TORONTO, February 20, 2018 – Welcome to the 10th edition of the weekly Woodbine Snowbirds Report, now in its seventh year, chronicling the winter adventures of Woodbine-based trainers and jockeys currently plying their trade south of the border.
While the previous nine Snowbirds Reports focused on trainers based in the southern United States, a number of Woodbine trainers are also based in the northern portion of the country, including Steven Chircop at Penn National in Grantville, Pennsylvania. It’s been a challenging winter for trainers based in the northern United States, with a number of weather cancellations throwing wrenches into plans. Chircop had five horses entered last week, but had just one starter, as Silver Ring finished fifth at Parx on February 12.
“You have to be prepared for cancellations,” Chircop said. “That’s the tough thing about winter racing. The last couple of years we’ve been fortunate that the weather has been good. With the frigid temperatures and the temperatures fluctuating, it gets really warm and it rains, and then it gets cold and the track freezes right up. That’s definitely been tough.”
Even though it was a quiet week on the track for Chircop, he had a big week off of the track, as Chircop proposed to his now fiance, Amy Vanderzweep. Chircop said he is very appreciative of Vanderzweep’s support of his career.
“I was lucky and fortunate to find a girl that could understand the horse racing business, and understand that in the winter months, I’m travelling back and forth,” he said. “It’s not easy for somebody to deal with when their partner isn’t there all of the time, but she loves racing and she understands the business. To have that support, it makes things so much easier from a trainer’s perspective.”
Along with the engagement, it’s been a strong start to 2018 for Chircop on the track as well. Chircop has won four of his first 12 starts of the year and has also recorded seven in-the-money finishes. Chircop was quick to give credit to Dean Hardman and Mikey David, his barn hands at Penn National, for his recent success, and added that his knowledge of the circuit after racing there since 2013 has also been a factor.
“I’ve been to Penn for so many years,” he said. “After a while, you kind of know which kind of horses to take down there. I pick my horses wisely, and so far, we’ve had a really good start to the new year.”
Chircop has a small portion of his stable with him at Penn National this winter, as he’s down to six horses after Silver Ring was claimed out of that February 12 start. Chircop said he wasn’t initially planning on racing this winter, which is part of the reason for his small string, but he’s currently looking to expand as the start of the Woodbine season draws closer.
“I had a really good meet at Woodbine and I wasn’t planning on going away,” he said. “One of my owners, Murray Stroud, approached me and he had some horses he wanted to continue on racing. Because of that, I only brought one horse that was in my stable and I went out and purchased two other horses. Right now, we’re down to six horses. I’m currently trying to find horses to claim from Laurel, Parx or Penn National to try and have some early horses for Woodbine.”
Assuming the weather cooperates, it will be a busy week for Chircop this week, as he has four horses entered in races through February 23.
After recording six winners between February 5 and February 11, Mark Casse added to that total last week, picking up eight wins from 26 starters across Aqueduct, Fair Grounds and Gulfstream Park. The highlight of Casse’s week was a victory in the Colonel Power Overnight Stakes from Holding Gold on February 17 at Fair Grounds, while Flashaway finished third in the same race. Casse also sent out Wonder Gadot to a third-place finish in the Grade 2 Rachel Alexandra Stakes at Fair Grounds on the same February 17 card. Casse’s other winners of the week included Adonis Creed (Feb. 15), Noble Commander (Feb. 16), March to the Arch (Feb. 16) and Magical Sky (Feb. 18) at Gulfstream Park, Mo Flash (Feb. 18) and Getoffmyback (Feb. 18) at Aqueduct, and Chaos Theory (Feb. 18) at Fair Grounds.
Reade Baker recorded a win with his only starter of the week as Just Be Kind captured the Minaret Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on February 17.
Michael Wright picked up a win and a third-place finish from four starts at Tampa Bay Downs last week, as Dash of Dazzle won on February 18 and Nonno finished third on February 16. Wright also sent out Laser Focus (ninth, Feb. 14) and Greenfield (fourth, Feb. 18) last week.
Jockey Rafael Hernandez had a big week at Aqueduct, picking up four wins from nine mounts. Hernandez recorded back-to-back wins on the Saturday card on February 17, which included victories by Hit It Once More in the Haynesfield Stakes and Fielding Gold in the fourth race on the card. Hernandez’s other victories came aboard Da Wildcat Girl on February 15 and Power Nap on February 17, while also finishing second on Tale of Mist on February 17.
Jermaine Bridgmohan recorded a pair of winners from 13 starts at Sam Houston last week, as Captain Payback won on February 14 and Oldwick won on February 16. Bridgmohan also picked up four runner-up finishes and a pair of third-place finishes to finish the week with an in-the-money percentage of 62 per cent.
Ismael Mosqueira recorded a win from 17 starts at Turf Paradise last week, as Storm Haze won the eighth race on February 13. Mosqueira had six in-the-money finishes in all; in addition to his win, he recorded four runner-up finishes and one third-place finish.
Alan Garcia picked up a pair of runner-up finishes from three starts at Oaklawn Park last week, as Crack Your Whip was second on February 17 and Rose Candy was second on February 18.
Luis Contreras recorded a runner-up finish from five starts at Oaklawn Park last week, as Moolamiss was second on February 15.
Michelle Rainford was a head short of reaching the winner’s circle at Penn National last week, as Light My Path finished second on February 16.
Kirk Johnson had four in-the-money finishes from seven mounts at Mahoning Valley last week, as Even Echo (Feb. 13), Hot Cross Buns (Feb. 17), Angel Falls (Feb. 17) and Love Rules All (Feb. 17) all ran third in their respective races.
Sheena Ryan recorded a third-place finish from four starters at Tampa Bay Downs last week, as Awesome At Last was third on February 17.
Here’s a look at how the other Woodbine trainers fared last week, in alphabetical order, starting with Willie Armata. Armata sent out a pair of runners at Penn National last week, including No Soup for You (fifth, Feb. 14) and Friendship Ring (fourth, Feb. 15).
Starship Jubilee finished second by a neck in the Mary Todd Stakes at Gulfstream Park on February 17 for Kevin Attard.
Tino Attard sent out Red Fever to a fourth-place finish at Gulfstream Park on February 14.
Roger Attfield had a pair of starters last week, including Sovereign Award three-year-old male finalist, Tiz a Slam, who finished third in the Grade 3 Fair Grounds Handicap at Fair Grounds on February 17. Attfield’s other starter of the week, Warrior Hall, finished fifth at Gulfstream Park on February 18.
Michael Blake recorded a pair of sixth-place finishes last week from Amber Brewski at Charles Town on February 15 and Ole Ole Ole at Laurel Park on February 18.
Bess’ Girl finished seventh at Penn National on February 14 for Nick Caruso.
Winning Style finished ninth at Gulfstream Park on February 14 for Mike De Paulo.
Scott Fairlie hit the board with his only starter of the week as Light My Path finished second by a head at Penn National on February 16.
Shane Learn sent out Lake Marion to a fifth-place finish at Tampa Bay Downs on February 16.
Paula Loescher had three starters at Tampa Bay Downs last week, including Mamma White Socks, who finished second on February 14. Loescher also sent out Prison Padre to a fifth-place finish on February 14 and Perfetto to a 10th-place finish on February 16.
Budding finished fifth at Gulfstream Park on February 14 for John Mattine.
Norm McKnight recorded four starts at Oaklawn Park last week, with his best finish coming from Supreme Commander, who finished second on February 17. McKnight’s other starters of the week included After Party (10th, Feb. 16), Dan the Tin Man (eighth, Feb. 18), and Constantino (sixth, Feb. 18).
Nick Mileni Jr. sent out Im On It to a runner-up finish at Penn National on February 16.
Steve Owens saddled Leroids Mommie to a runner-up finish at Gulfstream Park on February 15.
Pat Parente recorded a pair of starts at Gulfstream Park last week, which included a third-place finish from Titochip in the American Fabius Stakes on February 17. Parente also sent out Ault to a fifth-place finish on February 18.
Malcolm Pierce sent out a pair of runners at Tampa Bay Downs last week, including Science Fiction (fourth, Feb. 15) and Armament (sixth, Feb. 17).
John Simms recorded three starts at Tampa Bay Downs last week, with his best finish coming from Gasparilla, who was third on February 17. Simms also sent out Sweet Deal (10th, Feb. 16) and Mojo Rising (ninth, Feb. 17).
William Tharrenos sent out four runners at Gulfstream Park last week, including Specialcnsydration (fourth, Feb. 14), Forty’s Sweetheart (seventh, Feb. 14), Stormbeam (fifth, Feb. 15) and Third Republic (eighth, Feb. 18).