Horse Racing lost one of its brightest Stars today as Nipissing tragically had to be euthanized after injuring her hind-left leg in what would be the final Race of her short but celebrated Career, the Wonder Where Stakes at WoodbineRacetrack. The three-year-old Filly in June had solidified herself as the leader of her Division after winning the important $500k Woodbine Oaks presented by Budweiser, before going on to compete as one of the Choices in the prestigious 154th running of the Queen’s Plate in July. That Race eventually was won by Midnight Aria.
I had the pleasure of seeing Nipissing race on multiple occasions and in what has been the most competitive Filly division in years, she always put in an honest effort, rarely disappointing. She kicked-off her Career last year going unbeaten in four races, including Canada’s top race for two-year-old Fillies, the Princess Elizabeth Stakes. Although she never got the titular recognition she deserved, she had the heart of a Champion, just like her Father, 2004 Queen’s Plate Winner Niigon. In any other year, Nipissing would have been named Champion and you would be hard-pressed to find any Racing Fan who would disagree.
I had the incredible fortune of visiting Nipissing at her Stable this Summer during a Backstretch Tour at Woodbine. That big, statuesque Filly had a commanding beauty, on her absolute best behaviour. “Can she have a mint?”, one Woman asked. Trainer Rachel Halden diplomatically declined the offer after milling about it for a quick moment. One could sense a deep maternal protectiveness she had for her Stable Star, especially with an important engagement like the Queen’s Plate on her itinerary. We learned also that Nipissing had been experiencing a rash, which carefully was tended to with a patch of white ointment on her problem area. She was big and strong – if you didn’t tell me that I was in the presence of Nipissing I would’ve mistaken her for a Colt.
It brought me to tears seeing the on-track Ambulance rush to tend to her as she was pulled-up early this afternoon after stalking the pace briefly. I saw a composed, but visibly worried Halden waiting on the turf to be transported over to Nipissing. I admit it upset me even more that before I could process what had happened everyone around me was already cheering for the next Winner. It breaks my heart every time a Horse suffers a life-threatening injury, but it hurts so much more to know it is a Horse for whom I hold a dear place. It is an unavoidable reality of the Sport and the one and only thing I dislike about Horse Racing.
My heart goes out to Halden, Nipissing‘s Rider Steven Bahen and Owner, Chiefswood Stable. Take one quick glance at some of the Photos I’ve taken below of the prized Filly over the past year and you will see how they loved her like a Daughter. Let her be a reminder to all of us that while life is all too short, we must always aspire to be at our best in the little time we have here.
You will never be forgotten, dear Nipissing. You are adored by your many Fans and surely I am not the only one giving you a teary-eyed Farewell. You touched us with your courage, rewarding us with happiness and the thrill of hope.
See some Photos I’ve taken of Nipissing (double-click to enlarge):
Traditionally one of my favourite Race Days of the year, Woodbine Oaks Day showcases Canada’s finest three-year-old Fillies. The $500k Race this year pit together two of the Country’s best in years, Spring in the Air and Nipissing, both Division Leaders as two-year-old Fillies in 2012 – the former recently being crowned last year’s Champion at the Sovereign Awards. Ultimately though, it would be second choice Nipissing who was victorious, winning by 3/4 of a length over Spring in the Air, the post-time Favourite. The Winner won in a timely 1:50.3 for the nine-furlong Fixture, paying $7.10 to win on a $2 investment. Watch the Race here.
Nipissing’s Story however truly is one of legacy and love. She is a homebred Filly who races for Chiefswood Stables, trained by Rachel Halden and ridden by her Partner Steven Bahen. The Filly’s Father Niigon, in 2004 won the Queen’s Plate and there is much buzz surrounding her possibly making an appearance against the Boys in the 154th running of that $1-million Race at Woodbine Racetrack next month.
See her in the Winner’s Circle below:
Not to steal the Ladies’ spotlight, the Plate Trial also was run earlier in the day at Woodbine, with highly-regarded Dynamic Sky winning by a tight nose under the guidance of red-hot Joel Rosario, edging-out the lightly-experienced His Race to Win. Winning in a time of 1:50.5, the Colt was just a click slower than eventual Woodbine Oaks Winner, Nipissing. He rewarded his Supporters with $8.60 to a $2 bet as the second choice. Watch the Race here.
Although falling-off the ultra-tough Kentucky Derby Trail earlier in the year for Tycoon Owner John C. Oxley, Dynamic Sky appears to be peaking again right in time for the Queen’s Plate. He certainly won’t have it easy though as Plate Trial Runner-up His Race to Win is in fighting form and we mustn’t forget that one’s Sam-Son Farms Stablemate,Up With the Birds, who also looks ultra-sharp after a decisive five-length win in May 26th’s Marine Stakes at Woodbine. Watch that Race here.
In all, this is shaping-up to be the most competitive Queen’s Plate in years with the Male and Female Divisions well-represented in talent. Bettors will have their work cut-out for them in terms of sifting through the quality selection.
Earlier in the day, legendary Mickey Walls made a rare appearance to accept the Avelino Gomez Award, honouring Canadian Jockeys who have made significant contributions to the Sport of Thoroughbred Horse Racing. The 39-year-old Toronto Resident retired officially in 2003, but at the age of 17 went on to be crowned North America’s most Outstanding Apprentice Jockey in winning an Eclipse Award. Overcome with emotion, Walls held back his tears as several of his Peers and a new generation of Talent (including Model/Actress/Jockey Chantal Sutherland who recently came out of retirement), stood by his side as he accepted the Award on the E.P. Taylor Turf Course.
Racing Fans got a huge treat earlier in the day as Rosario made his way north of the Border after a third-place finish in the Belmont Stakes in New York yesterday aboard the outstanding Orb, who won this year’s Kentucky Derby. In addition to a win in the Plate Trial aboard Dynamic Sky and a runner-up finish aboard Spring in the Air in the Woodbine Oaks, Rosario graciously spent time with Fans signing Autographs and taking Photos earlier. He came ever-prepared with array of Sharpies, giving Fans a choice of colour as he placed his coveted Signature upon 8×10s of his recent Derby Victory.
We’ll definitely be at the Queen’s Plate on Sunday July 7, 2013 and look forward to it eagerly!
Mark your Calendars and reserve your seats today right here. Learn all about the Hats & Horseshoes Party also right here which everyone’s invited to!