News and notes from around the Thoroughbred racing world, compiled by NTRA Communications.
WOODBINE HOSTS CANADIAN INTERNATIONAL, E.P. TAYLOR AND NEARCTIC STAKES SATURDAY
Nine top grass horses from North America and Europe have been entered to contest the 73rd running of the Grade I Pattison Canadian International, a $2 million event for 3-year-olds and up at a distance of 1 1/2 miles on the turf this Saturday at Woodbine Racetrack in Rexdale, Ontario, Canada.
In addition to the Pattison, Canada’s richest horse race, two other turf stakes will highlight the undercard – the Grade I, $1 million E.P. Taylor at one mile and one-quarter for fillies and mares, and the six furlong, $500,000 Grade I Nearctic Stakes, for three-year-olds and upward.
All three events are Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” races. The winners of each race earn berths into their respective Breeders’ Cup contests which will be run Nov. 5-6 at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. The winner of the Pattison Canadian International gains entry to the $3 million Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Turf on Nov. 6.
Marsh Side, the 2008 winner of the Canadian International with earnings of $2,360,458, will try to get back on the winning track after finishing eighth in Woodbine’s Northern Dancer Stakes, a 1 ½-miles turf race on Sept. 19. An international star trained by Neil Drysdale, the seven-year-old has raced in the U.S., Japan and the United Arab Emirates and enters the International with a 1-for-5 record for 2010. His one victory came in the 1 1/4 mile Sky Classic at Woodbine over a soft course.
Redwood, the 2-1 morning line favorite, is a four-year-old British-bred son of two-time Breeders’ Cup Turf winner High Chaparral who will be making his second appearance in Canada. His first appearance was a winning one when he captured the Grade I Northern Dancer by a half-length. Trained by Barry Hills and ridden by his son Michael Hills, Redwood has won four times in 10 career starts when taking the Northern Dancer.
“He’s still lightly-raced. He’s got plenty of talent and a good turn of foot,” said Michael Hills.
Fifty Proof will attempt to be the first Canadian-bred to take the International since Thornfield achieved the feat in 1999. Sent off at 29-1, in the Northern Dancer, the son of Whiskey Wisdom finished a game second, yielding the lead late a half-length back to eventual winner Redwood.
“We were hoping he would run a creditable race, perhaps get a piece,” said Fifty Proof’s trainer Ian Black. “His breeding doesn’t really suggest he’ll get a mile and a half, but he had come into the race in great shape. We didn’t win, but we were absolutely thrilled.”
Justin Stein has the call and will break from post position 9.
The complete field for the Pattison Canadian International from the rail out is: Memorial Maniac (jockey: James Graham, morning line odds: 20-1); Chinchon (Garrett Gomez, 7-2); Mores Wells (Sebastien Maillot, 12-1); Simmard (Javier Castellano, 15-1); Al Khali (Alan Garcia, 6-1); Marsh Side (Edgar Prado, 4-1); Joshua Tree (Colm O’Donoghue, 8-1); Redwood (Michael Hills, 2-1); and Fifty Proof (Justin Stein, 10-1). All horses will carry 126 pounds.
The E.P. Taylor Stakes has drawn a field of 10, headed by Europeans Shalanaya, Contredanse and defending champion Lahaleeb, and locally-based Miss Keller. The winner of the E.P. Taylor will earn an automatic berth in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf on Nov. 5. The Nearctic Stakes has attracted 12 hopefuls, including 2008 Canadian Horse of the Year Fatal Bullet, defending Nearctic champion Field Commission and multiple stakes winner Grand Adventure. The winner of the Nearctic earns a berth in the Nov. 6 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint.
ESPN2 will provide live coverage of all three stakes events from Woodbine from 4:00-6:00 p.m. (ET). The telecast will also include taped highlights of Saturday’s Group I Emirates Champion Stakes from Newmarket, England.
EVENING JEWEL TOPS FIELD OF EIGHT FOR SATURDAY’S QUEEN ELIZABETH II CHALLENGE CUP AT KEENELAND
Evening Jewel headlines a stellar field of eight 3-year-old fillies entered for Saturday’s 27th running of the Grade I, $400,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup to be run at 1 1/8 miles on the turf course at Keeneland in Lexington, Ky.
Trained by Jim Cassidy, Evening Jewel is undefeated in three starts since moving to the turf after a nose defeat to Blind Luck in the Kentucky Oaks on April 30. The victories have all been in stakes, with her most recent triumph coming in the Grade I Del Mar Oaks on August 21.
Cassidy will be seeking his second QE II victory, having taken the 2004 running with Ticker Tape. Victor Espinoza, who has been aboard for Evening Jewel’s three grass wins, has the call. Evening Jewel, the 5-2 morning line favorite, will break from post position 3.
Two other Grade I winners are in the field: Check the Label and Harmonious.
Check the Label, trained by Graham Motion, who won this race in 2003 with Film Maker, has won her past four starts in a streak that began in the Grade III Appalachian Stakes at Keeneland this spring. In her most recent start, Check the Label won the Grade I Garden City Stakes at Belmont Park on September 18. Ramon Dominguez has the call on Check the Label, who will break from post position 4.
Trained by John Shirreffs, Harmonious won the Grade I American Oaks at Hollywood Park in July before running second to Evening Jewel in the Del Mar Oaks in her most recent start. Joel Rosario will ride Harmonious, who will break from post position 6.
BREEDERS’ CUP LAUNCHES ZENYATTA MICROSITE
The Breeders’ Cup this week announced the launch of www.Zenyatta2010.com, a Zenyatta-focused website built in advance of the 27th Breeders’ Cup World Championships to be held Nov. 5-6 at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. In the weekend’s featured event, the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic, Zenyatta will attempt to become the first American Thoroughbred to ever go 20-0 when she takes on the boys as the Classic’s defending champion.
The site, which will be cross-sharing content with Zenyatta’s official website www.Zenyatta.com, will serve as an information resource on all things Zenyatta as it relates to the Breeders’ Cup. Features of the site include: daily updates from Zenyatta’s barn, including video and images exclusive to the site; bio and pedigree information; Photos, video and interesting facts about Zenyatta; bios and information on “Team Zenyatta,” including owners Jerry and Ann Moss, jockey Mike Smith, and trainer John Shirreffs; and streams from Zenyatta’s Facebook and Twitter (@2010Zenyatta) feeds.
“She is the star of the show,” said Peter Rotondo, Vice President of Media and Entertainment for the Breeders’ Cup. We wanted to create an environment where people could interactively engage and share in the Zenyatta phenomenon and where we could help educate a broader audience that may be new to Zenyatta, working with her team to provide some behind-the-scenes access.”
BREEDERS’ CUP LAUNCHES FREE iPHONE APP
The Breeders’ Cup, in conjunction with iPhone App developer Rock Software, announced this week that it has launched the Official Breeders’ Cup iPhone App in advance of the 2010 Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Churchill Downs on November 5-6. The Official Breeders’ Cup app will allow iPhone users to watch all 14 Breeders’ Cup World Championship races live and for free on November 5-6, as the world’s top Thoroughbreds compete for $26 million in purses. The Breeders’ Cup also plans to release an iPad App, including all the same features, in advance of the World Championships.
Prior to November 5, the App will include stories and news leading up to the Breeders’ Cup; biographical and statistical information about the 14 Breeders’ Cup races, powered by Equibase; a guide to the simulcast site closest to the user’s location; a wagering guide; weather and seating information; and video of every Breeders’ Cup race ever run (1984-2009).
“Now horse racing fans will be able to watch the Breeders’ Cup World Championships wherever they are and have instant access to valuable information regarding all 14 Breeders’ Cup World Championships races,” said Peter Rotondo, Vice President of Broadcasting and Entertainment.
KID EDWARD, SEVEN OTHERS SET FOR $150,000 OAK TREE DERBY SATURDAY
Kid Edward will try to help trainer Jim Cassidy achieve a first in the Grade III, $150,000 Oak Tree Derby at 1 1/8 miles on the turf for 3-year-olds Saturday at the Oak Tree at Hollywood Park meeting in Inglewood, Calif.
No trainer has ever won the race – which had its first running in 1969 and was called the Volante Handicap prior to 1997 – two times in a row. Cassidy can accomplish the feat in the 41st running after winning with The Usual Q.T. in 2009.
Kid Edward, a son of Singspiel, has won two of five – all on grass – and earned $99,360. In two previous appearances in Grade II events, the Irish bred was second behind Sidney’s Candy’s record setting performance in the La Jolla Handicap on Aug. 14 at Del Mar, and then was fifth in a controversial Del Mar Derby won by Twirling Candy.
David Flores, who won the Oak Tree Derby two years ago aboard Muny, retains the mount on Kid Edward.
A three-time winner on the turf in his native France, Blue Pans will make his United States debut Saturday for owner G. Normand Augustin and trainer Fabrice Chappel. Blue Panis has earned $174,666 in 14 starts. The Derby will be his initial try beyond a mile.
The only two members of the field coming off a win are Haimish Hy and Sebastian Flyte.
Trained by Art Sherman, Haimish Hy is two-for-two on grass, but his last win came over the Polytrack at Del Mar. Dismissed at 31-1 in the El Cajon Stakes on Sept. 3, Haimish Hy prevailed by a neck. Overall, the son of Ecton Park has won four of eight, banking $134,980.
An English bred son of Observatory, Sebastian Flyte won at 2-1 in his first start in this country on Sept. 4 at Del Mar. Trained by Ben Cecil, Sebastian Flyte has won two of nine and earned $86,003.
Make Music for Me will make his first appearance since finishing 10th in the Belmont Stakes on June 5. Trained by Alexis Barba, the Bernstein colt won his only other race on turf, capturing the Pasadena Stakes as a maiden on March 6 at Santa Anita. The one length victory over Macias remains Make Music for Me’s lone win in 10 starts, but he has hit the board on three occasions in graded stakes. He has earned $362,260.
Jairzinho will be seeking to end a 14-race losing streak. His victory came against five opponents at Leicester in his native England on June 25, 2009. Jairzinho’s nine most recent defeats have occurred since coming to California early in 2010.
Completing the field is Royal F J. A Royal Academy gelding, Royal F J has won once in 12 starts, earning $137,760 for La Canada Stables LLC and trainer Jack Carava.
He was third in the Del Mar Derby on Sept. 5 in his graded stakes debut. He has been second or third in 10 of his 11 defeats.
From the inside out, the field for the Oak Tree Derby is: Haimish Hy, (Alonso Quinonez rides, 120 pounds); Sebastian Flyte (Martin Garcia, 118); Kid Edward (David Flores, 118); Jairzinho (Patrick Valenzuela, 118); Fantastic Pick (Corey Nakatani, 118); Blue Panis, (Joe Talamo, 118); Royal F J (Rafael Bejarano, 118); and Make Music For Me (Brice Blanc, 118).
MARY’S FOLLIES RETURNS IN BELMONT’S ATHENIA STAKES
Mary’s Follies, off for the past 11 months, will return to the races Saturday in the Grade III, $100,000 Athenia Stakes for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on the turf at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y.
Purchased by Paul Pompa, Jr. and transferred to the barn of Rick Dutrow, Jr. off a victory in the 2009 Boiling Springs at Monmouth Park, Mary’s Follies finished second in an off-the-turf running of the Lake George at Saratoga and sixth on the dirt in the Fitz Dixon Cotillion at Philadelphia Park in her first two starts for her new connections. Back on grass for the Mrs. Revere at Churchill Downs in November, the bay daughter of More Than Ready kicked away to a 1 ½-length victory before being sent to the sidelines.
Mary’s Follies has been working steadily since mid-August in preparation for her comeback start.
“I never was targeting this race,” said Dutrow. “I thought she was ready and I looked in the condition book and saw this race, and it seemed like a good spot. She’s been ready for a while.”
Mary’s Follies, the 9-2 third choice on the morning line, will be ridden by Hall of Famer Kent Desormeaux from post position 2.
Julien H. Richmond-Watson’s Tottie rallied from last of four to take an optional claimer on June 17 in her first and so far only start at Belmont. In the interim the British import was third in the Matchmaker at Monmouth on August 1 before returning to prevail by a neck in the Omnibus at that venue on August 21.
“We’re very happy with her so far,” said trainer Chad Brown. “She’s won four of six starts here and has adjusted well.”
Brown said he was originally considering the Scoot Stakes at Belmont on October 20 for Tottie, but made a late decision to enter her in the Athenia instead.
“At the last second I decided to send her because she was training so well,” said Brown.
In the Athenia, Tottie will be cutting back from 1 3/8 miles, but Brown is confident Tottie is just as formidable at 1 1/16 miles. Tabbed as the 7-2 second choice on the morning line, Tottie will leave from post 5 with Jose Lezcano aboard.
Strike the Bell seeks her second stakes victory of the fall championship meet, having won the Noble Damsel on September 19. Earlier in the year, the 4-year-old was second by a head in the Miss Liberty at Monmouth on July 4 and sixth in the Ballston Spa Handicap at Saratoga on August 28.
“She’s doing well and obviously she runs well here,” said David Donk, who trains Strike the Bell for Rising Star Stables. “The mile and a sixteenth here is still a semi one-turn race and some pace would obviously help. She’ll run on any kind of course and she’s done well out of her last race.”
Alex Solis has the call aboard Strike the Bell, the 3-1 morning-line favorite, from post 11.
Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin is hopeful that Eye of Taurus will take to Belmont’s inner turf course as she enters Saturday’s race off four starts at Monmouth, including a victory in the Revidere on September 11 most recently.
“She had some troubled trips before she won the stakes last time,” said McLaughlin. “It should be better here with the wider turns.”
Eddie Castro retains the mount aboard Eye of Taurus, 6-1 on the morning Rline and leaving from post 7.
Giant Mover, Miss Catalyst, Darjeeling, Trix in the City, Missit, Exquisite, Way With Words and McVictory round out the field, though McVictory will only take part if the Athenia is moved off the turf and onto the main track.
USPRECH, DAVIS, FOUR OTHERS THE LATEST TO QUALIFY FOR NHC
Sheldon Usprech of Thornwall, Ontario, Canada, and Charlie Davis of Seattle, Wash., bested their respective fields of NHC Tour members in last weekend’s free NHC Tour online handicapping tournaments. Usprech and Davis will now receive guaranteed berths in the $1.1 million (estimated) Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship (NHC) on January 28-29, 2011 in Las Vegas, where the grand prize will be $500,000.
Usprech, a veteran NHC Tour member, who competed in the NHC in 2007, amassed a winning total of $127.10 in the October 9 contest that required competitors to make mythical $2.00 win and place wagers on 10 mandatory races that took place at Belmont Park, Keeneland, Monmouth Park and Woodbine. Davis, an NHC Tour rookie who will be making his first appearance in the NHC Finals, racked up a total of $105.50.
Last weekend’s tournament was split into two divisions based on whether contestants were Level 1 NHC Tour members or Level 2 members, with three contestants from each division qualifying for the NHC. Joining Usprech as NHC qualifiers from the 608-person Level 1 division were Bradley Cressy ($126.60) of Fountain Hills, Ariz., and Lance Williams ($119.50) of Bellevue, Wash. Both Cressy and Williams are first-year NHC Tour members, who will be making their initial appearances at the NHC in January.
Qualifying from the 120-contestant Level 2 competition in addition to Davis were Dave Picarello of Baltimore, Md., and Tommy Massis of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Picarello and Massis are also NHC Tour rookies who will be competing in their first NHC next January. All six of this weekend’s qualifiers will receive roundtrip air travel and hotel accommodations at the Red Rock Casino, Resort & Spa, site of the NHC.
The October 9 tournament was the last of five free events this year restricted to NHC Tour members. The annual registration fee for the NHC Tour is $100 for Level 1 members who compete solely for NHC berths, and $500 for Level 2 members, who also compete during the year for at least $75,000 in additional prize money. NHC Tour scoring is based on a contestant’s five best scores at qualifying tournaments held around the country or online. At the end of the year, the highest scoring NHC Tour member can also win a $2 million bonus if he or she wins the NHC finals in Las Vegas.