Off to the Races with Nick Costa - August 19th, 2010
Hi everyone, first things first: I'm happy to hear that our editor Debi is feeling much better, at least well enough to deliver another quality edition of ENN, this time without interruption. NOTE: Unforseen circumstances prevented the August 5th issue from becoming available, therefore, I've taken some newsworthy items that I had lined up for that edition and placed them into this issue. We have alot to catch-up on, so let's go "Off To The Races".
I've been asked what is the criteria I use to select the races I review and show here in this column. Answer: there is no criteria, other than I try to side with the traditional G1 races. In the summertime when racing is at its zenith across the States, Canada, as well as Europe, there are several G1's week after week coming our way and the traditional G1 races are usually the races that have a major impact in the different divisions and are used as springboards to the Breeders Cup World Championship Day. They also showcase our best equine athletes competing at the highest level of racing which we all enjoy watching. During other times of the year when G1's are not as prevalent on a weekly basis, I won't hesistate to highlight a Grade 2 or Grade 3. Sometimes, there may be an exciting 3 or 4 horse photo finish or a standout performance that must be seen, if so, then I will make sure that particular race, regardless of the type of class, makes it on here. So, there is your answer and I hope that everyone also understands that time and space constraints must be factored in.
To all the readers that have e-mailed in regarding stories/people that you want to see featured in this space, thank you. Keep then coming in, I will try my best to accomodate them all. Just recently, readers wanted to know about what's going on with quarter-horse racing at Fort Erie. Is it going to happen or not? That will be answered in this issue. Also, in addition to the race recaps/replays and other notes, an interview with Fort Erie trainer Gary Chudobiak who I caught up with recently on the backside of Fort Erie. Gary allowed me to chat him up and was very accomodating. Enjoy!
WHOSE TO BLAME:
A crowd close to 37,000 fans turned out at Saratoga August 7th to witness a matchup of two racing titans in the Grade 1 Whitney Stakes that ended up being the race it was built up to be. In the end, those two horses, BLAME and Quality Road were separated by a bob of the head, with BLAME victorious. Ridden confidently by Garrett Gomez, BLAME raced in fourth in the early going, but wasn't far off Quality Road's opening fractions of 24:2, 48, 111:4. Getting closer as the field of six moved through the far turn, BLAME then began his rally. He closed relentlessly through the stretch under a vigorous hand ride from Gomez, finally getting his head in front for his fifth straight score. Quality Road, suffering his first loss this year, was sent off as the 1-2 favorite and had no excuses with his clear trip and fractions that were "a walk in the park" as described by race caller Tom Durkin. He opened a clear lead under jockey John Velazquez after a mile, but did not dispay the acceleration that he demonstrated in previous wins. Musket Man hung tough throughout the race, but could not make up the needed ground on the top two. The final time for the 1 1/8 test was 1:48 4/5. Winning trainer Al Stall indicated that BLAME will prep in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont October 2nd for his final start before the Breeders Cup Classic on November 6th, while Todd Pletcher stated Quality Road will have his final prep for the Classic in the September 4th Woodward Stakes at Saratoga.
Watch the replay: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1jGXfFA26Wc
Ask yourself when the last time a 1-10 favorite made you scream with raw excitement or gave you goose bumps. For myself, I have to go back to 1973 when Secretariat won the Belmont Stakes. Now, 37 years later it happened again. This time it was ZENYATTA. The two time champion older female was tested in the final furlong of the G1 Clement Hirsch by runner-up Rinterval, but never appeared to be in any serious peril of being defeated. Queen Zenyatta took up her customary position near the back of the field despite turtle like fractions, a half in :50 3/5 and six furlongs in 1:15. Jockey Mike Smith asked Zenyatta for her move earlier than usual and she responded. The tandem were fanned extremely wide at the top of the lane, but in contention. From that point, the 6 year daughter of Street Cry closed in on pacesetter Rinterval, edging past that rival in mid-stretch, but Rinterval fought back to make it interesting, however ZENYATTA with her ears pricked never appeared threatened, toying with he overmatched opponent in the final yards to run her record to a perfect 18 for 18. The Clement Hirsch is the only race ZENYATTA has ever contested at Del Mar, winning the last three runnings. The 2010 version was clocked in 1:45 over the polytrack surface. Trainer John Sheriffs mentioned the G1 Zenyatta Stakes (formerly called the Lady's Secret) October 2nd at Santa Anita as the next possible start for his mare before she defends her title in the Breeders Cup Classic at Churchill Downs November 6th.
Watch the replay: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ushkGb9yiIY
PASSING THE TEST:
Following up on her win in the Grade 1 Acorn, CHAMPAGNE D'ORO confirmed her quality with another Grade 1 win here in the 7 furlong Test Stakes. She went right out after the start to dog pacesetter and race favorite Pica Slew, took over from that rival and drew off to win as she pleased, hitting the wire in 1:22 3/5 with Miguel Mena aboard. Bonnie Blue Flag raced a few lengths off the pace, came with a good run, but was no threat to the winner and stayed on determinely for the place spot. Belle Of The Hall was away poorly after being bumped at the start, but came with a strong late run to finish third. She would not have beaten the winner today, however, a better start would probably have put her alot closer. Winning trainer Eric Guillot indicated that the Grade 1 Ballerina August 28th may be next for his horse, which means she will have to tackle her elders.
Watch the replay: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mlNvJKgurIw
A bomb was dropped Sunday August 15th in Woodbine's Breeders Stakes and the explosion was set off by maiden MIAMI DECO, who at 65-1 rallied strongly from 11th place with a mile to go to run down the top two favorites to capture the third jewel of the Canadian Triple Crown. A field of thirteen Canadian foaled 3 yr olds left the starting gate on their way to a mile and a half journey over the Woodbine turf course labeled yielding. The only filly in the race, Silent Whisper, led the field while setting fractions of 48 4/5 for a half mile, 1:14 3/5 for six furlongs and 1:41 for the opening mile before beginning her retreat. Stormy Lord under Jim McAleney were in second place following behind the leader and took over the top spot rounding the far turn, while Cognashene had put together a bid from the back of the pack under Eurico Rosa DaSilva to get closer. In the meantime, Richard Dos Ramos riding MIAMI DECO, had manuevered the horse forward from an earlier position near the rear of the field to commence a 3 wide rally around the far turn which then put the 3 yr old son of Limehouse stoutly in third. Cognashene's rally carried him within a half-length to challenge Stormy Lord in mid-stretch with MIAMI DECO still about a half dozen lengths behind. As that trio continued down the long Woodbine stretch, Cognashene began to stagger and weave badly at the eighth pole and it appeared Stormy Lord was on his way to victory. However, he began to tire and started drifting to the outside. At that point, Dos Ramos steered MIAMI DECO to the inside along the rail and continued boldly on to the wire getting up in time to win by 3/4 of a length. The winning time was clocked in 2:34 1/5. Queen's Plate winner, Big Red Mike and Prince Of Wales winner, Golden Moka were not entered for the final leg. Brian Lynch, who trains Golden Moka also trains Miami Deco for winning owners Jim and Susan Hill.
Watch the replay: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OjQFTKUW4Ck
FORT ERIE RACING/NEWS:
The best assembled cast of writers in Hollywood could not have scripted a more fitting and perfect ending for the initial running of the Andy Passero Memorial Cup Sunday, August 8th. Andy Passero, who died in 2009 after a tragic car accident claimed his life, was a long time horse owner. Prior to his death, he was a partner in M.A.D. Racing Stable, who along with co-owner Martha Gonzalez sent out post time favorite, Set In Stone, for the event. After the field of eight left the starting gate, Set In Stone was content to stalk in second behind the leader, Kettle Rapids. Straightening away down the backside, Kettle Rapids began to get some separation and opened up by three lengths, but as the leader neared the half-mile marker. Thirdkin, along the inside began to make a run, while Set In Stone moved forward on the outside. Going into the far turn, the bid by Thirdkin was short lived, but Set In Stone continued with his, eventually catching up to and then going by the leader, with jockey Francine Villeneuve sitting still as a statue, while the others were left far behind. Turning into the homestretch, Set In Stone opened up and then prevailed to the wire as Kettle Rapids chased through the lane fighting back gamely at the end but came up a half length short. It was nearly six lengths back to third place finisher Spectral. A large contingent of Andy's family and friends witnessed the victory. The winner, trained by Fort Erie's leading conditioner Nick Gonzalez, covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:42 4/5.
REMAINING FORT ERIE CUP RACES :
--Labatt Cup $30,000
September 6 Fillies/Mares 3 Y.O. & Up
1 1/16 miles/Turf
--Puss n Boots Cup $30,000
September 6 Colts/Geldings 3 Y.O. & Up
1 1/16 miles/Turf
--Longshots OTB Cup $30,000
October 24 Fillies 2 Y.O.
--The Fan's Cup $30,000
October 24 Colts/Geldings 2 Y.O.
--Cheldon Tour de Fort Cup $30,000
October 26 Colts/Geldings 3 Y.O. & Up
2 miles/70 yds
Post time is now 4p.m. for the remaining Tuesday's in August. In addition, Fort Erie has TOONIE TUESDAY'S. Official Program, Draft Beer, Hamburgers, Hot Dogs and Canned Pop are all $2.00 each.
OTHER FORT ERIE HAPPENINGS:
--The top three finishers from the 9th race on July 4th all returned to be victorious in their next outing. The 2nd place finisher, WE WUZ ROBBED was the first horse back, taking the 7th race on July 19th. The very next day, TALK TO DA MANAGER, the winner of that July 9th race, won the 1st race on the card. Then on July 27th, YOGAROO, who finished third behind the other two and was claimed from the race by yours truly and partner/trainer Wendy Wolff, scored in the 4th race. It was nice to see our new acquisition strike quickly.
--Nick Gonzalez Jr. called his first professional race on August 1st, announcing race one. Nick reported that he had been practicing in private calling races over the last couple of seasons. Nick figured that all that practicing had him properly prepared, which made him feel he was now ready for the opportunity for a real call. He was right!!! He was ready. Nick didn't miss anything. His description of how the race unfolded from start to finish gave the listeners a clear vision of what was unfolding, just the way good announcer does. EXCELLENT job Nick. I hope you call many more.
--Quarter Horse Racing at Fort Erie Race Track will commence in October 2010. The first three Saturdays in October — October 2nd, October 9th, and October 16th — will see full day race cards of Quarter Horse racing at this beautiful race track. On closing weekend, Saturday, October 23rd and Sunday, October 24th, a mixed race card of Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racing will be featured as an exciting wrap-up to the 2010 season. A pilot project to add Quarter Horse racing to the Fort Erie meet was announced in December 2009 as part of the FELRC plan for rejuvenation of live racing at Fort Erie.
“With a good supply of entries, we expect to run thirty-to-forty Quarter Horse races this October, as a test of the logistics of merging Quarter Horses into our existing Thoroughbred operations,” says Rick Cowan, Chief Operating Officer for the Fort Erie racetrack. “This is Year One of a three year pilot project that will see Quarter Horse racing at Fort Erie through to the 2012 racing season. We’re focused on making sure that we start off right, with full cards of good racing this year. We’ll spend time at the end of year to plan how a mixed Thoroughbred-Quarter Horse meet will look for 2011 and 2012,” said Cowan.
--In the Fort Erie jockey standings, Krista Carignan is in a comfortable position leading with 52 wins. Francine Villeneuve, benefitting from a 4 win day on Tuesday (Aug. 17th) vaulted into second and now has 31 wins. Then it's Chris Griffith(29),Real Simard(28) and Anthony Stephens(26). Brian Cheyne booted home eight winners over the last three racing days, bringing his total to 20 wins. Melanie Pinto and Rui Pimental also have 20 wins to their credit.
--On the trainer side of the ledger, Nick Gonzalez and his 33 victories continues to lead the pack. He is well ahead of his nearest competitor, John Simms who checks in with 21. After those two, it becomes really tight as seven trainers are separated by just two wins. Lyle Modern and Justin Nixon each have 11 wins, with Howard Keen, Anthony Husbands, Darryl Ezra, Marilyn McMullen and Mike Newell all with 9 winners.
PERSONAL TRACK BIAS OBSERVATIONS:
July 11th---Outside ralliers were best.
July 12th---No Bias
July 13th---Main track played fair. Speed faltered in both turf events, as each leader opened up clear leads and gave way to off-pace runners.
July 18th---Closers who rallied on the outside dominated all 3 main track routes. Up close was the place to be in main track sprints.
July 19th---No Bias
July 20th---No Bias
July 25th---No Bias
July 26th---Horses on or near the lead were most successful in sprints. Closers won both routes.
July 27th---Outside paths held the edge. Deep closers ran 1-2 in the lone turf race carded.
August 1st---Inside was favorable as most main track runners won on the rail or raced along the rail before angling out.
August 2nd---Inside strong in dirt sprints. Off-pace runners prevailed in dirt routes.
August 3rd---Front end speed dominated throughout the day on the main track. Inside was very strong.
August 8th---Speed horses and stalkers dominated on the main track. Inside lanes appeared to hold an edge.
August 9th---No Bias
August 10th---No Bias. Both turf races taken by mid-pack runners.
August 15th---No Bias
August 16th---Outside paths were the best part of the track.
August 17th---No Bias
LOCAL HORSE INTEREST:
Thoroughbred Niagara is actively seeking new members and new Board Members. Thoroughbred Niagara was formed in 2005 to provide a place for owners and trainers of Thoroughbred race horses to network with others. In 2010 they have added a whole new dimension to the Association. TBN/Southern Ontario Thoroughbred Association will be including all aspects of Thoroughbred ownership to appeal to a broader membership base. For additional information about joining the group or helping out, visit their website: www.thoroughbredniagara.com
--2009 Horse Of The Year, Rachel Alexandra is at Saratoga preparing for her next start, the Grade 1 Personal Ensign Stakes at 1 1/4 Miles. It will be the filly's first attempt at the classic distance, and also her first start in a Grade 1 this year. As a 4 yr old, she has a 2-2-0 record from four starts. She completed a perfect 8 for 8 season last year as a 3 yr old by capping it off with an historic win over older males and becoming the first filly ever to win the Grade 1 Woodward Stakes.
--Hall Of Fame trainer Bill Mott became the ninth trainer in North America thoroughbred training history to notch 4000 career wins. The milestone was accomplished at Saratoga on August 7th when Mott's MYSTIC won the 7th race. Adding to the special win was another Hall Of Famer, Kent Desormeaux, who rode the winner.
--Jockey Russell Baze piloted first time starter Separate Forest to its maiden score with a romping victory in the 4th race at Santa Rosa on Saturday, August 14th. The win marked the unprecedented 11,000 time Baze has crossed the finish line first. The 52 yr old Vancouver, B.C. native became North America's winningest jockey in December 2006, when he surpassed Laffitt Pincay's 9.530 wins. Baze had his very first winner aboard Oregon Warrior at Yakima Meadows, October 28th, 1974. He was elected to the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1999.
--Jockeys Randy Romero and Don Pierce, trainer Buster Millerick and thoroughbreds Point Given, Azeri, Best Pal and Harry Bassett were the 2010 inductees into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs on August 13th.
ACROSS THE ATLANTIC:
While the pre-race build up to the Group 1 Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville Race Course on Sunday August 14th landed on Goldikova, who was seeking to notch her 11th Group 1 race, and Paco Boy, a multiple group winner who just missed beating Goldikova in the G1 Queen Anne Stakes at Ascot in his last start, it was MAFKI who garnered ALL the attention with a decisive 2 1/2 length win.
A field of eight went postward over a course that had been soaked by several days of heavy rain. Not surprising, the stablemates of Goldikova, Saying and Only Green, were sent up front to make the pace. Goldikova, with her regular jockey Olivier Peslier riding, tracked them in third. MAFKI was settled in sixth under Christophe Soumillon, while Richard Hughes was content to have Paco Boy trail.
Goldikova took command about two furlongs out while MAFKI and Paco Boy were a dangerous presence to her outside. Peslier put Goldikova into a drive, but the two time Breeders Cup Mile Champion did not accelerate over the soft going which allowed her two rivals to move alongside. MAFKI obviously enjoyed the demanding course condition and drew off in the final yards for an easy win. It looked as though Paco Boy would finish second, however, Goldikova fought back to regain the place spot from that rival by a neck. The upset victory earned MAFKI an automatic berth into the Breeders Cup Turf Mile November 6th.
Watch the replay(call is in French): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rlGDNMQvyVc
--HARBINGER, who set a course record winning the Group 1 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, fractured his left front cannon bone in a routine gallop and his racing career appears over. The 4 year old was preparing for a start in the G1 Juddmonte International Stakes August 17th with the prestigious G1 Prix de L'Arc de Triomph in October as the long range target. With both G1 Irish Derby winner Cape Blanco and G1 Epsom Derby winner Workforce in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes field at Ascot July 24th, HARBINGER romped to an 11 length victory while lowering the 1 1/2 miles course record to 2:26 3/5. The previous mark was 2:27 1/5.