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Eight Woodbine Oaks Contenders: As Told by Their Grooms

July 21, 2023

TORONTO, July 21, 2023– Leading up to the 68th Woodbine Oaks Presented by Budweiser on Sunday, July 23, eight grooms shared the day-to-day interactions and connections they have with their 3-year-old fillies. The bond between horses and the grooms that care for them and get them ready for race day cannot be understated; the grooms get there first in the morning and are often the last to leave.

Anna Burdyszek has groomed Fortyfiveseventy (Perfect Timber-Avall Tale) since the beginning of this year. She has worked for owner and trainer Barb Minshall for two years.

Fortyfiveseventy And Anna Burdyszek
Fortyfiveseventy and Anna Burdyszek

Burdyszek shares how the bay filly is easygoing.

“She’s sweet and does everything that you ask her to. Although, she doesn’t like being curried.”

Fortyfiveseventy is the first horse Burdyszek has groomed that has made it to the Oaks, something she is undeniably excited about.

Minshall is impressed with the filly’s honesty.

“She’s always been very talented and a nice horse from day one. She’s very uncomplicated.”

Flysofreeashleeb (Midnight Lute-Sinful) is trained by Patrick Dixon for Colebrook Farms (John Brnjas) and groomed by Reson White.

Flysofreeashleeb and Reson White

White has groomed the horse since she got to the track as a 2-year-old and has worked for Colebrook Farms since 2012. He first worked for the late Ashlee Brnjas.

Both Dixon and White note how the name Flysofreeashleeb is sentimental to Colebrook Farms. Brnjas passed away in September 2021.

“She’s one of the favourites in the barn,” White shares.

He also notes how Colebrook Farms has a few horses named in memory of Brnjas, as both White and Dixon share its importance.

“She’s intelligent, she knows what she wants, but she can go off at times,” White said of the Flysofreeashleeb, who doesn’t like sudden movements but loves attention.

White also remarked on noticing the filly’s progress and how she’s impatient and wants to go out first to train in the mornings.

“She’s showing signs that she can be the best. She gets better and better. She never gets tired. She always wants to train forwardly and since the first time anyone’s got on her, they’ve always said she wants to go long. I know her so well and I have a great bond with her,” added Dixon.

Courtly Ro (Cairo Prince-Victoire) is trained by Kevin Attard and owned by Raroma Stable LLC and groomed by Lawrence Williams.

Courtly Ro and Lawrence Williams
Courtly Ro and Lawrence Williams

Williams has worked for Kevin Attard for over six years, and Courtly Ro is one of his favourites to groom, alongside 2021 Prince of Wales winner Haddassah.

“She’s one of my favourites, like Haddassah. She’s really special to me, she’s one of the nicest horses I’ve ever worked around. She doesn’t give me any problems.”

Williams also notes that the filly is a happy, easygoing horse and gets excited to train in the mornings but isn’t antsy.

For Mark Manuk, Great Kate (Souper Speedy-Queenie’s Gold) is his favourite horse that he grooms. Great Kate is trained by John Mattine and owned by RCC Racing Stable Ltd. Manuk has worked for Mattine for about seven years and has groomed Great Kate since she got to the track.

Great Kate and Mark Manuk

Manuk praised Great Kate’s kindness and noted how food-motivated she is. Her favourite treats are carrots and mints.

“She has to be fed first, or she gets angry and kicks the wall.”

When asked about the Oaks, Manuk says that she can go the extra distance for the Oaks, a mile and an eighth, noting her recent win on June 22, was a mile and a sixteenth.

Added Mattine, “She’s an honest filly.”

Fashionably Fab (Silent Name (JPN)-Flashy’s Legacy) is also trained by Kevin Attard and owned by Terra Racing Stable. Beres Lee has groomed the filly since this spring. Lee has worked with the Attard family for over 30 years, having first worked for Attard’s father, Tino Attard.

Fashionably Fab And Beres Lee
Fashionably Fab and Beres Lee

Lee noted that the dark bay filly will let him know when she doesn’t like something,

“Don’t turn your back on her, she likes to bite. She’s very alert. But other than that, she’s pretty easy to work with in the stall. But if you brush her stomach, she’ll want to attack you.”

He added that Fashionably Fab is a nice horse to work with and is sensitive, disliking loud noises.

Lee offered up a humorous quirk that she’s picked up.

“She has a bad habit in the morning where she likes to lie down and roll. But she enjoys me taking her out first thing in the morning, giving her a bath, and then putting her back in her stall, and then she’s fine.

“What makes her special is her ability to go out and run, you know. She always tries when she goes out there. She’ll always be consistent.”

Tito’s Calling (Society’s Chairman–Unstablenthemornin) is trained by Mike De Paulo and owned by Zilli Racing Stables. Howard Pottins grooms the bay filly and has worked for De Paulo for 16 years.

Tito’s Calling and Howard Pottins
Tito’s Calling and Howard Pottins

According to Pottins, Tito’s Calling is a very kind horse and shares that he has a close bond with all the horses he grooms, treating them well and in turn, they do the same back for him.

“Today, she had what I like to call her ‘game face’ on,” said Pottins, of a morning work. “She was strong today.”

He also noted that Tito’s Calling has a funny quirk when eating mints, which she likes to eat with her front teeth.

Ahead of the Oaks, Pottins offered, “As long as they’re sound after the race, that’s what’s most important.”

De Paulo has been thrilled to have Tito’s Calling in his barn.

“She tries. She’s a filly that comes running and she puts in a pretty good effort. She’s a horse that’s a bit of an overachiever. And we’ve been happy with her.”

Wickenheiser (Lemon Drop Kid-Game (FR)) is Kevin Attard’s third horse (he also has Delphia) in the Oaks and is owned by Attard, Clay Scherer, and Al and Bill Ulwelling. Howard Carter grooms the bay filly and has worked with Attard since 2013.

Wickenheiser And Howard Carter
Wickenheiser and Howard Carter

“She can be very hard to deal with at times, she doesn’t like to be brushed, so you have to be on edge with her,” said Carter. “But other than that, she’s sweet to deal with. Walking her, breezing her, she loves all that.”

Carter’s insight into Wickenheiser also yielded that she is extremely food motivated, as she loves to graze and loves all her treats, even Fisherman’s Friends. Wickenheiser is also impatient in the mornings, she doesn’t like to stand for long and is ready to go out right away.

He appreciates how Wickenheiser carries herself well in the morning and is easy to read.

“I take care of my horses the same way and treat them all the same. When you treat the horse, the horse knows the person.”

Friends for Life (Silent Name (JPN)-Ginger Brew) is trained by Stuart Simon and owned by Brent McLellan, Russell McLellan, Roy E. McLellan, and Simon. Amanda Gregory has groomed the filly since she got to the track last year as a 2-year-old. This year marks Gregory’s fourth season working for Simon.

Friends for Life and Amanda Gregory
Friends for Life and Amanda Gregory

Friends for Life is Gregory’s favourite that she grooms.

“We get along pretty good. I appreciate her kind nature and willingness to do whatever you want. She stands there and lets me do what I need to do with her.”

The bay filly also loves being the centre of attention and enjoys playing with toys in her stall.

“She loves attention, she’s a bit of a goofball. She’s like a cat, she likes to be scratched on her neck and when she’s done, she’s like ‘get away from me’. You have to catch her in the right mood. She likes her Jolly Balls. When I brush her, she’ll play with her toys on the wall. Or when she’s not training and waiting around, she’ll attack the ball on her door.”

This year marks Gregory’s first time grooming a horse in the Oaks.

“She enjoys her job, she does it very enthusiastically. She’s just special. There’s no one quality you can say. She’s all class and got it in her. You can just tell, it’s just a feeling that you can’t describe.”

Added Simon, “I’m impressed the most with her capability to cover ground easily and I think she’ll get the distance really well. She seems to be the kind of horse that doesn’t get tired.”

Sophie Charalambous, for Woodbine Communications

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