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From the Horse's Mouth
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© 2009-2012 YDV/Equine Niagara News
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Off to the Race's with Nick Costa Check out his blog below!
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Hi everyone, WOW, since our last issue, we experienced an incredible two weeks in the horseracing world, encompassing local, national and overseas news. So, let's get underway and take a look back.
STRAIGHT IN THE PLATE:
STRAIGHT OF DOVER, ridden confidently by Justin Stein, was quickest into stride and made every pole a winning one while taking the $1 million Queen's Plate, the first leg of the Canadian Triple Crown, in record time last Sunday at Woodbine. Stein guided his mount around the track through splits of :23 4/5, :47 3/5, 1:12 1/5 and 1:37. For the first mile they were tracked by Colleen's Sailor, but easily put that rival away once hitting the lane. However, a new challenger was just beginning her run as Irish Mission came motoring down the middle of the track after racing in mid-pack on the backstretch. However, STRAIGHT OF DOVER would not be caught, seeming to extend his stride to hold the Woodbine Oaks winner by 1 1/4-length margin. Dixie Strike, the only other filly in the race, was 3 3/4 lengths further back in third. The aforementioned Colleen's Sailor, trying to give his trainer Roger Attfield a record ninth Plate win, was fourth. The final time was 2:01.99, eclipsing the former Polytrack mark of 2:02.18. The Plate record of 2:01 4/5 seconds is held by 1990 winner Izvestia, when timing was calculated in fifths instead of 10ths.
A son of English Channel, STRAIGHT OF DOVER, is British-Columbia bred by owner Canyon Farms. It was the first Plate win for Stein, who is also a product of British Columbia, having been born in New Westminster, but it was the second Plate triumph for trainer Daniel Vella, who conditioned 1994 winner Basqueian.
Stein and STRAIGHT OF DOVER are both graduates of Hastings Park, the same Vancouver venue that produced this year's Kentucky Derby and Preakness-winning jockey Mario Gutierrez. STRAIGHT OF DOVER began his career in his native British Columbia with two sub-par appearances over the dirt track at Hastings Park last summer, but found his stride when transferred to trainer Vella and Woodbine's Polytrack. Disqualified from what would have been a maiden-breaking score last November, the dark bay colt made it official with a 1 1/2-length tally last November 26th. He resurfaced with an allowance tally on April 22nd before earning his first stakes victory in the May 12th Marine Stakes. He was sent off as the second choice in the Queen's Plate, despite missing an expected prep run in the June 3rd Plate Trial with a minor blood disorder.
STRAIGHT OF DOVER is the first winner of both the Marine Stakes and Queen's Plate since Wando, who also wired the Plate, completed the double en route to eventual Canadian Triple Crown glory in 2003. The dark bay runner will not be carrying on for the Prince Of Wales Stakes, the second leg of the Canadian Triple Crown, due to his lackluster previous experiences racing and training on the dirt. Following serious discussions with the horses connection's this past week, Vella confirmed on Thursday that STRAIT OF DOVER would train up to the $500,000 Breeders', a 1 1/2-mile turf race which concludes the Triple Crown series for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds at Woodbine on August 5th
IT'S ABOUT TIME:
On Tuesday, June 19th, 2012, 39 years and one month later, at Pimlico's sister track Laurel Park, the 1973 Preakness Stakes was run again on a digital tape machine, calibrated to a hundredth of a second. And guess what? SECRETARIAT ran the identical race, beating Sham once more by 2-1/2 lengths. But this time the teletimer finally ran as fast as he did.
The Maryland Racing Commission investigated the official timing of the Preakness at the request of Secretariat's 90-year-old owner, Penny Chenery, and Pimlico president Tom Chuckas. After hearing more than two hours of testimony, backed by modern technology, the commission voted 7-0 to change the official time of the race from 1:54 2/5 to 1:53. That gives "BIG RED, records in each of his three Triple Crown races - the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes - that still stand.
The Secretariat team, lead of course by Mrs. Chenery, made a compelling case that SECRETARIAT ran the race in 1:53 flat and added the Preakness record to his resume. The verdict was terrific news for Mrs. Chenery, for the legacy of Secretariat, for his fans, who always firmly believed he set the record in all three Triple Crown races, and for the entire sport of horse racing. Now it's official. The asterisk has been removed. It's About Time.
Ascot Racecourse in Berkshire, England, is undoubtedly one of the world's most important racing facilities. Founded in 1711 by Queen Anne, after she decided during a stag-hunting party that the grounds would make a nice racecourse, it has grown to prominence over 300 years. The history of racing has been and will forever be indebted to her presence of mind. It's first meeting, held on August 13th, 1711, would eventually develop into a four-day meeting in 1749. In 1766, this affair was moved to the third week in June, a place on the calendar it has held ever since as Royal Ascot. The four-day Royal Ascot meet was expanded to five days in 2002. The Royal Meeting is especially important. Not only do owners and trainers point many of their horses to the five-day festival, but also foreign invaders from Ireland, France and Australia, are seen much more at Royal Ascot than at any other time of the year in England. All this makes for racing at the very highest level. Every race at Ascot contains a tough of class, and are always run at a level deserving of their published status.
PAINTED BLACK (JUST BARELY):
STILL NUMBER ONE:
It's tough to say who was the greatest jockey in Fort Erie's rich history. It's fair to say, though, that Sandy Hawley is at least in the runing. Hawley was a frequent visitor to the Fort and its winner's circle. I was ten years old when Hawley began riding in 1968. In his first year of riding he won North America's top apprentice award, as well as Canada's leading jockey, a title he held for six straight years. Hawley was cool, he had long hair, mod looks and dress, plus he was a hit with the girls. At the same time in the United States, another pro athlete was also gathering the headlines, Joe Namath. Broadway Joe was another cool cat with the long hair, even a Fu-Manchu at times, sharp clothes, and of course a bevy of girls. For me though, I always preferred going to the track on Sunday (or any day) to watch Hawley ride, then to sit in front of the television and watch Namath throw spirals downfield. There was no internet , but nonetheless, Sandy Hawley was a household name in my residence, due mainly to my father's love for horseracing and his following of and frequent visits to Fort Erie. I always accompanied my father to the track, which included a visit now and then to Greenwood and Woodbine. I use to love to watch Hawley ride. His style was distinctive, especially in the stretch. He would bounce up and down a lot and sit further back in the saddle than other jockeys. Pictures of many Hawley photo finishes were often startling. At first glance it appeared that he had lost, because his body was completely behind that of the rival jockey, but the nose of his horse usually had hit the wire first. My father and I saw Hawley win races he should have lost and lose some he should have won. At this young age, I was still learning how to handicap the races, but, handicapping went out the window for me when Hawley rode in a race. My father always placed a $2.00 wager for me on whatever horse Sandy was aboard. He tried to explain to me, that should the horse win, the payoff wasn't going to be very much, but hell, I didn't care. A win for Sandy was a win for me. As mentioned above, even with no riding ambitions, I vividly recall my cousin and I climbing aboard the wooden saw horses in my uncle's basement, with me pretending to be Sandy Hawley booting home a winner
He won 230 races in 1969, and then went on to be the top winning jockey in the United States four times in the Seventies. In 1973, at the age of 24, he became the first jockey to win 500 races in a single season breaking Bill Shoemaker's 20-year-old record of 485. In the high stakes pressure-packed environment of race riding, Hawley always distinguished himself with his clean living, a fierce competitive spirit and just an uncanny way with horses. The numbers are staggering. Hawley finished with 6,450 wins, including four wins each in the Queen's Plate and Prince Of Wales Stakes. He's in the Horse Racing Hall of Fame and Canada's Sports Hall of Fame, among many other honors. Hawley even beat skin cancer along the way, overcoming a diagnosis in 1987 that only gave him a few months to live. Sandy Hawley retired from racing in 1998. He now works for Woodbine Entertainment and lives near Toronto.
On Tuesday, June 26th, Fort Erie Racetrack celebrated its 115th birthday. the track distributed slices of a delicious birthday cake to its patrons to enjoy while watching all of the thoroughbred excitement on "Twilight Tuesday." Despite 2012 being the final year of racing at the "Grand Old Lady," many fans turned out, not only for the birthday celebration, but because the big hulabaloo was the autograph session that featured 19 former Prince Of Wales winning riders. The Prince Of Wales is the second jewel in the Candian Triple Crown, and will be run this year at Fort Erie for the last time on July 15th. The lineup featured notable names: Sam McComb, Richard Grubb, Hugo Dittfach, Lloyd Duffy, Robin Platts, Gary Stahlbaum, Joey Belowus, John Leblanc, Irwin Driedger, Mickey Walls, Brian Swatuk, Don Seymour, Larry Attard, Robert Landry, Constant Montpelier, Brian Bochinski, Luis Contreras, Corey Fraser and the greatest Canadian jockey ever born, Sandy Hawley. Seventeen of the riders have either recently retired or have been retired for quite some time. Two of the signees, Contreras, who won last year's P.O.W. and Fraser, the 2009 winner, are currently still active.
One by one. the jockeys were intoduced on the track following the third race before they headed over to a long table setup on the Tiki bar side of the Fort Erie grandstand from where they would meet and greet fans, and sign autographs. Knowing this information beforehand, I situated myself in the pre-determined passageway. I snagged Sandy Hawley as he made his way through, and politely asked him if he would allow me to have a picture taken with him. Hawley, always the gentleman, looked at me, smiled and said "Absolutely." After the picture was taken by my girlfriend Toni, I proceeded to get my place in the queue which was filling in quite rapidly and stretching out a long way. When I finally made my way up to the table where the jockeys sat side-by-side, I had my commemorative program signed by each one of them. When I reached the seat where Sandy Hawley was sitting, we exchanged a few pleasantries, as I rehashed a few memories that I have of him riding at Fort Erie, and excitedly waited for him to sign my program. At this point, I'll admit, I then reached into my shirt pocket and pulled out a couple of jockey cards of Hawley that I had collected many years ago and still had in my possession, just waiting for this golden opportunity. I asked the legendary Hall-Of-Fame rider if he would sign the cards, and once again he came through, inking his signature on each one. It was wonderful to say hello to all the riders, especially the Fort Erie jockeys I used to watch compete when I was growing up. As I walked away from the table completely satified, I looked up to the heavens to let my late father know that I had finally met my favorite, Sandy Hawley, Then an old saying came to mind: "The more things change, the more they remain the same." Yes, so true indeed, because now as an adult some many years removed from my childhood, nothing has changed. Sandy Hawley, although now retired, still stands on the top of the sports plateau for me, and will forever remain number one.
Overall, the entry box saw an decrease, with 537 horses taking part in the 73 races, for a 5.9 average. Only seven races featured a field of 10 horses. Betting favorites took 26 of all races, for a 35% win rate, and twenty of those runners were less than 2-1 odds. The other six betting choices were no higher than 2-1 odds. There were eight winners between 11/1 and 45-1, resulting in an average winning mutuel of $38.22. Woodine shippers continue to win at a steady rate (23.2 %). Of the 73 winners during the weeks covered, 17 made their previous start at that major oval.
June 10th - Fast: Firm. SPRINTS - 6 Races - Five wire-to-wire
winners: One other winner was 3.5 lengths back at the second call. ROUTES
- 1 Race - Winner was 5.5 lengths back at the second call. TURF SPRINTS
- 1 Races - Winner was 3.0 lengths back at the second call.
POST POSITION PROFILE:
GARY CHUDOBIAK - 3 main track sprint winners. Two winners were ridden by Melanie Pinto This was the third consecutive period in which Chubobiak saddled at least three winners.
STEVE CATHCART - 2 main track winner. 2 turf winners. All 4 winners were betting favorites. Highest priced winner was 2-1.
The following trainers had three wins apiece:
JULIE ROBILLARD - All wire-to-wire main track winners. Two were favorites, both ridden by Kirk Johnson
MYKIE NEUBAUER - All main track winners. Two route winners
STEVE ATTARD - All Woodbine droppers on the main track. Two were favorite
The following trainers had two wins apiece:
SHAWN RIDEOUT - Both winners sprinting on the main track
RAVENDA RAGHUNATH - Both main track winners ridden by Martin Ramirez
MIKE NEWELL - No noticeable trends
ASHLEY BRNJAS - Both main track winners were at 5 1/2 furlongs and were ridden by Terry Husbands
NICK NOSOWENKO - Both main track winners ridden by Real Simard
ANTHONY ADAMO - Both main track winners came in starter allowance races and were ridden by Kirk Johnson
JENNIFER DAVIS - Both wins cam on the main track
DANNY WILLS - Both main track winner were ridden by Kirk Johnson
Photo Credits: Straight Of Dover and Fort Erie Alumni jockeys courtesy of Michael Burns Photography. Secretariat courtesy of Bloodhorse. Frankel and Black Caviar courtesy of Thoroughbred Daily News. Sandy Hawley courtesy of Nick Costa
Thats all for this edition, until next time, hope to see you At The Races. Nick can be contacted at email@example.com or read his blogs at Horse Racing Nation.