Thursday, April 25, 2013

From Canada's ocean playground to the Woodbine 'Poly'

Listed at 20-1 in the morning line in Friday’s sixth race, it would be easy to overlook a four-year-old filly by the name of Katya.

Through four races, the stout daughter of Mobil, a Dr. Jalal Hosein homebred, has yet to finish better than eighth.  And yet, her story is intriguing as she is a rare thoroughbred foaled in Nova Scotia.
Katya representin' the East Coast!
Katya is trained by 72-year-old John Coryat and the conditioner's journey to training a Nova Scotia-bred bay started in the 1950s at Santa Rosa Park, in Trinidad.

“I grew up in Arima, in Trinidad, and the racetrack was from here to the training track from where I lived,” gestures Coryat, from his tack room in Barn 20 of the Woodbine backstretch. “I always would hear the ‘clack, clack, clack’ of the horses in the morning.  When I played in the savannah in the afternoon, the horses would be on the track and walking around and it all just got to me.”

Even before he became a teenager, a young Coryat found a job working with the horses each morning. 

“I spent some time in the paddock and that was a, ‘no no’, at that time,” grins Coryat. “But, it was the early 1950s and I used to help a guy with a horse each morning, head to school in the afternoon and then back to the track again to help in the evening.”

One morning in particular is burned in Coryat’s memory.

“This one horse was giving trouble after training and the horse had a rope as a shank, so I hit the horse across the shoulder with the rope and put him in the stall,” says Coryat. 

The horse, a rambunctious sort named Gold Candy, didn’t appreciate Coryat’s powers of suggestion.

“When I came back from school in the evening to care for the horse again, he picked me up with his teeth and threw me across the stall,” says Coryat, lifting up his shirt to reveal a nasty scar.

“In those days, I weighed about 80lbs,” says Coryat.  “And when that horse picked me up and threw me in the corner, the other grooms, who were there playing cards, rushed in and helped me out.”

Many years pass and, in 1975, Coryat makes way to Woodbine and embarks on a career in racing working with a number of trainers including Jerry Meyer and Bobby Fisher, eventually taking out his trainer’s license about a decade ago.
Coryat and Katya
By chance, the late Daily Racing Form writer Wally Wood stumbled across Coryat on the backstretch one morning and the resulting story, complete with a photo of a young Coryat sitting atop a bale of hay, is published.

The story makes its way into the hands of Dr. Hosein, a native of Trinidad and some ten years Coryat's senior, now practicing medicine in Nova Scotia.

Dr. Hosein, recently in the possession of a young racing prospect, reached out to Coryat and asked if he might remember an old racehorse the Hosein family used to own back in Trinidad named Gold Candy!

“I said, ‘Of course I know him. He’s left his mark on me!’” laughs Coryat.


Dr. Hosein has his wife, Martha, to thank for getting him into the racing business. 

The couple raises Dutch Warmbloods in Halifax, but one of his wife’s shopping trips brought some new blood to the farm.

“My wife came home from a sale about 14 years ago in the U.S. with two horses. One is still alive, a Dutch Warmblood. The other one was a thoroughbred called Pour Le Sport,” he says.

Pour Le Sport, a granddaughter of Nijinsky, was a useful race horse winning seven of 27 starts while earning some $35,000 racing primarily at Laurel Park and Philadelphia Park.

At Martha's suggestion, Pour Le Sport was bred to Imperial Gold and the resulting foal was an unraced Nova Scotia-bred filly named Eve.

“John used to look after Eve but she never raced,” explains Dr. Hosein. “She had a little chip so we brought her back to Halifax and then bred Eve to Not Impossible and got a filly called Lady Jane.”

Lady Jane put together a pair of seconds and a trio of thirds through 23 races at Woodbine and Fort Erie

Eve then went to multiple graded stakes winner A Fleets Dancer and produced a colt, soon gelded, named Don Diego.  He managed one second in 14 starts before retiring to the east coast.

Despite the lack of success, thus far, through 41 starts with his Nova Scotia-bred horses, Dr. Hosein remains enamoured with the sport he came to love in his native Trinidad.

“I love horses but it’s a rich man’s game, you know, and I’m not a rich man,” he laughs. “Still, I love my horses.”


Katya will leave from Post 8 in Friday’s sixth race and Coryat is hoping to see a much-improved filly.

“She’s training very well,” says Coryat. “I got her last year in September and I didn’t have much time with her. It takes time to develop a horse, but I rushed her into a few races last year as she was a three-year-old maiden and I thought she started to show a little promise.”
Cotyat's a long way from Santa Rosa!
Adding bluntly, “It did not quite work out as I would like.”

After a winter in Ontario, Katya has come back to Woodbine a mature filly.

“She was still backward mentally last year, but I have the same exercise rider (Alex Hou) this year and we both have noticed a vast improvement mentally and physically with her. In our opinion, she’s in good shape and the way she’s training is very encouraging.”

Even if Katya doesn’t come good first time out off the layoff, racing under champion rider Todd Kabel, Coryat will continue to work hard with his lone trainee.

“She’s non-descript, an unknown,” admits Coryat. “But, at my age, 72-years-old, one horse keeps me active. It’s my physiotherapy and it keeps me thinking. If she shapes up to be a nice horse, that would be a plus, and if she doesn’t that’s okay too. Right now I’m enjoying it and savouring it.”

Katya’s  20-1 on the morning line, and she might be double that come post time, but if the Ontario-sired miss, by way of Nova Scotia, finds her way to the winner’s circle there will be no one happier than Dr. Hosein.

“If she wins,” laughs Dr. Hosein, still surprised at the smattering of attention for his star filly. “I want you and John to lead her in.”

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