TORONTO, February 3, 2021 – Each week, in the lead-up to Opening Day of the 2021 Woodbine Thoroughbred season, we’ll follow some of the must-read storylines of key horses and horsepeople, and also share other informative news and notes.
From horses on the Queen’s Plate trail, to horses to keep tabs on ahead of the new Woodbine season, to catching up with Woodbine trainers, the weekly report will keep racing fans and the racing community in the loop.
In this week’s report, trainer Dan Vella looks to make Plate waves with Giant Waters, fellow trainer Mike De Paulo looks back at his 2020 campaign and ahead to the 2021 season, a Plate winner steps into the Ontario Stallion Spotlight, and much more.
Path to the Plate:
Dan Vella, already a two-time (1994 Basqueian, and 2012 Strait of Dover) Queen’s Plate winner, will look to make it a horse racing classic hat trick in 2021 with a multiple stakes placed dark bay colt.
Woodbine recently spoke with Vella about his Plate hopeful, who is currently stationed in the Sunshine State.
- Horse: Giant Waters
- Sire: Giant Gizmo
- Dam: Green Waters
- Trainer: Dan Vella
- Owner / Breeder: Track West Racing Inc.
- Record: 0-2-2 from 4 starts
On Giant Waters’ presence and mindset…
“He’s a good-looking horse. He has great conformation and great structure. He’s an impressive horse, so right from the start, you really liked seeing that. He has a great attitude as well, so that helps. His works have never been fantastic, but as he got closer to racing and the more you did with him, he just showed that he was a very good horse.”
On the possibility of contesting the 1 1/4-mile Plate…
“Distance is his friend. That’s a big thing for any racehorse. You can win a lot of races going short, but you don’t win the big ones. He likes both surfaces, but probably prefers the turf a little bit. He handles both well.”
On where he’ll start his 2021 campaign…
“If the Plate had been the normal time it usually is in the year, I might have tried to start him once in the U.S., but with the date we now have to work with, I’ll start him in a maiden race here [Woodbine]. To our despair, he’s still a maiden. He shouldn’t be a maiden – he had such a tough trip in his second race – but that is a benefit to us now. He’s at Classic Mile [Florida] right now and we’re looking forward to seeing him get his first start of the year.”
On living the Plate dream…
“This industry can be tough. You’re getting up very early morning, and when you’re up at four every day, it can be drudgery at times. You have to have something look forward to and having a good horse, which he is, is exciting. It makes it a little easier to get up for work when you think, ‘Well, we have to go for the big one this year.’ We’re allowed to dream – that’s what this business is all about.”
- Michael De Paulo
- Career wins: 892
- Stakes wins: 76
Winter home: “We’ve got eight horses with us in Florida right now. We have a few maidens here. We have one, Core [a three-year-old Ontario-bred son of First Samurai], that raced in New York and didn’t do any good on the dirt, so we hope he wakes up on the grass. We also have Double Medal [a five-year-old Florida-bred daughter of Medaglia d’Oro] with us. She ran third the first time we ran her here. Hopefully, we can have some good results down here and carry that momentum over to Woodbine when the season starts.”
Last season: “We won a few nice races in what was a shortened season. It was the first time in a long time we didn’t win a stakes race, which was unfortunate. We were hoping that Theregoesjojo [a six-year-old Ontario-bred son of English Channel] would win the Valedictory on the last day, but unfortunately, the race didn’t go.”
This season: “We’re excited about a horse called Saturday George [a three-year-old Ontario-bred son of Mineshaft, bred by David Anderson and John Fielding]. He’s a pretty nice horse. So far, he’s only run on the grass [a win and a second in two 2020 starts at Woodbine]. I think he’s okay on the Polytrack. The horse is owned by John Russell. His father-in-law, George Schramm, passed away, and I told John that we have to buy a horse and name it after George. He was a longtime owner and loved horse racing.”
Key horses: “Other than Saturday George, we have an Ontario-sired horse, Download. He could be okay, maybe do well on the grass. We have a baby Caren [a multiple stakes winner campaigned by De Paulo] for this year. She’s a Curlin filly out of Caren that we’re excited about. We don’t have her named yet, but she’s the first foal out of Caren.”
Final furlong: “We’re just over 100 wins away from 1,000, so we’re getting there.”
Ones to Watch:
We caught up with trainer Don MacRae about two of his exciting horses from 2020.
From Canadian Thoroughbred’s Jennifer Morrison…
Avoman, who provided owners Jim and Graeme Bruce’s La Huerta Stable with its first stakes win, has grown over the winter according to MacRae, who also co-owns the 3-year-old son of Old Forester.
Avoman won his maiden in the Bull Page Stakes at 7 1/2 furlongs on the turf before a troubled outing in the Frost King Stakes. MacRae and co. hope the colt is a Queen’s Plate contender.
Impressive debut winner Cruden Bay, owned by Michael Lay, who recently joined the Board of Directors at Woodbine Entertainment, is another exciting 3-year-old prospect for 2021.
Both Avoman and Cruden Bay are wintering at Carrick Hill Farm and will begin light training in two weeks.
Ontario Stallion Spotlight:
Get to know Sir Dudley Digges, the 2016 Queen’s Plate champion, who is back on home soil and looking better than ever. Click here to check out his Ontario Racing spotlight
2020 Race Rewind:
Relive the impressive effort by favoured Curlin’s Voyage in the Woodbine Oaks Presented by Budweiser. Click here to check out the 2020 Woodbine Oaks.
Become a member today and get your first bet on HPIbet.com! Click here to learn more.
Key Woodbine Dates:
- Monday, February 22, 2021 – Backstretch re-opens for set-up
- Wednesday, February 24, 2021 – Horses begin shipping in
- Thursday, February 25, 2021 – Sand Ring and Training Track open- weather permitting
- Saturday, March 2021 – Main Track opens – weather permitting and date TBD based on spring thaw
- Saturday, April 17, 2021 – Scheduled Opening Day
Photo: Avoman wins the 2020 Bull Page Stakes on September 27, 2020 by Michael Burns.