The rain certainly came and never did cease, but this would not deter Racing Fans old and new from coming-out to celebrate Budweiser Woodbine Oaks Day! The atmosphere was alive with free Corona hats to be snagged, Sundaes to be served, an awesome Budweiser Prize Pack (including a mini fridge!) up for grabs, free first bets, Bud Girls and more in attendance. Earlier on the card, Edmonton-based jockey Quincy Welch was honoured with the Avelino Gomez Award, given to jockeys who have made significant contributions to the Sport. Today also marked the first day new Announcer Robert Geller took the reins from recently-retired Dan Loiselle and a credible job he did with his distinct Tenor and Australian flare.
The $500k Budweiser Woodbine Oaks is known definitively as the top race for three-year-old fillies born in Canada, dating all the way back to 1956. Some fillies like Superstars Dance Smartly and Lexie Lou who were victorious in the race, even went-on to win the Country’s most prestigious affair, the Queen’s Plate – up next on the first Sunday of July.
Few saw it coming, but 60-to-1 Longshot ACADEMIC thrust herself straight to the lead and never looked back, paying her supporters dividends with a payout of $135.30 to a $2 bet. Not only did she win with authority under jockey Justin Stein, for Bear Stables and Trainer Reade Baker, but she smashed the existing Track Record for 1 1/8 miles in a time of 1:48.86. Race Favourite LONDON TOWER ran a game second, besting SEASON TICKET who placed third.
On the Undercard also was the Plate Trial, the official prep race for the $1-million Queen’s Plate, known as North America’s most historic race, now in its 156th year. DANISH DYNAFORMER would peak right in-time for the $150k race, winning decisively and holding-off a late charge from the much-buzzed CONQUEST CURLINATE, who ran a couple bang-up races in the U.S. this winter. Finishing third was the latter’s stablemate, CONQUEST BOOGALOO who also is improving with experience. Owned by Charles Fipke and trained by Hall of Famer,Roger Attfield, the Winner was ridden by multi-champion Luis Contreras, paying $9.90 to a $2 bet.
Like last year, the Girls ran considerably faster than the Boys, with DANISH DYNAFORMER completing 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.81, translating to about five horse lengths slower than ACADEMIC. Trainer Baker has expressed his intent to have ACADEMIC ready to face-off her male opponents in the Queen’s Plate despite not being nominated initially. As a result, a supplementary fee will be paid to have her eligible.
Although there was much cause for celebration, the Plate Trial was marred by the fatal injury of Race Favourite DANZIG MOON, who was making his first start ever at Woodbine after a successful winter, which saw him place a solid fifth in the prestigious Kentucky Derby to subsequent Triple Crown Hero, AMERICAN PHAROAH. Mishaps as this are rare in the Sport and many Fans are grieving the loss of what could well have been this year’s Queen’s Plate Champion.
I too am one of several Fans devastated by his loss, although grateful I had a chance to see him in-person once:
Horses always have been my other passion and if I am free, you know absolutely where to find me on weekends – Woodbine Racetrack! Other than being an Advocate of Entertainment in Canada, spreading the pure joy which Horse Racing brings me is something I take great pride in. My Family and I don’t agree on everything, but we all agree on our love of the Sport.
Although I am not a big Bettor by any measure, I do find myself a vastly-improving Handicapper, over the years getting to know the physical cues to look for in picking a Winner. My minuscule bets this year helped pay for a flight to New York and sometimes it’s nice having a bit of lunch money! Although it isn’t always about a Horses’ appearance, seeing the Horses up-close certainly gives you an advantage in being able to scope-out behavioural signs, musculature, composition and coat sheen.
I’ve adored these Athletes from a v. young age and always will be an Advocate for the Sport. It has been an absolute joy getting to know many at the Track these past few years especially, everyone from the Horses, Fans, Gamblers, Owners, Jockeys, Trainers, Grooms, Walkers, Handicappers, the Press Box and the Operational Staff. Each person has their own individual story and reason for being drawn to the Races.
It was a remarkable year for Canadian Racing with several new memories created. None would shine as bright nor make us as proud as the great Canadian Filly, LEXIE LOU. The thunderous applause that filled the Grandstand Queen’s Plate Day as Racing Fans old and new saw her crush her male opponents, made my eyes well with tears and seeing her run her heart out a valiant second in the Hollywood Derby to this year’s Kentucky Derby Winner CALIFORNIA CHROME, reiterates how incredibly-proud I am to be a Canadian.
Here are just some of the several thousand Snaps I took in and around the Racetrack in 2014.
Sit back and enjoy this fast-paced jog down Memory Lane:
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!