Tears and a lot of cheers all day long at Woodbine from Emma-Jayne Wilson’s moving speech upon receiving the Avelino Gomez award, to DIXIE MOON’s big Oaks win for the very fun Toronto couple Sean and Dorothy Fitzhenry and then JUSTIFY’s magical Belmont win – whew!
JUSTIFY’s AMERICAN TRIPLE CROWN SWEEP got more attention than the same fate by AMERICAN PHAROAH. Interesting that some mainstream media really tuned into this colt, a bit more moreso than they did with the Pharoah.
Is it the fact that he has never been beaten? Is it his fancy looks? His Canadian breeder JOHN GUNTHER and his daughter?
Was neat to see comments from radio hosts and other non-sports people on Twitter, etc. about Justify even if they had never watched a race before.
The Belmont win was quite stirring. Yes, he managed to slow it down a lot on the pace down the backstretch. But when the big guys came, Vino Rosso, Hofburg and then finally the surprising GRONKOWSKI, he turned them back.
He just kept on going.
He is only the 2nd Triple Crown winner to go undefeated. (Seattle Slew, 1977).
His Belmont Stakes time of 2:28 FLAT was well off the time of American Pharoah but his Beyer Figure was still an acceptable 101.
(PHOTO) Teo Ah Khing of co-owner China Horse Club celebrates with trainer Bob Baffert and assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes after the race. Ah Khing added, “As I said in the Preakness, the Lord opens the doors, and the doors opened. We are thankful for everybody here and the media and all our friends and especially our partners that we have. We treasure them. As you know, they are about 20 of our members here watching probably at the corridor, and they are on Cloud Nine, and so am I.”
Bob Baffert said “I was watching Hofburg, Bravazo. I thought he’d be tough, because Wayne Lukas, you never know when he’s going to just pull it out. And it was just, they were all grouped there. But to me, I was just watching the clock. I just watched the clock the whole way around there, because I knew the clock was going to be my friend or my enemy. You know, he kept it, he kept it, it was quick, quick early, slowed it down a little bit, but when he turned for home, though, I talked to Mike the other night, and I said, I just hope when you turn for home, you’re just sitting on him.”
Trainer Chad Brown said of Gronkowski, “I’m really proud of the way of the way he ran on dirt with so many things going against him. Then he misses the break, and then there’s a soft pace. I was shocked to see him that far back. The pace might have been a little slow but [Justify] ran in all three [Triple Crown] races and he won the Triple Crown and went the whole mile and a half today. He showed up and earned it. My thought turning for home was that he [Gronkowski] had a shot to get him [Justify] if Justify was vulnerable at a mile and a half. Even though the fractions were soft for a horse of his caliber, still he had to go a mile and a half. And I thought maybe, because I could see Gronkowski flying, but he just couldn’t get to that horse.”
Hofburg’s trainer Bill Mott said, “There was no pace and nobody put any pressure on the horse and he kidn of walked the dog going around there. They were going slow and he said he didn’t want to make some crazy move down the backside to go join him, which probably wouldn’t have made any sense. Our horse came running. He ran well. I mean, for not having any pace, he finished up very well. I thought at the quarter-pole, our horse was moving and we wanted to be close at the quarter-pole and we did get into position and made a run, but the speed wasn’t coming back. They went too slow.”
MARK CASSE’s stable won 5 races on Saturday at Woodbine (almost half of the very long 12-race card).
The team didn’t win the biggest one, though, and that might have stung.
DIXIE MOON, a tall, tough chestnut filly who went unsold as a yearling for Sean and Dorothy Fitzhenry of Toronto, held off the charge of Gary Barber’s champion 2-year-old filly from a year ago to win the 63rd Oaks worth $500,000.
Trained by Catherine Day Phillips, DIXIE MOON was perfectly ridden and trained to the minute in this 3rd race of her season.
She ran 1 1/89 miles in 1:50.37, just a shade quicker than the Plate Trial of 1:50.40.
Eurico Rosa Da Silva’s early bid to the lead on the Curlin – Dixie Chicken, by Rahy filly worked well since the rider knew Wonder Gadot has been 2nd or 3rd in all 5 previous races this year. She has not passed a horse in the stretch run all season while finishing 2nd in races like the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks.
The Fitzhenrys, who had their biggest year in racing as owners last season (they have been breeding to sell but had Dixie Moon, Mr Havercamp and Guy Caballero in their stable last year) were overwhelmed by the win.
As they were greeted with a round of cheers and applause up in the Woodbine Club’s members lounge, Dorothy broke down in tears and Sean as still a bit stunned.
“I never though the the finish line was going to get there,” said Sean.
Fittingly, the June/July issue of CANADIAN THOROUGHBRED magazine has a feature on the Fitzhenrys this month – check it out.
Telekinesis passes Plate test
Telekinesis, bred by Bill Graham of Caledon, ON, will likely be the betting favourite in 3 weeks come Queen’s Plate day.
The colt was fairly convincing in the 9 furlong Trial, even if he did get away with very slow pace fractions.
Patrick Husbands was giving trainer Mark Casse his fifth win of the afternoon in the 1 1/8 mile Plate Trial, a $125,000 race for Canadian-bred three-year-olds which is a stepping-stone to the $1 million Queen’s Plate at 1 1/4 miles on June 30.
“He was travelling so easy,” said Husbands, who was riding Telekinesis for the first time in a race. “By the time I left the gate, he had one ear back and one ear forward and that’s a sign that a horse is comfortable under you.
“So I got about the three-quarter pole and he still had one ear forward and one ear back, he showed me that he was just playing with that horse.
“Down the lane, I was squeezing him a little bit. He did just enough to win the race.”
Telekinesis had moved quickly into the lead from his No. 2 post and controlled the pace through a quarter in :25.06 and a half in :49.66 with Rose’s Vision in hot pursuit and Scrapper running third on the inside.
Heading around the final turn, Rose’s Vision took on Telekinesis in earnest but remained a half-length back through six furlongs in 1:13.31. At the furlong pole, Rose’s Vision was just a head off Telekinesis with the mile clocked in 1:37.61.
And while the winner drew away in the final stages, finishing in 1:50.40, Rose’s Vision was easily second with Aheadbyacentury 4 3/4 lengths back in third-place with a belated run. Boyhood Dream ran fourth, 1 1/2 lengths behind Aheadbyacentury.
Scrapper, invading from New York for trainer Todd Pletcher, lost touch late and wound up fifth with a never-dangerous Absolution sixth in the field of seven.
Silent Sting, the second choice, had dropped back abruptly around the final turn and checked in a distant last. He underwent a brief examination by the racetrack veterinarian but walked back to the barn.
All starters in the Plate Trial carried 126 pounds, the same impost which will be assigned to male entrants in the Queen’s Plate.
Telekinesis, owned by Barbara Banke’s Stonestreet Stables, was making his first start at Woodbine and coming off a narrow second-place finish in Keeneland’s Grade 3, 1 1/16 mile Lexington on April 14.
The son of Ghostzapper, who has sired two of the past three Queen’s Plate winners, did not make it to the races until February 9 and the Plate Trial was his fourth career start.
So how does the QUEEN’S PLATE look, now that all the races are done leading up to the 1 1/4 mile Classic?
Should the fillies runs, and it is likely they both will even with the enticing Bison City Stakes available, the field could look like this:
STRIKE ME DOWN
SAY THE WORD
EMMA-JAYNE WILSON receives AVELINO GOMEZ AWARD
It was a beautiful speech from a true ambassador of Ontario horse racing. Emma-Jayne Wilson, nearing a return to riding after suffering an injury before the season began, was emotional on Saturday.
“Given the spectacular legacy that Avelino Gomez was and the caliber of those who have been recognized in previous years, to be considered deserving of this award is an incredible honour,” said an emotional Wilson. “I am profoundly grateful for the opportunities that I have been given and I look forward to thanking those who have been instrumental in my career personally in the weeks to come. Thank you all for your support, your trust and the confidence that you have shown me throughout my career thus far. I am hoping to be back in the saddle as soon as possible.”