovereign Awards which will be held on April 5 at Woodbine, on the eve of opening day.

“We’re pretty excited about it,” admitted Vern Dubinsky, who is cautiously optimistic of their chances at being named Horse of the Year. “I guess she has a shot. We’d be thrilled to death if she did but there are some other pretty good horses in there too. We’re just thrilled that people recognize her as being a pretty good racehorse.”

Memories of Queen’s Plate success still make Dubinsky smile.

“When you beat the boys it’s pretty special and to win the Queen’s Plate, one of the biggest races in Canada…,” he said.

Donver Stable's Silver Silhouette with assistant trainer Lorie Allen

Another point of pride for Dubinsky is being one of three western Canadian connections nominated as Outstanding Owner along with Glen Todd and Patrick Kinsella, who recorded 58 wins at Hastings in Vancouver to capture the 2011 Leading Owners title for the fifth consecutive year; and Bear Stables Ltd, owned by Albertan Danny Dion, who won 33 races at Woodbine while banking $1,607,408 to finish second in the standings to fellow nominee Eugene Melnyk whose 29 winners banked $1,654,201.

“It’s flattering to have three from western Canadian connections nominated for owner of the year,” said Dubinsky. “Just to be mentioned in the same group as them in an honour for us.”

That he might reach a second Queen’s Plate before even having an entry in the Canadian Derby at Northlands Park in Edmonton is a source of amusement for Dubisnky.

“It’s nice to win races everywhere but to win a race in your home town would be special,” he said. “My wife and I have always wanted to win the Canadian Derby in our hometown of Edmonton here and we’ve never even had a horse in the race."

The flashy filly Silver Silhouette breaks her maiden at Woodbine

Although there are high hopes for Forgotten Vow, the potential Plate prospect, Dubinsky acknowledges that he dreams most about a big campaign from his Queen’s Plate winner.

“At home here, I don’t go by one day without somebody asking me about her,” he said. “It would be great if she could come back and be good as a four-year-old.”

Inglorious enjoying a leisurely gallop last summer at Woodbine

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