Woodbine‘s TURF RACING FESTIVAL kicked-off yesterday with an action-packed card including two marquee Grade I races of the 2021 meet, the $600k Pattison Canadian International and the $1 million Ricoh Woodbine Mile. The former, traditionally contested in October, gets pushed-early to coincide with the Festival.
Wagering was healthy on the first day of the Festival, totaling $13.8 million, and the Festival concludes on the second day with the Grade I Summer and Natalma Stakes, each worth $400k and a berth in the Breeders’ Cup November 5&6 at Del Mar in California.
The Ricoh Woodbine Mile went to local six-year-old gelding TOWN CRUISE, who is bred, owned and trained by Brandon Greer. As the lone speed in the race, he went wire to wire accelerating from moderator to quick fractions under Daisuke Fukumoto, winning by 2 1/4 lengths and paying $19.30 on a $2 wager. The victory was all the more impressive considering that traditionally the race is won by horses and jockeys shipping-in, proof and celebration of the consistently-improving talent of the local contingent. The final time for the one-mile race was 1:35.1. The victory earned him a spot in the Breeders’ Cup with the race being a Win-and-You’re-In qualifier. Second was Space Traveller and Raging Bull was third.
Winning the $600k Pattison Canadian International was well-travelled seven-year-old gelding WALTON STREET, scoring by a widening 5 3/4 lengths under legendary rider Frankie Dettori. Owned by Godolphin and trained by Charles Appleby. Charismatic Dettori even did a signature flying dismount off the horse in the Winner’s Circle.
Being the consummate professional, Dettori was seen walking around and studying the E.P. Taylor Turf Course, and cheers could be heard from the grandstand for the icon.
Earlier on the card, the $250k Grade II Canadian Stakes went to American invader LA DRAGONTEA. The four-year-old filly owned by Reeves Thoroughbred Racing and Rebecca Hillen, is trained by Christophe Clement. Top American rider Joel Rosario piloted the win on the favourite, who paid $4.40 for the win.
The action continues as Woodbine‘s Turf Racing Festival concludes with the Natalma and Summer Stakes, set to go off 5:06 PM ET and 5:39 PM ET respectively today.
It’s been a minute since we’ve checked-in with our Princess (A PIC BY MRWILL) and Prince William (MR WILL)! With this lockdown in effect, it’s definitely limited opportunities for us to see them in-person. But we’re thrilled we’ve entered Phase One of Ontario’s reopening, meaning racing’s back! We were so thrilled to be at Woodbine‘s opening day last week and even more excited about the stakes-filled action this weekend.
MR WILL couldn’t be any better and under the guidance of ’emmazing’ Emma-Jayne Wilson, he’s ready to fire. His focus right now really is finishing strong, as he showed some opportunities for improvement last season, coming close to the win a few times. Expect a very big run from him in his 2021 debut, which will take place race two this Sunday, June 19, 2021 at Woodbine. His Owner/Trainer Michelle Love tells us he’s extremely sharp and it’s been all about keeping him fit and not peaking too soon with the shifts in dates of the racing season. He was so ready to win in April!
Our dear Princess (A PIC BY MRWILL) has been enjoying her first Spring living outdoors. We almost couldn’t believe our eyes when her Owner Emily Fisher posted this picture of her. She looks strong, healthy and check-out those dapples! Emily swears by Princess’ Purina Feed Program and we can totally see the results. So happy for her and was thrilled to get a moment to catch-up with her. She was so content grazing on grass, her girls nickering at her to come back in with them as they missed her while she was out hanging out with beanie and me.
A huge congrats goes also to Emily as she just got her certification to be an Assistant Trainer. Currently she is working in the barn of up-and-coming Trainer Cole Bennett.
Was so awesome seeing chickens at the Fishers‘ Farm! This one is fittingly-named Smoky!
And was so great catching-up with jockey Keveh Nicholls, who also is Emily’s partner, as he head off to ride Friday’s Woodbine card. As you might recall, we won a Sovereign Award in April and the photograph we took was of Nicholls winning on one of his regular mounts, Mambointheforest. Had to break-out the Award for a Photo Op as the Award is just as much his!
Thrilled our case numbers continue to trend downwards as the province continues to see its vaccination rates soar. Never thought we’d make it! Really hoping by the end of Summer we will be back at the races in-person again with you! Cocktails at Woodbine Club?
The 2021 Woodbine Thoroughbred Racing season got an advanced kickoff yesterday with news of Ontario entering Phase One of its reopening plan at the top of the week. While the season originally was set to start back in April and then tentatively pushed to next weekend, the racing community had been waiting with bated breath for an illusive green light from the province. Finally, with great patience and hard work, the community at Woodbine came ready to run, breaking strong and clean from the gate. While there had been many pleas from the industry to the province to be able to proceed with the season sooner on the qualification of it being an “outdoor activity” – which Horse Racing undeniably is – it hadn’t been weighted evenly with other outdoor activities that were permitted to take place back in May. Those days now are behind us and fans and horsepeople alike were delighted with an opening weekend jampacked with races and filled with eager entrants.
Despite Woodbine being able to go ahead with its lucrative season which among many new changes, sees the return of the Grade I Canadian International bumped-up from October to September, the facility still continues to prioritize safety first. Many of the safety measures implemented in the 2020 racing season still are in place like a Covid-19 questionnaire, a mandatory temperature check upon arrival and mask requirement. While select Media like myself have the great privilege of visiting the Press Box and photographing in certain areas of the track, fans and Owners alike still are waiting for clearance to be able to enjoy the races again. Hoping we soon will be there as Ontarians continues to put their best foot forward getting our vaccination rates up and our Covid-19 cases low.
It was an action-packed card yesterday with 11 races and a record opening day betting handle of $6.9 million. The betting public here and aboard continue to set their sights on Woodbine Racetrack for its showstopping racing, just as they increasingly began to take note last season.
Despite there being no stakes races on the card, Trainer Bob Tiller had a great day with two bookend scores, including the season opener with FIVE DAYS IN MAY, ridden by Daisuke Fukumoto. He nabbed another with Skye Chernetz on SIMPLE SOUVENIR, closing-out the card.
Trainer Bill Tharrenos who wintered in Florida, also took two races on the card with HIDDEN IDENTITY under Emma-Jayne Wilson and DIVINE MARTHA, ridden by Ademar Santos. The win was Santos‘ triumphant return to Canada after riding in Florida last season amidst border restrictions and uncertainties. Tharrenos tells me regrettably he came back to Canada prematurely after some success down south, in anticipation of the season here beginning sooner. This surely must be a common sentiment for other Horsepeople here who were in the U.S. this winter, where racing has been allowed to continue with less restrictions.
2020’s Sovereign Award-winning Champion Jockey Rafael Hernandez won a rich Maiden Special Weight race aboard promising Roger Attfield Trainee SPEIGHTSTOWN SHIRL, a Charles Fipke-bred and owned daughter of Breeders’ Cup winner Perfect Shirl. After falling off his mount in the 11th race, we are happy to hear he is fine, able to walk-off on his own strength. Wishing for a quick recovery!
A fitting Rainbow Selfie for Pride Month with Steve Owens Trainee JUXTAPOSE, who won under Patrick Husbands earlier on the card. How’s that for juxtaposition?
Other familiar faces around Woodbine we were so happy to see!
Looking forward to the stakes action returning at Woodbine with some super-speedy fillies and mares in the Star Shoot and Whimsical Stakes next weekend!
The 2021 Stakes Schedule at Woodbine is available to view here. The Queen’s Plate will take place August 22, 2021 this year.
As the province is under a stay-at-home order effective midnight tonight, we are saddened to hear that the 2021 Woodbine racing season will be delayed until at least early-mid May when the order is lifted. The season originally was to start next weekend.
We understand the community’s frustration as so much work has gone into getting ready for the start of the season and it feels with such uncertainty we are at the mercy of late-coming updates. We also feel the frustration of business owners and their employees, and how difficult it must be not knowing how to plan when things are so uncertain.
However, if this is what it will take to get through this pandemic safely, we are in full support as the positive COVID-19 cases in Ontario continue reaching highs.
That being said, we were so excited to see MR WILL make his four-year-old debut, but alas will have to wait just a little bit longer. He has never trained better than he has now. His Trainer and Co-Owner Michelle Love tells us he’s extremely sharp and after experiencing an abscess in his mouth a couple weeks ago which is now healed, he’s shown he’s all business. He delivered a powerful workout under leading rider Emma-Jayne Wilson last week which was impressive! So honoured he’s learning under her and we hear she was pleased with his work.
One of MR WILL‘s normal exercise riders Kristen Alderson is expecting her second child with Jeffrey Alderson and she gave him a final breeze couple weeks back. We wish her all the best and that she has a safe delivery. We thank her for everything and hope to see her back again one day soon – but not too soon!
Seven-time champion jockey Eurico da Silva arrived in Canada in the early 2000s after travelling the world riding among the best in Brazil, Singapore, Macau and more. Known for his larger than life personality and positive spirit, nobody would ever have known he was battling same dark demons that stemmed from his childhood, threatening to destroy everything he had built.
da Silva‘s Memoir RIDING FOR FREEDOM released late 2020, already is nominated for a Sovereign Award, winning raves on the internet. Not only is it shocking and disturbing, it also is inspirational and uplifting in chronicling his will to survive. The Book is available now on Amazon here.
We had the pleasure of chatting with da Silva about the book and our own troubled relationships with our fathers. This and more, below:
Through crowdsourced footage, Life in a Day 2020 shows what people in 192 countries were doing on July 25, 2020.
Impressively, Director Kevin MacDonald manages to find a narrative with this random video footage. We begin with the miracle of life, some happening in hospitals and others at home. MacDonald switches from here to start of the beginning of people’s day. And we end with the world going back to sleep.
Through the narrative we see people coping with the impacts of the pandemic. We hear from doctors and people who are ill, with transition shots of empty streets all over the world. MacDonald includes the things we were able to experience at home. People trying new recipes and finding safe ways to exercise. We see the importance of love from family, spouses and pets to help us get through that summer.
Some of the highlights from the footage is hearing from people who marched and peacefully protested for George Floyd. Additionally, the message about the effects of climate change. As we stayed home, we saw wildlife and nature try to recoup. He edits this with footage of the negative effects some countries experienced due to climate change. If you look carefully, around the one-hour mark you will see Toronto jockey Emma-Jayne Wilson among those featured.
Life in a Day 2020 shows us a that in one of the most isolated times we are all connected in more ways than we think.
Life in a Day 2020 screens at Sundance:
Live Premiere: February 1 at 6 PM (EST)
On-Demand (available for 24 hours): February 3 at 10 AM (EST)
Few have made a bigger impact in Canadian Horse Racing than Sam-Son Farm. The thoroughbred racing outfit originated in the ’60s under Ernie Samuel‘s vision and has carried-on to this day, with operations based in both Milton, Ontario and Ocala, Florida. Through and through, they truly are the embodiment of a Canadian success story.
Much of my childhood was spent admiring their greats, who conquered the world on the international racing stage dominating both north and south of the border. Champions Dance Smartly, Wilderness Song, Sky Classic, Ruling Angel, Regal Classic and more were my idols. And their legacies live on in their offspring today and some have stakes races named after them, paying tribute to their historic achievements and contributions.
With news surfacing last fall of their plans to begin a phased exit from the industry, I have struggled a bit processing this. One of the reasons I love Horse Racing so much, no longer will be. Surely I can’t be alone in this feeling.
Seeing 21 of their mares sell for a total $6.7 million at last week’s January Horses of All Ages sale at Keeneland in Lexington, Kentucky marks the start of the end of an era. And this makes it all seem real. I’m thankful that a few of these mares were purchased by Canadian connections and am hopeful some of those bloodlines will remain within our country. Sam-Son Farm‘s bloodlines have given Canadian racing prestige and honour.
We can still expect to see their beautifully-bred horses whom either are in-training or just beginning training, at the races at least for the next bit ahead. This still gives us something to look forward to. However, the reality that we might not see those famous red and gold silks ever again at the races in a couple years, is bittersweet.
Sending our support and appreciation to all those connected with Sam-Son Farm, along with the Balaz and Samuel families in their next ventures. We are thankful for all the memories as these will live with us forever.
We present a compilation of Sam-Son Farm moments from the past decade. We even had a snap from our 110 film camera as a kid back in 1991 when Dance Smartly won the Triple Crown in Canada, and wish we had a digital camera with us in the many glory years that followed!
Thank you Sally & Malcolm Pierce, the Motion family, Janeen Lalsingh, Linda Davis, Gail Cox, Emma-Jayne Wilson and Eurico Rosa Da Silva whom are attached closely to the Sam-Son legacy, for sharing their memories with us.
There will never be another like them. Thank you, Sam-Son Farm.
While 2020 left much to be desired, we look back and are grateful Prince (MR WILL) and Princess (A PIC BY MRWILL) are happy and healthy at their homes. We were so happy to get to catch-up with them over the Holidays.
While there were limited spots to race near the end of the season and the 2020 meet at Woodbine Racetrack being curtailed, MR WILL never got his last chance to break his maiden. That being said, we’re so proud of how hard he tried all year, picking-up cheques for his owners Michelle Love, Big Willow Stables, Chris Atkinson and Justin Kleiber in four out of five starts. He was so close, placing second twice, almost taking it all.
We’re of the firm belief everything happens for a reason and we are looking forward to the 2021 meet where we are certain MR WILL will find his way to the Winner’s Circle. Hopefully our COVID numbers will be under control by then and we’ll be able to see you there!
William has recovered well from his surgery with Dr. Orlaith Cleary at Toronto Equine Hospital late November to repair a knee chip. This is a common procedure and he already has had his bandages removed and is on stall rest, getting the occasional hand-walk around the barn for activity. His appetite is definitely great, snooping around in everyone else’s feed tub!
Some snaps on a visit pre-Christmas with his godsister, beanie!
Always a joy catching-up with Princess who fully has adjusted with her pack of mares as an outdoor girl. So cool seeing her mom Emily‘s barn get built and it’s coming along nicely. Soon she will have her own stall indoors again! Love being her “human” and how protective she is of me when I visit with treats, blocking the other mares from me. That’s my girl!
While the 2020 racing season at Woodbine Racetrack came to an early end, we look back with gratitude at being able to cover our favourite sport even admist the most challenging of circumstances.
Though many hours go into commuting, capturing content, editing and posting never have we complained about the process. Being a part of the Horse Racing community brings me great joy and it makes me proud that Woodbine Entertainment managed to put together a fantastic abbreviated season, keeping everyone safe and well with some well-managed health and safety protocols.
Though border restrictions did alter the make-up of some of our most high-profile stakes races, one of the greatest things this year was seeing our local jockeys, trainers and owners take some of our biggest fixtures. Sam-Son Farm is one the reasons I love this sport so much, having brought us some phenomenal talent over the years. Stable stars like Dance Smartly, Ruling Angel, Wilderness Song and Sky Classic held Madonna and Michael Jackson-level idol worship from me as a kid. They were my heroes and I couldn’t wait for the weekends to come because I could see my favourite horses at Woodbine.
While I like many others are saddened Sam-Son Farm will be exiting the sport, they do leave on-top taking the Grade I Northern Dancer Stakes in October with Say the Word. I wish the best to the Samuel and Balaz families, in addition to everyone who helped preserve their legacy all these years. I am grateful for all the memories.
2020 came with challenges, but also some bright spots. How amazing was it seeing Woodbine-based star Starship Jubilee beat the boys en route to a Grade I score in the Woodbine Mile? Though Mark Casse would prevail as the meet’s leading trainer, Josie Carroll dazzled us with her phenomental roster of stable stars in a career year, taking all legs of the Canadian Triple Crown, the first ever woman to accomplish the feat. Our heart belongs to her trainee, the hard-trying one-eyed wonder Mighty Heart, our 2020 Queen’s Plate and Prince of Wales Stakes victor. His fast-developing stablemate Belichick just might have a thing or two to say about the award for the country’s top three-year-old male. And while Rafael Hernandez would prevail in jockey standings with 129 wins, Justin Stein made it a thrilling match to the wire with 126!
As I do every year, here is my A YEAR IN HORSES compilation, capturing some of my favourite moments and faces of the 2020 meet. It brings me so much joy to share back to a community that gives so much to me. I hope this year’s edition does them justice.
We are so proud also to be a part of Mr Will‘s story. He tried his best with each start this season and came so close to the win. He will be going in for a minor procedure this week. Please send him and Michelle Love all your positive thoughts for a quick recovery. We will for sure spend time with him over the Holidays to check-in on him. We appreciate all your support!
While we will miss being at the races over the winter, we hope all our friends in the racing community enjoy the Holidays and a well-deserved recharge. We will be unstoppable in 2021.
Happy Halloween! It’s one of our favourite times of the year and we’re so happy to see MR WILL back in action this weekend at Woodbine Racetrack. This will be his fifth start and as we’ve seen from most of his races, he usually delivers a good effort.
Most recently October 2, 2020, he ran a game second as the favourite leading all the way only to get caught right before the wire. Twice in a row now he’s been hooked on the lead all the way. He’s stepping-up in class for this start and trying grass for the first time.
His last race:
A quick glance at his lineage, his sire Not Bourbon is full of turf leanings, tracing back to Northern Dancer and Sadler’s Wells. His great-great-granddam Willamar smashed a track record at Woodbine sprinting on the grass. MR WILL‘s built stocky and compact and should do great at five furlongs on the grass. If not, it’s worth a shot because opportunities to race on the grass are running out with the end of the season approaching!
Also, congrats to Chris Atkinson and Justin Kleiber who just recently bought shares in MR WILL. Welcome to the family, guys!
Trainer and part-Owner Michelle Love is confident he’s ready to run!
While we can’t visit the backstretch still, we Amazoned some of his favourites to him. Good luck, MR WILL!
MR WILL appears in race 6 at Woodbine, #8 at 3:44 PM ET Sunday, November 1, 2020.
On the Princess side of things, we’re told A PIC BY MRWILL is doing great, enjoying her time being a horse living outdoors. Her Mom Emily has been very busy of late winterizing her farm, so not so many pics to share right now! We also ensured she got her Halloween delivery! Miss her.