TORONTO, January 22 - Welcome to the third edition of our weekly Snowbirds report chronicling the winter adventures of Woodbine-based trainers currently plying their trade south of the border.
Three local conditioners notched wins this week including Mark Frostad, Mark Casse and Steven Chircop.
Frostad and Casse are keeping busy in the warmth of the Sunshine State, where Miami recently enjoyed a record-tying 15 consecutive days of temperatures exceeding 80 degrees Fahrenheit, from Jan. 2 through Jan. 16.
Chircop, however, has to make sure to grab his toque and gloves before heading to the track at Penn National, located in Grantville, Pennsylvania each morning. “It's windy and the weather is a bit colder than it is at home, but it's not bad,” said Chircop.
Chircop celebrated his first win of 2013 on Jan. 17, during a decidedly chilly 36 degrees Fahrenheit evening card at Penn National with Tiempo Libre.
The four-year-old son of Tale of the Cat, owned by Shale Wagman, broke his maiden in style with a 10 ¼-length romp in a six-furlong maiden claiming sprint.
Tiempo Libre, who posted a four-panel bullet breeze in :48.60 on Jan. 10, had hinted at a breakthrough.
“We breezed him over the track and he breezed phenomenal,” said Chircop, of the gelding who had previously raced over the dirt at Churchill Downs and Tampa Bay Downs, before heading to Woodbine. “I watched replays of his races at Tampa Bay, where I thought it was impossible for him to get beat...but, with the breeze and third start off the layoff, that's usually a good handicapping angle. Plus, I'd given him some time off between races."
The winning margin, however, came as a surprise to Chircop.
"I really expected him to win, but maybe not that easy. He beat the third horse by 20 lengths," said Chircop.
For more on Chircop's adventures in Pennsylvania, which includes a trip to the Rocky Statue at the Philadelphia Museum of Art; an exploding car; and a narrow escape from a hotel fire, visit tripledeadheat.ca.
Frostad, based out of Palm Meadows in balmy Boynton Beach, sent out Stronach Stables homebred Milwaukee Blitz to an auspicious maiden score in a 1 1/8-mile turf tilt at Gulfstream Park.
Milwaukee Blitz, a three-year-old son of Milwaukee Brew, was listed at 20-1 on the morning line, but left the gate at a more reasonable 5-1 and did not disappoint, driving through the wire a 1 ¼-length winner, under Paco Lopez.
Frostad also saddled Timeless Fashion (12th, Jan. 21) and Hard Sun (8th, Jan. 21) at Gulfstream through the relevant period.
Responsive Eye got the week started in style for Casse with a resounding 3 ¾-length score, rallying from the back of the pack, under Jose Lezcano, in a grassy 1 1/8-mile maiden claimer on Jan. 17.
Casse, racing primarily at Gulfstream Park and Tampa Bay Downs, compiled a record of 1-1-1 through 10 starts last week.
Hillaby, a three-year-old daughter of Sealy Hill, set the pace in a one-mile dirt event at Gulfstream on Jan. 19, and held on for second money.
At Tampa, Art of Bourbon bid through the far turn of a one-mile turf event for maiden claimers and raced strong through the wire to complete the triactor. Casse only other starter at Tampa was Daring Delilah, who finished seventh on Jan. 18.
Casse’s other runners through the week included Greek Bird (4th, Jan. 17), I Kissed You (9th, Jan. 17), Breedy’s Land (7th, Jan. 18), Egg Hunt (8th, Jan. 18), Ezzthetic (8th, Jan. 19) and Jamestown (6th, Jan. 20), all at Gulfstream Park.
As promised in last week’s report, we’ll run through the remaining results in reverse alphabetical order leading off with Dan Vella who sent out Playing for Fun to a fourth-place finish at Gulfstream on Jan. 21.
Vella will be pleased to learn that his Queen’s Plate winner Strait of Dover is among the nominees for Champion Three-Year-Old Male, in a list revealed this afternoon by the Jockey Club of Canada.
Katerina Vassilieva enjoyed a productive week at Gulfstream Park earning cheques with all three of her starters including a second-place finish by Haverhill, a three-time winner at Woodbine, in a six furlong claiming sprint.
Gimme Credit (5th, Jan. 17) and Trade Rumor (5th, Jan. 19) completed a good week’s work for Vassilieva in Hallandale.
John Simms, enjoying his winter at Tampa Bay Down, tried to surprise his competitors in a maiden claiming sprint by sending his charge to the lead. However, Zee’s Surprise, an Ontario-bred son of Bold Executive, led the field down the backstretch but could not hold off favoured Lucky Shot, finishing second.
Simms, who finished sixth in the Fort Erie trainer standings in 2012 with 18 wins, also sent out Dani’s Regal Lady (3rd, Jan. 16), Captain Chris (6th, Jan. 18) and Cook’s Look (5th, Jan. 19) at Tampa Bay Downs through the relevant period.
Young Dude faded to seventh in a claiming sprint at Gulfstream for Lorne Richards on Jan. 17.
John Mattine’s Candles on Friday completed a lucrative $485 exactor at Gulfstream on Jan. 21, splitting foes down the lane, at odds of 20-1, to chase home 9-1 winner Myhorseofcourse.
Candles on Friday, a dark bay son of Purim, broke his maiden at Woodbine in September and now boasts a record of a win and four seconds from eight career starts.
River Lemon, seeded at the back of the pack early on, rallied resolutely down the lane to be second for trainer Brian Lynch in a 1 1/16-mile turf tilt at Gulfstream. Lynch also hit the board with Turns My Head, who finished third under Luis Contreras, in a turn marathon on Jan. 21 at the Hallandale track.
Chief Thundercloud stormed home second in a sprint at Parx Racing for trainer Shane Learn on Jan. 20, his lone starter through the week.
Hooh Why, featured in our Sunshine Millions preview last week, finished second in the Filly & Mare Turf for trainer Nick Gonzalez. The classy mare took the lead at the top of the lane, but could not hold off Regalo Mia.
Gonzalez, enjoying a successful week at Gulfstream, also sent out Twilight Storm (6th, Jan. 18) R Paynes Prince (3rd, Jan. 21) and Safety Zone (7th, Jan. 21.)
Rob the Cradle finished third, for trainer Mike DePaulo, in a claiming sprint at Gulfstream on Jan. 16. The five-year-old Philanthropist gelding, a five-time winner at Woodbine, was claimed out of the event for $20,000.
DePaulo also sent out Mays Treasurelove (4th, Jan. 18) and Mr. Online (10th, Jan. 21) at Gulfstream last week.
Avie’s Quality finished eighth in the Grade 3 Lecomte for trainer Josie Carroll at Fair Grounds on Jan. 19, while trying dirt for the first time.
Carroll was busy at the Louisiana track with four other starters including Androeah (4th, Jan. 18), Silver Ami (5th, Jan. 18), Tactful Cathy (6th, Jan. 20), and Alythiela (8th, Jan. 20).
David Bell entered his first runner of 2013 as Ojibway Signal finished sixth on Jan. 19 at Gulfstream Park.
Reade Baker, recently nominated for Outstanding Trainer honours, was likely delighted with a fourth-place finish for 8-1 shot Turkish, at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 17.
Hall of Fame conditioner Roger Attfield, seeking his first win of 2013, nearly broke through with Seekingthediamond on Jan. 17, at Gulfstream. The chestnut son of Perfect Soul endured a troubled trip in the 1 1/16-mile turf tilt, hitting the gate and then bumping with rivals through the turn en route to a second-place finish.
Attfield also saddled Dragon Tail (5th, Jan. 17) and Janicellaine (6th, Jan. 21), at Gulfstream, last week.
Get A Grip didn’t take hold of the Gulfstream turf course, finishing eighth on Jan. 20 for trainer Tino Attard.
And last, but only alphabetically speaking, is Paul Attard who saddled Bear’s Chill (7th, Jan. 20) and Bear’s Tizz (4th, Jan. 21), at Gulfstream.