TORONTO, June 6, 2020 – Live Thoroughbred racing returned to Woodbine Racetrack on Saturday afternoon (June 6) with an 11-race card.
Originally scheduled to begin on April 18, the reduced 109-day meet got underway spectator-free following public health guidelines with strict physical distancing protocols in place for the safety of all racing participants, officials and employees.
A newcomer to the Woodbine jockey colony this year, veteran British reinsman Darryll Holland was a winner right out of the gate as he guided Majestic Fever to a rallying 14-1 upset in the opener for trainer Vito Armata and owner Alpine Stable Ltd. Gasconade and Count Forest finished second and third, respectively, in the five-furlong claiming race contested on the main track.
Majestic Fever, a seven-year-old Majestic Warrior gelding who is just a three-time winner in 30 career starts, returned $30.80 for a $2 win ticket.
“Well he made hard work of it,” said Holland of his winning ride. “I think he had 10 starts last year and never won so he doesn’t know how to get his head in front, but I just kept at him. At the top of the stretch, he just hung for a little bit. He responded and I knew he still had a bit left in him, so I just saved that to pass the last horse and he just got there in the end. I’m very happy for all the connections.
“This means a lot to me because it’s my first win in Canada,” said the 47-year-old U.K. native, who has ridden multiple Group 1 winners in his career. “I’ve only had a hat full of rides here for the International race meeting several years ago so it was nice to win on my first run. I’ve been well received by all the trainers. They’ve been very kind to me and helped me. I’ve been galloping all week because I was in self-isolation for 14 days before that, so it’s not been easy. I’ve had to get fit very quickly and take off a bit of weight, but I’m sure there’s better to come from me.”
Holland made three prior starts in graded stakes at Woodbine more than a decade ago, with his previous best result a fourth-place finish in the 2000 E.P. Taylor Stakes (Grade 1) aboard Irish-bred Alexis. Having competed with success around the world, Holland has set his sights on the Woodbine competition in hopes of completing some “unfinished business.”
“It’s not quite finished business but it’s nice to ride a winner and get the monkey off my back so-to-speak, and to ride a winner for a good trainer as well. He had faith in putting me up even though he probably didn’t know me.”
The first turf race of the season, a $123,200 maiden allowance for fillies and mares over six furlongs on the E.P. Taylor course, was won by Fairywren ($12.10) and jockey Luis Contreras for trainer Josie Carroll and owner/breeder Nicholas Lotz. After hitting the board in her first two career starts at Fair Grounds this winter, the four-year-old daughter of Goldencents overtook the front-striding favourite, Feeling Funny, in deep stretch to score in 1:08.22. Candy’s Dream, with Holland aboard, edged out Feeling Funny for the runner-up honours.
Facing stakes caliber fillies and mares, Hoolie Racing Stable’s Another Time ($15.30) set a new inner turf course record of 1:28.11 for 7-1/2 furlongs when she won a $112,500 allowance with Jerome Lermyte aboard. Trained by Barb Minshall, the four-year-old Munnings filly defeated pacesetter Souper Escape by a length, with Nantucket Red rounding out the top three.
Contreras led all jockeys on the program with three wins while Armata was the top trainer of the day with a pair of victories. Lermyte and Emma-Jayne Wilson each doubled up.
Prior to the race card, Woodbine jockeys came together to take a knee in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement in Canada and across the globe.
Opening weekend at Woodbine Racetrack continues with live Thoroughbred racing on Sunday at 1 p.m. Fans can watch and wager on all the action on HPIbet.com or via the new Dark Horse app, or tune in to the live stream available on Woodbine.com.