In this, the 250th year of the first known HORSE RACE in Canada, Woodbine opens it’s 62nd season of racing – LISA HOCKING PHOTO


And Pink Lloyd rules

(with files from Woodbine Entertainment media)


Toronto Ont.April15, 2017.Woodbine Racetrack.Jacques Cartier Stakes.Pink Lloyd.ridden by Jockey Eurico Da Silva, capture the Jacques Cartier Stakes on opening day of the 133 day race meet at Woodbine Racetrack.Pink Lloyd is owned by Entourage Stable and trained by Robert Tiller. michael burns photo

Owner Frank DiGiulio Jr. was too sore to accept hugs after the big win by PINK LLOYD on Saturday at Woodbine in the Jacques Cartier Stakes but he sure had a big smile on his face.

DiGiulio Jr. escaped a bad car accident recently with some serious upper body injuries

Pink Lloyd notched the first stakes win of his career with a determined effort in  $113,000 Jacques Cartier.

The lightly raced Old Forester chestnut gelding, trained by Robert Tiller for DiGuilio and partners’ Entourage Stable, tracked the early speed of Conquest Tsunami through splits of :22.32 and :44.57 in the six furlong Tapeta sprint before taking an outside run late in the turn to edge clear for a 3/4-length score over a rail rallying Commute. Pink Lloyd covered six furlongs in 1:08.62.

His Beyer Speed Figure was an impressive 97, tops of the weekend’s 20 races run at Woodbine.

Ridden by Eurico Da Silva, who won a second straight Sovereign Award (fourth overall) as Canada’s Outstanding Jockey on Thursday night, Pink Lloyd was one of 3 wins for Da Silva on opening day.

“The horse was ready for me today. When we turned for home, I asked him, and he just kicked from there,” said da Silva. “I was able to take him a little bit back and put him in second position. He was just waiting for me to turn him loose. It was wonderful.”

The Jacques Cartier was just the sixth career start for the five-year-old Pink Lloyd. He made a winning debut in August at Woodbine, the start of a three-race win streak, before landing fifth in the Overskate and second in the Grade 2 Kennedy Road Stakes.

“He made us wait. He’s a very good horse and it was tough to get to this race. He’s a detail horse and tough to get around the racetrack. The exercise rider does a wonderful job with him,” said Tiller. “Touch wood this is his first really sound year. I believe he’s a very good horse. I really do. He’s convinced me today.”

Pink Lloyd, bred in Ontario by John Carey, banked $72,000 in victory while improving his record to 4-1-0 from six starts.

He is the 4th foal to race for stakes placed GLADIATOR QUEEN, who won $114,000 for David and Peter Sorokolit.

The opening day card was highlighted by three wins each from jockeys da Silva, Rafael Hernandez and Jesse Campbell. The veteran da Silva, who led all riders with 202 wins a year ago, also scored with Skippy Is Back and Gertie T.

On Sunday, Patrick Husbands won 3 races, trainer Martin HInckson won a pair as did Mark Casse.

Saturday, Mike DePaulo was the only trainer with multiple wins on the card (Eminent Force, Majestic Slew) and he added another on Sunday, capping off a memorable week that saw Caren take home both Champion Three-Year-Old Filly and Horse of the Year honours at the Sovereign Awards.


A rainy start start to the season but the clouds disappeared by mid-afternoon on Saturday – here are the recaps:

SATURDAY – PRINCESS NIIGON, a Texas bred by Ontario sire Niigon (deceased) ran down favoured Forestlla to win the first race of the year. Julia Carey trains for Joey Gee Thoroughbreds. The 4-year-old was making her 4th career start in this maiden, optional claiming race and Rafael Hernandez rode.

Her time of 58 1/5 for 5 furlongs was good for a 74 Beyer Figure.

Race 2 was at 7 furlongs, not often there is a race that far on opening day but since it started later this year, it was perfect for the red-hot EMINENT FORCE, a 5-time winner last year who had been 1st or 2nd in  in his last 7 races that he finished.

Owned by George Schramm and John Russell, this War Front 7-year-old wore down Two Many Egberts, who made a very impressive pre-race appearance, to win the starter allowance for his 9th career win. Trained by Mike DePaulo, the gelding was ridden by Jesse Campbell. The winner put up an 88 Beyer Figure for 7 furlongs in 1:23 2/5 on the lively track.

Outside stalkers and ralliers continued to do well as BLUTARSKY own race 3 for WINVIEW RACING STABLE, its first win and starter in 3 years. (Winview is also the name of Joey Gee Thoroughreds’ farm in Caledon East). Andrew Smith was the winning trainer of this Shakespeare Florida-bred who won the $9,500 claiming race at 5 furlongs with a good rally.


Toronto, ON April 15, 2017 Woodbine Racetrack. Jockey Rafael Hernandez and trainer Julia Carey with Princess Niigon after winning the 1st race on the opening day of the 133-day thoroughbred meet at Woodbine Racetrack. WEG/michael burns photo














Race 4 – WINSTANLEY (Ire) led all the way to win this $6,250 claiming race for Martha Gonzalez and Horsen Around Racing. The 5-year-old was making his first start of the year following a 4-win season in 2016. He was claimed from this race by Domenic Colalillo.

Race 5- Young trainer COLE BENNETT, from Oak Bluff, Manitoba, sent out his first Woodbine winner with CONCORSO, a 5yo Congrats gelding was had been racing in California. Owned by Irishyouwell racing and Wanda Hicks, Concorso won the $10,000 claiming race under Juan Crawford after chasing the pacesetting Kat’s Good Scout. Bennett was 17 two years ago when he saddled his first winner. Last season he trained stakes winner About a Girl.

Race 6 – an optional claiming race for 3-year-old fillies went to Osprey Stables’ SILVER PRINCESS, a quick Old Forester gal out of Timeless Silver by Silver Deputy. Trained by Roger Attfield, the filly won her debut and was 3rd in the Victorian Queen Stakes before being well beaten in the Ontario Lassie.

Race 7 – Newcomer SKIPPY IS BACK, a $6,250 claim at Gulfstream by Joshua Attard, won this $7,500 claiming dash for her 10th career win. She had raced once for her new owner and was 8th but in this synthetic track debut, she was a happy 7-year-old mare. Kevin Attard trains.

Race 9 -Mike DePaulo trainee MAJESTIC SLEW is a consistently good runner who was in Florida racing for high claiming and he loved returning to Woodbine, winning for the 3rd time in his career in this allowance race. Frank Russo owned the Majestic Warrio 4-year-old who was 5 to 1 and the BEST BET on Thoroughblog’s raceday selections.

Race 10 – a maiden allowance/optional claiming race was one of the more exciting races of the day as GERTIE T, owned by Racer’s Edge and CEC Stable bucked jump her way out of the gate as the saddle slipped. She dropped well back early in the 5 furlong race but then rolled home to win in the last few jumps under Eurico da Silva. Norm Knight trains the daughter of Midnight Lute.



R NAJA upset the Star Shoot Stakes, a 6 furlong sprint for 3-year-old fillies. Owned by DARRS INC and trained by Mike Stidham, this Exchange Rate filly was put on the lead by Luis Contreras and she powered home to win by 1 3/4 in 1:10.33 – a 73 Beyer Speed Figure. Mark Dodson’s Sister Nation rallied well for second with GUs Schickedanz’s Woodbine Oaks hopeful Will She was an even 3rd.

Race 1- a maiden allowance for 3-year-old fillies was won by ITSINTHESTARS, an Astrology filly making her career debut for Gary Barber and trained Mark Casse. The story of the 5 furlong race, however, was not who won but who didn’t win. FRESH PRINCESS, a Giant Gizmo filly who was 2nd in her only race last year for owner/trainer and breeder Tony Gattellaro, was blocked through the turn to virtually the finish and was unquestionably the best horse in the race. Expect very low odds on her next time.


Race 2- BET ON JACK, whenever he races! This is a wonderful 8-year-old who loves 5 furlong races and he won his 2017 opener for Solo Racing and trainer Vito Armata. He didn’t win at all last year but had been coming off a big season when he won 5 races in 2015 and thus he was racing in high level claiming races last year. He returned on Sunday for $8,000. This was his 12th career win in 52 races. Ross Armata claimed another old timer, Executive Five, from this race for none other than Solo Racing.

Race 3- A starter allowance at 7 furlongs for fillies and mares  and MODUS OPERANDI was the 2nd winner on the day for trainer Vito Armata. Claimed for $12,500 last fall, this Marchfield mare was bred by Mark Casse by Alpine Stable.

Race 4- Maiden fillies for $12,500 was the first of two straight wins for Turfway shippers brought here by Pan Am racing (Andy Stronach) and trainer Martin Hinckson.

HOLY PLAN, who was a bit feisty pre-race, won this race under Devon Johnson  while BAKERSFIELD rallied to win the boys split of the $12,500 maiden race, in RACE 5.

Bakersfield is by Silent Name while Holy Plan is by Plan. Simon Husbands rode Bakersfield.

Race 6- WHO’S GOT IT rallied to win for Mickey Demers of western Canada and trained Mike DePaulo. This is a Where’s the Ring dark bay 4-year-old who has mot missed a purse share in 13 career races. This was an allowance/optional claiming race and Gary Boulanger rode the winner.

Race 7 – JENNIFER LYNNETTE had a poor start and then rushed between fillies to chase before going on to win this allowance race at 5 furlongs. The 4-year-old by Elusive Quality has a record of 2-2-2- in 7 races (see more on this gal and her owners, Conrad Farm, below).  Her Beyer Figure of 81 was tops for the day.

Race 9 – LOWI VENE was long gone out of the gate in this maiden, optional claiming race. The Florida bred by Silent Name – Certainly Special by Distorted Humor was well beaten in one race at Gulfstream just 2 weeks ago, a Florida-bred 7 furlong race, but at 2 to 1 he galloped on the Tapeta. Jayson Horner bred and ownws the dark bay colt and Justin Nixon trains.

Race 10 – Super rally from off the pace for ARIEL’S VISION under Patrick Husbands to win the $10,000 claiming finale. Owned by Ryan Shane Kerbel and Jeff Clausner and trained by Denyse McClachrie, the filly was adding blinkers for her first race of the year and she was winning for the first time since 2015.

Wagering on opening weekend was $6.4 million, bettering last year’s opening weekend total of $5.6 million.


EASTER HOP! NORM FILES captured FOR U RUTH kicking up his heels (and his front feet are off the ground too) before his race on Sunday


HOLY PLAN was rarin to go on Saturday = she would go on to win her maiden – NORM FILES PHOTO















Randy Howg (4th from left, dark suit) celebrates his Oaklawn Handicap win with Inside Straight, a son of Super Saver. STEVE QUEEN PHOTO courtesy


“It’s just unbelievable. I don’t know how this can be true. It’s a long ways from Canada. I’ve got a lot of friends in Alberta up there watching. This is just incredible to win this.

I should be home planting beets. But my son and wife are looking after things at home. I think they probably thought I was on a wild goose chase…” Owner Randy Howg


SUGAR BEET farmer RANDY HOWG has owned some good horses in partnership over the years and last season he won his first Manitoba Derby with INSIDE STRAIGHT, a horse he owns himself. With trainer Robertino Diodoro, a Calgary born horseman, Inside Straight pulled off a 20 to 1 upset of the Oaklawn Handicap on Saturday on Arkansas derby day.


Feature from last year on ROBERTINO DIODORO



TIME TO TRAVEL caused quite a stir when he won his maiden at Gulfstream 2 weeks ago with an 88 Beyer Speed Figure in a 7 furlong sprint. Garland Williamson’s grey son of Hard Spun was then taken from trainer Rachel Halden, given to Michael Matz who ran him in the Lexington Stakes – Grade 2 last weekend. The colt was in contention turning for home before fading to 4th with an 83 Beyer Figure.

Horse of the Year CATCH A GLIMPSE set the pace in the Jenny Wiley at Keeneland on Saturday but faded to last place in her season debut. It was a loaded field for that turf event and Catch a Glimpse looked comfortable for most of the race and will surely use that outing to go forward second time out.


Ontario bred STATE OF HONOR works


They have a small racing and breeding operation but Manfred and Penny Conrad of Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario are one of the hottest barns anywhere.

On Saturday at Keeneland, the Conrad’s giant 4-year-old filly CURLIN KISSES stayed unbeaten with an allowance win despite plenty of trouble. On Sunday at Woodbine, their fancy 4-year-old filly JENNIFER LYNNETTE barged her way to a big allowwance win, her 2nd score in her 7th race. Also at Woodbine on Saturday, their first time starter LISTENLINDALISTEN was 3rd in a maiden allowance.

All fillies are Ontario breds, the latter a Court Vision filly bought at the Woodbine sale 2 years ago for $40,000 from Tony Russo, Jenifer Lynnete is an Eluisive Quality filly bought for $110,000 as a yearling at Keenland from Christina Hayden and Curling Kisses is a homebred.

Meanwhile, the big, big horse in the stable, literally, is STATE OF HONOR, bred by the owners and getting ready for the biggest race of them all, the Kentucky Derby.
Second in the Florida Derby (Grade I) State of Honor (To Honor and Serve- State Cup by Elusive Quality) breezed a half-mile in :49.80 over a fast track on Easter Sunday at Churchill Downs in preparation for a start in the $2 million Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) on Saturday, May 6.

Trained by Mark Casse, the 17 hands high colt was put through eighth-mile splits of :12 and :24.40 by exercise E.J. Bowler and galloped out five furlongs past the wire in 1:02.

“We really just wanted to get a solid maintenance-work in him before something more serious next week,” assistant trainer Norm Casse said. “State of Honor is a tremendous work horse so we will probably keep breezing him by himself.”

Throughout his six-race 2-year-old season, State of Honor trained and raced exclusively over Woodbine’s synthetic Tapeta surface with the exception of one turf race. But his future engagements changed after Casse breezed the colt on dirt at Palm Meadows in South Florida this winter.

“Horses that are primarily based on the synthetic track need time to acclimate to the dirt surface,” Norm Casse said. “We really thought State of Honor was a true dirt horse after his first breeze at Palm Meadows. We have been treating every race in his 3-year-old campaign as a steppingstone to the first Saturday in May, and he has improved in each start.”

STATE OF HONOR got a visit from yours truly last year when his groom Gary Sutherland won Groom of the Year from the TV show TALKIN HORSES – Stacie/Emilie Roberts photo