TORONTO, January 7 - Welcome to the first edition of our weekly Snowbirds report chronicling the winter adventures of Woodbine-based trainers currently plying their trade south of the border.
Malcolm Pierce, wintering at Fair Grounds in Louisiana, has enjoyed a solid start to his 2013 winter campaign. Two-year-old fillies, Overheard (Dec. 13) and Tonight We Dance (Dec. 26), posted wins for Pierce before the New Year at the Fair Grounds, but it was Ontario-bred Sam-Son Farm filly, Deceptive Vision, who opened a few eyes with a stunning maiden score on January 4.
Deceptive Vision, a Sam-Son homebred by A.P. Indy out of Eye of the Sphynx (Smart Strike), is a full sister to Queen’s Plate winner Eye of the Leopard and multiple stakes winner Hotep.
The bay miss was second in her debut in a tough Woodbine maiden special weight won by well-regarded Coffee Clique, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Medaglia d’Oro, with Hillaby, the first daughter of champion Sealy Hill, in third.
Pierce entered Deceptive Vision into a mile and 70-yard route for her second start, her first dirt try, and the filly did not disappoint with a 3 ¼-length score, covering the distance in 1:44.54 - good for a 78 Beyer Speed Figure.
“We’ll regroup and see what we have down the road,” said Pierce, following the effort. “It looks like she handles the dirt just fine and she’ll get a lot out of this race today.”
In speaking with the conditioner before the event, Pierce noted that, “The Woodbine Oaks is the main goal for her but we don’t want to go in as a maiden, for sure. Hopefully we can knock off a race or two before getting back to Woodbine with her.”
With the maiden score taken care of, Deceptive Vision could become a factor in the three-race Fair Grounds’ sophomore filly series that begins with the $125,000 Silverbulletday Stakes on Jan. 19 and concludes with the Grade II Fair Grounds Oaks on March 30.
A promising week for Pierce was capped by a winning effort from five-year-old gelding Stunning Split, a Woodbine regular, who won an off-the-turf claiming route and was promptly claimed for $40,000 by owner-trainer Louis J. Roussel III.
Mark Casse, always busy in the winter preparing for classic races on both sides of the border, saddled a pair of winners through the relevant period including a 1 ¾-length score by Jadira, at odds of 20-1 on New Year’s Day, as well as hitting the exactor with the combo of Exclusive Love and Eagle Hall on Jan. 6, both races run at Gulfstream Park.
Jadira, a three-year-old daughter of Pleasantly Perfect, was full value for her rallying debut in a one-mile turf tilt for owner Gabe Grossberg.
Exclusive Love, a big bay mare with a pair of Woodbine wins to her credit, went to post as the mutuel favourite and had plenty in reserve to hold off a surging Eagle Hall to complete a $32 Casse-trained exactor.
Star Contender, an Ontario-bred son of Henny Hughes and winner of the Cup & Saucer as a juvenile, did not take to the dirt in his three-year-old debut, finishing a well-beaten sixth in the Gulfstream Park Derby.
Other Casse starters at Gulfstream through the week included Character Zero (8th, Jan. 1), Gunderman (2nd, Jan 1), Rei (4th, Jan 5), Exploring (10th, Jan. 5), Keep the Case (9th, Jan. 5) and Collymore Place (3rd, Jan. 6).
Nick Gonzalez sent out a rocket in Don’tgetmestarted on New Year’s Day at Gulfstream Park. The three-year-old son of Vibank, making his fifth career start, took command at the top of the lane in a six-furlong maiden claimer and romped home a 10 ¼-length winner.
The veteran conditioner also saddled Twilight Storm (6th, Jan. 4) and Posh Sox (8th, Jan. 6) in a light week of racing that saw Gonzalez re-claim Sell Sell Sell on Jan. 6 for $15,000 - the same price the Ontario-bred daughter of Offlee Wild had been taken from Gonzalez on Dec. 15 by Christos Gatis.
While that concludes the list of winners for the week, other trainers in action included Tino Attard who sent out Well Read at Gulfstream Park to an eighth-place finish on January 3.
Reade Baker, spending his winter in Florida at Palm Meadows Training Centre, sent out a trio of runners at Gulfstream Park including Bear’s Spirit (3rd, Jan. 3), Unbridled Bear (12th, Jan. 4) and Scipio (5th, Jan. 5).
Steven Chircop hit the board at Penn National when Dragon Wave rallied for third in a 5 ½-furlong maiden claimer.
Chokurei, who was featured in last week’s G3 Marshua’s River preview, rallied for fourth in the 1 1/16-mile turf tilt for trainer Mark Frostad at Gulfstream Park. The stake was won by Ontario-bred Hard Not to Like, returning off an eight-month layoff, with the gorgeous grey miss earning a 94 Beyer Speed Figure in her return.
Frostad also sent out Honduran (7th, Jan. 1) and Azameera (7th, Jan. 5) at the Hallandale oval last week.
Brian Lynch came close twice through three Gulfstream starts during the relevant period with Fort Morgan (2nd, defeated a neck) and Run Wild (3rd, defeated a length) on Jan. 6 at Gulfstream. Coffee Clique, who defeated the aforementioned Deceptive Vision at first asking on Dec. 2 at Woodbine, finished 5th in her three-year-old debut on New Year’s Day.
The weekly report concludes, alphabetically, at trainer Katerina Vassilieva who finished 7th with Zip It Nance, a four-time winner at Woodbine, in a turf sprint at Gulfstream.