TORONTO, January 28 - Welcome to the fourth 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 tough week for our Snowbirds with just one winner courtesy of Brian Lynch
when S.S. Pinafore cruised to a 2 ¼-length victory in a 1 1/8-mile turf tilt on Jan. 24, at Gulfstream Park. The four-year-old daughter of Street Sense, who was claimed out of the race for $30,000 by Kathleen O’Connell, rallied four-wide through the turn and sailed home a clear winner
Lynch, a native of Brisbane, Australia, also enjoyed a strong third-place effort in the G3, $400,000 Holy Bull Stakes with Clearly Now. The three-year-old son of Horse Greeley, a two-time winner at Woodbine, battled on the front end with Eclipse Award-winner Shanghai Bobby in the 1 1/16-mile event before the duo were overtaken by Itsmyluckyday, who crossed the wire first in a track record 1:41.81
A fine week for Lynch was completed by Tango Kid who picked up a cheque when fifth, defeated 3 ½-lengths, in a 1 1/8-mile turf event for maiden claimers, at Gulfstream.
Though wins were hard to come by, a number of conditioners saw their stock complete some pricey exactors through the week including Ian Black, Mark Casse, Michael McDonald, John Mattine, James Smith and Katerina Vassilieva.
Starlight Dreamer, trained by Black for Richard and Nancy Kaster, rallied from the back of the pack in a 1 1/8-mile maiden turf claimer, at odds of 7-1, and just failed to collar favoured Stars Collide to complete a $49 exactor. Unfortunately, Starlight Dreamer, who finished fifth in her debut at Woodbine, was claimed out of the event for $35,000 by Wesley Ward.
Cowdray Park, trained by Casse for John C. Oxley, completed a spectacular $368 exactor by chasing home the appropriately named Offlee Fast, who took a 12-horse field wire-to-wire at odds of 28-1, at Gulfstream Park.
The busy Casse also saw well-regarded Sky Captain finish second to Cerro, a potential Kentucky Derby contender owned by Team Valor - - in an ownership group that includes Olympic champion swimmer Michael Phelps
. Cerro took the lead out of the gate in the 1 1/8-mile main-track event at the Hallandale oval and never looked back as Sky Captain, under Patrick Husbands, chased gamely to complete a modest $19.40 exactor
Additional starters at Gulfstream through the week for Casse included Moon Traveler (8th, Jan. 24), Gentleman Jackson (7th, Jan. 24), Diamondesque (7th, Jan. 25), and Spring Venture who finished fifth in her dirt, and three-year-old debut, behind runaway winner Kauai Katie in the G2 Forward Gal Stakes
Lockout pressed the pace of Swift Warrior in the G3 John B. Connally Turf Cup, before fading to the fifth as the pacesetter wired the field for a 2 ¾-length score in the 1 1/8-mile turf stake.
Casse, who is once again on the Kentucky Derby trail with a number of horses, spoke with our TripleDeadHeat
blog on Friday and offered up the following insights regarding top Ontario-breds Dynamic Sky and Uncaptured.
Dynamic Sky, a son of Sky Mesa, made a sparkling three-year-old debut with a ¾-length score over stable mate Sky Commander in the Pasco at Tampa Bay Downs on Jan. 12, earning an 88 Beyer for his efforts.
“Dynamic Sky will work on Saturday and if he works well he'll run in the Sam Davis, at Tampa,” said Casse, who noted that Northern Lion or Gunderman could also be in line to start the G3 event to be held on Feb. 2.
Well, Dynamic Sky posted a five-panel breeze in 1:01.33 on Saturday over the Palm Meadows dirt and it should be all systems go for Saturday's race where the top four finishers earn points towards entrance into the Kentucky Derby.
Casse also noted that Uncaptured, yet to return to the work tab since his narrow neck score in the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club, at Churchill Downs - - a superb follow-up to his earlier Louisville score in the G3 Iroquois - - is being pointed at Turfway’s revitalized Rushaway Stakes.
“He's doing well. He's wild, and he was feeling good this morning,” said Casse. “He was jumping around, but he trained well. We’ll look to the Rushaway and then come back in the Blue Grass. If successful in those two races, then the Kentucky Derby.”
Elite Warrior, trained by Michael McDonald, made two of his three juvenile starts at Woodbine, including a smart third-place sprint on November 28. The Bruce Lunsford homebred, by First Samurai, stretched out to two-turns on Jan. 25, at Gulfstream, and finished second behind a runaway Make Out Man, completing a $37.60 exactor.
English Crossing, a chestnut daughter of English Channel, continues to seek her maiden score following a second-place effort, her third from nine starts, in a one-mile turf sprint at Gulfstream, on Jan. 27. Trained by John Mattine, English Crossing settled near the back of the pack early on and made a four-wide move down the lane but could not bridge the gap to catch Keri Keri, settling for the second slot in a $36.80 exactor.
When the chips were down, Nacho Earl, an Ontario-bred son of Yes It’s True, came running to be second, completing a $93.60 exactor, behind Cooperstown, for trainer James J. Smith.
Lemon View, under Luis Contreras, tracked the early pace of Jamie’s Boy in a 7 ½-furlong turf sprint at Gulfstream, took the lead at the top of the lane, but could not hold off a rallying Big Blue Spirit, when defeated just half a length for Katerina Vassilieva, on Jan. 25. A six-year-old son of Lemon Drop Kid, bred in Ontario by William Sorokolit, Lemon View is a four-time winner at Woodbine.
Vassilieva also sent out Woodbine regular Vino Del Toro to a ninth-place finishing on Jan. 26, at Gulfstream.
And now, let’s take a run through the rest of the results for Woodbine trainers through the relevant period.
Tino Attard saddled a trio of runners at Gulfstream Park including Money’s Worth (4th, Jan. 26), Fathom’s End (6th, Jan. 27) and Alphanumeric (7th, Jan. 27).
Hall of Famer Roger Attfield
sent out Irish-bred Tanzspiel to a fourth-place finish at Gulfstream on Jan. 27. The Attfield barn should be buoyed by the following tweet from the DRF’s Dan Illman
, “Perfect Shirl, 2011 BC FM Turf winner and away since 2012 The Very One, breezed 4F in 49 1/5 at Pay. this am. Had cannon bone surgery.”
Plate Trial winner River Rush finished seventh in his four-year-old debut for Reade Baker at Gulfstream Park. The Adena Springs homebred was in a tough spot, taking on Travers winner Golden Ticket. Baker also sent out Benita Blue to a 10th-place effort on Jan. 27, at Gulfstream.
Josie Carroll sent out a trio of starters at the Fair Grounds including James Street (9th, Jan. 26), One Foxy Grey (5th, Jan. 26) and Leinan (6th, Jan. 27). Carroll’s Oaks and Plate-winning filly Inglorious breezed a sharp four furlongs in :48.12 over the Palm Meadows turf this morning.
Towncat purred home fourth for Mike DePaulo on Jan. 27 at Gulfstream, while his only other starter through the week, Ben’s Best Bet, failed to live up to his name when 11th, on Jan. 26.
The always busy Nick Gonzalez saddled Talk Me Into It to a third-place run on Jan. 26, at Gulfstream, in a troubled trip. His other Gulfstream starters included Sell Sell Sell (7th, Jan. 25) and the niftily-named Captain Fantastic (8th, Jan. 27). Gonzalez also added to his numbers through the week by claiming Midnight Aria, an Ontario-bred daughter of Midnight Lute, from trainer Steve Dwoskin for $35,000. Midnight Aria will make her next start in Tucci Stables silks.
South to the Sea’s fourth-place effort on Jan. 24 led the way for Malcolm Pierce’s crew at the Fair Grounds last week. His other starters included Lord of the Real (8th, Jan. 26) and Thespian’s Fate (8th, Jan. 27).
A quartet of starters for John Simms last week included Absolute Power (9th, Jan. 23), Flashy Zee (9th, Jan. 23), Indian Line (6th, Jan. 25) and River Slaney (8th, Jan. 25).
And finally, Dan Vella’s lone starter through the relevant period was Green Waters, who dictated the early flow in the aforementioned 1 1/8-mile turf tilt won by Stars Collide, before fading to finish fourth.