Friday, April 20, 2012

'Cat' and mouse with Ian Black

Interviewing Ian Black, trainer of Queen's Plate hopeful Incredicat, is always fun.

Sometimes, he's quiet, so I try to ask more questions. Other times, he chooses his words carefully and I bite my lip so as not to interrupt his train of thought.

Usually, there's laughter.

Queen's Plate contender Incredicat makes his move

On Saturday, Black's charge will make his first attempt going two-turns. The chestnut son of Discreet Cat-Lady Auchamore debuted impressively at Woodbine in December, breaking sharply, before allowing Luis Contreras to settle him into third position off a quick early pace in the five and a half furlong main track sprint.

When Contreras allowed Incredicat free rein, the chestnut responded with a strong move to take the lead and held on to win by a length and a quarter over well-regarded Canadian Navy.

Incredicat wore blinkers for that debut, but he'll race unencumbered in Saturday's $100,000 Wando Stakes set for a mile and a sixteenth over Woodbine's Polytrack.

"I put blinkers on him because he used to look around a lot in the stretch," starts Black.

And, with a grin adds, "There was so much hype on this horse first time out, that I thought if I get this horse beat because he's looking at something, I'll look pretty dumb."

Incredicat then shipped to Florida where he continued his education at Payson Park.

"He had a pretty short break, really," said Black. "We started breezing him in January. It's a very slow racetrack, but he had a couple of very good works in company. He ran with Gail's (Cox, trainer) filly (Hard Not to Like) and we worked with a couple of Roger's (Attfield, trainer) so he was pretty fit when he went to Gulfstream."

On March 24, Incredicat made his three-year-old debut in a six and a half furlong N1X at Gulfstream Park.

With Jose Lezcano in the irons, Incredicat once again broke sharply, set a wicked pace of :22.17, :44.59 and 1:09.96 only to be caught in the stretch by Right to Vote. Incredicat would hold on to be third, defeated less than two lengths.

"He probably got a little tired inside the eighth pole, but I thought it was a pretty good effort," said Black.

If Fifty Proof can carry his speed, why not Incredicat?

The goggles were on for the Florida start, but Incredicat has enjoyed his last two breezes, including a swift five-furlong breeze in :59.60 on April 14, without them.

Although the speedy Incredicat is talented, some handicappers might be concerned that the other entrants in the compact five-horse field have all had a try going two-turns.

Which begs the question...

Is Black concerned about Incredicat going two-turns?

"Absolutely," says Black

There's a hint of a smile on the trainer's face. He's been down this road many times before.

"How about Stormy Lord?" offers Black, referencing Incredicat's multiple-stakes winning half-brother. "He can go a mile and a half and he's out of the same mare. This horse (Incredicat) is probably more rateable than he was as a younger horse."

If Stormy Lord can run two turns...

At this point, the interview breaks down into a discussion of distance, blinkers and strategy before Black puts a stop to things by asking, "Where is this stuff going, again?"

"On my blog," I reply.

"Does anybody read it?" he jokes.

"Only if I mention Chantal," comes my answer, which gets both Black and his assistant Skippy Bown laughing.

Some sense of seriousness is restored to the proceedings and Black is ready to talk about strategy and the possiblity of being on the engine first time going a mile and a sixteenth.

"He does relax behind horses and come on and get them," says Black of Incredicat's morning breezes.

But, the fact remains, Incredicat is likely the fastest horse in the field.

"If they're going a half in :49, it might as well be me," starts Black.

And with the familiar wry grin, adds, "And, if they're going a half in :44, it probably will be me."

Contreras, who engineered the maiden-breaking score, will be in charge of Incredicat's fate on Saturday.

"He's going to have to ride the race," says Black. "If I was one of the other four guys, I'm not going to try and run with me on the front end either because it's only going to hurt yourself, but if he was sitting second I'd be happy."

Bowen, who has (uncharacteristically) quietly observed the proceedings to this point, offers the following.

"If he goes two turns, we've got ourselves a serious horse," he says. "He faced a double inside press the whole way (in the Gulfstream race) and got beat by a horse (Right to Vote) who the start before was beat six lengths by, probably, the Derby favourite.

Bowen's reference is well-taken. Right to Vote was a pace-setting third in the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes at Belmont which Union Rags romped by five and a quarter lengths.

It's also worth noting that the Champagne's second-place finisher Alpha, who nipped Right to Vote for place by a neck, has since won the Count Fleet, Grade 3 Withers and was second in the Grade 1 Wood.

Black, with an eye on future two-turn events, is mostly concerned with his own horse.

"What I don't want is for this horse to think he has to have the front end," says Black. "The minute that happens, someone will fix us (with a rabbit for pace pressure). But if he will rate, he has a lot better chance. In this particular race (the Wando), that horse of Pletcher (Big Creek) comes up a winner going :48 or :49 halves. Well, if they go :49 (on Saturday) we'd be very close to the lead, I'd think. If someone bombs off in :47, I'd like to think we could sit off that."

And with that, the interview session is over. The answer to the two-turn question, however, is still to come.

Quote of the Week

"If Ozzie Guillen had spent part of his suspension at Aqueduct yesterday, he would have cleaned up, because Castro (Eddie, that is) won three races at payoffs of $12, $11 and $26.60." - - Ed Fountaine for the NY Post via Equidaily.

Race Call of the Week

"Tu Endie Wei is set down, and with long and powerful strides she kicks away. Tu Endie Wei, last year's two-year-old filly champion, looks sharp in victory. An overwhelming winner of the Star Shoot." - - Track announcer Dan Loiselle was very impressed with Reade Baker's star filly.

Tu Endie AWESOME in the walking ring...just wow.

Tweet of the Week
Did harness driver Billy Davis Jr. and thoroughbred trainer Skippy Bowen go to the Blue Jay's game together?

- - as it turns out, they attended separately, but both borrowed a line from the beer vendor. Anyone else remember the Blue Jay beer guy who would bellow, scarily, "Ice, COLD, BEEEEERRRRRRR!!!!"


Okay (Okay!) Blue Jays (Blue Jays!) Let's racing?

This and That

Jen Morrison gets the inside scoop for the Toronto Star - - Todd Kabel back in the saddle:

“I had a lot of stuff going on in my life,” said Kabel about the last two years. “I had an aunt and uncle pass away that I was very close to. Another uncle had a stroke and I was going through a divorce. I got very depressed.”

Kabel spent a lot of time in western Canada with family, including his four children, before returning to Ontario early last year.

With depression came drinking and the bottom fell out when he was charged with a DUI and lost his licence. Kabel stayed away from the track until a chance conversation and hunting trip with Langlais last fall.

More jock talk from Tommy Wolski who notes that Grass is greener on the other side:

Both arrived at sunrise and began exercising horses for the Van Over-schot and Brown Stables. The going pay rate for this job is $10 per horse. The pair would each average approximately 15 horses a morning during the spring.
"Sean [Evans] had been off a few years because of riding accidents," said VanOverschot. "I remember last year he mentioned wanting to go back to riding and if he was able to get his weight down properly, would I give him a chance with some mounts? This spring, after watching him work his butt off, I realized he [Evans] was the type of person I wanted to help out."

Evans and Van Overschot worked out together at a gym seven days a week doing cardio and weight. Evans went from 130 pounds in February to his now riding weight of 115 pounds.

Is this a #humblebrag?...Please to mention this little blog got a mention from Rob Longley in his weekly racing column for the Toronto Sun:

The popular rider remains determined to make a place for herself on the competitive Southern California circuit even though it’s tough getting live mounts with the short fields that plague that circuit.

“It’s hard to go in knowing you’re going to be riding a 20-1 shot, it becomes humbling but I still learn every day,” Sutherland told fine racing website “But if I work hard, I still believe I can do well. It’s feast or famine.”

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 witter.

Photo Finish

(Double-left click on the image to enlarge it and use your "BACK" button to return to the Photoblog)

Tu Endie Wei is a beauty

Beeker Street didn't need to stretch for the wire in his debut

Beeker's so sleeeepyzzzzz

Kara's Orientation watching his friends play

Purple skies are going to clear up, put on a happy face

Silhouette, purple silhouette

Carolyn Costigan offers a grin

Happy to be on a horse

My smile is bigger than your smile!

Who wouldn't be happy to ride Kara's Orientation?

I'm pretty happy too, you know!

No tears over here!

Smiles are free

Hi Val and David!

Happy to be working for the Mike DePaulo barn!

Team Tiller feeling good!

Side glance smile

When the morning is as glorious as this, why not smile?



Traffic trouble

Leroy leads the workers to the track

@EJWilson81 takes one out for a spin

The Reade Baker barn was busy

Here comes another one!

Just a wee thing

This one's well speckled

Eurico keepin' busy!


Brian Lynch's familiar kangaroo saddle cloth

Little and large combo

We move like cagey tigers...

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