TORONTO, February 27, 2019 – Welcome to the eighth edition of the weekly Woodbine Snowbirds Report, now in its eighth year, chronicling the winter adventures of Woodbine-based trainers and jockeys currently plying their trade south of the border.
This week, we check in with trainer Nick Gonzalez, who’s carrying a small string of horses at Gulfstream Park this winter. Gonzalez had a pair of starters at Gulfstream last week, including Diddley (4th, February 22) and Littleroughjustice (6th, February 22).
Gonzalez has sent out just 13 starters at the current Gulfstream meeting, with one runner-up finish. Gonzalez said the health of his wife and assistant trainer, Martha, has played a part in keeping numbers smaller this winter.
“I’ve been kind of quiet this year and for all the right reasons,” Gonzalez said. “We only had a small handful of horses. I kept it quiet because of Martha’s health and stuff like that. We had a couple claimed and claimed a couple and stuff like that. We’re really just down here, enjoying the weather and keeping myself active. I only have five horses in training so it hasn’t been a really busy winter race-wise.”
Gonzalez added that Martha’s health is improving following her cancer diagnosis last year.
“She’s been doing a lot better,” he said. “She’s been doing quite well. She’s a fighter. She’s been through a lot. We’re very, very optimistic. Fingers crossed and we’ll see what 2019 brings us.”
While Gonzalez’s numbers are small on the track, his other horses are spread out on farms across Ontario, Florida and Kentucky. One horse currently on the farm in Florida getting ready for the 2019 season is Silent Poet, who won the Vice Regent Stakes last season. Gonzalez said Silent Poet should ship into Gulfstream soon to pick up his training for the upcoming Woodbine meet.
“He had the winter off. He’s going to come to me at Gulfstream in a couple of weeks,” he said. “We’ll get a good month of training into him before I come back for the first week of April.”
Gonzalez’s other stable star is Grade 3 Ontario Fashion Stakes winner Silent Sonet. Following a runner-up finish at Woodbine in the Grade 2 Bessarabian Stakes, the connections opted to experiment with dirt, running Silent Sonet in the Interborough Stakes at Aqueduct in late January under the care of trainer Tom Morley. Silent Sonet finished eighth in that event and will now be pointed towards a Woodbine campaign.
“We ran her in a stakes race in New York and she didn’t do too well,” Gonzalez said. “That was a failed experiment. No harm, no foul. We’re going to bring her in when I get the barn opened up there at Woodbine and get her back on synthetic and turf when the weather warms up and see if she can keep her good Canadian form going. There’s no reason why she shouldn’t.”
With the Woodbine backstretch now open for the 2019 season, Gonzalez said he is looking to get his first group of horses in early next week.
“We’re going to give it a couple of days for it to warm up a little bit,” he said. “The horses now are all in training. We want to make sure the weather’s going to be right when we get into Woodbine. We don’t want to ship in and miss days of training.”
Five Woodbine trainers made trips to the winner’s circle last week, led by Mark Casse, who recorded four winners including a stakes win from Yes I Am Free in the Texas Glitter Stakes at Gulfstream Park on February 23. Casse’s other winners last week all came at Gulfstream Park and included Souper Jaguar (February 18), For Reef’s Sake (February 21), and Battle of Memphis (February 22). In all, Casse recorded four wins and two runner-up finishes from 18 starters last week.
— Gulfstream Park (@GulfstreamPark) February 23, 2019
Norm McKnight recorded two wins from four starts at Oaklawn Park last week, as Pat Daddy was victorious on February 23 and Davka won on February 24. McKnight also sent out Adios Muchacho to a third-place finish on February 18 and Golden Bullet to a fifth-place finish on February 21.
Barb Minshall had a win and a runner-up finish during the February 24 card at Tampa Bay Downs, as Majestic Melody won the second race of the day and Gorgeous Kitten finished second in the ninth race.
Steven Chircop recorded a win from eight starters last week, as Bilky Bluz won the fifth race at Penn National on February 23.
John Mattine sent out Potra Liza to a 4 1/4-length victory at Gulfstream Park on February 24. The four-year-old filly was one of three starters for Mattine at Gulfstream Park last week, as the trainer also saddled Rock You to a fourth-place finish on February 23 and Calais Cove to a seventh-place finish on February 24.
Four Woodbine jockeys made trips to the winner’s circle last week, led by Luis Contreras, who won six races at Sunland Park. Winners for Contreras last week included Black Ops (February 19), I Know a Place (February 19), Port Aggregate (February 19), Ned Braden (February 23), Hollywood Henry (February 24), and Classy Class (February 24). Contreras also finished second in a pair of stakes races on the February 24 card, including a runner-up finish on Backflash in the Island Fashion Stakes and Wicked Indeed in the Mine That Bird Derby.
Rafael Hernandez had a busy week at Gulfstream Park, recording a pair of wins from 23 starters. Hernandez rode Uno Emayo to a win on February 18 and also won with The Gipper on February 22. Hernandez also recorded an additional four in-the-money finishes during the week, including a pair of runner-up finishes and a pair of third-place efforts.
— Gulfstream Park (@GulfstreamPark) February 22, 2019
Ademar Santos also won a pair of races at Tampa Bay Downs last week, guiding Gray Dude to victory on February 22 and finding the winner’s circle with Malkia on February 23. In all, Santos recorded two wins, two runner-up finishes and three third-place finishes from 13 starters last week.
Chantal Sutherland recorded a pair of wins during the February 18 card at Fair Grounds, as Pierpont Fair won the third race of the day and D’tuff Cat Rey won the ninth race. In all, Sutherland recorded two wins, one runner-up finishes and three third-place finishes from 15 starts last week.
Kirk Johnson recorded three in-the-money finishes from seven starters last week. At Mahoning Valley, Johnson recorded a runner-up finish on First Victory during the February 19 card and also finished third with Lil Country Grad on February 20. On February 22, Johnson finished third aboard Glencairn in the sixth race at Aqueduct.
Isabelle Wenc rode Sunset Gables to a fifth-place finish at Mahoning Valley on February 23.
Gary Boulanger finished sixth aboard Dumaine at Tampa Bay Downs on February 22.
Here’s a look at how the other Woodbine trainers fared last week, in alphabetical order, starting with Willie Armata, who sent out Red At Last to a fifth-place finish at Laurel Park on February 22 and Tinker Ring to an eighth-place finish at Penn National on February 23.
Kevin Attard had a pair of starters at Gulfstream Park last week, as Time to Travel finished ninth on February 23 and Cause for Alarm was eighth on February 24.
Sid Attard sent out Escondera to a fourth-place finish at Gulfstream Park on February 21.
Roger Attfield hit the board with his only starter of the week, as Shakhimat finished third at Gulfstream Park on February 24.
Abe Froman finished fourth at Gulfstream Park on February 21 for Catherine Day Phillips.
Michael De Paulo sent out a pair of horses on the February 23 card at Gulfstream Park, including Seeking Albert (8th) and Marwoods Ward (11th).
Michael McDonald hit the board with one of his three starters at Gulfstream Park last week, as King Kingo finished third on February 20. McDonald also sent out Quench My Thirst (7th, February 24) and Run for Peace (5th, February 24) last week.
Uncle Shaggy finished ninth at Laurel Park on February 23 for Justin Nixon.
Steve Owens had one starter last week, as Emperor John finished 10th at Gulfstream Park on February 23.
Gerald Seymour hit the board with his only starter of the week last week, as Glencairn finished third at Aqueduct on February 22.
Stuart Simon had an in-the-money finish at Gulfstream Park last week, as Sister Peacock finished second on the February 18 card.
William Tharrenos sent out four starters at Gulfstream Park last week, recording a runner-up finish with Dexter Road on February 18. Tharrenos also recorded starts with In Gus We Trust (9th, February 22), Integrious (DNF, February 23) and Farfalla (6th, February 24).