TORONTO, February 11 – Welcome to the sixth edition of our weekly Snowbirds report chronicling the winter adventures of Woodbine-based trainers currently plying their trade south of the border.
While those of us in Ontario were busy shoveling snow, it was a great week of racing for our travelling trainers with seven winners from six different conditioners: Reade Baker, Steven Chircop, Nick Gonzalez, Shane Learn, Malcolm Pierce and Katerina Vassilieva.
Let’s start with Malcolm Pierce who won with a pair of starters on Feb. 8, including Well Executed, a four-year-old Sam-Son homebred filly, who broke her maiden in an off-the-turf route with Rosie Napravnik in the irons.
Dance Again, a well-bred daughter of Awesome Again-Dance With Doves, caught the eye of Daily Racing Form handicapper/tweeter Marcus Hersh following her visually appealing maiden score.
Sam-Son Farm & trainer Malcolm Pierce have 2 of top 3yo fillies at FG. Dance Again, 2-turn MSW wnr R9, joins Deceptive Vision. #fairgrounds
The three-year-old Ontario-bred earned an 81 Beyer number with a 3 ¼-length score, stopping the clock in 1:46.06 in the 1 1/16-mile route.
The double capped a good week for Pierce who also sent out Classy Al to a third-place run on Feb. 7 at the Louisiana track.
Shane Learn was a couple lengths away from joining Pierce as a double winner following a solid week that saw each of the conditioner’s three Parx starters pick up a cheque.
World Record rolled home from off-the-pace in a claiming sprint, at odds of 11-1, on Feb. 5. Four horses were claimed out of the seven-horse field, but World Record was able to return to his own barn.
Earlier on the card, A Lady Called Max lunged out of the gate and was gaining on a wire-to-wire winner late in the stretch run of the mile and seventy yard claiming route. Sent to post as the mutuel favourite, A Lady Called Max was claimed from the event for $7,500.
Learn’s other Pennsylvania-based starter was Liam and Alex, who finished fifth on Feb. 4.
Katerina Vassilieva’s week started well when Haverhill, an Ontario-bred allowance winner at Woodbine, got up for second in a Gulfstream Park sprint, defeated just 1 ½-lengths.
Following a ninth-place run by Trumped on Feb. 8, Vassilieva’s hard work was rewarded when Gimme Credit, under Luis Contreras, won a Woodbine-based battle royale on the turf.
The 1 1/16-mile claiming race also featured Casse’s Exfactor, ridden by Patrick Husbands; Gonzalez trainee Passager, piloted by Martin Ramirez; and Greg De Gannes’ gelding, Crown’s Path, with Kent Desormeaux up.
Passager (8th) and Exfactor (9th, steadied in the stretch, vanned off) didn’t factor, but the final eighth of a mile was a thriller as Gimme Credit (7-1) rallied to the lead and held off a hard-charging Crown’s Path (51-1) to take the spoils. A $2 exactor returned $1086.80.
Bear’s Spirit, sent to post as the prohibitive favourite for Reade Baker and owner Bear Stables, opened up an 8 ½-length lead in a $12,500 claiming route on Feb. 7 and held on for the win over Major Score. At the top of the stretch, Bear’s Spirit owned a 1 ¼-length lead over the second-place finisher, who was a remarkable 18 ½-lengths ahead of his next foe in an oddly run race.
Bear’s Spirit was claimed out of the event by Linda Rice.
Baker’s only other starter, Scipio, finished ninth on Feb. 9 under jockey Emma-Jayne Wilson, who was making her first start of 2013.
Tiempo Libre notched his second win in a row at Penn National for trainer Steven Chircop and owner Shale Wagman. The four-year-old chestnut drew clear at the top of the stretch and romped home by 5 ½-lengths. He was promptly claimed for $7,500 by Timothy Kreiser.
Captain Fantastic lived up to his fantastic name with a 4 ¼-length wire-to-wire score for Nick Gonzalez in a 1 1/16-mile turf claimer with Jermaine Bridgmohan aboard, at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 8.
Gonzalez also sent out Passager to an eighth-place run on Feb. 9 at the Hallandale oval.
And now, let’s take a run through the rest of the results in alphabetical order.
Expropriate finished eighth on Feb. 8 for trainer Paul Attard in a Gulfstream turf tilt.
Why Katherine (9th, Feb 8) and Grabthemoneyandrun (12th, Feb. 10) couldn’t find the winner’s circle for Tino Attard at Gulfstream through the week, but the conditioner did claim Starship Valor for $6,250 out of a winning sprint on Feb. 7.
Hall of Famer trainer Roger Attfield had a quiet week at Gulfstream sending out Chokonni (3rd, Feb. 7) and Double Guns Girl (10th, Feb. 8).
Ojibway Signal, a popular winner at Woodbine, finished eighth on Feb. 10 at Gulfstream for trainer David Bell.
Inglorious, our 2011 Queen’s Plate winner trained by Josie Carroll, put in a spectacular rally in the Grade 3 Suwannee River to be third, defeated just three-quarters of a length by Channel Lady, and just a nose behind Abaco for place.
Ridden by Joel Rosario, who later on the card would make a much-maligned early backstretch run with Animal Kingdom in the Kitten’s Joy Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap, Inglorious accelerated through the turn and sustained a wide stretch run but couldn’t find the wire in time. Ontario-bred Hard Not to Like finished fifth following a ground-saving trip.
Earlier on the card, Main Line finished fourth in a turf route. Carroll was also represented at Fair Grounds by Canadian Flag who finished sixth on Feb. 7.
Mark Casse, who announced on Sunday that Rosario would be picking up the mount on Kentucky Derby hopeful Dynamic Sky for the Tampa Bay Derby, finished a busy week with a pair of third-place finishes from nine starters.
Clement Rock (Feb. 10) and Eagle Hall (Feb. 7) completed triactors at Gulfstream during the week. Casse’s other starters were Keep the Cash (7th, Feb. 6), Tizzy Fast (11th, Feb. 6), Majestic Man (4th, Feb. 8), Exfactor (9th, Feb. 9), Pool Play (6th in the Donn, Feb. 9), Breedy’s Land (10th, Feb. 10) and Fly Gal (7th, Feb. 10).
Both of Mike DePaulo’s starters, Ben’s Best Bet (2nd, Feb. 7) and Quick Code (4th, Feb. 10), picked up a cheque in a productive week.
Although Kingarvie winner Pyrite Mountain, featured in last week’s stake preview, was scratched, it was still a hectic week for trainer Mark Frostad who saddled four runners including Rockatille (6th, Feb. 8), Transgression (2nd, Feb. 8), Attendant (5th, Feb. 9) and Royal Espresso (9th, Feb. 10).
Hampstead Heath (3rd, Feb. 9) was the best of a trio of Brian Lynch starters through the week at Gulfstream that included Cry War Eagle (5th, Feb. 8) and She’s Rich (9th, Feb. 8).
Political Fever (7th, Feb. 8) and Unbridled War (5th, Feb. 10) left the gate for John Mattine at Gulfstream.
Michael McDonald’s Afternoon Idol received enough votes to be fifth in a Feb. 6 talent competition at Gulfstream.
John Simms continues to blaze a path from backstretch to paddock at Tampa Bay Downs, sending out six runners: Clever King (2nd, Feb. 7), Absolute Power (5th, Feb. 7), Indian Line (7th, Feb. 8), Captain Chris (4th, Feb. 9), Flashy Zee (8th, Feb. 9) and Zee’s Surprise (8th, Feb. 10).
And finally, Dan Vella, trainer of Queen’s Plate champ Strait of Dover, sent out Playing for Fun to a seventh-place run at Gulfstream, on Feb. 8.