Weekend happenings in Ontario horse racing – Quarter Horse racing in the spotlight;  top Canadian horses in action, Kentucky Derby contenders get to work



Champions honoured at QROOI Banquet


There is no better way to put the winter blahs aside than a good ole’ fashion party and the Quarter Racing Owners of Ontario, Inc. and Ajax Downs racing community will do just that tonight at the Ajax Convention Centre.

It is fitting that the Quarter Horse Industry will gather on Family Day weekend as there are hundreds of families who not only are involved in raising and racing Quarter Horses, butt he track has always been  a family-friendly location for an up-close look at the fastest equine breed.

Many of the sport’s top owners, trainers and breeders are often accompanied by their family members, children and friends of the family and their dedication and passion to the industry is evident. With a steadily increasing on-track attendance, Ajax Downs and boosted its popularity as a unique, sporting location.






Stakes winners and the top owners, trainers, breeders and jockeys in the Ontario Quarter Horse Industry from 2017 will be honoured this evening at the always-popular ceremony, complete with special guests Two for the Show, the award-winning music and comedy group from Ajax (http://www.twofortheshow.com/home.html).

COUNTRY BOY 123 will be named the Horse of the Year for the second straight year, a unique accomplishment since Quarter Horse racing began at Picov Downs/Ajax Downs in 1968. The big bay gelding, who is getting ready for the 2018 season at owner Ruth Barbour’s Grey Winds Farm in Hillsburgh, ON, was also the High Point Older Gelding/Stallion in 2017.

There will be a number of different horses and humans who had stellar a 2017 season and lots of excitement to talk about as the 2018 meeting nears. Among them, RAMIRO  CASTILLO, who won his first jockey title at Ajax Downs just a couple of years after moving his tack from Alberta.

COUNTRY BOY 123 and jockey Cory Spataro in 2017 – New Image Media photo

New Image Media photo












AJAX DOWNS and its casino was in the news this week when rumours swirled about the fate of the casino. The track received mainstream media coverage from the Toronto Sun‘s prominent columnist Joe Warmington, among other outlets:


A recap of of the evening will be on Thoroughblog.




Northwest 3-year-olds will have their own triple crown in 2018.

Hastings Racecourse in Vancouver, BC and Emerald Downs in Auburn, Wash.— separated by just 165 miles/265 kilometers—will offer a $100,000 bonus for any horse that sweeps a new three-race series, the tracks have announced.

The “Northwest Triple” begins with the Muckleshoot Derby at Emerald Downs on Sunday, July 29, continues with the BC Derby at Hastings on Saturday, September 8, and concludes with the debut of the $100,000 Getaway Stakes at Emerald Downs on Sunday, September 23. Additionally any horse with a top three finish in all three races will receive a $10,000 bonus and any horse starting in all three races will receive a $1,000 bonus.

Hastings General Manager Darren MacDonald said the Northwest Triple is a natural given the tracks’ proximity and race dates.

“We have some great racing in the Northwest and these bonuses should create a lot of excitement for owners, trainers, and the fans,” MacDonald said.

Emerald Downs Vice President of Racing Jack Hodge believes the bonuses will help both tracks, “Our partnership with Hastings grows each year and the horsemen have a chance now to run for some nice bonuses.”

The two tracks are also teaming up on three additional bonuses*:

$25,000 bonus for any horse sweeping the Longacres Mile on August 12 and BC Premiers on October 8.
$25,000 bonus for sweeping the Washington Oaks on July 22 and British Columbia Oaks on September 8.
$25,000 bonus for sweeping the Emerald Distaff on August 12 and Ballerina on October 8.
Hastings opens its 52-day season on Saturday, April 21 and Emerald Downs opens its 67-day meeting on Sunday April 22.

*Bonuses paid in Canadian dollars.



WONDER GADOT contests Grade 2 Rachel Alexandra

One of Canada’s top 2-year-olds of 2017, WONDER GADOT is  a Canadian-bred with the Woodbine Oaks, perhaps the Queen’s Plate on her radar but right now, the Ontario-bred is trying to make a case for a run at the KENTUCKY OAKS on the first Friday in May.

Bred by Anderson Farms (Ontario) and owned by Gary Barber, Wonder Gadot meets the fancied Tapizar filly Monomoy Girl, who is the 8 to 5 favourite.

The Mark Casse-trained pair of Wonder Gadot and Heavenly Love will run against one another for the third time in their career. In the Silverbulletday Stakes, they finished a respective second and fifth which was the most recent start for both fillies. They also ran sixth and 11th respectively in the Gr. I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Del Mar.

Breaking from post four as the 4-1 second-choice, Wonder Gadot currently sits at No. 3 on the Kentucky Oaks Leaderboard and has earned 14 points. The Ontario-bred daughter of Medaglia d’Oro acquired four points when finishing second in the Silverbulletday Stakes behind 33-1 longshot Stronger Than Ever and was awarded 10 when she won the Gr. II Demoiselle Stakes at Aqueduct on Dec. 2 by 3¾ lengths.

“There’s going to be some serious pace on Saturday and we’ll sit right behind it,” Casse said. “We’re not going to let (trainer) Brad (Cox’s) filly get too far away.”

Wonder Gadot won her career debut in her native Canada over the Woodbine turf against allowance company by four lengths and returned to the Toronto oval in her next start to finish third in the Gr. I Natalma Stakes on Sept. 17, where she was beaten three-quarters of a length. Next out, she switched surfaces to run over Woodbine’s Polytrack in the Gr. III Mazarine Stakes, which she won by six lengths before a sixth-place finish in the Gr. I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Del Mar. Wonder Gadot was ridden by John Velazquez in her last two outings and will receive the riding services from the Hall of Fame jockey on Saturday.

Owned by Debby Oxley, Heavenly Love was beaten 7¼ lengths in the Silverbulletday Stakes. As a 2-year-old, she broke her maiden at second asking over the turf at Kentucky Downs. She followed her grass win with a victory in the Gr. I Darley Alcibiades Stakes over the main track at Keeneland. In the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, she was a disappointing 11th and was beaten 25 lengths.

“My thoughts are she didn’t get enough out of the Breeders’ Cup,” Casse said. “The track was funny that day and there was a serious track bias. I thought that she’d run a little better last time but she ran into some traffic trouble. After the race, (jockey) Julien (Leparoux) said that he couldn’t get her going again. She may just have a great affinity for Keeneland, but she’s ready.”

Julien Leparoux has ridden Heavenly Love in all five of her career starts with the exception of her career debut and will return to the saddle for Saturday’s race. She breaks from post six at odds of 6-1.


The Daily Racing Form has a feature on Wonder Gadot this week:



Saturday, Fair Grounds, post time: 5:05 p.m. EST
RACHEL ALEXANDRA S.-GII, $200,000, 3yo, f, 1 1/16m

1 Actress On Board Langfuhr Margaret Keach Bennett Pedroza 20-1
2 Testing One Two Star Guitar Brittlyn Stable, Inc. Arceneaux Saenz 6-1
3 Classy Act Into Mischief Carl R. Moore Management LLC Calhoun Castellano 6-1
4 Wonder Gadot Medaglia d’Oro Gary Barber Casse Velazquez 4-1
5 She’s a Julie  Elusive Quality Whispering Oaks Farm LLC Asmussen Lanerie 12-1
6 Heavenly Love Malibu Moon Debby M. Oxley Casse Leparoux 6-1
7 Patrona Margarita Special Rate Craig D. Upham Calhoun Hernandez, Jr. 6-1
8 Monomoy Girl Tapizar Dubb, Monomoy Stables, LLC, The Elkstone Cox Geroux 8-5
Group LLC & Bethlehem Stables LL

Breeders: 1-Margaret Keach, 2-Brittlyn, Inc., 3-George Krikorian, 4-Anderson Farms Ont. Inc., 5-Godolphin, 6-Debby Oxley, 7-Craig D. Upham, 8-FPF LLC
& Highfield Ranch

Also, TIZ A SLAM, a finalist for Champion 3-year-old male in Canada, is out in New Orleans for the Fair Grounds Handicap on the grass, a Grade 3 event.

Saturday, Fair Grounds, post time: 5:35 p.m. EST
FAIR GROUNDS H.-GIII, $150,000, 4yo/up, 1 1/8mT

1 Thatcher Street Street Sense Bloch, Randall L., Milner, Phil, Seiler, John Wilkes Hernandez, Jr. 12-1
and Amtietan, LLC
2 Zulu Alpha Street Cry (Ire) Calumet Farm Howard Mena 20-1
3 Galton Offlee Wild Michael M. Hui Maker Castellano 5-1
4 One Mean Man Mizzen Mast Hillerich Racing, Inc. and Flint, Bernard S. Flint Albarado 12-1
5 Granny’s Kitten Kitten’s Joy Ramsey, Kenneth L. and Sarah K. Maker Leparoux 8-1
6 Mr. Misunderstood Archarcharch Flurry Racing Stables LLC Cox Geroux 3-1
7 Applicator Henrythenavigator Olympia Star, Inc. Yanakov Gilligan 12-1
8 Synchrony Tapit Pin Oak Stable Stidham Bravo 9-2
9 High Noon RiderK Distorted Humor GenStar Thoroughbreds Cox Bridgmohan 6-1
10 Tiz a Slam Tiznow Chiefswood Stable Attfield Lanerie 20-1
11 Great Wide Open (Ire) Starspangledbanner (Aus) M and J Thoroughbreds LLC and Murphy Beschizza 20-1
Riverside Bloodstock, LLC
12 Catcho En Die (Arg) Catcher In The Rye (Ire) Mack, Earle I. and Wachtel, Adam Mott Velazquez 8-1

Breeders: 1-Randy Bloch, et al, 2-Calumet Farm, 3-Flaxman Holdings Limited, 4-Bernard Flint & Ron Hillerich, 5-Kenneth L. Ramsey & Sarah K. Ramsey,
6-Athens Woods, 7-Mikhail Yanakov, 8-Pin Oak Stud, LLC, 9-Flaxman Holdings Limited, 10-Chiefswood Stables Limited, 11-Newtown Anner Stud,
12-Livschitz, Jorge Eduardo


At Laurel Park, Ontario bred SOMETHING AWESOME, owned by Stronach Stables, will try for a graded stakes win in the General George:

Saturday, Laurel Park, post time: 4:30 p.m. EST
GENERAL GEORGE S.-GIII, $250,000, 4yo/up, 7f

1 Cowboy Mz Friesan Fire Morris E. Kernan, Jr. Zulueta Sanchez 118
2 Awesome Banner Awesome of Course Jacks or Better Farm, Inc. Decker Acosta 118
3 Sonny Inspired Artie Schiller D Hatman Thoroughbreds Schoenthal Quinones 118
4 It’s the Journey Mineshaft R. Larry Johnson Trombetta Pimentel 118
5 Ballivor Hard Spun Michael Scheffres Mancilla Hamilton 118
6 Something Awesome Awesome Again Stronach Stables Corrales Trujillo 118
7 Fellowship Awesome of Course Jacks or Better Farm, Inc. Decker Hamilton 118
8 Grasshoppin Cat Thief Michael W. Jester Gonzalez Russell 118
9 Great StuffK Quality Road Bruce Golden Racing Jacobson Davis 118
10 Do Share Candy Ride (Arg) The Estate of Anthony Miuccio Rice Franco 118



Following a victory in the Grade III Lecomte Stakes, OXO Equine LLC’s Instilled Regard is set for his return to the Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots when he faces nine other 3-year-olds in the Grade II $400,000 Risen Star Stakes Presented by Lamarque Ford, which is the second of three local preps on Churchill Downs’ Road to The Kentucky Derby and awards the Top 4 finishers points based off of a 50-20-10-5 scale.

Slated as the 8-5 morning line favorite by Fair Grounds clocker and odds maker Mike Diliberto, the 3-year-old son of Arch will break from post five under Javier Castellano, who guided Instilled Regard to his Lecomte triumph. He was purchased for $1,050,000 from the Ocala Breeders’ Sale in March 2017 and is out of Enhancing, a daughter of Eclipse Award winner and multiple graded stakes winning producer Heavenly Prize. Trained by Hall of Fame conditioner Jerry Hollendorfer, Instilled Regard has never finished off the board in five career starts.