Racing starts at Belmont on Saturday at 11:30 in the morning (!) and there are nine graded stakes races on a brilliant card of racing. Canadian bred stars ESCAPE CLAUSE and CHANNEL MAKER are among the contestants on the day.

Of course, WAR OF WILL, who learned his lessons at Woodbine last year as a juvenile with David Adams and team at the Mark Casse barn, is the probable favourite in the 1 1/2 mile Belmont off his big win in the Preakness. Gary barber’s colt is a beauty and talented but ‘Big Sandy’ is a track that tests the best.

The BELMONT is one of the great races in North America. Stamina and speed is needed. We don’t see enough 12 furlong races on the dirt anymore and some of the greatest horses in the world have won this race (such as the Triple Crown winners).

Will this year’s Belmont winner be considered as good as the Seattle Slew, Secretariat types? No. But it is truly an important and fabulous race.

Before Thoroughblog offers its selections, here is one Belmont Stakes that I went to and it was one of the greatest performances by a racehorse in the last 2 decades:

2019 BELMONT STAKES SELECTIONS: My pick in the Kentucky Derby was TACITUS and he ran just fine considering the sloppy track and crazy traffic. Rested since that race by trainer Bill Mott, this big, long striding grey son of Tapit looks made for the Belmont. He is the morning line favourite but may not be favoured by post time.

I think TACITUS reels in WAR OF WILL and watch out for the fast improving EVERFAST!


The Manitoba Supermare looks to turn tables on Midnight Bisou

ESCAPE CLAUSE and Don Schnell

from NYRA press office

Don Schnell, trainer and co-owner – with True North Stable and Barry Arnason, of 5-year-old Manitoba-bred Escape Clause, spends every waking moment with the hard-knocking mare, who will make her 32nd career start at her 10th different track on Saturday when she bursts from the gate in the Grade 1, $700,000 Ogden Phipps at Belmont Park.

Assiniboia, Century Downs, Canterbury, Zia Park, Northlands Park, Del Mar, Santa Anita, Sunland, Oaklawn Park – she’s been everywhere, and won at most. Last out, she battled Ogden Phipps rival Midnight Bisou the length of the Oaklawn stretch in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom, losing by a nose to the multiple Grade 1 winner.

Escape Clause has come a long way from winning $30,000 Sales Stakes races at Assiniboia Downs in her native Winnipeg. She’s captured the City of Edmonton Distaff at Northlands in Edmonton, Alberta; the CTHS Sales Stakes at Century Downs, in Calgary, Alberta; the Grade 3 La Canada at Del Mar in California; and the Harry Henson in New Mexico, to list just a few of her 20 career wins.

Schnell said his big mare thrives on traveling and racing.

“Last fall, I went from Winnipeg to Calgary and we won a couple stakes there. Then, we went and based in Phoenix and shipped over to Del Mar and Santa Anita a couple times,” said Schnell. “From there, we went to Sunland Park and won a hundred grander there and then we went the long tour to Oaklawn Park and ran in the Apple Blossom and ran well there. Then we went back to Phoenix and eventually to Canterbury and now we’re here. I should get her on a frequent flier program.”

Schnell made the 1,400-mile journey from Canterbury to New York with Escape Clause by horse trailer. It’s his first time at Belmont Park since 1987 when Alysheba, trained by Jack Van Berg, was denied a Triple Crown, finishing fourth to Bet Twice.

“It was 32 years ago that I was here with Alysheba and Jack Van Berg,” recalled Schnell. “I wasn’t really with the horse, but Jack and I go way back. I spent winters with Jack in California. At that time, we stayed in a hotel here where it was really, really dangerous. Van Berg picked the hotel, but it was in a bad area.”

The memory stuck with Schnell, who has made different living arrangements for his return to the Empire State.

“You won’t believe this one, I’m staying in my horse trailer,” laughed Schnell. “It’s not as bad as it sounds. The living quarters are self-contained, it’s actually pretty nice. Did you ever see that movie 50-1?”

The neighborhood has blossomed since Schnell’s last visit.

“Belmont is one of the most beautiful tracks there is, nice barn area, lots of grass,” said Schnell. “We’ve been training on the main track to get her accustomed to it. I think she’ll like it because it’s a bigger track, with a bigger turn and with her big stride I think that’s an advantage for her. This morning, we went for a mile and a half gallop and she was very sharp. Yesterday, she went a mile and a quarter. She’s adjusted well.”

Escape Clause has improved significantly since her maiden score on August 20, 2016 at Assiniboia, which earned a 40 Beyer Speed Figure to the lofty 101 Beyer garnered from her Apple Blossom effort. Schnell said he took his time with the mare before giving her a chance to compete in California in graded races in November.

“We’re from Canada and that’s where we race,” explained Schnell. “I won’t ship her to anybody. She’s a different horse to handle and like a lot of good horses, she’s just a little quirky. She knows me and I know her and we get along real good – if I was to leave her with somebody, that could change.”

In 2017, the hearty mare won the R.C. Anderson and Jack Hardy at Assiniboia just four days apart. Last year, Escape Clause won 9 of 13 starts, nearly double the tally of scores recorded by Midnight Bisou.

“She’s a throwback to the old generation of horses that are tough and sound and could run every week if you wanted to,” said Schnell. “One time, I ran her in two stakes in four days and she won both of them. Last summer, I ran her three times in three weeks and she won all three of them. She’s different.”

Schnell said that the frequency of her starts boiled down to both the mare’s ability to handle the pressure as well as the dollars on offer. On Saturday, the winner’s share of the Ogden Phipps purse is $375,000.

“Where we run, we have to run more often because they’re small purses. On Saturday, I think we’d get $30,000 to run last. That’s more than she got all summer to win some of those races – not that we’re going to run last,” laughed Schnell.

To win on Saturday, Escape Clause will look to turn the tables on her Apple Blossom rival in a talented five-horse field likely to be led to the turn by the speedy Come Dancing. Schnell said Escape Clause should appreciate pace to chase.

“Her best game is to lay off second or third and have a target in front of her, “said Schnell. “She loves to look at them and size them up.”

A Sovereign Award winner in Canada as 2018 Champion Older Mare, Escape Clause has picked up a lot of silverware during her memorable journey with Schnell – not that they’ve had time to enjoy the spoils.

“I didn’t go to the Sovereign Awards. I didn’t go home to Winnipeg for all the awards she won there and she was also Mare of the Year and Horse of the Year in Alberta and I didn’t get to go there either,” said Schnell.

The veteran conditioner will instead be satisfied to sacrifice the silverware for a chance to lead Escape Clause into the winner’s circle as a Grade 1 winner on Saturday. And, if it does happen, don’t expect the kindly conditioner to say much.

“I was always told – when you win, say little. When you lose, say less,” said Schnell.


The 37th Annual CTHS Awards, honouring the outstanding breeders of 2018, takes place tonight,  Friday, June 7, 2019 at Royal Ontario Golf Club in Hornby, Ontario.

Each year, the CTHS is pleased to pay tribute to the breeders of Ontario-Bred Stakes winners and recognize the accomplishments of their Ontario Stallions. This year’s award winners include 64 Stakes winners of 2018 which includes 25 Graded & Canadian Classic Stakes winners.

The CTHS will also be honouring Chiefswood Stables Limited as the 2018 Breeder of the Year recipient and the late William D. Graham as the 2018 Mint Julep Cup recipient.

For further information and ticket requests contact the CTHS office at 416-675-3602 or email at The event will also include a silent auction in support of the LongRun Thoroughbred Retirement Society.


Frank Barroby will receive Avelino Gomez Award

‘JOEY GEE’ (far right), Joe Guerrieri, has 2 fillies in the WOODBINE OAKS including his homebred SPEEDY SOUL. Joey Gee has been growing his racehorse and breeding business tenfold in recent years – Woodbine photo

The weather has finally turned towards summer and the racing in Canada is rising to the big events.

The classic season in Ontario begins Saturday with the 64th Woodbine Oaks, the top race for Canadian-bred fillies, and the Plate Trial, a last chance stepping stone for the boys as they head to the June 29 Plate.

There are not any Wonder Gadot’s or Holy Helena’s in the Oaks field (as of yet) but it is an interesting race on the betting front. There are 3 Mark Casse trainees, 2 are owned wholly or in part by Joe Guerrieri of Mississauga.

The favourite could be the Chiefswood Stables’ grey gal BOLD SCRIPT will try and bounce back in the Oaks, a race that her dam Original Script was third in back in 2013.

The daughter of Speightstown won the Princess Elizabeth Stakes at 2 last season and was named the Champion 2-year-old filly in Canada. Her Beyer Figure from that win, an 83, is easily the best speed number of any filly in what is not one of the strongest fields for the 1 1/8 mile Oaks.

Trainer Stuart Simon noted that the filly was a bit fidgety in the gate before he soft, 3rd place finish in the Grade 3 Selene Stakes in her return to Woodbine this year. The filly did ram the gate slightly and apparently bumped her head.

The filly figures to still be a slight favourite for the race and she will be ridden by Gary Boulanger.

She has to get past 3 gals from the Mark Casse barn and in talking to Thoroughblog recently, Casse noted that he liked his fillies but noted that two of them only have a sprint coming into the race and one of those SPEEDY SOUL, has never tried a route distance at all.

SPEEDY SOUL, who has stamina on the dam’s sire of her family, won the Fury Stakes for Joey Gee.  Joey Gee also bought HASTALAVISTABABY, another Casse Oaks starter, as a yearling for $8,000 and that Drosselmeyer filly has since lured co-owners Team Valor and Gary Barber.

Hastalavistababy was bred by Charles Hayden.

Gary Barber has won 2 of the last 5 Oaks and both fillies went on to win the Queen’s Plate.

The third Casse trainee is PREFERRED GUEST who was second in the Selene and ahead of Bold Script. This Society’s Chairman filly is owned by Nancy Guest’s GG Racing Stable and was bred by the partnership of Billee Steinhoff, Tom Rupert and John Felker in Port Dover, ON.

DESERT RIDE is a Sam-Son farms filly who has not raced in Canada but has 2 wins in 3 starts all on grass. Neil Howard trains this filly. Sam-Son has won the Oaks a record 7 times.

The remainder of the Oaks field is made up of stakes winner Artilena and and four other winners.

Some Oaks history – Recent winners and Beyer Figures

2018 DIXIE MOON – Beyer Figure 88 – Wonder Gadot, also 88 came back to win Plate

2017 HOLY HELENA  84 in Oaks, won Plate with 96

2016 Neshama 81

2015 Academic 88

2014 Lexie Lou 95, won Plate with 91

2013 Nipissing 90


64TH WOODBINE OAKS FIELD – 9TH RACE Saturday – Woodbine

Post time 5:51 p.m.

1 Lady Azalea Hernandez, R Attfield, R L 121 –  Mineshaft filly owned and bred by the late Bill Graham, 2nd Princess Eliz. at 2

2 Falcon’s View Rainford, M Fairlie, S L 121 – Souper Speedy filly for Ace Racing, Hard Eight and Linda Mason. Winner.

3 Preferred Guest Lermyte, J Casse, M L 121 – Society’s Chairman filly for Nancy Guest GG Racing; stakes winner, 2nd Grade 3 Selene

4 Desert Ride Bahen, S Howard, N L 121 – Candy Ride (arg) filly for owner/breeder Sam-Son Farms; 2 wins on turf

5 Speedy Soul Husbands, P Casse, M L 121 – Souper Speedy filly won Fury Stakes for Joey Gee Thoroughbreds

6 Artilena Wilson, E Day Phillips, C L 121 – Artie Schiller filly, stakes winner at 2 for Kingfield, Anderson, George Ledson, Braconcrest

7 Intanga Rose Da Silva, E Attard, S. C. L1 121 – Animal Kingdom filly for Stronach Stables, 2 sprint wins

8 Hastalavistababy Contreras, L Casse, M L 121 – Drosselmeyer filly for Joey Gee, Team Valor and Gary Barber, stakes placed this year

9 Bold Script Boulanger, G Simon, S 121 – Speightstown filly for Chiefswood Stable, stakes winner at 2, stakes placed this year

10 Souciologist Garcia, A Attard, K 121 – Gemologist filly, sprint winner for Bill and Al Ulwelling

The PLATE TRIAL is also on Saturday and with the two big favourites AVIE’S FLATTER and SKYWIRE sitting out this 9 furlong race, there is a real mish-mash of runners in this event.

Two of the 9 starters have won a stakes race and FEDERAL LAW’S  79 Beyer Figure when 2nd in the Coronation Futurity last year rates as the highest speed figure of the field. He figures to be favourite, which puts jockey Gary Boulanger in a nice spot to have both faves in the 2 big stakes on Saturday.

DUN DRUM is the other stakes winner and he was 2nd in the Queenston behind Federal Law in his season debut with a 71 Beyer Figure, his top number.

There are 3 maidens in the field, one who could grab a share, Moon swings. Winner JAMMIN STILL will take some interest off a troubled trip in his season debut and the fact he is 1st time with Lasix.



1 1/8 miles

Purse $125,000. 1 1/8 Miles. Foaled in Canada Stakes. FOR THREE-YEAR-OLDS, FOALED
IN CANADA which are eligible at the time of this nomination for the Running of the 2019
Queen’s Plate.

1 Federal Law Boulanger, G Casse, M L 126 – Scat Daddy gelding for Qatar Racing; won Queenston Stakes

2 Rising Star Stein, J De Paulo, M L 126 – Ghostzapper colt for Mike Campbell, maiden recently claimed for $40,000

3 Pay for Peace Contreras, L Halden, R L 126 – Silent Name 3yo for Team Penney and Carem Racing; winner

4 Hesathriller Salles, L Ross, J L 126 – Flat Out 3yo for JC Stable and Cheryly Smith; winner; bred by Ivan Dalos

5 Dun Drum Wilson, E Black, I L 126 – Bold ‘n Flashy 3yo, stakes winner for Janet Black, Barbara Brown and Joan Addison

6 Moon Swings Campbell, J De Paulo, M L 126 – Malibu Moon colt for Zilli Racing, maiden, stakes placed

7 The Newfie Express Kimura, K Patykewich, A L 126 – Victor’s Cry gelding for Alex Patykewich; bred by Alan Mainprize; maiden, stakes placed

8 Jammin Still Husbands, P Attard, K L1 126 – Derk Chin’s 3yo by Take Charge Indy; winner

9 Krachenwagen Alderson, J Buntain, A L 126 – Angus Buntain gelding  by Head Chopper; winner, stakes placed



And Im Evin Im Leavin sizzles in Chariot Chaser Handicap

SHARP DRESSED BEAU after winning the $50,000 Western Canada Handicap, a stepping stone to the Canadian Derby, at Century Mile last weekend – Century Mile photo

Feature from, by Curtis Stock

Lori Neyka thought something had to be wrong. Two years ago she was sitting on her couch surfing the internet when she came across an ad for an extremely well-bred stallion named Car Talk: a son of Bernardini out of a Deputy Minister mare.

“They only wanted $2,800 (US) for him. I thought this can’t be right,” said Neyka, who owns Empire Equestrian – east of Ardrossan – with her husband, Martin. “On his breeding alone he was worth way more than that.”

No kidding. In case you need reminding, Bernardini, who has gone on to be a top sire, won over $3-million taking races like The Preakness, Travers, Jockey Club Golf Cup, Jim Dandy and The Withers. Bernardini won the Eclipse Award as Three-Year-Old Male Horse of the Year in 2006.

IM EVIN IM LEAVIN left her rivals in the dust at Century Mile in the Chariot Chaser Stakes last weekend – Century Mile photo

Canadian-bred champion Deputy Minister, the leading sire in North America in 1997 and 1998, won eight of nine starts as a two-year-old including the Victoria Stakes (in track record time); Youthful; Clarendon; Colin and Bull Page. As a three-year-old Deputy Minister won two Grade 1 races: the Laurel Futurity at Laurel Park over ​8 1⁄2 furlongs, and the Young America Stakes at the Meadowlands over ​8 1⁄2 furlongs.

Further more, Car Talk’s dam, Mini Chat, is also the dam of graded stakes winner Dixie Chatter ($464,606) and graded stakes winner Rumor ($418,391).

“I thought are you kidding me,” said Neyka. “I had to take the chance.”

That chance is already paying off with Car Talk’s three-year-old son Sharp Dressed Beau winning this past Sunday’s $50,000 Western Canada Handicap – read more at:

Before SHARP DRESSED BEAU won the Western Canada Handicap, IM EVIN IM LEAVIN sped to victory in the $50,000 Chariot Chaser for 3-year-old fillies. The Can the Man filly, bred in Kentucky, raced 6 furlongs in 1:09.22 for an 80 Beyer Speed Figure.