David Willmot and the Honourable David Onley, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario.

Cindy Pierson Dulay photo







stays on as Chairman

A 15-year-old run by David Willmot guiding the Woodbine racetrack business will take a different course in 2010 when the 59-year-old will pass on his duties as Chief Execeutive Officer of Woodbine Entertainment Group to president Nick Eaves.

Willmot will stay on as chairman.

The move will take place next summer.


 “When I came in here, 15 years ago, it was going to be for three years,” said the 59-year-old Willmot, who was elected president and CEO in 1995 and chairman in 2001.

“We need a CEO with real fire in his belly. I’m a fiery person, but it’s in the company’s best interests to pass the torch to someone else.

“It’s good for the company to follow flow and transition, by promotion between management ranks.

Willmot, who came into racing through his father ‘Bud’ Willmot in the 1960’s still owns and breeds racehorses under Kinghaven Farms.

He is a Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame member and multiple award winner for entrepreneurship, innovation and, frankly, playing an integral role is righting the racing business at Woodbine.


The FINAL WEEKEND of Woodbine’s 167 day meeting is here and there are 24 races to be scrutinized and 2 intriguing stakes events.

Today’s DISPLAY STAKES, the 53rd running, will not have an impact on champion 2yo honours  but there is one Ontario bred in the race that could be a force next year in the Canadian classics – GIANT’S TOMB, who just won his maiden with a 79 Beyer Figure.

That Awesome Again colt, owned and bred by Sam-Son Farms, has his work cut out with a tough filly to his inside, REDVERSE (Menifee) and a trio of dudes from the Rade Baker Stable including THUNDER BALL (owned by Stronach Stables) and BEAR’S HARD TEN (Bear Stables.).

Who was the DISPLAY STAKES named for?

(from Wikipedia)

Inaugurated in 1956 at Toronto’s Old Woodbine Race Course as a sprint race, it was named for American Walter J. Salmon’s colt Display, winner of the 1926 Preakness Stakes and who frequently raced in Canada where he won a number of important races.

The Display stakes was run in two divisions in 1959. There was no race in 1993. Since inception, it has been contested at various distances:

    * 6 furlongs : 1956 at Old Woodbine Race Course

    * 7 furlongs : 1957-1958 at Old Woodbine Race Course

    * 8 furlongs (1 mile) : 1959-1960 Old Woodbine Race Course, 1977-1992 at Greenwood Raceway

    * 8.5 furlongs (11/16 miles) : 1969-1976 at Greenwood Raceway, 1994 to present at Woodbine Racetrack

    * 9 furlongs (1 1/8 miles) : 1961-1963 at Old Woodbine Race Course

    * 9.5 furlongs: 1964-1968 at Greenwood Raceway


Local trainer Lynch training for Juddmonte

Tomorrow’s feature, as is custom, is the 1 3/4 mile VALEDICTORY, featuring champion CLOUDY’S KNIGHT, winner of the 2007canadian International and recently 2nd inthe Breeders’ Cup Marathon.

The old-timer could be favoured over Juddmonte Farms’ impressive 3yo EAGLE POISE.

Brian Lynch, who took care of all of the late Bobby Frankel’s trainees at Woodbeint his year, is now the listed trainer for Juddmonte, at least for tomorrow.

DEC5cloud1.jpgCloudy forecast! CLOUDY’S KNIGHT (left) comes back to Woodbine off a near miss in the Breeders’ Cup Marathon.

PP      Horse   Stable     A/S     Med     Jockey     Wgt     Trainer     M/L

1     Red Leader (FL)         3/C     L     O Moreno     111     D J Vella     12/1

2     Cloudy’s Knight (KY)        9/G     L     R B Homeister, Jr.     121     J E Sheppard     2/1

3     Auteur (KY)         3/G     L     E Wilson     111     B J Minshall     12/1

4     Cobotown Ron (ON)        5/G     L     E R Da Silva     117     A M Delmas     12/1

5     Pool Play (ON)         4/C     L     C Fraser     119     M E Casse     4/1

6     Solitaire (ON)         4/G     L     C Sutherland     115     H J Bond     8/1

7     Torquay (KY)         7/G     L     G Olguin     113     N De Toro     15/1

8     Guadalcanal (FL)         4/G         R C Landry     113     F J Seitz     20/1

9     Find the Wire (KY)         4/C     L     E Ramsammy     113     B A Lynch     20/1

10     Eagle Poise (KY)         3/C     L     P Husbands     115     B A Lynch     3/1


Upsets are the name of the game at Woodbine right now – huge fields, horses going in all sorts of directions – it’s a smorgasbord for bettors.

Re-cap of last 3 days:


VELVET HAMMER nailed down her first win in 2 YEARS when she won the 2nd race for $19,000 claiming, The 4yo Smart Strike filly, owned and bred by Frank DiGiulio Jr. was 0 for her last 17 races.

CONNECTIONS scorched 7 furlongs in a stunning 1:22.71 in the 4th race for $25,000 claimers. The 8-year-old loves Woodbine but had not been here since one race last year and a couple in 2007.

In fact the older timer was making onoy his 2nd race off a 13-month layoff for trainer Mike Dini.

Didn’t matter – he blew by the field at 12 to 1.

Breeda and John Hayes made a neat claim it appears. The couple too Stronach Stables’ ZESTY BREW from a Nov. 26 race for $10,000 (her first outing since May) and then ran her back in a $16K maiden race and she won by more than 6 lengths.

WEARSOMETHINGTIGHT was hugely overlooked in race 6 for maiden allowance 2yo fillies – Ont. sired. The Bold Executive gal, a half sister to speedball Sexy Sheri, came fro 9th in the stretch to win her debut at 17 to 1 for Scott Fairlie’s Ace Racing and partner. She was an $18,800 US yearling purchase and was bred by Gardiner Farms.

BLUE BLOOD WILDCAT won again – the 4yo filly is 3 for 9 this year now and has won 2 in succession for Charlie Byscaglia and Regal racing. She is by D’Wildcat and was bred by John Kinsey. The race yesterday was for $16K claiming.

The featured event, an allowance/optional claimer, turned out to be not as exciting after scratches – half a dozen were taken out including some of the favourites. The winner was DRUNKEN LOVE, who led all the way through 7 furlongs for his 4th win in his 8th race. A $62,500 claim by Tallyho Racing and Norm McKnight, the gelding was a 2-time stakes winner this year and won for $60K yesterday.

He sizzled 7 furlongs in 1:22.20

LORRAINE AND MIKE FLETCHER’S homebred gelding AMERICAN SCOUT won his maiden in an allowance race for Ontario sired guys in race 9. Trained by Anne Cameron, the Where’s the Ring 3yo, out of sea Hunter by Matter of Honor was making his 5th career start.

And what a way to end the day – BOLD SUSPECT, at 43 to 1, bombed the last race for $10,000 claiming and was the first winner of the year for George and Paula BIllers. The 4to had not been in the top three in 9 previous races, had not won in 2 years, but was strating for a new low level.


Shadwell Stables, Mike Pino, just a couple of ifty names lured to Woodbine this season to make the circuit all that more tougher.

That team sent out first-time strating 3yo filly RATHAB in race 3. Listed at 3 to 1 second choice in the small maiden allowance race, the filly floated up to 5 1/2 to 1 and won anyway, holding over favoured Magic Broomstick to win in 1:24 1/5 for 7 furlongs.

The filly is by Dixieland Band.

Pino came back to win the 7th race with David Ross’ MY ISLAND GIRL, who is 2 for 6 this year now. That gal ran 7 furlongs in a fast 1:23.69 in the $19,000 claiming race.

Former jockey LARRY ATTARD won his first race as a trainer in2009 with MADAM INSPECTOR, owned by his wife Veronica. The filly won the $32,000 claiming race on the pace under red-hot apprentice Omar Moreno.

Trainer BEVERLY BUCK won her first race of the meeting (she had won one at Fort Erie) with YONGE’S HARBOUR, whom Buck owns.

Interestingly, this filly was 7to 1 in her previous race and had a 3 length lead in late stretch before she bore out and her rider lost his whip.

Thursday, with new rider Terry Husbands on board and at a shorter disatance, the filly won handily in the maiden allowance – her 20th career race – and it was off just 5 days.

She is a 4yo Ontario sired gal by Paynes Bay.

Ontario bred KID CANUCK is a 3-time winner now as a 2yo in2009. The son of Kitten’s Joy won a $50,000 claiming race for John Richter and boosted his earnings  well over $110,000. He cost $5,700 at a Kentucky sale and was bred right here by Ken and Sarah Ramsey.


The upset of SAND COVE in the Sir Barton Stakes was not all that surprising even if the latter was 3 to 5 on the board.

Sure, the fellow handles 2 turns onPolytrack okay but it’s not really his best gig and at 3 to 5, well, hey, it’s not wise to be betting these types in December.

The upwardly mobile runners, the up and comers, are the attractive ones – like GENIUS KINSHASA, the FIRST STAKES WINNER for Beeton, Ontario stallion KINSHASA who orchestrated the Sir Barton score under nifty handling by jockey Emile Ramsammy.

Blessed withimproving and explosive Beyer Figures, Genius Kinshasa has been hinting all season that a big win was coming and he picked the right time to do it.

The owners, Frances Scala (of Lake Secret fame) and Enza Armata certainly were happy their $5,200 purchase rallied in time to beat Sand Cove and hop over $250,000 in earnings.

Vito Armata trains.

Apprentice rider OMAR MORENO snuck into Woodbine off a couple of dozen wins out west and has already bagged 18 scores on his way to a likely Sovereign award trophy for top apprentice. And the rider has most of next year to wow the Ontario horsemen too.

He won the Daily Double on Wednesday night on Jim McAlpine’s FEISTEE DEER and Dominion Bloodstock’s I’M TALKIN BOUT ME.

He took a 3rd win later on the card on Lorne Richards’ trainee STRANGER THINGS.



The DRF’S  Canadian editor BILL TALLON, top notch news-getter and scribe, reports on two interesting bits this week:

The QUEEN’S PLATE will be held on Independence day, July 4 next year and could be a stoppoint point on a Canadian tour for Her Majesty QUEEN ELIZABETH.

And some of the more bizarre occurrences of the Woodbine year are getting cleared up. JUSTIN STEIN’S 25-day suspension for getting mad at fellow rider Chantal Sutherland was dorpped to 7 days but his fine went up from $2,500 to $4,000.



Mark Casse is used to winning.

This year he collected his third consecutive trainer’s title at Woodbine’s thoroughbred meet. Last year, he won an unprecedented third consecutive Sovereign Award as Canada’s outstanding trainer. He has won more races at Woodbine since 2000 than any other trainer.

“It doesn’t matter how many times you win it, you still always want to win again,” says Casse. “It’s funny. We won the Sovereign Award three years in a row and I used to listen to the Yankees and they won the World Series a couple years in a row so why is it such a big deal to win it again. But, that desire never goes away.”

BAMBERA – another dominant girl

The Year of the Filly lives on

By David L. Mérida

Special to

While the horse of the year debate rages on in the US, between the undefeated super-mare Zenyatta & and wonder-filly Rachel Alexandra fans, the best horse in the Caribbean will be decided on the track, in the 42nd running of the Clasico del Caribe on Sunday, December 6th, when Camarero Racetrack in San Juan, Puerto Rico, hosts the premier horse-racing event of the region.

The 2009 edition will hold the dream match-up everyone in the area wants to see, between the Caribbean versions of the US superstar females: Venezuelan-bred Bambera (Water Poet – Bella Amandina by Voyageur), winner of 15 of 17 races, 14 of them Grade 1 stakes, and Mexican filly Vivian Record (Abaginone – Turkish Doll by Turkoman), a winner of the Mexican Triple Tiara by a combined 79 lengths, while also annihilating colts by 9 lengths in her country’s qualifying race for the Clasico.

El Clásico is the crowning jewel of the weekend’s festivities as part of The Caribbean Breeder’s Series, a horse-racing competition ritual for the area that includes a 6-furlong stakes race for sprinters, a 1 1/16th stakes race for distaffers, and two races at the classic 10-furlong distance: the $100,000 Confraternity Cup for older Caribbean-bred horses, and the $50,000 Chamber of Tourism Invitational Cup for imported horses. The race has prompted the creation of a Caribbean Hall of Fame, which holds an induction ceremony for its most prominent figures every two years, and the hosting of a Jockey Challenge series, in which the outstanding jockeys of the region compete for bragging rights. The truth is that the Caribbean Series has brought pride to an industry that perceives it as an Olympics-like event; since participation in the Clasico cannot be supplemented or bought, horses & owners must earn the right to represent their countries through a series of qualifying races on their native racetracks. In its 41-year history, The Caribbean Derby has seen riding stars such as Gustavo Avila (Victoreado-1966), Jacinto Vazquez (Barremina-1974) & Laffit Pincay Jr (Pikotazo-1980) achieve glorious success in the race, on their way to resounding victories in the Kentucky Derby, aboard Cañonero (1971-Preakness Stakes winner as well), Genuine Risk & Swale, respectively. Panamanian Rubén Hernandez rode Mexican champion Ezgarta to victory in the 1978 Clasico, in route to crushing the immortal Spectacular Bid’s quest for the triple crown, in the 1980 Belmont Stakes aboard Coastal.


Thoroughbred race track lacks enforcing zero tolerance policy for slaughter

 ExaminerCheryl Hanna

In a holding pen at a small auction in Fredericksburg, PA, approximately 15 miles from Penn National Race Course, the only thoroughbred among ponies and other breeds, paced nervously back and forth calling to the other horses. Christy Sheidy, co-founder of Another Chance 4 Horses, a local all breed horse rescue in attendance at the sale noticed the young, fit gelding, #923, the white auction tag glued to his rump and with a poultice still clearly visible on his legs. Sheidy identified the horse as Hayyard Branch, and his owner/trainer was Brandon Jenkins.

When Hayyard Branch was dropped off at the auction, an envelope titled Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course contained a Bill of Sale for $10. to owner Brandon Jenkins, Jockey Club papers and a note stating, ” registered thoroughbred, broke to ride/pleasure riding horse, freshly shod, nice to be around kids, sound, sell, $500..” Hayyard didn’t bring $500; the confusion of the contract asking $500. and making the statement, ” Sell” the auction did not sell the horse. No provisions were even made for food and water during the horse’s stay at the auction.





* PENNY FOR YOUR THOUGHTS – Canadian THBrd – read story below


*fate of the fort:


* Gate Crew –

*Fundraiser –



        It was just a “penny.”  Brown, mis-shapen and flat, like rolled out pizza dough. But it was priceless to my mother.  It was her prized souvenir from the visit of King George and Queen Elizabeth to Toronto in 1939.

        The King and Queen came to Toronto on the “Royal Train” and my mother, along with a sister, waited anxiously for the steam engine to appear, pulling the lavishly appointed coaches.  And she was among the thousands who placed their currency on the tracks; rolled flat for posterity.

        That was the year my mother became a race fan….no, not a dyed-in-the-wool fanatic, but a fan of one race.  The King’s Plate.  And later the Queen’s Plate.

        The 1939 visit to The Plate, at Woodbine, in Toronto’s east-end, marked the first time a reigning Monarch had attended the race which was granted royal approval by Queen Victoria and the granting of a Plate worth 50 guineas in 1860.

        That George McCullagh had a horse in the 80th running of the Plate piqued my mother’s interest even more.  McCullagh was the owner of Archworth and The Globe and Mail newspaper.  My father was a young sportswriter with the paper.  Archworth won.

        From that year forward my mother would ask every spring the date of the race.  The royal visit had made her aware of the race.  And that first visit to the historic race had also tugged at the heart strings of the young Queen. Her Majesty developed a full-blown love-affair with Canada’s Race.  The Queen Mom, as she was affectionately named, was the honoured guest seven times at Woodbine, the magnificent track built on the then outskirts of Toronto by E.P. Taylor and opened in 1956. 

        Unlike my mother, I developed an interest in horse racing in my pre-teens.  I would ride my bicycle down Woodbine Avenue to watch the horses and their riders on the track.  I was mesmerized by the beauty and power of these magnificent animals.  Then I’d pedal over to Woodbine Beach to watch horses and riders plunge into Lake Ontario to swim and cavort in the cooling waters.

          Years later Woodbine would be reduced to a six furlong track and the magnificent infield, once home to steeplechasing and polo matches, was no more.  The access to the sandy beach was blocked by an extension of Lakeshore Road.  The city was moving in and Taylor decided it was time to head west to the vast acreage he had acquired just outside of the village of Malton.  It was just farm land for as far as the eye could see.  The “new” Woodbine was about to be built.

        My first visit to Woodbine was in 1960.  The track was immense.  There was no other word for it.  And the air was electric with anticipation.  Victoria Park, one of North America’s outstanding three-year-olds had come “home” for the Plate.  Avelino Gomez, the leading rider in Canada, was tabbed to ride. 

        Victoria Park could have raced in The Belmont Stakes, third gem in the U.S. Triple Crown, that very afternoon.  And likely won.  But Taylor knew that his home-bred son of Chop Chop would have to race on home soil or he would be seen to be denigrating the biggest race of the year in Canada.

        Not every one was delighted with the news that Victoria Park was back from New York and appeared ready to make the Plate field look like a field of lowly claimers.  An anonymous caller informed police and track officials that Gomez would be “picked off” by a rifleman before they made it out of the first turn.

        Gomez wasn’t daunted.  But he was nervous as his mount pranced under him on post-parade.  He had to be thinking he was a “sitting duck.”

After a rough start, Gomez positioned his mount in traffic as the eight horse field thundered down the stretch and into the turn.  Gomez, wily ol’ El Perfecto, as the press called the Cuban-born rider, wasn’t going to be an easy moving target.

At the head of the stretch Gomez was sitting on his mount, simply hand-riding Victoria Park to an easy victory.  Emboldened by the fact he was still sitting in the saddle, The Cuban Caballero, passing the 70 yard pole, turned his head to the 25,000-plus roaring fans, and STUCK OUT HIS TONQUE!

Over the ensuing years Gomez would give the “raspberry” to a few more fans who dared taunt the king, as he liked to call himself.

I joined The Ontario Jockey Club, (now Woodbine Entertainment Group) in the autumn of 1960.  Jim Coleman, one of Canada’s most beloved newspapermen, was the Publicity Director at the track and he needed an assistant.  He plucked me from my sports reporting job at United Press International.

“It’s a job of a lifetime,” he chortled. 

It was a job with a lifetime of memories, not the least of which was watching Coleman, on Queen’s Plate Day, “turf” a society reporter, feeling the effects of some early afternoon champagne, from the press box.

Coleman, resplendent in his morning suit and puffing on his ever present cigar, received a telephone call from the press box steward that a woman was “raising hell.”

In a puff of smoke, and with a Graucho Marx-like stride, Coleman bolted for the elevator to the roof.

The society reporter, lurching about, demanded from Coleman that he seat her in the “working press” section.  Every seat was assigned, explained Coleman.  He told her she should report on fashion in the Turf Club.

“I’ll have your job, Coleman!” shouted the un-lady like reporter, her pill box hat now tilted over an ear.   The threat landed on deaf ears.  Coleman grabbed her by the neck of her dress and the back of her girdle.  They were last seen two-stepping down the hall.  And it wasn’t ball room dancing. Now how can your forget that Plate memory?

And how can you forget the last race of Northern Dancer, Canada’s hero?

 Northern Dancer returned to Woobine in the summer of 1964.  He had become the first  Canadian-bred to win The Kentucky Derby (in a record two minutes flat) won the Preakness Stakes, then was third, tiring badly after battling with his jockey, Bill Hartack, to have his head.

Hartack, once again, was determined to make the Plate appearance his personal stage.  From the start of the mile and one-quarter event, Hartack had Northern Dancer in a “strangle hold.”  The Dancer was dying to run and he would have had little trouble cruising to an easy lead against the field of seven others.  Heading into the clubhouse turn Northern Dancer was last and was noticeably agitated at his handling. 

Mid-way of the backstretch Hartack eased Northern Dancer clear of horses and the “lleeetle horse” as his trainer, Horatio Luro proudly called him began to make a big move.  As they swung around the final turn and into the stretch Northern Dancer was home and cooled out.  He won by more than seven lengths.  But it was his last race.

Northern Dancer was retired with a bowed tendon.  It’s likely that the pride and joy of E.P. Taylor had hit his  tendon while wrestling with his jockey on the first turn. 

Afterwards in the jocks’ room, Hartack, who had taken his time freshening up, was his sarcastic self with the media.  “What’s all the fuss about?” asked Hartack.  “He just beat a field of Canadian-breds.”

Milt Dunnell, the brilliant sports columnist with the Toronto Star, didn’t miss a beat….”and what do you think you were riding?” he retorted.

In 1973 racing celebrated Sandy Hawley’s fantastic “Ride to 515”, Secretariat’s last race in the Canadian International, and the return of Royalty to the Plate.  Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh were on hand for the 114th running.  It was the first time the reigning monarch had attended since 1959. 

One of the members of the Ontario Jockey Club’s Board of Trustees was so excited he took up a prominent place on a sofa close by the entrance to the Trustee’s Room.  He wanted to “meet and greet” before the official reception.

Unfortunately, the Trustee whiled away the time keeping the bar-tender busy.  When Her Royal Highness appeared he shot to his feet and strode forward.  He forgot the low slung table was in front of him.  The “Noble Lord” as the trustee was nicknamed, made an ignoble landing.  The Queen, hardly looking down her nose, sidestepped like a halfback.

Oh yes, the race was won by Jack Stafford’s Royal Chocolate, trained by Gil Rowntree and ridden by Ted Colangelo.  I’m not sure if the lord saw the race.

In 1985, 46 years after my mother waved to an enthralling young Queen Elizabeth I was lucky enough to be “presented” in the walking ring. 

Talk only if spoken to we were advised.  With a twinkle in her eye, the Queen Mom extended her delicate hand.  I took it and bowed.  I was rendered speechless.  But I couldn’t tell her about my mom’s adventure  even if I had had the ability to do so..

The King’s Plate became The Queen’s Plate, the original Plate became a silver trophy, then a small, 14 karat gold trophy, and because of soaring bullion prices, is now gold plated.  Guineas, granted by Queen Victoria, are no longer minted.  In their place, gold sovereigns are gifted, but only when royalty is on hand to present them.  And a penny is a penny.  Or is it?