WOODBINE BACKSTRETCH OPENS
It will be windy, cold and probably a fair bit icy but horsepeople in Ontario are eager to get back to work. The Woodbine backstretch opens Monday for set -up and no doubt there will be a few brave souls out there today. Horses are expected to begin filtering in on Tuesday when it will be a tough -20C wind chill to begin the day. The training track will be open and on Friday, the Tapeta main track is expected to be available for training, several weeks earlier than usual.
John Ross, who has trained stakes stars such as Brooklynsway, Lexie Lou, Shaws Creek and last year’s Queen’s Plate and Prince of Wales runner- up Aheadbyacentury, is ready.
“My horses have enjoyed a nice winter playing in the snow,” said Ross, who owns most of the horses himself or with partners. “Now it’s time to get back to work.”
A familiar name on the recently released stall list is that of trainer PETER WALDER, who used to race horses at Woodbine but has not started one here since 1997. Walder, who has won over 850 races, has been training in Florida since then.
There are a few notable absentees for 2019. Reade Baker, Sovereign Award winning trainer and Hall of Famer, has retired from training and some of his stalls will now be occupied by Francine Villeneuve and Bob Tiller.
American trainer Mike Maker, who had a string of horses at Woodbine last year with Nolan Ramsey, is not at Woodbine this year. Debbie England, trainer of champion Diva’s Debut and Breeders’ Stakes winner Marlang among others, also is not listed on the stall chart.
The track kitchen has been refurbished and looks sparkling. While there is likely about three more weeks of tough, winter weather, it will be spring in no time.
Training schedule and more from Woodbine Race Office:
Training Track – Wednesday, February 27 Open
(There will be no harrow break at this time.)
7:00 a.m. through 11:00 a.m. (weather permitting)
Main Track – Friday, March 1 Open
(There will be no harrow break at this time.)
Monday through Thursday – 6:00 a.m. through 8:00 a.m.
Friday – 6:00 a.m. through 7:45 a.m.
Saturday and Sunday – 6:00 a.m. through 10:00 a.m.
6:00 a.m. through 12:00 noon. (weather permitting)
Clockers will start on Saturday, March 16.
The Starting Gate will be open from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. on the Training Track starting Sunday, March 24.
It will be open every Wednesday through Sunday.
Free coffee/tea/hot chocolate during training hours (until 11:00 a.m.) at the Backstretch Kitchen through Sunday, March 31st.
CANADIANS ELSEWHERE – WONDER GADOT AND ROSE WORKING AT OAKLAWN
Well known Ontario mare ‘Bluz’ ends 5-year-drought
At Oaklawn Park in Arkansas, Manfred and Penny Conrad’s champion SHAMROCK ROSE worked 5 furlongs in bullet time with stablemate, graded stakes winner Power Gal as she prepares for the March 16 Azeri Stakes (G2).
Breezing moments after Oaklawn’s dirt track opened on Saturday were 2018 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint champion Shamrock Rose and Power Gal, winner of the $125,000 Martha Washington Stakes Feb. 2. They shared the 5-furlong bullet (1:01) for trainer Mark Casse after posting splits of :12, :24.20 and :36.60 and galloping out 6 furlongs in 1:14.40. Power Gal worked on the rail under David Cohen.
Casse said Shamrock Rose is pointing for the $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) for older fillies and mares March 16. The 1 1/16-mile Azeri is the final major local prep for the $700,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) April 14. Power Gal is scheduled to make her next start in the $200,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) for 3-year-old fillies March 9. The 1 1/16-mile Honeybee is the final major local prep for the $500,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) April 12.
Wonder Gadot, a finalist for a Sovereign Award as Canada’s champion 3-year-old filly of 2018 and probable Horse of the Year, worked 5 furlongs from the gate in 1:01.40 Sunday morning under David Cohen.
Barbara Minshall is batting 27% winners from starters this year as MAJESTIC MELODY won his maiden at Tampa Bay Downs on Sunday for Minshall and Bruce Lunsford. This gelding paid just $2.80 to win in the $16,000 claiming race and he is an Ontario bred by Majesticperfection – Awesome Lass, thus a half brother to Woodbine Oaks winner Academic. He was bred by Spring Farm.
John Mattine and RCC Stable had a winner at Gulfstream Park on the weekend with Potra Liza, a Graydar filly who won for $6,250 and was claimed.
NORM MCKNIGHT won 2 races at Oaklawn on the weekend to get into 2nd place at the meeting behind Steve Asmussen. McKnight won with Ontario bred PAT DADDY, a Scat Daddy gelding, in a $10,000 claiming race and Bruno Schickedanz’ DAVKA for $6,250 claiming, In Davka’s race, 6 of the 12 horses in the field were claimed including the winner.
And Steven Chircop’s BILKY BLUZ, an 8-year-old Ontario bred mare by Mobil who has been best known for her numerous 2nd place finishes (15) and 40 race winless streak, was a winner Saturday night at Penn National.
The brave gal began to lose her sight in one eye four years ago and has raced with essentially no vision in the one eye for several years. Rallying 4 wide around the last turn, Bilky Bluz opened up a clear lead in the stretch in the 1 mile and 70 yard race and held on to win by a neck as the 3 to 1 favourite. Bilky Bluz, who last won in September of 2014 (and got some small shares in stakes races back then) has raced for a variety of owners and trainers and was bred by Andrew Fredericks. She has made over $282,000 the hard way. She is now 3 for 50 in her career.
Coming up March 2 at Gulfstream Park during a big weekend of racing, Canadian bred stakes star MELMICH will have Javier Castellano on board for the 1 3/8 mile MacDiarmida Stakes on grass. Owned by Steve Chesney and Cory Hoffman, the now 8-year-old warrior, trained by Kevin Attard, Melmich recently finished 3rd in a starter stakes race on the grass, only his 2nd turf try of his career. He earned an 84 Beyer Figure in that effort.
NORTHLANDS PARK AUCTIONS OFF EVERYTHING – INCLUDING THE KITCHEN SINK
Edmonton’s Northlands Park recently closed for good after more than 100 years of horse racing. on Saturday, an auction began for everything from memorabilia, chairs, kitchen stuff and more.
SANTA ANITA EVALUATES MAIN TRACK AFTER FATALITIES
In a tragic 16-hour period, Santa Anita had three horses die while racing or training, including Battle of Midway, a star-crossed Breeders’ Cup winner who was pulled from the breeding shed to return to the track.
The number of fatalities at Santa Anita has more than doubled from an equivalent time last year. According to track stewards’ minutes, which have only been released through Feb. 10, there have been 16 fatalities this racing season — which began Dec. 26 — compared to seven last year, the safest in 25 years. Those numbers do include non-exercise related deaths as they do for the previous year, although the majority occur on track.