TORONTO, January 15 - Welcome to the second edition of our weekly Snowbirds Report chronicling the winter adventures of Woodbine-based trainers currently plying their trade south of the border.
It was a monster week for trainer Mark Casse who sent out two winners, along with three second-place finishers, from nine starters through the relevant period.
Casse’s biggest win came from Ontario-bred Dynamic Sky, ridden by Luis Contreras, who captured the $100,000 Pasco Stakes in dramatic fashion, tipping off the rail and tracking down stablemate Sky Commander for a 3/4-length victory, at Tampa Bay Downs.
The victory marked a second-consecutive score for Casse, Contreras and owner John C. Oxley in the stake, the trio having partnered up with Prospective to take the 2012 Pasco, before going on to win the Grade II Tampa Bay Derby en route to a start in the Kentucky Derby.
Dynamic Sky, winner of the Simcoe Stakes at Woodbine before a second-place effort in the Grade 1 Dixiana Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland in the fall, covered seven furlongs in 1:22.79, just .24 seconds off the stakes record, while wearing blinkers for the first time.
“I don’t know how much they helped,” Casse said. “He started his little thing turning for home where he wanted to lay in, but Luis was able to correct him. It was a big race. I was a little disappointed he got a little hot today, which he has to overcome if he is going to be a Derby horse. But it was hot today, so we’ll give him a pass."
Dynamic Sky will continue along the Kentucky Derby trail in the Grade III, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes on Feb. 2.
Casse also sent out a sharp debut winner at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 13, as Fly Gal flew home over the turf in a maiden claiming event under jockey Patrick Husbands. The Kentucky-bred miss is a John C. Oxley homebred.
Silver medals went to the aforementioned Sky Commander in the Pasco at Tampa, while at Gulfstream, Jagger M sprinted home next best in a maiden special weight and the classy Pool Play rolled home second, defeated just a neck by Csaba in the Grade 3 Hal’s Hope.
Pool Play, off a two-month layoff following an eighth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Classic over a speed-favouring Santa Anita track, rallied wide in the one-mile Hal’s Hope as Csaba ducked to the rail to take the spoils. Pool Play, an eight-year-old Ontario-bred son of Silver Deputy, is expected to make his next start in the nine-furlong, Grade 1 Donn Handicap.
Other Casse starters at Gulfstream through the week included Delightful Magic (7th, Jan. 9), Majestic Man (4th, Jan. 9) and Delegation (8th, Jan. 13), while Floral Sky finished eighth in the Gasparilla at Tampa Bay Downs.
Tino Attard, the only other local conditioner to have his picture snapped last week, notched his first win of 2013 when Why Katherine went gate-to-wire in a grassy maiden special weight at Gulfstream Park, on Jan. 10. The four-year-old Ontario-bred is owned by Terra Racing Stable and was ridden to victory by Javier Castellano.
Hurry Up Alan (5th, Jan 12) and Fathom’s End (6th, Jan. 13) completed Attard’s trio of Gulfstream starters through the relevant period.
Let’s take a run through the rest of the results in alphabetical order:
Roger Attfield saddled two runners at Gulfstream on Jan. 12 as Check Your Soul (8th) and Hollinger (9th, in the Grade 2 Ft. Lauderdale) failed to fire.
Johannes, a debut winner at Woodbine last April for Reade Baker, finished 6th, defeated less than two lengths, in a turf sprint at Gulfstream on Jan. 9.
Fifty Proof, featured in last week’s stake preview for the Ft. Lauderdale, set a wicked pace before fading down the lane to be 10th for trainer Ian Black.
Josie Carroll sent out a pair of runners on Jan. 11 at Fair Grounds with Eugene Melnyk homebred Bert’s Bar up for third in a maiden special weight and Woodbine allowance winner, Drago’s Best, fourth.
If you’re keeping an eye on the work tab from Palm Meadows, you might have noticed Carroll’s 2011 Queen’s Plate winner Inglorious with a pair of recent five-panel breezes following her third-place run in the Grade 2 Bayakoa Handicap at Santa Anita.
Steven Chircop hit the board with one of four runners at Penn National as longtime maiden Widmo finished third in the fog in his 41st career start on Jan. 12. Just Paul (4th, Jan. 11), Langfuhr Country (10th, Jan. 11) and Thunder Rock (8th, Jan. 12) completed the week for Chircop.
Towncat purred home fifth in a turf route at Gulfstream on Jan. 9 under Luis Contreras for trainer Mike DePaulo. The conditioner also sent out Touched the Clouds (7th, Jan. 11) and Quick Code (5th, Jan. 12) in a quiet week.
Rico Suave proved he was no one-hit wonder when taking his second lifetime victory for trainer Nick Gonzalez in December at Gulfstream Park. Unfortunately, the Florida-bred son of Suave failed to fire over the Gulfstream turf on Jan. 13 when fourth, defeated four lengths.
Gonzalez also sent out Talk Me Into It to a seventh-place effort on Jan. 10 at the Hallandale oval.
Just one starter for Malcolm Pierce at Fair Grounds last week as Elusive One, an allowance winner at Woodbine, sprinted home third in the Pan Zareta Stakes.
Nacho Earl proved to be tough when the chips were down nosing out a show photo for trainer James J. Smith at Laurel Park, on Jan. 9. The three-year-old Ontario-bred son of Yes It’s True continues to search for his first lifetime win.
Smith also sent out Winter Lady to a fourth-place finish on Jan. 11.
Last, but definitely not least (we’ll do this in reverse alphabetical order next week!) is Katerina Vassilieva who saddled Loveyouallthetime for a fourth-place finish in a main-track sprint at Gulfstream on Jan. 9.