Retired trainer Marko passes away during races

For friends and family of Sovereign award winning trainer Bill Marko, it was a somber day as the 73-year-old collapsed and died of an apparent heart attack in the Woodbine kitchen during the racing card yesterday. The races were delayed some 30 minutes while he was attended to by emergency team members.

Marko, who was Canada’s champion trainer in 1982 and 1983, had been around the Woodbine backstrtech in recent years after leaving the racing business some seasons ago. He was often visiting the racing office this spring before the season got underway and got a license to work on the backstretch, reportedly as a hotwalker.

Marko, who led Woodbine trainers with 11 stakes wins in 1981 and eight stakes wins in 1982, had over 500 career victories, including 48 stakes scores.

He was the trainer and part owner of Frost King, Canada’s Horse of the Year in 1982, and also developed 1981 Horse of the Year, Deputy Minister, before the colt was sold. The latter was also champion two-year-old male in both Canada and North America in 1981. Both horses are in the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame.

Other notable Marko trainees included Fraud Squad, a Sovereign-winning sprinter, Prince Avatar, Fighting Champ and Sir Khaled.

Marko, who took out his trainer’s licence in 1976, was born September 28, 1937.

Woodbine re-cap…track fast, very windy, speed okay but basically a fair surface

The Grade 3 WHIMSICAL STAKES, which featured only fillies and mares who had not raced this year, turned out to be a runaway for WILDCAT MARIE, a Wildcat Heir 4yo filly who was claimed for $40,000 last year by Joe Baldesarra and trainer Marty Drexler.

Wildcat Marie arrived at Woodbine for her debut in July of 2009 and was third in 2 outings as a 2yo; She missed almost an entire year before she returned and won three straight last season for owners Ballylynch Racing, Dan Gale and Mike Stewart. Trained by Brian Lynch, she was then claimed and won two allowance events to end the season.

This year, with new rider Tyler Pizarro in tow, the filly was working fast for Drexler and she led the small field on a merry chase. In her wake was last year’s champion female sprinter Indian Apple Is, who was quite full in her effort.

Drexler wasn’t sure what to expect from Wildcat Marie in her seasonal debut. “She’s a win machine,” said Drexler. “She’s overcome some issues. I wasn’t quite sure if she was tight enough. I actually tried to avoid this spot, but the owners wanted to go in. I’ll give them the credit for being in here. Sometimes you’ve got take a shot.” 

Other stuff Saturday:

Phil and Cary Brooks are 2 for 3 as the owner and trainer won the 1st race with class-dropper/layoff filly PUT A RING ON IT, who wore down a speedy Molinaro Mission to win the $12,500 maiden race at 5 1/2 furlongs/ The winner was ridden by Rick Dos Ramos.

GRAPES won his season debut in race 2 for Norseman Racing and trainer Sid Attard. The son of Cuvee, who races with a head head carriage, rallied 3 wide on the turn and edged Powermouse, who darted up the rail late on the turn and almost pulled off an upset.

Powermouse, trained by Scott Fairlie, was one of a pair of runner-ups in consecutive races for the barn – in race 3 STARS IN MY EYES set a slow pace and led for almost every jump of the 1 1/16 mile first-level allowance race but was finally edged by Full Moon Party, a Medaglia d’Oro filly trained by Mark Casse. The winner was coming in from Keeneland and it was her 2nd win in 11 races.

The first leg of the Pick 4 went to AERIAL VIEW, a $20,000 claim by our friend Billy Hicks last fall. The 4yo by Yankee Gentleman rallied up the rail to catch JOLSON, who made a fast move around the turn into a hot pace to take a clear lead. A game POintless Love was 2nd as Jolson slipped back to 3rd. The winner is trained by Sid Attard and was ridden by a red-hot Tyler Pizarro.

Race 5 went to DUETTINA for Josham Farms and trainer Mike Mattine. The filly took hold of the wind behind her and went 21 3/5 and led all the way, just holding off a fast closing ILLEGAL CODE, owned by Nicola Wells Scott. The winner was making her 2nd start of the meeting and Eurico Rosa da Silva took over from Luis Contreras.

Sing and Ullah’s BIBI’S DOLL blew past big favourite Speithstown Lady in race 6, an allowance for 3yo fillies at 5 1/2 furlongs. The winner came 4 wide from far back to catch the leader who sizzled in 21 2/5 and 43 4/5 and then started swishing her tail. The leader, who won her debut impressively, was 1st time Lasix but could not hold off Bibi’s Doll, who had been 2nd in her season opener under Omar Moreno. Trainer Laurie Silvera  must have been pleased that the Officer filly came from off the pace for the first time in her career.

OOO, Happy Easter to Ralph Toohey whose AWESOME CHESTNUT won the 7th race – the last leg of the Pick 4 and the first leg of the 2nd Pick 4, and knocked almost everyone out with his 40 to 1 speed score. The Peaks and Valleys colt, a $25,000 yearling, battled on the pace all the way and then drove clear under Kris Robsinon to win in his 7th career start. He had shipped in from Tampa (!!, often a deadly surface switch to Woodbine) and was dropping to maiden claiming for the first time. Julie Belhumeur is the colt’s 3rd trainer.

Youngsters looking to get into the Queen’s Plate picture were in race 9 – a maiden allowance. The big fave, ENDURING STAR, moved wide and early at the quarter pole and cleared byt then had to hold off newcomer JOJO’S MOJO, who just about caught him. The winner is a West POint Thoroughbreds Inc. runner who was bred by Hill ‘n’ Dale Holdings Inc. and was a $4,000 2yo purchase. The son of Sir Shackleton – Lady Lyra, was 3rd in last year’s Coronation Futurity behind Strike Oil. Mark Casse trains.

Jojo’s Mojo had been to 3 tracks in his 4 career races and he was returning to Polytrack for owner Samotowka Stable. Now trained by Mike DePaulo, the grey by Ghostzapper was adding blinkers.

The finale was won by favoured ORIENTATE SLEW, who won a long battle with If and Almost to take the $10,000 claimer. It was the first win of the season for trainer Lorne Richards. Patrick Husbands rode the winner.

Betting was $2.2 million on the card.


THOROUGBLOG’S 2011 Queen’s Plate Contenders

1. Queen’splatekitten 

2. Elite Alex

3. Bear’s Chill

4. Joyful Victory

5. Red Ace

6. Inglorious 

7. Oh Canada

8. Good Better Best

9. Black n Beauty

10. Enduring Star


The winterbook Plate favourite, the filly INGLORIOUS, who has not had much of a glorious start to 2011, could race at Woodbine next weekend in the Fury Stakes against speedy hotshot filly ROXY GAP. Inglorious is currently at Keeneland with trainer Josie Carroll.

ENDURING STAR’S maiden win earned him a 77 Beyer Figure (also Jojo’s Mojo got a 77) and is on the short list of Plate contenders. BOWMAN’S CAUSEWAY has not worked since his Florida Derby debacle and like ELITE ALEX, will have to freshen and regroup if he is to come up to Canada for a good shot at the Plate. GOOD BETTER BEST looked decent in his allowance win on Friday at Keeneland (see yesterday’s post and photo) and trainer Roger Attfield also has the big Beyer Figured CHECK YOUR SOUL, who posted an 86 in a grass win at Keeneland on the 15th.

LIFE IS JUST A (QP)FANTASY –  Wednesday marks the official kickoff of the annual Queen’s Plate Fantasy Challenge, a free online contest offered by the Woodbine Entertainment Group. The contest will run through Queen’s Plate Day, June 26. To register and view the complete rules visit www.queensplate.com




Shocking news item in the Daily Racing Form says that Breeders’ Stakes winner MARLANG, who provided trainer Debbie England with one of her greatest scores, dropped dead in the care of Neil Drysdale in California recently. The Langfuhe fellow, owned and bred by Gus Schickedanz, had been sent away to California to race after his Breeders’ Stakes year.

He won the Grade 3 Sunset at Hollywood upon his arrival but his last 4 races were drab and he had not raced since January.