TORONTO, March 14 – Welcome to the 11th 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 John Mattine, who sent out French Quarter to a win at Gulfstream Park on March 10. Mattine had three starters in all at Gulfstream last week, as he also sent out Citrus Storm to a fifth-place finish on March 9 and Budding to a 10th-place finish on March 11.
The win was French Quarter’s second consecutive victory for Mattine and owner Howard Walton this winter at Gulfstream, but the 6-year old was claimed for $62,500 by new trainer David Fawkes and new owner Domino Enterprises Inc. Despite losing a horse to the claim box, Mattine said the connections were pleased with the way things worked out.
“There’s a couple ways of looking at it,” he said. “He won the condition the race before and went right back for the same condition. There were a couple of different horses in there but it worked out well for us. It’s $62,500 for a 6-year old. Howard’s pretty happy with everything. I don’t have him anymore, but he was good to me and I was good to him. We enjoyed him. I think we treated him well and he performed for us.”
French Quarter’s speed figures have improved while racing on the dirt this winter, and Mattine believes he can continue racing at a high level for his new connections on the surface.
“He has a pretty good record on dirt,” he said. “His numbers were a little lower on Tapeta and a little better on dirt. If he goes on and does well, that’s fine too.”
Mattine with French Quarter…
Mattine has maintained 10 stalls at Gulfstream Park during the winter, with the rest of his stable getting some time off on the farm back in Canada. In all, Mattine has recorded three wins from 25 starts, with seven in-the-money finishes during the current Gulfstream meet.
“You always want better, but we’re holding our own,” he said. “I like coming down here. It’s one of the toughest meets to be racing at. It’s hard to win a race here.”
As opening day for the 2017 season draws closer, Mattine’s local contingent is now all moved in at Woodbine. Mattine said his local horses spent the winter at his farm in the Hockley Valley area.
“It seemed they had a real good winter,” he said. “The guys at the barn are happy with how they came in, so I’m thrilled too.”
Mattine said he would have 25 stalls at Woodbine this season, and among the local contingent is 2015 Kenora Stakes winner Rexton. Rexton made just two starts last season after a campaign that was cut short due to injury, but Mattine said the 7-year old would be back for the 2017 season.
“He had a minor injury, but I think we did the right thing to stop on him and make sure everything was ok and then try again,” he said. “With the injury that he had, he can come back from it. It wasn’t a career ending injury and we’re going to try and bring him back this year.”
Mattine said he would remain at Gulfstream Park until the Championship meet concludes on April 2, before returning to Woodbine to put the finishing touches on preparations for the 2017 season.
Along with Mattine, five other Woodbine trainers found the winner’s circle last week, led by Mark Casse, who recorded four wins from 19 starts. Casse recorded three wins at Gulfstream Park from Brass Compass (Mar. 9), Speight Swiftly (Mar. 10), and Sky My Sky (Mar. 12), while Tough Equation (Mar. 9) won at Fair Grounds. Casse also had a pair of runner-up finishes in graded stakes on March 11 at Tampa Bay Downs, as Queen’s Plate nominee State of Honor ran second in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby and La Coronel was second in the Grade 3 Florida Oaks.
Sky My Sky airs… (Courtesy of Gulfstream Park)
Brian Lynch recorded a pair of winners from six starters at Gulfstream Park last week, as Awesome Song won on March 9 and Red King won on March 12. Lynch had three other runners hit the board at Gulfstream last week, led by Power Alert, who finished second in the Silks Run Stakes on March 11. Brooklyn Bobby also finished second on March 11, while Lex Vegas was third on March 8. Lynch’s other runner last week was Dream Trip, who finished sixth on March 11.
Tino Attard sent out Starship Jubilee to a win at Gulfstream Park on March 9. Attard’s other starter of the week, Been Waiting, finished 5th at Gulfstream Park on March 12.
Ashlee Brnjas recorded a pair of wins at Tampa Bay Downs last week with Azimut on March 8 and Tizwar on March 12.
Flashy Val crossed the line first for Nick Gonzalez at Gulfstream Park on March 9.
A pair of Woodbine jockeys also picked up wins last week, as Luis Contreras was a winner at Tampa Bay Downs and Rafael Hernandez recorded a win at Hawthorne Racecourse.
2015 Queen’s Plate winner Shaman Ghost, who finished second to Arrogate in the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Invitational at Gulfstream Park on January 28, captured his second career Grade 1 victory when he won the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap at Santa Anita Park on March 11 for owner-breeder Frank Stronach.
Shaman Ghost…scary good! (Courtesy of Emily Shields)
Here’s a look at how the other Woodbine trainers fared last week, in alphabetical order, starting with Roger Attfield, who sent out Queen’s Plate Winterbook favourite, Tiz a Slam, to a fifth-place finish in the Columbia Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on March 11.
Hammerstein finished sixth at Tampa Bay Downs on March 11 for Darwin Banach.
Michael Blake sent out Mountebank to an eighth-place finish at Laurel Park on March 10.
Conscious Decision finished seventh at Gulfstream Park on March 9 for Julia Carey.
Josie Carroll had a pair of runners hit the board from four starters last week, as Ami’s Flatter finished second in the Challenger Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on March 11, while Queen’s Plate nominee Avie’s Mesa was third in his race at Gulfstream Park on March 11. Carroll also sent out A La Mode (12th, Mar. 12) and Salty Breeze (10th, Mar. 12) at Gulfstream Park last week.
Gail Cox recorded a runner-up finish from Cool Cat Jazz at Gulfstream Park on March 8.
Too Stormy finished second at Gulfstream Park for Mike De Paulo on March 8. De Paulo also sent out Timingiseverything (6th, Mar. 8) and Conquest Rapiduno (9th, Mar. 11) at Gulfstream last week.
Sick Love finished fourth at Penn National on March 8 for Scott Fairlie.
Julie Robillard had a pair of starters at Tampa Bay Downs last week, including Mousquetaire (8th, Mar. 8) and Unseen Angels (6th, Mar. 11).
Leave Er B finished fifth at Tampa Bay Downs on March 12 for John Simms.
Stuart Simon sent out a pair of starters at Gulfstream Park last week, including Queen’s Plate nominee Yorkton (7th, Mar. 11) and Lemon Zip (7th, Mar. 12).
William Tharrenos had four starters at Gulfstream Park last week, including Wickstead (4th, Mar. 8), Bold Summit (9th, Mar. 11), Hey Bear (6th, Mar. 11), and Moonshine Martini (4th, Mar. 12).
Golden Spear finished seventh at Gulfstream Park on March 9 for Danny Vella.
Michael Wright sent out Reliably Royal to a fourth-place finish at Tampa Bay Downs on March 8.