Friday, May 25, 2012

Not your average 'Joe'...

“Everybody loves a winner,” says trainer Norm McKnight in regard to hard-trying gelding Consolidator Joe.

Unraced as a two-year-old, the RMC Stable homebred by Consolidator out of Ascot Tobie (Ascot Knight) came from out of the clouds to win his debut by three-quarters of a length.

It was the first of five wins on the season for the dark bay fellow, one in which he banked $178,873 in purse earnings while dominating the upper claiming ranks at Woodbine, so it was hardly surprising on Thursday morning when I went by his barn for a visit that ‘Joe’ seemed to enjoy having his picture taken.

“He’s a gutsy little guy,” says McKnight. “He tries every time. He’s got a few little aches and pains, but he seems to live with them. He’s a real neat horse, easy to train, easy to be around and he goes over there runs his guts out every time. If they were all like that, the game would be a lot easier.”

In nine lifetime starts, Consolidator Joe has maintained a perfect in-the-money percentage, with six wins, a second and two thirds.

“If you gave me five more of him, I could get rid of ten of the other ones,” laughs McKnight. “He’s just a great individual. He has a great disposition, and loves being at the track”

McKnight also loves being around the track - - any track, really.

He got his start in the harness racing game as a trainer and driver - - and a good one at that, notching 1,476 wins from the bike including a memorable win in the Confederation Cup at Flamboro Downs steering Arcane Hanover to a new stakes, track, and Canadian record of 1:53.3.

McKnight wins the Confederation Cup with Arcane Hanover



Joe by a neck!
 
(You can read all about McKnight’s move from bike to saddle in this fine piece by Rob Longley for the Thoroughbred Times.)

McKnight, who knew how to find the wire on the limestone, jokes that he would have leaped at the chance to ride a horse on the Polytrack.

“I galloped my own horses for 15 years, but the novelty wore off,” he starts. “I used to ride show horses and American Saddlebreds when I was younger and do the show horse route. I probably could have tried it (being a jockey) for the sake of doing it. Some of the jocks are taller than I am...I was 150lbs when I came here. I’d of had to lose 40lbs.”

And then, casually glancing at his own midsection, he laughs, “It probably wouldn’t have worked!”

With 250 wins to his credit as a thoroughbred trainer, and nearly $9-million in earnings, McKnight has no regrets about switching breeds.

“The thing I like most is the hours,” he says. “I don’t mind getting up in the morning, and the afternoon racing is great as opposed to harness horses racing at night. With harness horses, you never have any kind of social life. At least here you have the odd time to get out for dinner. In harness, you’re married to the job 24 hours a day. Back then, I was training horses all morning and then driving them at night.”

And having a not-so-average 'Joe' to train makes his life that much easier.
“He’s the most consistent horse in the barn,” says McKnight. “It’s a nice little barn. A nice group of horses, no standouts, but they all try and when they’re slotted in the right races they all show up.”

Consolidator Joe, who stomps about the shed row with the presence of a stakes winner, earned his sixth lifetime win on the Victoria Day weekend with a stubborn, driving score to nail Zip It Nance by a nose earning a career-best 84 Beyer Figure.

The gelding’s nose for the wire leave’s the conditioner with something of a conundrum as to where to race the horse next.

“There comes a time when you have to run them for a tag and you have to run them where they can win,” says McKnight. “The game is no fun when you’re running up the track all the time. Winning is a whole lot more fun than losing.

“He’s great little horse and he’s gone through all his conditions so now he gets in where he has to run tougher all the time. He’s been real good to us and if I can make it where it’s a little easier on him to win races, that would be what I want to do.”

Consolidator Joe refuses to lose



QUOTE OF THE WEEK

"He's like one of those throwback horses. The more you do with him, the better he gets. we had to really rush to get him to the Plate, and you would think that would have knocked him out, but it didn't. He's a very good horse." - - Mike De Paulo to the DRF on the hard-trying Pender Harbour who returns in Saturday's Eclipse Stakes at Woodbine.

TWEET OF THE WEEK

"No matter how many of my own sex tapes I leak, I will never be as famous and rich as Kim Kardashian. What am I doing wrong?" - - Exercise rider / ex-jock @MikeMehak seeking your assistance on an alternative route to fame and fortune.

RACE CALL OF THE WEEK

"Contreras trying to squeeze every last ounce of run out of River Lemon..." - - Dan Loiselle gets punny in the stretch run of Wednesday's fourth race.  The sweet call only soured when Apres Midi wouldn't let River Lemon by.



THIS AND THAT

Rob Longley spoke at length with trainer Terry Jordan who found horse racing's next big star, Mario Gutierrez while vacationing in Mexico:

From the moment Jordan saw the poise and balance Mario Gutierrez showed in the saddle that day at Hipodromo de Las Americas, he was certain he had his man.


“He just looked like he belonged up there,” said Jordan, then a top trainer at Hastings and now a regular at Toronto’s Woodbine Racetrack. “He rode with the stirrups very, very short and when you do that, you have to have good balance.

“He just looked like he would turn out to be something big.”

Six years later, the entire racing world is getting a taste of just how big.

David Willberg writes about his annual pilgrimmage to Assiniboia Downs and a chance to watch I'll Have Another via simulcast:

For those seeking a Canadian connection, you have good reason to root for I'll Have Another. The super horse is owned by Canadians from Windsor, Ontario. Its Mexican jockey, Mario Gutierrez, was the top jockey a couple times at Hastings Park in Vancouver. Even the horse's chiropractor (yes, thoroughbreds have chiropractors) played for former Estevan Bruins coach Ernie "Punch" McLean with the New Westminster Bruins.


On a personal note, my parents know Gutierrez from his time in Vancouver.
I'll Have Another isn't a super horse like Seattle Slew, Secretariat or Citation, but if he were to win those three races, it would be a monumental accomplishment. Some fantastic horses have won the Derby and the Preakness in the last 20 years, only to lose in the daunting mile-and-a-half test of endurance that is the Belmont.

Ever wondered how Beyer Figures are created?  The DRF recently published 'The science behind Beyer Figures':

Essentially, figure makers want to know how fast a horse ran in relation to the speed of the track he ran on. Surface speeds change day to day, depending on weather, maintenance, and many other factors.


Think of it this way. You have two human runners of equal ability in a race. They run side by side, one on sand, the other on concrete. Obviously, the runner on concrete is going to win every time.


If all track surfaces were uniform, final times would be sufficient to tell us with horse is faster. But they are not.
Andrew Beyer’s classic mid-1970s book “Picking Winners” explained the methodology behind the figures and explained the unexplainable to many players, including me. The raw times of races were converted to numbers to make the calculations less cumbersome.

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.

PHOTO FINISH

The Woodbine Oaks is set for June 3 and I visited a number of the potential contenders on Thursday morning.
Waitinginthewings surrounded by ducks
Will she 'wing' it and go to the Oaks?
Can Northern Passion emerge from the shadow of her stablemate Dixie Strike?
Black Bird Rock should ensure a swift pace
Can Dixie Strike sweep the Oaks/Plate double?
Awesome Fire enjoys her bath
and she has a sense of humour!
Awesome Fire will have to keep her on the prize
Awesome sponge putting out the fire...
Irish Mission smiles at first asking
The Mark Frostad filly certainly sparkles
Maybe Consolidator Joe will race on the undercard...


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