TORONTO, February 7 – Welcome to the sixth 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 Steven Chircop, who has started off the winter in fine form with eight wins since the end of the Woodbine meet on December 4. Chircop’s latest win came from Ekati Sonet at Penn National on February 3. In all, Chircop had five starters last week between Parx and Penn National, but Ekati Sonet was the only horse to hit the board. Chircop said he’s been happy with the way his winter has gone so far.
“It’s definitely been a good winter,” he said. “I’ve been very fortunate that way.”
Chircop currently has a 10-horse string at Penn National after having Please Play Again claimed away from him following a win on December 23. Despite the small numbers, Chircop has managed to start multiple horses per week throughout the winter without losing as many to the claim box than he has in the past.
“It’s just worked out that way,” he said. “You have to go with whatever fits the condition book. I’ve bought a lot of horses based on trying to get the conditions that I was buying them for. Things have been a little bit different at Penn National this year where I’ve brought down 11 horses and I’ve only lost one. In the past, I’ve gone down with 11 or 12 and I’ve gone as far as losing seven in a row consecutively. It’s been a little bit different this year with them not claiming the horses, but fortunately enough, the horses keep on running well. They are horses I want to turn over at the end of the day, but they keep on running well so we’ll just keep running them.”
Chircop winning on the road…(Courtesy of Laurel Park/Chircop)
Chircop started his training career in 2009 at Woodbine and spent his first winter at Penn National that same year. After taking the next winter off, Chircop returned to regular winter racing at Charles Town in 2011-2012, before making Penn National his winter home each year since the 2012-2013 winter campaign. Chircop said the Penn National program seemed to fit the horses he had in that first year as a trainer.
“My first year, I started off the year with one horse and finished with three,” he said. “I knew they were horses that weren’t going to be as competitive at Woodbine. I watch races from everywhere and I noticed a lot of the horses that were sold from Woodbine to Penn National were doing well, so I decided to go down with two horses. I didn’t win any races but I met a lot of people and I started making some connections, so when I had a little more experience and a little more money, I was able to buy better quality horses and take them down.”
Looking ahead to the 2017 Woodbine meet, Chircop said one of his goals for the rest of the winter will be to restock his stable.
“Ideally, what I like to do is try to turn over as much US money as you can, and then go to places like Gulfstream or Keeneland in April and claim new horses,” he said. “I’m in a little bit of a position where I don’t have as many horses as I need for Woodbine. I only have five horses. Hopefully, when people see you do well in the States, you can pick up a client or try to claim something good.”
But while Chircop may head to Florida a few times this winter looking for new stock, he has no plans to relocate away from Penn National for a winter campaign in the near future.
“For the competition and the money they give away, it equals itself out,” he said. “Obviously, you don’t have the luxury of the warm weather, but I’m not in that position in my career where it makes sense financially to go to Florida.”
Victory at Penn National…(Coourtesy of Chircop/Penn National)
Mark Casse was back in the winner’s circle last week with two wins at Fair Grounds on February 3 from Sound Defence and Captain Genius. Casse also had two stakes placed horses from his 11 starters last week, including Pretty City Dancer, who ran second in the Grade 2 Forward Gal Stakes at Gulfstream Park on February 4, and Classic Empire, who ran third in the Grade 2 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park also on February 4.
Dream Trip recorded a victory at Gulfstream Park on February 2 and was the only starter for Brian Lynch last week.
Julie Robillard was also back in the winner’s circle last week as Threes Are Wild won at Tampa Bay Downs on February 5. Robillard also sent out Voodoo Storm to a seventh-place finish at Tampa Bay Downs on February 5.
Michael Wright recorded a win from three starters at Tampa Bay Downs last week as My Perfect Diamond got to the winner’s circle on February 1. Wright’s other starters last week included Awfully Sinful (5th, Feb. 1) and Notaloneinhishead (4th, Feb. 5).
A pair of Woodbine jockeys found the winner’s circle last week, including Gary Boulanger and Luis Contreras. Boulanger recorded two wins at Tampa Bay Downs and was also second on Sister Nation in the Cincinnati Trophy Stakes at Turfway Park. Contreras recorded two wins and four third-place finishes in 15 starts at Santa Anita last week.
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 last week including Hindianna Jones (5th, Feb. 1) and Gilded Warrior (4th, Feb. 2).
Tino Attard recorded one third-place finish from three starters last week at Gulfstream Park, as Entwistle ran third on February 4. Attard’s other starters of the week included Been Waiting (4th, Feb. 2) and Eye of the Lion (6th, Feb. 4).
Roger Attfield saddled Chiringuita to a fourth-place finish at Gulfstream Park on February 4.
Ashlee Brnjas recorded a pair of runner-up finishes from three starters last week at Tampa Bay Downs. Last Class to Go ran second on February 3 and Krz Princess was second on February 4, while Tizwar was fifth on February 5.
Julia Carey sent out three starters at Gulfstream Park last week, including Cape Mist (8th, Feb. 2), Sight Reading (7th, Feb. 2), and Alilaction (7th, Feb. 5).
Josie Carroll recorded four starts at Gulfstream Park last week, as she sent out King Candy (9th, Feb. 2), Divine Ami (5th, Feb. 4), Salty Breeze (6th, Feb. 4), and Doogie (13th, Feb. 5).
Mike De Paulo recorded a runner-up finish from two starters last week, as Sister Nation was second in the Cincinnati Trophy Stakes at Turfway Park on February 4. De Paulo’s other starter of the week was Racen, who finished fourth at Gulfstream Park on February 1.
Gary Boulanger aboard Siser Nationa at TP…(Courtesy of Jen Petricca)
Scott Fairlie recorded a third-place finish from three starters last week, as Philly Completely was third at Laurel Park on February 4. Fairlie’s other two starters of the week both came at Penn National, where My Pal Katherine was fifth on February 3 and Alpha Away was fifth on February 4.
Lake Marion (7th, Feb. 5) was the only starter for Shane Learn at Tampa Bay Downs last week.
John Mattine saddled four starters at Gulfstream Park last week, including Broken Meadow (5th, Feb. 3), Red At Last (6th, Feb. 3), O Wanderlust (9th, Feb. 4), and Slam (4th, Feb. 5).
Pat Parente recorded a pair of starters at Gulfstream Park last week, including Dynamite Kid (9th, Feb. 1) and Depeche Chat (7th, Feb. 4).
John Simms sent out a pair of starters at Tampa Bay Downs last week, including Philm Noir (4th, Feb. 3) and Wildcat Prince (11th, Feb. 5).
Hey Bear (4th, Feb. 5) was the only starter for William Tharrenos at Gulfstream Park last week.