TORONTO, February 4 – Welcome to the fifth edition of our weekly Snowbirds report chronicling the winter adventures of Woodbine-based trainers currently plying their trade south of the border.
Brian Lynch and Josie Carroll found their way to the winner’s circle last week, in what was a productive period of racing for our travelling trainers.
Lynch is red-hot in Florida with a record of 2-4-3 from 12 starts in 2013 and all four of his starters last week brought home a cheque.
Coffee Clique, a bay daughter of Medaglia d’Oro, broke her maiden at first asking in a key maiden special weight at Woodbine in December that included Sam-Son filly Deceptive Vision and Eugene Melnyk’s well-regarded Hillaby.
She made her three-year-old debut on New Year’s Day at Gulfstream, finishing fifth after a troubled trip on the dirt, but the Kentucky-bred miss, owned by Amerman Racing, stepped forward in a big way on the turf with a 1 ¾-length score under a hand ride by Joe Rocco on Feb. 2.
Coffee Clique earned an 80 Beyer figure in the one-mile tilt, while rewarding her backers with a generous $18 payout for the win.
Fort Morgan (2nd, Jan. 30) and Run Wild (2nd, Feb. 3) completed exactors for Lynch at Gulfstream, while Blue Heart, a multiple stakes winner at Woodbine, rallied to be fifth in the Grade 3 Endeavour at Tampa Bay Downs, on Feb. 2.
Leigh Court, a three-year-old daughter of Grand Slam, earned the honour of being Carroll’s first winner of 2013 with an impressive 3 ¼-length score in a Fair Grounds sprint on Feb. 1. The Eugene Melnyk homebred was bumped at the break, but improved steadily throughout the race, drawing clear for a much-the-best win at odds of 3-1.
Carroll, with a record of one win and three thirds from 14 starts, also saddled Tulita (3rd, Feb. 1), Drenched (3rd, Feb. 2) and Bert’s Bar (6th, Feb. 2) at the Louisiana track.
Something Extra, featured in last Friday’s Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint preview, put in a solid showing for trainer Gail Cox, finishing second in his first try away from Woodbine.
Varsity led the field throughout the five furlong sprint and just held off a rallying Something Extra to take the spoils.
Yet another busy week for Mark Casse who compiled two seconds and a third from 10 starters through the week, led by a key second-place run from Dynamic Sky in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis on Feb. 2 at Tampa Bay Downs.
Falling Sky went wire-to-wire in the 1 1/16-mile stake as Dynamic Sky tracked wide, from fourth position, down the backstretch. As Falling Sky took the field into the stretch, Speak Logistics attempted to squeeze inside the leader along the rail, checked, and was taken back.
Dynamic Sky, with Luis Contreras up, drifted down the lane but was gaining steadily in a narrow neck defeat. Falling Sky then survived a claim of foul from Angle Serpa, the rider of Speak Logistics, to secure the win.
Following the race, @TrakusRacing, tweeted a couple interesting nuggets of info regarding Casse’s talented Ontario-bred.
In the Sam F Davis @TampaBayDownsFL, Dynamic Sky averaged 37.3 MPH, winner Falling Sky averaged 36.9 MPH. DynamicSky ran final 1/8 in 12.91s
Dynamic Sky might race green, but he also was very wide in the Sam F Davis. He covered 51 feet (6 lengths) more than 7-1 winner Falling Sky.
With the effort, Dynamic Sky picked up an important four points, taking his total to eight (good for 14th place) towards a position in the starting gate for the Kentucky Derby.
The updated Kentucky Derby standings includes a pair of familiar faces in the Top 20, including Uncaptured (Casse, 10 points, 7th) and Tesseron (Carroll, three points, 16th).
In a particularly exhilarating race on Saturday, Casse trainee Gunderman took on Verrazano in a one-mile optional claimer at Gulfstream.
Sent to post at odds of 3-1, Gunderman was gunned to the lead by Patrick Husbands making the half in :45.45, but the duo could only watch in dismay as Verrazano took over and romped to a 16 ¼-length score in an eye-popping 1:34.80.
Gunderman held on for show money behind Eton Blue, but the story was all Verrazona who picked up a 105 Beyer figure for trainer Todd Pletcher. The debate as to whether a son of More Than Ready can get the 1 ¼-mile Derby distance will continue over the coming weeks.
As a side note, what a weekend for Pletcher who watched Revolutionary take the Grade 3 Withers in exciting fashion, going from last at the top of the stretch to first at the finish line after bravely splitting rivals in the shadow of the wire.
Click the link to watch the race, which also includes an incredible bit of agility from jockey Junior Alvarado to stay on Valid after the horse went to his knees out of the gate.
Casse’s other starters at Gulfstream through the week included Treasure Thief (2nd, Jan. 31), Jadira (5th, Feb. 2), Jagger M (4th, Feb. 2) Reach for the Sky (10th, Feb. 2), Perfect Agility (4th, Feb. 3.) and Delightful Magic (4th, Feb. 3).
At Tampa Bay, Casse also sent out Floral Sky (6th, Feb. 2) and Exclusive Love (7th, Feb. 2).
Honduran, at odds of 20-1, nearly caught a runaway Doherty, whose lead was petering in the late stages of the one-mile jaunt over the Gulfstream dirt for trainer Mark Frostad.
With the firsts and seconds taken care of, let’s take a quick run through the remaining results of our Woodbine trainers in alphabetical order.
Tino Attard saddled a trio of runners through the relevant period including Get A Grip (7th, Jan. 31), Well Read (7th, Feb. 2) and Hurry Up Alan (9th, Feb. 3), all at Gulfstream.
Here’s one for your watch list – – Johannes closed in a hurry to be third in a Gulfstream turf sprint for trainer Reade Baker. The four-year-old Johannesburg filly, who broke her maiden at Woodbine, galloped out strong and could be live next out.
Ian Black’s Really Sharp finished eighth in the Grade 2 Hutcheson, won by Honorable Dillon, at Gulfstream.
Dragon Wave (Jan. 31) and Widmo (Feb. 1) completed the trifecta in a pair of races at Penn National for trainer Steven Chircop. The $2 tri in Widmo’s claiming route returned a paltry $19.10, but Dragon Wave’s late rally for show, at 8-1, completed a $393.20 tri payout.
A quiet week for John Mattine as he saddled Bobby Jo (5th, Feb. 1) and Candles on Friday (11th, Feb. 3) at Gulfstream.
Alpha Away finished fifth for trainer Michael McDonald in a maiden special weight sprint at Gulfstream.
River Slaney (Jan. 31) and Cook’s Look (Feb. 1) picked up show money for trainer John Simms last week, at Tampa Bay Downs. His other starters included Dani’s Regal Lady (8th, Jan. 30) and Zee’s Cure (7th, Feb. 2).
James Smith sent out Lady Geegee to an eighth-place finish at Laurel Park, on Feb. 2.
And finally, Dan Vella posted a pair of seventh-place efforts with West Side Glory (Jan. 31) and Galactico (Feb. 3) at Gulfstream.