Hi everyone, I hope all of you had a very Happy Easter holiday with
your families. On Friday of the Easter weekend, live racing returned
to Woodbine. I personally did not attend, but I'll certainly take the
words of trusting close friends that did make it there. It was a great
opening weekend with many people out enjoying some nice weather and
great racing. The very first winner of the season went to ABSOLUTE HEAVEN,
trained by Jim Ensom and ridden to victory by Steve Bahen. Congrats
to all involved. There are a total of 167 racing days at Woodbine, which
will conclude on December 16th. For the remainder of April, racing will
be conducted Friday through Sunday, with a post time of 1:00 p.m. Click
here to download the entire schedule:
37th annual Sovereign Awards, saluting outstanding achievement in Canadian
Thoroughbred racing and breeding in 2011, were handed out at a ceremony
on March 5th, at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto. In one of the closest
Horse of the Year votes ever, Never Retreat won the prestigious honor,
edging out Inglorious by just 2 votes. There were few surprises in most
of the vote totals with the exception of Horse of the Year. Inglorious
was champion 3-year-old filly off her Oaks-Plate double, while Prince
of Wales and Breeders' Stakes winner Pender Harbour took home 3-year-old
male honors. In the juvenile categories, Glorious Song Stakes winner
Tu Endie Wei was the champion filly while Coronation Futurity and Display
Stakes winner Maritimer, now racing overseas for new connections, was
the champion male. Musketier, who will race this year at age 10, was
named Champion Turf Male off his win in the Singspiel and two Grade
2 wins in the U.S., the Elkhorn at Keeneland and the W.L. McKnight at
Calder. History was made at the Sovereign Awards with the very first
dead heat for win in the owner category. Vern and Donna Dubinsky (Donver
Stable), owners of Inglorious, tied with Glen Todd and Patrick Kinsella,
who race primarily at Hastings Racecourse in Vancouver. Dr. Michael
Colterjohn, who managed Gardiner Farms for over 20 years, passed away
from brain cancer one week before the ceremonies, so when Gardiner Farms
were announced as Outstanding Breeders, the first time they were so
honored, the announcement was very emotional and was met by a standing
ovation from the everyone in the audience. Here's a look at all of the
winners. Horse of the Year: Never Retreat Champion Two Year Old Filly: Tu Endie Wei Champion Two Year Old Male: Maritimer Champion Three Year Old Filly: Inglorious Champion Three Year Old Male: Pender Harbour
Champion Older Female: Embur s Song Champion Older Male: Fifty Proof Champion Turf Female: Never Retreat Champion Turf Male: Musketier Champion Female Sprinter: Atlantic Hurricane Champion Male Sprinter: Essence Hit Man Outstanding Broodmare: Noble Strike Outstanding Breeder: Gardiner Farms Limited Outstanding Owner: Donver Stable Glen Todd & P
Kinsella Outstanding Trainer: Mark Casse Outstanding Apprentice Jockey: Ryan Pacheco Outstanding Jockey: Luis Contreras
DOWN THE FORT:
It's wonderful to hear the sound of horse trailers pulling into the
Fort Erie backstretch as the stables begin to fill up with horses for
the start of what I anticipate will be an awesome season.
Fort Erie Race Track, which opens for live racing on
May 6th, will be celebrating their 115th season and their history will
be the main theme during the entire racing meet. Racing fans are encouraged
to bring in their Fort Erie Race Track memorabilia to be evaluated by
racing/collectable experts. A number of special items will be selected
to be borrowed and displayed on track in glass cases in the Clubhouse
until the end of the racing season(October 30th, 2012). Any and all
selected items will then be returned to their rightful owners. For more
information, contact Media & Marketing Manager Elissa Blowe. Her
e-mail is: email@example.com
The 2012 Fort Erie racing season will run from Sunday, May 6th until
Tuesday, October 30th. Live racing will be offered on Sundays, Mondays
and Tuesdays with post time beginning at 1:15 pm however, during the
months of June, July and August the track will run Twilight cards on
Tuesdays with a 4:15 pm post time. The Prince of Wales is scheduled
for Sunday, July 15th. Quarter Horse racing will once again be offered
on July 2nd, August 6th and September 3rd as mixed cards with full Quarter
Horse cards offered October 3rd, 6th, 10th, 13th, and 17th. You can
view the entire Fort Erie 2012 racing schedule here: http://www.forterieracing.com/racing/live/schedules/
It's hard to believe that the 138th Kentucky Derby on May 5th is only
a few days away, but it will soon be upon us. You can read my Derby
horse-by-horse preview on my Triple Crown Chase blog. The link is provided
right here on Equine Niagara News. Just check out the left side of the
home page under "Off To The Races". My full Kentucky Derby
analysis will be available on Friday, May 4th. In keeping with my Derby
theme here on Equine Niagara, at least until the race is completed,
here is the lowdown about those beautiful red roses you see the winning
horse awarded with.
Surrounded by press photgraphers and the roar of the crowd, the winning
thoroughbred is led into the winner's circle as a garland of roses is
hoisted across its withers. The first roses were given out to the winner
of the Derby in 1896, but the roses were pink and white. In 1904, the
red roses became the official flower of the Derby, and in 1925 sports
columinist Bill Corum coined the phrase "Run for the Roses."
The blanket of roses was introduced in 1932, decorating winner BURGOO
For many years, florist Kingsley Walker constructed the garland, but
since 1987, a local Kroger grocery store has stitched the 554 roses
into the green satin background and put it on display for the public
Derby Eve. The women at Kroger's hand-stitch each rose with as crowd
of spectators pay homage. The garland has the seal of the commonwealth
on one side and the Twin Spires with the number of years the Derby has
been run stitched on the other.
There is a crown of roses on the garland, with a rose for each horse
running and a single rose that rises to the sky in the center, signifying
the heart required to win the Derby. The winning jockey recieves a bouquet
of 60 roses during the winner's circle celebration.
RUN FOR THE LILY'S:
In all fairness, when you think of the Derby, you must also think of
The day before the Kentucky Derby, the Kentucky Oaks is held at Churchill
Downs for the top three year old fillies. The race was first run in
1875, the same day as the first Kentucly Derby. The Kentucky Oaks winner
recieves a garland of lillies, chosen to symbolize both femiminity and
strength. The 1965 winner, AMERIVAN, was both owned and trained by a
woman, Mary Keim.
WHO THE HELL IS THAT?
One observer described the bay colt Canonero II and his contingent,
who had traveled from Venezuela for the ninety-seventh running of the
Kentucky Derby as a "farce"; another, as a "running joke".
One reason was the way the horse wore his forelock, the hair between
the ears on the forehead. Most horses wear it loose. His was cut in
bangs. "He looked," someone said. "like Moe of the Three
Stooges." Bred by Edward B. Benjamin in Greensboro, North Carolina,
the colt was born with a noticeably crooked foreleg, and as such was
considered to have no future in racing. He was sold as a yearling for
$1,200 at the Keeneland Sales. Purchased by Edgar Caibett, the horse
was shipped to his native Venezuela, where he earned an undistinguished
record racing as a two-year-old. However, because of his breeding, Canonero
II qualified for the Kentucky Derby.
he arrived in Lexington, he was in horrific condition: Incredibly emaciated
and could barely walk, much less run. That was attributed to what he
had endured on his way to America. Two planes he was in developed mechanical
trouble, and finally he was transported from South America to the United
States in a cargo plane with ducks and chickens as traveling companions.
When he arrived in Miami, he didn't have the proper papers and stood
twelve sweltering hours before being unloaded, and four days in quarantine.
Then he went 1200 miles to Lexington from Miami in a truck because his
owner had not given his trainer, Juan Arias, enough money for a flight.
The there was the strange training techniques of Arias. He would ask
Canonero II, say, if he felt like working out today, then place his
ear on the horse and listen for the answer. If the horse said no, that
was it. He did not train. Or eat, or whatever the horse told him. Arias
was aware that American trainers train for speed, and was not averse
to running his horse slowly. "I train Canonero II to be a star",
he explained. "They say I train my horse to slow. Let's see if
he runs slow on Saturday" Arias's methods didn't seem to be working.
The first time Canonero II ran in Lexington, for example, he covered
a half mile in a turtle-like :53 3/5. Adding to this running joke was
that not many people knew the horse or how fast he could run. For those
that saw him run prior to the Derby, his image was that of a slow moving
horse. But in fact, he had run well in South America. One thing was
for sure, Canonero II wouldn't have a beginner on his back when the
gates opened to release the large field of twenty horses. To ride him,
top South American jockey Gustavo Avila was named. Like a loving father,
Arias had total faith in Canonero II. And a few hours before the race,
he said "Nobody knows my horse. But after today the world will
The track was fast. The sun was out, the sky powder blue. A clang of
the bell and the gates opened--and the field thundered down the track.
Almost immediately, Canonero II, who broke from post twelve, seemed
to confirm what most people assumed: that he couldn't run fast. He dropped
back--way back--into eighteenth place, only two horses behind him. But
Arias, watching from the rail, still believed. And as he watched, Avila
moved Canonero II into fifteenth place with just his hands and skills.
Then, with three-quarters of the race gone, just a half mile to go,
the race changed as Derbies do. Many of the jockeys started to smell
the finish line and move their mounts more quickly, positioning themselves
for a final run down the stretch, known as "Heartbreak Lane,"
where most races are won or lost. And so did Canonero II. With his Stooge
forelock flying back, he started to move faster and faster. And as he
did, Arias and the rest of the Venezuelan team screamed out "Canonero!
Canonero!" It was if the horse had heard them. He went into overdrive,
and his brown coat coupled with Avila's brown silks and cap, looked,
collectively, like what one spectator described as a "brown blur."
He caught and passed horses as if they were statues--and then, KABOOM!!,
suddenly there were no more horses to pass he was in the lead and pulling
away, and no one was going to catch him. Canonero II roared across the
wire the winner of the 1971 Kentucky Derby by three and three-quarters
lengths. Spectators turned to one another and asked the same question:
"WHO THE HELL IS THAT?" Canonero II, who the media started
calling "the Caracas Cannonball," was to go on to win the
Preakness. Some say he would have become a Triple Crown winner, except
he was sick when the Belmont Stakes was run, and came in fourth.
For as long as people remember the Kentucky Derby, one of its greatest
moments will always be trying to identify the brown blur who came from
eighteen lengths off the pace and the crazy connections who weren't
so crazy after all.