Statistics and records were quickly recited after Vern and Donna Dubinsky’s filly Inglorious charged to the front of the field to win the 152nd Queen’s Plate at Woodbine.
Inglorious became the 34th filly to win the Plate, just three weeks after her dominating Oaks win.
It was also just the fifth time in the history of the prestigious Plate and its filly counterpart, the Woodbine Oaks, that a sophomore gal has managed to win both races. That elite group is made up of Flaming Page (1962), La Lorgnette (1985), Dance Smartly (1991) and Dancethruthedawn (2001). Each recognized as major stars in the history of the Canadian sport, with three Hall of Fame and six Sovereign Awards between them.
It was the first Plate win for the Dubinskys, who are just over a decade into the racing and breeding game that began with lowlevel claiming horses in Alberta.
Jockey Luis Contreras, in only his second full season of riding at Woodbine and the hottest thing on horseback since Sandy Hawley, won his first Plate, with his first ever Plate mount.
And then there is trainer Josie Carroll, the Toronto-born woman who became the first female trainer to win the Plate with Edenwold in 2006 and now has two titles in just five years. But, there is so much more than just numbers when it comes to the rise of the fabulous filly and it all started on a bright, early May morning three years ago.
1,146 days to the Plate – May 10, 2008
Not many more than 30 minutes from Woodbine, in the heart of the horse country near King City, Ontario, Jurgen and Monique Schemmer have tended to their thoroughbreds and dressage horses since 1984.
The 80-acre property, called Arosa Farm, has been the home of many accomplished horses for more than 20 years. Jurgen, who was born in Germany and works in the oral pharmaceutical business, and Swiss-born Monique, originally set up the farm for Monique’s dressage horses and her riding school. In only a few years, however, the couple were lured into the flashy world of thoroughbred racing and in 1990, won their first stakes race with one of their first homebreds, Host Master.
The hard knocking mare Green Noble, a $75,000 yearling purchase, followed. She won over $300,000 and was a top grass runner in the early 1990’s. In 1997, another of the Schemmers’ rare yearling purchases, Gandria rose to the top of the charts when she won the Prince of Wales Stakes at Fort Erie over Plate winner Woodcarver.
The farm was soon bursting at the seams with some 25 broodmares and their offspring of various ages. Green Noble almost immediately became the foundation mare.
The morning in question, May 10, 2008, was not unlike all the other spring days at a thoroughbred farm with mares and foals running the paddock fences and other mares awaiting the big day. One of Green Noble’s daughters, the stakes winner Noble Strike, lay down in her stall as she readied to produce her fourth foal.
“Noble Strike was a very quiet mare, a good mother,” said Arosa Farm manager David Jozefkowicz. “She was only bossy when it came to her food.”
Noble Strike, by the hot sire Smart Strike, was off to a good start in the shed. Her first foal, Sebastien’s Song, was a promising three-year-old who was once thought of as a Queen’s Plate contender.
It was 7:26 a.m. when Noble Strike produced a leggy bay filly by Hennessy.
“We called her Brandy right away, because of her sire” said Jozefkowicz, who helped with the foaling along with his wife Evelyn and the Schemmer’s. “She was very cute but just your basic, normal foal.”
656 days to the Plate – September 8, 2009
The Noble Strike filly is now one-year-old and she is part of a small group of Arosa yearlings who have been shipped to Hill ‘n’ Dale Sales Agency’s barn at the Woodbine sales pavilion for the annual Select Yearling Sale.
Glenn Sikura of Hill ‘n’ Dale, has consigned, shown and sold many horses for Arosa and there seemed to be plenty of interest in the Hennessy filly, freshly stamped with hip no. 204 on her backside.
The year was not a great time for breeders of sales yearlings since the market had taken a dive. The Schemmers, who were known for buying back and racing most of their yearlings, were a bit more prepared to sell their horses at this sale.
One looker was Ciaran Dunne, owner of Wavertree Stables in Ocala, Florida with his wife Amy. The Irishman, predominantly a pinhooker and a private bloodstock consultant, had no trouble remembering his visit with the Noble Strike offspring.
“She was a great walker,” said Dunne, who was on hand to inspect yearlings for the up and coming Albertan powerhouse stable called Donver of Vern and Donna Dubinsky. “I looked at all of the yearlings but, really, I honestly don’t remember bidding on another one for the Dubinskys that year.”
Meanwhile, the Dubinskys were on the ride of their racing lives that year. Their almost-white coloured superstar filly Careless Jewel had won the Alabama Stakes (GI) at Saratoga and was being touted as one of the best sophomore fillies of the year. The Alabama was easily the biggest win for the couple from Sherwood Park who were only 10 years into the thoroughbred business.
It was Donna who had brought an interest of horses, to her marriage to Vern, who had taken over his family’s trucking business in 1987. He built the small fleet of oil field pick-ups into a full-grown transportation company specializing in hauling oil rigs.
“Haley’s Choice was my first horse,” said Vern. “She won for bottoms at Northlands Park, and then I just bought more.”
The couple raced 2005 Alberta Horse of the year Kaylee’s Magic and later, stakes winner Victory Romance.
It was the $40,000 purchase of yearling Careless Jewel, however, that took the couple to the highest level of the game, a place they had never experienced before. It was because of “Jewel” that the Dubinskys made sure they scouted out the Hennessy filly in the Hill ‘n’ Dale sale consignment. Careless Jewel, a Tapit filly, was out of a Hennessy mare, and that was enough for them.
On that September 8 evening, Dunne recalled how the bidding went with the Dubinskys and their trainer Josie Carroll for the Hennessy filly. “The price went a bit higher than they had predicted but it was Donna who spoke up and said, ‘one more bid’. Really, they bought the horse because Donna said that.”
The filly was theirs for $90,000.
258 days to the Plate – October 24, 2010
The sun is beginning to set on another racing card at Woodbine. The on-track feature is the Fanfreluche Stakes for two-year-old fillies. Brandy is now known formally as Inglorious and she had shown Carroll enough ability to think she could be a contender in the $150,000 race in her first-ever start.
Carroll’s longtime assistant, Lorie Allen, knew that expectations were a bit high for the filly. “She was not a secret when she came in from Ciaran’s where she was broken,” said Allen, “but it is easy to not notice her, she is quiet as a mouse. I don’t think I have ever seen her upset.”
Inglorious was hooked up with groom Victor James who had worked for Carroll for more than a decade. James had groomed such stars as champion Serenading and just happened to have an opening when the two-year-old filly arrived at Woodbine.
On Fanfreluche Stakes day, Allen and James were hopeful of a good effort from their new student. Despite balking at the gate and putting up some fuss, Inglorious zoomed past her rivals in the stretch under jockey Chantal Sutherland to win by almost two lengths.
Six weeks later, on the last weekend of racing at Woodbine for 2010, Inglorious crushed another field of fillies in the Ontario Lassie Stakes and was packed up and shipped to New Orleans for the winter.
179 days to the Plate – December 29, 2010
Inglorious had three weeks to get acclimatized to Carroll’s digs at Fair Grounds racetrack. Four days after Christmas she records her first workout as she prepares for some top three-yearold filly events against American competition.
The four furlong breeze of 50 3/5 is her first of a series of preps that sets her up for the Rachel Alexandra Stakes (GIII) on Feb. 19 where she lines up against one of the top juvenile fillies of 2010, Kathmanblu.
Sutherland, who is riding in California during the winter, flies in for the ride and the pair rally for second, just 1 ¼ lengths behind the winner.
The effort is encouraging enough that Carroll aims the filly to the Fair Grounds Oaks. A good showing would lead the filly to the biggest Oak of all, the Kentucky Oaks.
Inglorious would finish fourth in the Fair Ground Oaks, beaten just over two lengths by long shot Daisy Devine. The Kentucky plan was scrapped and the Dubinskys and Carroll decided to freshen up the filly and point her to the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks.
21 days to the Plate – June 5, 2011 Woodbine Oaks Day
Luis Contreras had been plying his trade in relative anonymity before he arrived at Woodbine in 2010 to ride the American-owned runners for trainer Steve Asmussen. The soft spoken 25-year-old, who learned to ride on his family’s farm in Mexico and became a leading rider in the country, was handpicked by Asmussen who had set up a stable at the Toronto track.
But Contreras, who didn’t have a Canadian work permit, could only ride for Americans, amounting to less than 20% of the entire Woodbine backstretch. A married father of two, Contreras rode a select group of Asmussen’s horses until 2010 when he lost the barn when the stable went on a losing streak. Enter agent Tony Esposito, an enterprising young man who took a hungry Contreras and guided him through appropriate mounts here and there, all the while working feverishly with lawyers and agencies to get the rider his Canadian papers.
By the start of the 2011 Woodbine season, Contreras, back from a winter in his homeland, was armed with all the necessary documents and a fire in his eyes. That fire was noticed by Carroll, who was left without a rider for the filly when Sutherland elected to ride in California permanently. Contreras would get the mount on Inglorious for the La Lorgnette Stakes and, despite a nail biting spot of trouble in traffic on the last turn, would steer her to victory.
Three weeks later, the filly would provide the young rider with his biggest win when she powered past a tough front runner named Spooky Kitten to win the Woodbine Oaks and the $300,000 winner’s share.
Post time, Plate Day – June 26, 2011
Sixteen colts and geldings line up in the Woodbine starting gate for the Queen’s Plate. Seemingly, they have the one filly in the field surrounded. This is no ordinary filly, however, Inglorious weaves her way through the pack, reels in late leader Hippolytus and blows away the boys. Her running time for 1¼ miles on Polytrack is 2:02 3/5, not far off the track record of
It was an exuberant Vern Dubinsky who perfectly summed up the journey of his stable and his filly to the highest echelon in Canadian racing: “It’s unbelievable to think we got here. I didn’t think we would even have a horse running in the Plate. She’s just amazing.”
This article, by Jennifer Morrison, which was originally published in the August/September issue of Canadian Thoroughbred, has been nominated for a 2011 Sovereign Award in the Outstanding Feature Story category.