TORONTO, February 13, 2018 – Welcome to the ninth 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.
It was a big week for trainer Mark Casse, who picked up a pair of stakes wins at Tampa Bay Downs over the weekend. One of those wins came from 2017 Ricoh Woodbine Mile winner and Champion Turf Male, World Approval, who got his 2018 off to a winning start in the Grade 3 Tampa Bay Stakes over 1 1/16-miles on turf on Saturday afternoon. Casse said he was pleased with the result, as World Approval was making his first start since his win in the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Del Mar in November.
“You’re always nervous when you run a champion,” he said. “It’s kind of a fine line. You want to do enough, but not too much because there’s bigger plans. It worked out fine.”
While World Approval has typically been forwardly-placed in his races, he was taken off of the pace in the Tampa Bay Stakes, a move Casse said he discussed with jockey John Velazquez prior to the race.
“We knew that he was going to get a little tired, and (Velazquez) was just trying to conserve some energy, so we took back a little bit,” he said.
The original plan was to send World Approval to Dubai for the Group 1, $6-million Dubai Turf over 1 1/8-miles at Meydan Racecourse on March 31 following the Tampa Bay Stakes, but the connections have instead opted to say home and keep World Approval at the one-mile distance, aiming for the Grade 1, $300,000 Maker’s 46 Mile Stakes at Keeneland on April 13.
“I was always concerned with the distance,” Casse said. “We tried him at a mile and a sixteenth, and he was tired galloping out. I know he’s supposed to get a little tired because we did do a lot with him, but after a long conversation with Johnny and (owner) Mrs. (Charlotte) Weber, we just think we’re going to aim for the Maker’s Mile at Keeneland.”
Casse added that the Grade 1, $400,000 Frank E. Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita on March 10 could also be a possibility for World Approval before heading to Keeneland.
Another big winner for Casse at Tampa Bay Downs on Saturday was Queen’s Plate prospect Flameaway in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis Stakes. Flameaway’s race played out the exact same as his previous win in the Kitten’s Joy Stakes at Gulfstream Park on January 6, as he took the lead early and was game to the wire, holding off Catholic Boy in the final strides.
“He’s a winner, what can you say?” Casse said. “He does it on all surfaces. He’s just a class act. There’s not many that can do what he can do.”
Casse said Flameaway would run back at Tampa Bay Downs in the Grade 2, $400,000 Tampa Bay Derby, and is currently on the Kentucky Derby Trail after earning 10 points towards qualification with his win in the Sam F. Davis. Although he’s currently not nominated to the Triple Crown, he will be added as a supplemental nomination before the March 19 deadline, making him eligible for the Kentucky Derby.
In all, Casse recorded six wins from 17 starts last week. In addition to his two stakes winners, Casse also picked up wins from Telekinesis at Fair Grounds on February 9, Salute With Honour at Gulfstream Park on February 9, and He Takes Charge and Biloxi Bay at Gulfstream Park on February 10.
Another interesting Queen’s Plate prospect for Casse could be Telekinesis, who earned a 90 Beyer Speed Figure in winning his career debut by 3 1/4-lengths. Telekinesis was purchased by Stonestreet Stables for $470,000 out of the 2015 Keeneland November Breeding Stock sale as a weanling. Bred in Ontario by William Graham, Casse said Telekinesis is a horse he’s been high on for a long time.
“He had some issues and we sent him home to Stonestreet and we’ve got him back,” he said. “We’ve always felt like he was one of the best young horses we had. We’re excited about him. Mrs. (Barbara) Banke, the owner of Stonestreet, and I have talked about the Queen’s Plate on more than one occasion, so she would love to try and win it.”
The Ontario bred @StonestreetFarm owned TELEKINESIS (Ghostzapper – Intentional Cry) in the paddock taking it all in getting set to make his @fairgroundsnola debut in 3yo MSW Sprint for Mark Casse with @flothejock pic.twitter.com/K2hGu5GNDL
— John G. Dooley (@JohnGDooley) February 9, 2018
With two more Canadian-bred three-year-olds emerging this weekend, the Casse barn appears to be loaded with Queen’s Plate prospects, which includes Flameaway and Telekinesis, along with Wonder Gadot, who will run in the Grade 2 Rachel Alexandra Stakes at Fair Grounds on Saturday, and recent maiden winner Neepawa, who will likely step up to stakes company for his next start.
Two other Woodbine trainers made trips to the winner’s circle this week, as Norm McKnight won at Oaklawn Park on February 11 with Malibu Wood. McKnight sent out six starters in all at Oaklawn last week, including After Party (fourth, Feb. 8), Sunny’s Rainbow (third, Feb. 8), Singandcryindubai (fourth, Feb. 9), Cheburashka (ninth, Feb. 10), and Gizmo Jones (fourth, Feb. 10).
Steve Owens recorded his second win of the Gulfstream Park meet on February 11 with Head Hunter. Owens also sent out Victor’s Flag to a fourth-place finish at Gulfstream Park on February 8.
Five Woodbine jockeys made trips to the winner’s circle last week, including Ismael Mosqueira, who recorded a stakes win with Born in a Breeze in the Turf Paradise Handicap at Turf Paradise on February 10. Mosqueira also picked up wins from Atsina Warrior (Feb. 6) and Unfolded Magic (Feb. 11), and finished the week with three wins and two third-place finishes from 12 starters.
Jermaine Bridgmohan won three races from nine starters at Sam Houston last week, which included victories on Port of Storms (Feb. 7), Da Streakin Mo (Feb. 10), and Act of Heroism (Feb. 10).
Luis Contreras won a pair of races with Dr. Jessop and Trust Emily at Sunland Park on February 6. In all, Contreras recorded two wins and three runner-up finishes from 14 starters between Sunland Park and Oaklawn Park last week.
Rafael Hernandez recorded a win at Aqueduct aboard The Great Samurai on February 10. Hernandez also hit the board with Wicked Huntsman at Aqueduct on February 11 among his seven starts during the week.
Kirk Johnson rode Lions Play to victory at Mahoning Valley on February 5, and also picked up a runner-up finish from Hoarder on February 6 among six total starts last week.
Sheena Ryan had three mounts at Tampa Bay Downs last week, with her best finish coming aboard Bitterroot, who finished fourth on February 9.
Gary Boulanger recorded a fifth-place finish at Tampa Bay Downs on February 11 with Go Hippo Go, which was his only start of the week.
Alan Garcia finished 10th in his only start of the week at Oaklawn Park on February 10 aboard Farley.
Here’s a look at how the other Woodbine trainers fared last week, in alphabetical order, starting with Kevin Attard, who sent out Sweet Inspiration to a ninth-place finish at Gulfstream Park on February 8.
Sid Attard sent out a pair of runners at Gulfstream Park last week, including Luckbe Tanya (third, Feb. 9) and Hyatt’s Dude (11th, Feb. 11).
Entwistle finished third at Gulfstream Park on February 10 for Tino Attard.
Roger Attfield recorded a pair of starters at Gulfstream Park last week, including Stormy Action (sixth, Feb. 10) and Glencairn (sixth, Feb. 11).
Reade Baker sent out Brass Compass to an eighth-place finish at Gulfstream Park on February 11.
Classy Scarlett finished third at Laurel Park on February 10 for Michael Blake.
Nick Caruso sent out Spun From Gold to an eighth-place finish at Laurel Park on February 10.
Nature’s Fortune finished sixth at Gulfstream Park on February 11 for Gail Cox.
Mike De Paulo sent out a pair of runners at Gulfstream Park on February 9, including Hidden to Win (fourth) and Too Stormy (seventh).
Sniper recorded a runner-up finish and was beaten just a half-length at Turfway Park on February 10 for Preston Ferris.
Nicholas Gonzalez sent out five runners at Gulfstream Park last week, including Written (fifth, Feb. 8), Switchblade (sixth, Feb. 9), Berliner (fifth, Feb. 9), Hey Howie (ninth, Feb. 9), and No Drinking Rules (fourth, Feb. 11).
World of Prospects finished ninth at Tampa Bay Downs on February 10 for Paula Loescher.
John Mattine sent out a pair of runners at Gulfstream Park last week, including Signature Data, who finished third on February 8. Mattine’s other starter of the week, Tonedaddy, finished seventh on February 7.
Michael McDonald recorded a seventh-place finish from Adios Mia at Gulfstream Park on February 10.
Malcolm Pierce recorded a pair of fifth-place finishes at Tampa Bay Downs on February 10 from Secret Passage and Noble Thought in the Grade 3 Tampa Bay Stakes.
Malbec finished third at Tampa Bay Downs on February 10 for John Simms.
Stuart Simon recorded a pair of starters at Gulfstream Park last week, including Unbounded Spirit (11th, Feb. 10) and Aurora Way (fourth, Feb. 11).
Paddy Point finished 10th at Gulfstream Park on February 10 for William Tharrenos.
Daniel Vella sent out Pulled the Goalie to a fifth-place finish at Gulfstream Park on February 9.