WOODBINE ENTERTAINMENT / DR. BRIAN VAN AREM APPEAL HEARD MONDAY
Proceedings get underway this morning in Etobicoke in Woodbine Entertainment Group’s appeal to the Horse Racing Appeal Panel seeking a harsher penalty for veterinarian Dr. Brian Van Arem in regards to extracorporeal shock wave therapy performed in September.
Dr. Van Arem and trainer Norm McKnight were each fined by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission Sept. 18 for administering shock wave therapy to two horses on July 30 that were entered to race on Aug. 1. The rules of racing prohibit shock wave therapy within 96 hours of a race. Both horses were scratched.
The fines were $7,500 for Dr. Van Arem and $5,000 for McKnight. Woodbine filed an appeal for the veterinarian to be suspended six months from the Sept. 18 rule date or 90 days from April 20 when the Woodbine season gets underway.
SCOTT COLES, 34, WINS NATIONAL HORSEPLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP
“I’m such a lone ranger in this,” he said. “I have no story about how my dad took me to the track. I did this all on my own and discovered it on my own. I just love the game. I just wish more people my age did it. It would be a lot more fun. I would be glad to promote that in any way possible.” – SCOTT COLES
If Scott Coles wanted to leave the 20th NTRA National Horseplayers Championship (NHC) Presented by Racetrack Television Network, STATS Race Lens™ and Treasure Island Las Vegas with the $800,000 first-place check and an Eclipse Award to his name, he figured that acting like the best handicapper in the room wasn’t going to cut it.
He had to play fields that weren’t obvious attractions. He had to focus on picking winners and not get hung up on odds. He had to find a way during his first ever try at the NHC to stay one step ahead of those who had been there and done that.
“There are so many amazing handicappers here and I feel like I had a good strategy, because I knew I wasn’t going to be the best handicapper here,” the 34-year-old Illinois resident said. “There are legends here, people who have been doing it forever. I had to come up with a different game plan.”
Coles’ plan worked to perfection when it counted most. A longshot pick in the next to last mandatory race at the 10-person Final Table propelled him to the front of a tight leaderboard en route to earning the title of 2019 NHC champion with a mythical bankroll of $367.
The upstart Coles toppled an NHC field that had 668 entries, second largest in NHC history, and 522 individual players. This year marked his first time qualifying for the NHC and he became the tournament’s youngest ever champion when his total bested runner-up Jim Meeks by a margin of $10.40 in a Final Table showdown that featured four lead changes in seven races.
Coles, a full-time futures trader for a firm, said he only began playing the races about seven years ago and really got serious during American Pharoah’s Triple Crown year in 2015. He began focusing on tournaments the last two and a half years and got dual qualified this summer on back-to-back weekends in a pair of HorsePlayers.com online tournaments.
“I started playing the (NHC) tour at the very end of 2016. Didn’t qualify. Tried last year on and off, didn’t get there,” Coles said. “This year I was fortunate to get double qualified. Navigating through (the NHC) was interesting. There were a lot of nerve wracking moments.
“I was trying not to watch the odds as much and just pick winners and just keep moving up knowing that if you get to the Final Table with how close the pack was, anybody had a chance. All in all I was just trying to grind out winners rather than worrying about finding 20-1 shots.”
One of the Canadian participants in the NHC, Barry Kerbel, a horse owner at Woodbine, had a big day, but not in the contest. Kerbel had two winning tickets in Saturday’s Rainbow 6 mandatory payout with each winning ticket paying $100,000.
Canadians were in action throughout North America this past weekend as local stables ramp up getting ready for the Woodbine meeting.
On the stakes front, Avie’s Mineshaft, one of 2018’s top 3-year-old fillies at Woodbine, faded to last of seven in the Grade 3 Suwanee River Stakes at Gulfstream for Ivan Dalos and Josie Carroll.
Over at Tampa Bay Downs in the Grade 3 Tampa Bay Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on turf, Canadian bred Heart to Heart got his favoured spot on the pace early in the race but was swarmed late and landed 4th beaten less than a length. Just behind him, Canada’s champion 2-year-old of 2017 Admiralty Pier, trained by Barb Minshall, rallied wide and was 5th beaten just one length.
Minshall, who has had a good Tampa Bay meeting this winter with 2 wins from 9 starts plus a stakes placing, sent out the Modeste Racing Stables’ Get Explicit in the Grade 3 Endeavor. It was the first race of the year for the promising turf filly and she ended up seventh beaten five lengths.
There were some wins by Canadians on the weekend.
I’LL TAKE THE CAKE, trained by Chircop and owned by Chircop and Holly Delaney, won an allowance/optional claiming race at Penn National at 10 to 1.
The 5-year-old mare has two wins in succession for Chircop and she is a Kentucky bred by Nobiz Like Showbiz.
Later in the Penn National card, Willie Armata sent out Woodland Hills Thoroughbreds’ COURT REPORTER (Court Vision – Chick) to win a $16,000 claiming race at 16 to 1.
NORM MCKNIGHT has had a booming meeting at Oaklawn Park. Canada’s leading trainer has 53 horses in Arksansas and has 7 wins in 33 starts at the meeting that began on Jan. 25. This is the second winter that McKnight has taken horses to Oaklawn. Recent winners for the trainer include horses making their first ever starts on the dirt: Rock n’ Candy, Giant Pulpit, and Redeal.
“When we’re at Woodbine, we’re looking for horses we feel will dirt,” McKnight told Daily Racing Form. “We do research. A lot of horses coming out of Woodbine have never run on the dirt. We look back into the family to see if the mother, the siblings ran on the dirt. How many starts? How well did they do? That’s one of the things we look at.”
McKnight reported that his trainee Jessica Krupnick was sent to Kentucky to be bred to Into Mischief following her fifth-place finish in the $100,000 American Beauty Stakes for older female sprinters Jan. 26,.
Smart Spree, a three-time winner at the 2018 Oaklawn meeting, worked a half-mile in :45.80 in company before the break last Sunday morning for trainer McKnight. Smart Spree, who galloped out 5 furlongs in :58.40, finished fourth in the $400,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) last year at Oaklawn.
ASSINIBOIA DOWNS STAKES SCHEDULE RELEASED
While Manitoba darling ESCAPE CLAUSE tears up California racing and gets ready for the Santa Monica (Grade 2) this Saturday at Santa Anita, Assiniboia Downs, her home track, released its 2019 stakes schedule.
The 90th Winnipeg Futurity is of the main fixtures of the stakes list. And, stakes events that were worth $27,500 last year are now worth $30,000.
The 71st Manitoba Derby will be held on the first Monday in August and is worth $75,000.
CTHS BC HORSES OF RACING AGE SALE MARCH 9
The CTHS Horses of Racing Age Sale to be held at Hastings Racecourse on Saturday, March 16th closed on Thursday with a total of 31 horses entered. The preview show for the sale is on March 9.
CENTURY MILE GETTING READY FOR APRIL OPENING
Northlands Park closed its doors for good on Jan 31 with a final Standardbred racing card and Alberta horse racing look to the new, one-mile track, Century Mile which will open in April.
Up to 800 horses will be stabled at the track, the first one-mile oval in Alberta history. Read more here.