TORONTO, March 7 – Welcome to the 10th edition of the weekly Snowbirds report, now in its sixth 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 Reade Baker from his winter training base at Palm Beach Downs in Delray Beach, Florida. Baker sent out one horse last week, as Mrs. Fouad finished fifth at Tampa Bay Downs on March 1.
Baker has taken a small string to Florida this winter, with just five horses currently in training. As a result, Baker has made just four starts this winter, but one of those starts came in the richest race in North America. Baker sent Breaking Lucky to the post against the likes of Arrogate and California Chrome for the Grade 1, $12-million Pegasus World Cup Invitational at Gulfstream Park on January 28, but the 2015 Prince of Wales Stakes winner went on to finish eighth in the field of 12. Baker said a post-race scope showed Breaking Lucky had a significant amount of mucous in his system, a rare occurrence for the trainer in Florida.
“I’ve never had a serious case of mucous as long as I’ve raced in Florida,” he said. “This is the first one. He was perfect going down there. There were rules where you had to go to Gulfstream 72 hours before, which typically I wouldn’t have done. I don’t know what it is, but he got down there and there were horses on either side of him that were ship-ins. Whatever it was, he got loaded up of mucous. He’s never had that in his life and I’ve never had a bad case in Florida.”
Breaking Lucky… (Courtesy of Janis Maine)
Despite the disappointment of the result in the Pegasus World Cup, Baker said Breaking Lucky has progressed nicely since the race. The 5-year old returned to the work tab on February 28 with a four-furlong breeze in 48.60 seconds on the dirt at Palm Beach Downs. Baker said Breaking Lucky would likely make his next start in the Grade 3, $200,000 Ben Ali Stakes over 1 1/8-miles on dirt at Keeneland on April 15.
“Everything’s going great,” Baker said. “He’s in great shape right now.”
This is the fourth winter Baker has spent at Palm Beach Downs after previously training out of Palm Meadows Training Center in Boynton Beach, Florida. Baker said he enjoys the quiet feel at Palm Beach Downs and also noted that the move has allowed him to have more flexibility in managing the winter campaigns of his horses.
“It’s a wonderful atmosphere,” he said. “You get out in the mornings sometimes and all you can hear is the birds chirping. I personally have more freedom. I don’t have a lot of Gulfstream horses. I’ve got a lot of horses I bring here for the winter and I have no intention of running them when I bring them here. Obviously, Gulfstream owns Palm Meadows so you have an obligation to run and to run there.”
Baker said the remainder of his stable is now back at Woodbine to prepare for the start of the 2017 season, but his numbers are lower than what he’s typically used to.
“I’ve only got 20 horses at Woodbine,” he said. “There are 12 older horses and eight 2-year olds and that’s probably it. I’m just short of horses, unfortunately.”
In the meantime, Baker is enjoying his winter in Florida, and said it would likely be another month before he returns to Toronto. When training hours conclude in the morning, there’s a good chance you’ll find the trainer on the water partaking in one of his favourite hobbies.
“I fish almost every day,” Baker said. “I caught a nice bass (Saturday) morning. It was about six pounds. I caught a bass last year that was around 12 pounds.”
Four Woodbine trainers found the winner’s circle last week, led by Mark Casse, who recorded four wins from 15 starters between Gulfstream Park and Fair Grounds. Dream Dancing recorded a win in the Grade 3 Herecomesthebride Stakes at Gulfstream Park on March 4, while Inheritthewind (Mar. 4) and Salty (Mar. 5) also won at Gulfstream. Southside Warrior (Mar. 4) was Casse’s only winner at Fair Grounds last week. Casse also had three runners place in stakes races at Gulfstream Park on Saturday. 2015 Canadian Horse of the Year, Catch a Glimpse, was second in her 4-year old debut in the Sand Springs Stakes, while Summer Luck was third in the Grade 2 Davona Dale Stakes, and Conquest Panthera was also third in the Grade 3 Canadian Turf Stakes. Queen’s Plate nominee Sailing Home was fourth in the Grade 3 Palm Beach Stakes.
Dream Dancing… (Courtesy of Gulfstream Park)
Nicholas Gonzalez recorded a win from two starters at Gulfstream Park last week, as Transformative crossed the line first on March 2. Gonzalez also sent out Into the Future to a third-place finish on March 5.
Canadian-bred Heart to Heart was back in the winner’s circle for Brian Lynch with a win in the Grade 3 Canadian Turf Stakes at Gulfstream Park on March 4. Lynch sent out three starters in all at Gulfstream last week, recording a third-place finish with Deneb on March 2 and an eighth-place finish with Ladrona on March 5.
Heart to Heart… (Courtesy of Gulfstream Park)
Danny Vella recorded his first win of the Gulfstream meet with Wolf Dance on March 3. Queen’s Plate nominee Channel Maker made his 3-year old debut with an eighth-place finish in the Grade 3 Palm Beach Stakes at Gulfstream Park on March 4.
Jockeys Gary Boulanger and Luis Contreras also found the winner’s circle last week, as Boulanger recorded a win at Tampa Bay Downs, while Contreras recorded six wins and 13 in-the-money finishes from 21 starts at Oaklawn Park.
Rafael Hernandez and Patrick Husbands also had mounts in the Sandy Lane Barbados Gold Cup on March 4, finishing second and third with High Noon and Keystoneforvictory, respectively.
Here’s a look at how the other Woodbine trainers fared last week, in alphabetical order, starting once again with Sid Attard, who sent out Ice Festival to a fifth-place finish in the Sand Springs Stakes at Gulfstream Park on March 4.
Tino Attard recorded a runner-up finish from two starters last week at Gulfstream Park, as Star Contender was second on March 5. Attard’s other starter of the week, Skippy Is Back, finished eighth on March 3.
Roger Attfield sent out six starters between Gulfstream Park and Tampa Bay Downs last week. Queen’s Plate nominee Glencairn (8th, Mar. 4) and Danish Dynaformer (6th, Mar. 4) raced at Gulfstream Park, while La Soul (4th, Mar. 1), Queen’s Plate nominee Final Copy (6th, Mar. 4), Lady Ekati (8th, Mar. 4), and Playa Blanca (4th, Mar. 5) started at Tampa Bay Downs.
High Society finished third at Tampa Bay Downs on March 4 for Ashlee Brnjas.
Julie Belhumeur sent out Wonnestrut to a seventh-place finish at Tampa Bay Downs on March 1.
Josie Carroll recorded a pair of starts at Gulfstream Park last week, saddling Gamble’s Citizen (8th, Mar. 4) and Unspoiled Moments (7th, Mar. 4).
Steven Chircop also had a pair of starters last week at Penn National, as Tigne ran eighth on March 1 and Cosmic Charlie ran fifth on March 4.
Eminent Force finished second at Gulfstream Park on March 5 for Mike De Paulo.
Scott Fairlie recorded a pair of sixth-place finishes from Valentine’s Pearl (Mar. 2) and My Pal Katherine (Mar. 4) at Penn National last week.
Ricky Griffith sent out a pair of starters at in the fifth race at Gulfstream Park on March 2, as Cool as Ice finished fourth and Distinctive Style finished sixth.
Time to Travel, a Queen’s Plate nominee and full-brother to the multiple graded stakes winner Hard Not to Like, finished fourth in his career debut at Gulfstream Park on March 4 for Rachel Halden.
John Mattine recorded one in-the-money finish from three starters at Gulfstream Park last week when Budding ran second on March 2. Mattine’s other starters of the week included Red At Last (4th, Mar. 3) and Slam (8th, Mar. 3).
Michael McDonald sent out three starters at Gulfstream Park last week, including Prilla Le Blanc (5th, Mar. 2), Nerve Line (6th, Mar. 2), and Virga (11th, Mar. 3).
Depeche Chat finished fourth at Gulfstream Park on March 5 for Pat Parente.
Malcolm Pierce sent out Queen’s Plate nominee Everglow to an eighth-place finish at Tampa Bay Downs on March 5.
Awesome Indeed finished fifth at Tampa Bay Downs on March 1 for Julie Robillard.
John Simms recorded a runner-up finish from two starters at Tampa Bay Downs last week, as Hiram’s Mistress ran second on March 1. Wildcat Prince, who finished sixth on March 5, was the other starter Simms sent out last week.
Dragon Bay finished seventh in the Grade 3 Canadian Turf Stakes at Gulfstream Park on March 4 for Stuart Simon.
William Tharrenos sent out Olympic Bid to a seventh-place finish at Gulfstream Park on March 5.
Michael Wright recorded a pair of runner-up finishes from three starters at Tampa Bay Downs last week, as Unbridled Majesty (Mar. 1) and Awfully Sinful (Mar. 4) both ran second in their respective races. Wright also sent out Penny Stamp to a ninth-place finish on March 1.