TORONTO, January 31 – Welcome to the fifth 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 trainer Mike De Paulo, fresh off of his first Sovereign Award nomination for outstanding trainer. De Paulo is currently stabled at Gulfstream Park for the winter and recorded a second and a third-place finish from four starters at the track last week. Conquest Rapiduno was second by a head on January 27, while Timingiseverything finished third on January 29. Too Stormy (8th, Jan. 27) and Eminent Force (DNF, Jan. 29) were De Paulo’s other two starters last week.
Not only did De Paulo earn his first outstanding trainer nomination last week, but four horses he trained in 2016 earned Sovereign Award finalist nominations in their respective divisions, including Caren, Noholdingback Bear, Hot Kiss, and Passion for Action. De Paulo said it was an honour to be nominated for outstanding trainer.
“We had a real good year,” he said. “I never really thought about it much. I’m just thankful to be nominated.”
The De Paulo barn won 39 races at Woodbine last year, including 10 stakes races, which was a career high for the trainer. Four of those stakes wins came from Caren, who has been nominated as a finalist in the 3-year old filly and female turf divisions, and should get some consideration for Canadian Horse of the Year.
“She had a great year,” De Paulo said. “We’re very proud of her. She’s in Ocala right now. She’ll probably come to Gulfstream and we might get a start into her down here and then head back home.”
DePaulo barn fave Bear’s Pearl reunited with Joseph DePaulo… (DePaulo Photo)
Caren recorded wins on both synthetic and turf and won at distances between a mile and 1 1/4-miles. De Paulo said he thought she might be better on the grass after her victories in the Wonder Where Stakes, the Grade 3 Ontario Colleen Stakes, and the Carotene Stakes.
“I think she might be at her best on turf, but she’s certainly capable on synthetic,” he said.
As for potential target races for the upcoming season, De Paulo said Caren would likely run in stakes against Ontairo-sired competition this year, but added he was hopeful she might be able to tackle graded stakes competition on the turf at Woodbine.
“I guess I’d love to say the E. P. Taylor, but that sometimes turns out to be a real tough race,” he said. “Hopefully, she can improve from three to four and that would be a possibility.”
A pair of De Paulo’s other Sovereign Award nominees are still on the farm after successful 2016 campaigns. De Paulo said Hot Kiss was currently in Ontario at the Buttgieg Training Centre, while Passion for Action is currently wintering in Ocala, Florida. De Paulo said Passion for Action would likely make a start at Gulfstream before returning to Woodbine in the spring.
De Paulo said his fourth Sovereign Award nominee, Noholdingback Bear, has been transferred to the barn of trainer Brian Lynch following his start in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Santa Anita back on November 5.
While De Paulo typically has a full barn of 45 horses during the Woodbine season, he currently has nine with him down at Gulfstream Park. De Paulo said most of his stable get the winter off to prepare for Ontario-sired races back at Woodbine, but he does manage to find a couple of horses each year that fit the Gulfstream Park program.
“I usually try to bring down a lesser type horse that we try to win a race or two and move on,” he said. “If you have a good horse, you can bring them down here to get a race or two and get them home ready to roll.”
2015 Queen’s Plate winner Shaman Ghost ran a strong second in the Grade 1, $12-million Pegasus World Cup Invitational on Saturday afternoon at Gulfstream Park. Shaman Ghost settled into stride off of the pace in the early going under jockey Jose Ortiz before rallying in the stretch to be second behind Arrogate. He earned a career-best 108 Beyer Speed Figure for trainer Jimmy Jerkins and owner-breeder Adena Springs.
It was a busy week in the winner’s circle for Woodbine trainers, as seven different trainers recorded victories last week. Mark Casse captured four wins between Fair Grounds and Gulfstream Park. Kentucky Oaks prospect Valadorna led the way with a win at Fair Grounds on January 27, while Lemon Squeeze (Jan. 28) and House of Bourbon (Jan. 29) also got to the winner’s circle in New Orleans. Dream Dancing recorded a win at Gulfstream Park on January 28.
Casse had a pair of horses hit the board at the OBS Championship Stakes on January 24 at the Ocala Training Center, as My Arch Enemy and Sailing Home both finished third in the filly division and the colts and geldings division, respectively. Casse also sent out Noble Bird to a sixth-place finish in the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Invitational at Gulfstream Park on Saturday.
Casse was once again named a Sovereign Award finalist for outstanding trainer, and will be looking to win the award for the sixth year in a row. Casse trained seven of the Sovereign Award finalists during the 2016 season, including three of the four finalists in the 2-year old filly division. Among those was Grade 1 Natalma Stakes winner Victory to Victory.
Steven Chircop recorded a win from three starters at Penn National last week, as Extremist got to the line first on January 28. Chircop’s other starters of the week included Euro Princes (7th, Jan. 25) and Miss Anteas (6th, Jan. 26).
Victory to Victory… (Photo by Emily Shields)
Nick Gonzalez recorded a stakes win last week, as Uncle B won the OBS Sprint Stakes for colts and geldings at the Ocala Training Center on January 24. Gonzalez recorded four starters in all last week, as he also sent out Flashy Val (3rd, Jan. 25), Transformative (5th, Jan. 27), and Moonshine Martini (4th, Jan. 29) at Gulfstream Park.
Brian Lynch was also a stakes winner last week, as Power Alert captured the Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint Stakes on January 28. Peart (5th, Jan. 25) and Distorted Union (2nd, Jan. 27) were Lynch’s other starters at Gulfstream Park last week, and he also sent out Cournoyer (10th, Jan. 28) at Aqueduct.
John Mattine sent out French Quarter to a win at Gulfstream Park on January 26. Mattine’s other starter of the week was Citrus Storm, who finished ninth at Gulfstream on January 25.
Julie Robillard won a pair of races at Tampa Bay Downs last week, as Taipan’s Advantage won on January 27 and Areocentric won on January 29.
William Tharrenos recorded a win with Tiz Bobby at Gulfstream Park on January 29. Tharrenos had three starters in all at Gulfstream last week, as Forest Pike ran fifth on January 25 and Misty Spirit finished fifth on January 29.
A pair of Woodbine jockeys also found the winner’s circle last week, as Gary Boulanger picked up a win at Tampa Bay Downs, and Luis Contreras recorded a win at Santa Anita Park. Contreras also rode Breaking Lucky to an eighth-place finish in the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Saturday.
Here’s a look at how the other Woodbine trainers fared last week, in alphabetical order, starting once again with Sid Attard, who had a pair of starters at Gulfstream Park. Gold Shark finished second for Attard on January 25, while Danger Bay finished 7th on January 29.
Tino Attard recorded a pair of fifth-place finishes from Land Ho (Jan. 25) and Miss Steffi (Jan. 26) at Gulfstream Park last week.
Roger Attfield sent out three starters last week, including Danish Dynaformer, who finished eighth in the Grade 3 W. L. McKnight Handicap at Gulfstream Park on Saturday. Final Copy (8th, Jan. 25) and Lady Ekati (2nd, Jan. 29) were Attfield’s other starters of the week at Tampa Bay Downs and Gulfstream Park, respectively.
Reade Baker sent out Breaking Lucky in the Grade 1, $12-million Pegasus World Cup Invitational at Gulfstream Park on Saturday, but the 2015 Prince of Wales Stakes winner finished eighth in the big race. Baker’s other starter of the week, Vegas Strip, finished sixth at Tampa Bay Downs on January 25.
Julie Belhumeur had one runner-up finish from four starters last week, as Mystic Delight was second at Tampa Bay Downs on January 25. Belhumeur’s other starters last week included Megalin Candy (6th, Jan. 25) at Gulfstream Park, and Gabriels Joy (8th, Jan. 25) and Expialidocious (6th, Jan. 25) at Tampa Bay Downs.
Time On Time was ninth at Laurel Park on January 27 for Michael Blake.
Ashlee Brnjas had two starters hit the board at Tampa Bay Downs last week, as Azimut was third on January 25 and Im On It was second on January 28.
Josie Carroll sent out a pair of starters at Gulfstream Park last week, including Ritzy Rose (8th, Jan. 28) and Unspoiled Moments (6th, Jan. 28). 2016 Prince of Wales Stakes winner, Amis Gizmo, was named a Sovereign Award finalist in the 3-year old male division and returned to the work tab this past weekend with a three-furlong breeze in 38.50 seconds on dirt at Palm Meadows Training Center on Saturday morning.
Ami’s Gizmo… (Photo by Emily Shields)
Ricky Griffith’s lone starter of the week, All Irish, finished fifth at Gulfstream Park on January 25.
Michael McDonald sent out Prilla Le Blanc to an eighth-place finish at Gulfstream Park on January 25.
Dr. Harkness finished sixth at Tampa Bay Downs on January 28 for Debra Rombis.
John Simms recorded a runner-up finish from three starters at Tampa Bay Downs last week, as Hiram’s Mistress was second on January 29. Simms’ other starters of the week included Annie O’Schiller (5th, Jan. 25) and Leave Er B (5th, Jan. 29).
Michael Wright sent out three starters last week at Tampa Bay Downs and two of those horses recorded runner-up finishes. Dash of Dazzle (January 25) and Unbridled Majesty (January 29) were second in their respective races, while Spunsational finished fourth on January 25.