Canadian breds crush in Florida…sizzling racing action from Saturday on snowy, icy February weekend
HEART TO HEART WINS HIS FIRST GRADE 1
Heart to Heart’s most recent attempts to win a Grade 1 stakes had ended with heartbreaking losses, but the Brian Lynch-trained multiple graded-stakes winner was all heart Saturday, holding on to capture the $300,000 Gulfstream Park Turf (G1).
“The elusive Grade 1!,” Lynch exclaimed. “Watching him come back in and blowing as hard as he blew after that race, he gave it his all to win the race. He’s an absolute deserved horse to have a ‘1’ next to his name. It’s nice to get it done here, because he’s always loved this track.”
The 7-year-old son of English Channel, who came up short by less than a length after leading in the late stages of his three Grade 1 starts in 2017, showed the way into the stretch again Saturday but battled gamely to hold off a late-charging Kurilov by a neck under a perfectly executed ride by Julien Leparoux.
Heart to Heart, who reared at the start as the 3-5 favorite and finished seventh in the Fort Lauderdale (G2) last month at Gulfstream, broke alertly from his rail post position and grabbed an uncontested lead past tepid fractions of 24.15 (seconds) and 48.74 and 1:12.08 for the first six furlongs of the 1 1/8-mile race for older horses. The 5-2 favorite in a field of eight showed the way by more than a length after a mile in 1:35.49 but was all out to hold off Kurilov, who had saved ground while tracking the pace under Irad Ortiz Jr. Hi Happy raced evenly to finish third, three-quarters of a length back.
Heart to Heart ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.64 to win his fifth race in seven starts over the Gulfstream Park turf.
“He broke good and I got to the lead, and I was pretty comfortable the whole way. I’m glad the wire was coming, too, though because they were coming fast at the end,” Leparoux said. “The horse he tries, he tries hard, and he deserves that Grade 1 win and we finally got one. We’re all very happy about it.”
Lynch was happy when he saw Heart to Heart show his usual speed out of the starting gate after his disastrous start last time out.
“When they throw craps at you like that, it’s in the back of your mind that it could happen again and that maybe he’s not trying to go in the right direction,” Lynch said. “His works and everything indicated that [we should] put a pencil through that.”
Terry Hamilton’s enduring turf star upped his career bankroll to more than $1.7 million with his 11th career stakes victory and ninth graded-stakes success.
Luck was not on the side of Canadian-bred CHANNEL MAKER, who is a finalist for Champion 3-year-old colt in Canada at the Sovereign awards in April. owned un part by Joey G Thoroughbreds, Channel Maker was wrangled back to last and very rank, stayed under a hard hold and was fighting for most of the race, lacked room off the turn for home and then closed too late when allowed to run. Bill Mott trains and Nik Juarez rode.
There were 2 other Canadian bred winners at Gulfstream on Saturday – both COURT CENTRAL (Court Vision) and CONQUEST SANDMAN (Scat Daddy) won claiming races on the grass.
More in Monday’s Thoroughblog newsletter (subscriber to Canadian Thoroughbred to get the twice weekly ‘blog)
FLAMEAWAY ON FIRE – Queen’s Plate contender upsets Catholic Boy
Ontario bred FLAMEAWAY took advantage of a very fast and inside biased dirt track at Tampa Bay Downs and won the Sam F Davis Stakes on Saturday over Kentucky Derby contender CATHOLIC BOY.
Flameaway, a debut winner on Polytyrack at Woodbine, stakes winner in the slop and on grass, is a gritty fellow bred by Deb Holmes’ Phoenix Rising Farm. He is a son of Scat Daddy-Vulcan Rose, by Fusaichi Pegasus, and he completed the mile-and-a-sixteenth on the main track in 1:42.44 to establish a stakes record, .01 seconds faster than McCraken’s winning time last year.
His Beyer Figure was a lifetime best 92.
“He’s a fighter,” Casse said after his 3-year-old colt Flameaway fought back in deep stretch under jockey Jose Lezcano to defeat 7-10 favorite Catholic Boy by a half-length in the Grade III, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes, a “Road to the Kentucky Derby” points race. “If you’ve ever watched him, you’ve seen that.
“The one thing about him is, if he gets in a battle, he’s going to win the battle.”
“I told Jose he was going to like this track,” Casse said. “As long as the track is fairly firm, I think he’ll run on anything. I would say there is a good chance (to return for the Grade II, $400,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby on March 10), but it’s something I have to talk to Mr. Oxley about.
“I would also say I was kind of wishy-washy about trying him on dirt, and Mr. Oxley said ‘Can we do it one more time?’ He is the boss, so I said ‘Of course,’ ” Casse said with a broad smile.
Jonathan Thomas, the trainer of Catholic Boy (who was bred in part by Toronto’s John Fielding in Kentucky), was proud of his horse’s effort in his first race since winning the Grade II Remsen in December at Aqueduct.
“I thought it was a big effort giving up weight (Catholic Boy carried top weight of 122 pounds, with Flameaway carrying 120 and the others assigned 116),” Thomas said. “I just need to see it again and digest the race.”
Flameaway, who improved to 5-for-7 lifetime, is owned by John C. Oxley. He paid $22.60 to win. Vino Rosso rallied for third, three-quarters of a length behind Catholic Boy, with Hollywood Star fourth.
Holmes, who is also the breeder of Plate hopeful SILENT STING, picked up Flameaway’s dam for $20,000 from Chiefswood Stables at the 2012 Keeneland November sale in foal to Niigon. Vulcan Rose, from the fancy Chiefswood mare Rose of Tara was a winner on the track and her first foal to race and bred by Holmes was 2-year-old stakes winner ELLAN VANNIN. Ellan Vannin, RNA’d at auction and was bought privately by Jon Lee for $20,000.
Flameaway is the mare’s 2nd foal and he was a $150,000 yearling sold by Holmes and then a $400,000 yearling colt by Taylor Made, as agent.
The next foal of the mare is a 2yo of this year owned by William and Anne Scott, SEGUIMI, by Victor’s Cry, who was one of the nicest yearlings at last year’s CTHS sale and he sold for $85,000. The mare has a Flat Out yearling and was bred to Tiznow.
FLAMEAWAY is expected to take the next step in Tampa Bay 3yo races in the Tampa Bay Derby next month.
WORLD APPROVAL battles to Tampa Bay Stakes win, on to Dubai
Champion Turf Male WORLD APPROVAL did what he had to and won his return to racing on Saturday in the Grade 3 Tampa Bay Stakes worth $250,000.
John Velazquez was aboard World Approval, breeder-owner Charlotte Weber’s pride and joy who has four consecutive victories and could be headed to Dubai for a $6-million race next month. World Approval paid $2.40 to win while racing the mile-and-a-sixteenth on grass in 1:40.66. He earned a 103 Beyer Figure.
Two horses fell in the Tampa Bay Stakes, long shots Doctor Mounty and Cheyenne’s Colonel. Both horses completed the course riderless and appeared to be in good shape. The jockey on Doctor Mounty, Antonio Gallardo, was shaken up but returned to the jockey’s room under his own power.
Manoel Cruz, who rode Cheyenne’s Colonel, was transported to a local hospital for observation and had been diagnosed at press time with a possible wrist fracture.
Although the Tampa Bay Stakes was marred by the accident on the turn for home, a crowd of 5,147 got what they came to see in world Approval, the Eclipse champ now 3-for-3 over the Tampa Bay Downs turf course.
“He’s a fighter, too,” Casse said. “He has been better than he was today, but hopefully this will set a nice foundation for him this year. He’s a funny horse – he is not going to let you by.”
Velazquez said World Approval was probably just short of his best form, having not raced since his Eclipse-clinching victory in the Breeders’ Cup Mile on Nov. 4 at Del Mar.
“He was coming off a long layoff and sometimes they need a race, but he’s still a true champion and he put everybody away down the lane (although the William Mott-trained Forge and Franco were closing resolutely),” Velazquez said.
“I think when we passed a mile it was getting a little long for him with the layoff and (the extra sixteenth) hit him right in the head a little bit,” Velazquez added.
World Approval improved to 12-for-25 lifetime and the winner’s share of $115,000 raised his career earnings to $3,052,363.
WHITBY’S CHRIS LITTLEMORE IN FRONT IN HANDICAPPING CHAMPIONSHIP
Chris Littlemore, a retired autoworker from Whitby, Ontario, Canada, landed two big prices Saturday to take control of the 19th NTRA National Horseplayers Championship (NHC) Presented by Racetrack Television Network, STATS Race Lens™ and Treasure Island Las Vegas with a $311.70 mythical bankroll after Day 2 of the three-day tournament at Treasure Island.
The top 10 percent of the field – the top 70 – will continue on to the Semifinal round Sunday and the subsequent top 10 will play at the Final Table to determine final placings, from $800,000 for first down to $50,000 for 10th, as well an Eclipse Award as Horseplayer of the Year. Those left outside the final cut will play in a separate $50,000 Consolation Tournament on Sunday with reset mythical bankrolls.
Littlemore, 58, landed an 18-1 winner, Holiday’s Angels, in the seventh at Oaklawn Park, and a 12-1 shot, Dano’s Dream, at Golden Gate Fields.
“They jump off the page sometimes when you’re looking at the form,” Littlemore said. “Today was one of those days, and I got lucky.”
NHC entrants were required today to place 18 mythical $2 Win and Place wagers – eight on mandatory races that everyone played and 10 on any of 72 other races from eight designated racetracks across the country. The same was true for Friday and those Day 1 bankrolls rolled over to today. Sunday’s Semifinal will consist of 10 optional plays from 33 eligible races with post times up to 12:30 PT. Bankrolls will then carry over to the Final Table, made up of seven mandatory races with estimated post times from 1:30-4:46 p.m. PT, ending with Santa Anita’s Sweet Life Stakes, a downhill turf sprint for 3-year-old fillies.
Keith Fenton is more than $50 behind with $260.70. The remainder of the top 10 is separated by $11. Daniel Hart checked in third with $231.70. The leading 10 was rounded out by Stephanie Schmidt ($227.70), Mike Yurczyk ($227.30), Ernest Powers and Paul Langley (tied for sixth, $226.50), 2010 NHC Tour champion Tom Noone ($224.40), Gloria Kahlden ($220.70), and Joe Scanio ($220.30).
Scanio, a 13-time NHC qualifier whose best finish was sixth in 2015, has two entries in the Semifinals, also having landed in 51st ($183.30). The incredible NHC rookie Terry Cook, who won three New York Racing Association qualifiers last year and won the NHC Tour’s “Second Half,” also has two live entries, currently at 34th ($192) and 50th ($183.40).
Langley in sixth is alive for a $1 million bonus on top of the $800,000 first-place prize as winner of a Hawthorne Holiday Extravaganza contest.
Kahlden is clearly on a hot streak, as she was spotted celebrating a massive mid-five-figure slot machine jackpot at Treasure Island shortly after the day’s contest play concluded.
Among the other notable Semifinals players are Stephanie Davis, an 11-time NHC qualifier, in 12th ($217.10); Scott Carson, founder of Public Handicapper and a 10-time qualifier, in 14th ($212.80); Jon Lindo, owner and producer of the Thoroughbred L.A. radio program, in 28th ($198.90); Nick Tammaro, morning line oddsmaker at Sam Houston Race Park and a regular guest on the At the Races with Steve Byk satellite radio program, in a tie for 41st ($188.10); Duke Matties, a 12-time NHC qualifier and brother of 2016 NHC winner Paul Matties, in 53rd ($181.70); John Nichols, clocker at Kentucky racetracks, in 55th ($181.30); Roger Cettina, twice a NHC runner-up (2013 and 2016), in 58th ($179.60); NHC Hall of Fame member and 2011 NHC Tour champion Paul Shurman, qualified to the NHC for the 16th consecutive year and thrice a top-ten finisher, in 59th ($178.20); and Jonathon Kinchen, the 2015 NHC Tour hero, in 66th ($175.20).
The last Semifinalist to make the cut was Dennis Klein in 70th with $173.40.
Defending champion Ray Arsenault, from Ontario, had two entries that were never in contention – one that checked in 567th ($58.80) and a second that finished with zero. None of the 13 former champions to compete made the cut, meaning the NHC will have a first-time winner this year and will remain without ever having had a two-time champion.