TORONTO, January 24 - Welcome to the fourth edition of the weekly Snowbirds report, now in its sixth year, chronicling the winter adventures of Woodbine-based trainers and jockeys currently plying their trade south of the border.
This week, we check in with trainer Roger Attfield from Payson Park Training Center in Indiantown, Florida. The Attfield barn has been a bit quiet on the racetrack since the end of the Woodbine meet, recording one win in just six starts in Florida this winter. Last week, Attfield recorded one third-place finish from Dyna’s Recoleta on January 21 at Tampa Bay Downs. Attfield said most of the 39-horse string he has with him at Payson Park got the month of December off and are starting to work their way back into racing shape.
“We won a race there with Chiringuita on the last day of December,” he said. “I’ve only ran a couple since then. One was third (Saturday) at Tampa. We’re just getting the ones that had the month off going again.”
Fun in the sun...(Photo by Allyson Walker)
Among those are Chiefswood Stable homebreds Tiz a Slam and Ghostly Presence, who will be key contenders for this year’s Queen’s Plate and Woodbine Oaks, respectively. Tiz a Slam recorded his first career stakes win, and his third win in four starts overall, in the Cup and Saucer Stakes back on October 22. He was then given a break by Attfield, skipping the Coronation Futurity in the process. Attfield said he’s been happy with the way Tiz a Slam has progressed since his Cup and Saucer victory.
“He hasn’t changed much physically,” he said. “He’s always been a big horse. He hasn’t grown too much since his two-year old year, which is good because he’s plenty big enough.”
Ghostly Presence, meanwhile, earned her first stakes win in the Princess Elizabeth Stakes back on November 12. Attfield said he has also been pleased with the way Ghostly Presence has been training since returning from her winter break. Both Tiz a Slam and Ghostly Presence are on the same training schedule, and Attfield said both horses should be set to make their respective three-year old debuts sometime in March.
Another horse who might be ready to make a start in March is 2016 Queen’s Plate fifth-place finisher, Shakhimat. Attfield said Shakhimat is back in training after missing the second half of the 2016 season with an injury.
“His main issue was he had a lower bone bruise and he was all jarred up,” he said. “We gave him some time off for that and we did a little throat surgery on him at the same time he was getting that time off. Everything seems to be good right now.”
Multiple graded stakes winner Are You Kidding Me is also on the mend after a disappointing finish in the Grade 1 Clark Handicap to close out his 2016 campaign at Churchill Downs on November 25. Attfield said a quarter crack hampered Are You Kidding Me in the late stages of the 2016 season, but the seven-year old gelding is gearing up for a 2017 campaign.
“He’s back in training,” he said. “He had a quarter crack bothering him late in the season at Woodbine but I was managing to work my way through it. After his last race, it wasn’t very good at all. So we addressed that and he’s back in full training. He didn’t get a good trip in the Clark and he also opened up that quarter crack.”
While Attfield won’t have a runner in Saturday’s Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Invitational at Gulfstream Park, he will have a horse on the undercard, as Danish Dynaformer will go postward in the Grade 3, $200,000 W. L. McKnight Handicap over 1 1/2-miles on turf. Danish Dynaformer has been working steadily at Payson Park in preparation for this start, and comes into the race on the strength of two six-furlong drills over the last couple of weeks.
“The way he worked (on Saturday), it seems like he’s ready,” Attfield said. “I thought it might be a little soon for him but he’s worked really, really well so that’s where we’re going.”
The W. L. McKnight Handicap has been carded as the 11th race on Gulfstream Park’s Saturday program with post time set for approximately 4:50 p.m. Eastern.
Three Woodbine trainers found the winner’s circle last week, and it was another big week for Mark Casse both on and off the track. On the track, Casse recorded four winners from 22 starters last week at Fair Grounds and Gulfstream Park. Make Me (January 18) and Picasso Moon (January 19) picked up wins at the Fair Grounds, while Axtell (January 18) and Siding Spring (January 22) recorded wins at Gulfstream Park. Casse also had a pair of in-the-money finishes in stakes last week from Takeoff in the Grade 3 LeComte Stakes at Fair Grounds on January 21 and Awesome Banner in the Sunshine Millions Sprint Stakes, also on January 21 at Gulfstream Park.
Off the track, Casse trainees Tepid and Classic Empire came away as big winners at Saturday’s 46th annual Eclipse Awards ceremony at Gulfstream Park. Tepin captured her second consecutive female turf championship, while Classic Empire was the unanimous winner of the 2-year old male division. Casse finished third in the voting for outstanding trainer.
Scott Fairlie recorded a winner at Charles Town with Sick Love on January 18. Fairlie also had a pair of starters at Penn National on January 18, including Aunt Sue (8th) and Kinghorn (DNF).
Noble Thought was victorious at Tampa Bay Downs on January 20 for Malcolm Pierce.
A pair of Woodbine jockeys also found the winner’s circle last week, as Luis Contreras won a pair of races at Santa Anita, and Rafael Hernandez also recorded two winners at Turfway Park. Gerry Olguin recorded a pair of runner-up efforts and two third-place finishes in the final six starts of his career at Golden Gate Fields last week. Olguin announced his retirement after recording his 2,000th career win on January 15 and finished out his remaining riding commitments this past weekend.
Here’s a look at how the other Woodbine trainers fared last week, in alphabetical order, starting once again with Sid Attard, who hit the board with his only starter of the week when Bar Down finished third at Gulfstream Park on January 18.
Julie Belhumeur recorded a pair of starts at Tampa Bay Downs with Wonnestrut (7th, Jan. 20) and Afleet Doll (5th, Jan. 20).
Ashlee Brnjas had one runner-up finish from seven starters last week at Tampa Bay Downs when Krz Princess was second on January 18. Other starters from Brnjas last week included Freezing Rain (6th, Jan. 18), Last Class to Go (5th, Jan. 20), Paddy Point (9th, Jan. 21), Augusto B (4th, Jan. 22), Timeless Style (8th, Jan. 22), and Acting the Part (5th, Jan. 22).
Conscious Decision finished sixth at Gulfstream Park on January 19 and was the only starter for Julia Carey last week.
Conscious Decision winning at Woodbine... (Michael Burns Photo)
Steven Chircop recorded a third-place finish from four starters at Penn National last week with Philanthromister on January 18. Chircop’s other starters last week included Bellacomeilsole (4th, Jan. 19), Cosmic Charlie (5th, Jan. 21), and Ekati Sonet (5th, Jan. 21).
In last weeks' report, we missed a smart second-place run by Preston Ferris trainee Too Many Egbert's in a $40,000 optional claiming tilt at Turfway Park on Jan. 14. Too Many Egbert's, claimed for $10,000 on Sep. 14 at Woodbine, made all the running in the Turfway event only to be collared in the final stride to finish a nose back of multiple stakes winner, Cerro.
Nicholas Gonzalez almost found the winner’s circle on three occasions last week, recording three runner-up finishes from four starts at Gulfstream Park. Meadow Rose (January 19), Wilshire Star (January 19), and Into the Future (January 20) all ran second, while Transformative finished ninth on January 18.
John Mattine recorded a pair of runner-up finishes from four starters at Gulfstream Park last week. Budding (January 18) and Slam (January 20) both ran second in their respective races, while Opening Remark was fourth on January 18 and Tonedaddy was eighth on January 18.
Nerve Line finished eighth at Gulfstream Park on January 18 and was the only horse sent out by Michael McDonald last week.
Julie Robillard sent out Awesome Indeed to a third-place finish at Tampa Bay Downs on January 18.
John Simms sent out four starters at Tampa Bay Downs last week, including Reel Good Movie (7th, Jan. 20), Asian Moonlady (5th, Jan. 20), Sandys Hurricane (6th, Jan. 20), and Wildcat Prince (10th, Jan. 21).
William Tharrenos recorded a pair of fourth-place finishes from Wickstead (January 19) and Ring in the Nite (January 20) at Gulfstream Park last week.
Danny Vella also recorded a pair of fourth-place finishes from Golden Spear (January 18) and Kasuga (January 19) at Gulfstream Park last week.
My Perfect Diamond was third at Tampa Bay Downs on January 18 for Michael Wright.