ascot aug08

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Everyone Loves Poly!

(courtesy Toronto Star)

Demi Song bounced his way into Canadian thoroughbred record books last night at Woodbine when the gelding won the first race over the track’s revolutionary new Polytrack surface.
Woodbine is only the second track in North America to hold a race meeting on the wax-coated sand, fibre and recycled material surface which offers a high and even absorption rate and a much safer and softer surface for racehorses.
Certainly Demi Song, ridden by longtime Woodbine jockey Emile Ramsammy loved the spring to his step, winning by 10 3/4 over his five rivals.
“From the moment I heard about (Polytrack) and what it did as far as reduction of injuries to horses, I was determined that we had to do it,” said David Willmot, president and chief executive officer of Woodbine Entertainment.
“For someone like me who has had two Horses of the Year destroyed on the racetrack, we owe the horses this. We also owe the public who have had to watch Barbaro (the Kentucky Derby winner who suffered a near-fatal breakdown in the Preakness Stakes).”
Incredibly, it took just seven weeks to install and replace the old Woodbine main track with Polytrack while racing meet continued over the inner, harness track.
After five training days and the six races run over the surface last evening, it is virtually unanimous that it was worth the wait.
“Woodbine Entertainment has made a great move,” said Ramsammy. “You can definitely feel the difference (riding the horses). When there are horses around you, you don’t even hear them, you don’t even know they are there.
“That will help front running horses not be too aggressive and horses who need to be aggressive not worry about the clickety-clack (of hooves) behind them.”
Polytrack, which cost Woodbine $10 million to install, is an invention born in England by Martin Collins, who addressed eager Woodbine horsemen earlier this week to answer questions about the surface.
While Polytrack did yield some kickback to trailing horses, a problem that plagued Turfway this winter, riders equated it to feeling like “snow” and not the painful dirt that hit horses and jockeys in the face on the old track.
“I don’t think there will be any bias to the track,’ said Ramsammy. “I think the track is very fair. There is a little bit of kickback but nothing compared to the original dirt track which stung and hurt.”


The winners of last night’s races came from all parts of the track, inside and outside paths, and on the lead and from off the pace.
Longshots and favourites won and the running times seemed to be on par with times posted on the old main track.
The only curious result was that of Demi Song, the first Polytrack winner, who ran considerably faster in that claiming event than the fillies did in the Eternal Search Stakes later on the card. Be interesting to see what the Beyer folks do with that discrepency.
Other notes:
*Seven-furlong races have been postponed for a couple of weeks while the chute is completed with Poly.
*Some horsepeople have complained that the stickiness of the waxy Poly is hard to get out of horses' hooves. And, if you are walking on the track, be prepared to track the surface throughout the grandstand!
*Media coverage for last night's opening was sparse but positive and $1.4 million bet on just seven races was certainly positive.
*Willmot hopes that in 5 years, Poly will pay for itself with added revenues from (hopefully) bigger fields and less maintenance costs to the tune of savings of about $750,000 each year.


  • At 4:44 PM, Blogger John said…

    Great Post

    Nice to read details that don't always make the mainstream press.



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Monday, August 28, 2006

Heeeeeeere's Poly!

Saturday Aug. 26 at Woodbine.
Polytrack glistens in the sun.

Okay, so the first six races over Polytrack Wednesday night at Woodbine are not the best events ever assembled in 50 years of the track - in fact, they are among the weakest fields seen all year.
The good news is, Polytrack is ready to go and Woodbine will be just the second track in North America to hold a race meeting over the waxy, rubbery surface.
Reports from many horsemen Sunday say the first training session over the surface was more than acceptable and 83 horses worked while hundreds more galloped over it. Some were very tired after their exercise, some floated over the track. Some went very quickly too.
How Polytrack will "play" is a big question - there is not expected to be any kind of bias as there is no longer a crown to the track (the world is indeed flat!) and the moisture will go straight through to the bottom.
For now, perhaps simply focussing on fit horses is the key - will fresh horses still be as prominent over the new surface or will they have a fitness disadvantage?
It won't be easy to have too many answers from Wednesday night with some 40 plus horses in 6 main track races.
Chris Evans explained that a Wednesday opening for Polytrack (it was scheduled to open the previous Wednesday) may not be a first choice but the time had come to return to the main track after two months of racing over the inner dirt (harness track).
In additon, Evans said the condition book had been written a month ago and thus the races offered Wed. evening may not have been ideal for what horses and trainers are ready now. He added the condition book is written to have bigger and better fields on weekends not "weak-days".
Anyway, a great sigh of relief for horsemen and horseplayers (sheesh, this public handicapper struggled for 2 months trying to pick a winner!) as we move into the Polytrack era.

WEEKEND NOTES - Reade Baker tacked on another three wins to pad his lead atop the trainer standings while rivals Bob Tiller and Mark Casse also collected wins.
First-time starter KAMBOO MAN put up a 74 Beyer Figure when winning his debut on Sunday while local hero LE CINQUIEME ESSAI earned a 99 in the Play the King score.
Winning machine COLD WAR did it again - this time for $32,000 claiming at Woodbine and jockey David Clark has been red-hot in recent weeks.


  • At 8:07 PM, Blogger kentucky joe said…

    thanks for the insight on the poly. keeneland has just about finished installing it so I am anxious to learn as much about the handicapping impact to prep for the October meet. Nice couple of posts!


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Saturday, August 26, 2006

'Essai the King

A wild Play the King Stakes (G2) resulted in one of Ontario's local heroes LE CINQUIEME ESSAI holding off invader BECRUX to win the seven furlong turf race worth $200,000-guaranteed.
There was all kinds of action in the Play the King, the major prep for the Woodbine Mile on Sept. 17.
Early in proceedings, MILLFLEET ran off with Emma-Jayne Wilson and almost caused an accident. The gelding, who is in career form currently, stayed on okay to be 3rd.
The turf was on the giving side and perhaps didn't suit BECRUX all that well. The newly gelded 4-year-old was under a mad scrub on the turn by Brice Blanc and apparently going nowhere.
"He sucked back out of it, lost his position but then all of a sudden at the top of the lane he reburst on me, I wish I knew him a little bit more," said Blanc.
While Le Cinquieme Essia benefitted from a nice ride by Steve Bahen (who redeemed himself for a somewhat messy journey in the horse's last start at Arlington, AWESOME ACTION was in a pile of trouble from the turn for home to the wire. Sue Leslie and Curtis Jospeh's gelding lost his path at the head of the stretch and again in mid-stretch and was certainly one of the best runners in the field.
Disappointments in the race included VICARAGE, a Todd Pletcher trainee who looked super in the paddock but faded early, the gritty RAW POWER closed too late and SOPHIA'S PRINCE, despite heavy urging by jockey Simon Husbands through the stretch, continued to race off form.

"He's a special horse, 6 wins, 6 2nds and 2 thirds in his last 16 starts," said William Scott.
Paul Nielsen said the Woodbine Mile is "hopefully" next


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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Ontario wagering down 1.4%

(courtesy Standardbred Canada)
Total betting in Canada fell slightly in the first seven months of 2006 compared to last year, although wagering in three provinces did increase during the same period.
According to numbers released by the Canadian Pari-Mutuel Agency, wagering in Canada fell by 1.35 per cent in the first seven months of 2006. Despite the decrease, Alberta, Prince Edward Island, and Saskatchewan all reported wagering gains.
Of these, Saskatchewan reported the largest increase - nearly $6-million more than in 2005, or an increase of 676 per cent. The dramatic increase is partially due to the significantly higher number of race dates this year over last.
Of the provinces that experienced a decline, Manitoba had the greatest decline as $7.1-million less was bet on racing, amounting to 28 per cent. It is important to note that in Manitoba, less than 25 per cent of betting is on standardbred racing (based on 2005).
In terms of volume, Ontario had the most betting, where more than $644-million was wagered on racing. This represented a decline of $9.9-million, or approximately 1.4 per cent.
The numbers report all horse racing bets that are placed in Canada - which includes thoroughbred racing, as well as all simulcasting and foreign bets. They do not, however, take into account the number of race dates or the number of races.

Several yearlings from the August Ocala Breeders’ Sale are headed north after the first two days of the auction.
Laurie Silvera, Ralph Biamonte and Tony Mattine were among the trainers making many purchases. Harlequin Ranches paid $30,000 for a Jump Start filly.


  • At 2:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Canadian Derby Saturday

In response to a recent post, the field for the Canadian Derby should be a strong group based on the 16 nominees. Entries will be taken Wednesday.
In addition to Queen's Plate winner EDENWOLD and Prince of Wales winner* SHILLELAGH SLEW, trainer Bobby Frankel could ship Ken and Sarah Ramsey's DUBAI GOLD, a colt who will love the 1 3/8 miles distance.There sould be not shortage of early pace in the 77th edition of the race (only 3 Plate winners have ventured to Alberta for this prestigious event). The fast improving MIGHTY CAHILL, from B.C., might be worth a look if entered.
Stay tuned for more Derby updates.


Local preps for the Woodbine Mile and Pattison Canadian International are on the sked for this weekend. The Play the King Stakes is seven furlongs on the turf and has attracted a solid noms list.
Sunday's Nijinsky Stakes is at 1 1/2 miles and should be a showcase for local hero JAMBALAYA.


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Monday, August 21, 2006

Money in the Bank

(one of our Convict Cichlids, "Mama", who has 25 little ones in her care these days)
FINANCINGAVAILABLE could be in the running for championship honours in Canada for turf female, or sprinter or older female or..... The Kiridashi filly was stunning in her Victoriana Stakes score on the grass on Sunday, earning a 97 Beyer Figure. A baragin yearling purchase by Mark Casse, the filly is owned by K K Sangara and trained by Lorne Richards.

LAVA MAN erupted again yesterday with a handy score in the Pacific Classic, a race that lured a lot of Canadian bettors' interest. Interesting comments by Perfect Drift's trainer Murry Johnston after the race (you can find them on


  • At 9:15 AM, Blogger Milhouse said…

    Edenwold had his final tune-up this morning at Woodbine for for the Canadian Derby at Northlands Park. He had a bullet move of 1:01.1 for 5 furlongs. Emile Ramsammy will once again be up on Saturday. Jen we also know that Shillelagh Slew is going to the big Edmonton race, what does that rest of the field look like at this point?


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Sunday, August 20, 2006

Sunday stuff


Kentucky-bred ARRAVALE hugged the rail and then took off for a decisive score in the Del Mar Oaks yesterday for trainer Mac Benson and owner Robert Costigan. Now an earner of over $500,000, the daughter of Arch (also the sire of Alabama Stakes winner Pine Island) won the Alywow Stakes in her season debut. The filly was third in the American Oaks before her Del Mar score.
Hopefully we’ll see this impressive miss back at her home track for the E.P. Taylor Stakes in October.


Trainer Nick Gonzalez proved once again he has a keen eye for a young horse when his trainees STILLISTILLMOVIN and MY LIST finished 1-2 in the Ontario Debutante stakes. The winner, a $3,500 purchase, and the runner-up - $1,300 at auction, were recently bought by Tucci Stables from the trainer and his partners.
Also on Woodbine’s Saturday card, the promising MURANI won again for Arosa Farms and trainer Mike Keogh. The filly is by a red-hot turf sire Distorted Humor.

TAGG TEAM BACK TO WOODBINE – Barclay Tagg must have enjoyed his trip to Woodbine when he brought superstar Funny Cide for the Dominion Day ‘Cap. The trainer plans to send top turf colt SHOWING UP to T.O. for the Sept. 24 Sky Classic S. The colt just won the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes and has blossomed since moving to grass. The Sky Classic would be against older horses.

John Shirreffs on Giacomo’s Kentucky Derby win:

“To me he was a horse on that particular day who exceeded any limitations he might have had. I think that’s what people appreciate in a racehorse and in any racehorse, not just Giacomo. I mean, that’s why we breed them, Other horses don’t do that – Thoroughbreds do that, That’s the beauty of this breed.”


Out here in Brampton, our seventeen African cichlid fish got bigger by about 20 suddenly Sunday morning – how did THAT happen???


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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Poly-Wood delayed**

(Woodbine press release)

Woodbine Entertainment Group today announced the first race on the new state-of-the-art Polytrack has been targeted for August 30.

“We expect to complete the installation of the Polytrack on top of the macadam (final sub-layer) by early next week,” said Chris Evans, VP of Thoroughbred Racing. “On the stretch turn, we had a problem with some stone, so we wanted to ensure it was in proper condition for when the paving starts.

“Paving will begin after the races tonight, as well as on Thursday, along with Friday and Saturday nights. As the macadam is put down, the Polytrack will be brought over and placed on top. From there, our track crew will maintain it and prep it for racing. The target date is August 30 with training taking place at least three to four days prior.”

Construction began in early July with racing action moving to the seven-furlong Standardbred racing oval to host the Thoroughbreds. Standardbred racing's summer meet is currently being held at Mohawk Raceway in Campbellville. The sport returns to Woodbine on October 9.

Polytrack is an entire system, encompassing a specially designed top layer that works in tandem with a unique vertical drainage structure. The top layer-comprised of silica sand, fibers and recycled materials- provides a soft cushion for the horse and rider. It is covered in a wax coating that allows water to flow freely through the top surface to the sub layers below and helps avoid a freezing or inconsistent racetrack, even in inclement weather.

The sub-layers include porous macadam and dense aggregate rock that provide a solid foundation while vertical drainage pipes carry water away from the track. Together, these elements provide a safer, more consistent racing surface compared to a conventional dirt track.

Woodbine is the second North American racetrack to install Polytrack as its main racing surface. Turfway Park, located in Northern Kentucky, installed Polytrack in August 2005.

(**Earlier interviews with Chris Evans had suggested August 23 would be the first day of racing over the Polytrack surface.)


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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Cavalry charge to Sapling

Canadian-owned and trained FIRST CAVALRY is headed to the Grade 3 Sapling Stakes at Monmouth Park on September 4 and Woodbine jock Justin Stein will ride.
The colt, owned by Toronto's Stuart Hyman (Shyman Farms) won the Winnipeg Futurity at Assiniboia Downs earlier this month, his first career score. First Cavalry began his career at Woodbine and the Futurity was his first start outside of Ontario.
First Cavalry is trained by Martin Drexler, one of the top conditioners in Manitoba in 2006.


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Monday, August 14, 2006

Stewards gone wild!

It has arguably not been a good summer for stewards at racetracks across North America and while Woodbine has had its share of bizarre disqualifications and events, check out the above goofy race from Winnipeg's Assiniboia Downs on Saturday.
(Speaking of Ass-Downs, Blog-friend Marty D. won 2 more races on the weekend with former Ross Armata trainees Borntobeloved and Early Approval).



  • At 3:32 PM, Blogger Tote Board Brad said…

    Sweet Fancy Moses! The tri ended up pay for the 3rd, 5th, and 7th to cross the wire! I bet some folks were pissed, that some folks were elated, and that the stoopers had a field day looking for winners in the trash.

  • At 5:43 PM, Blogger judy said…

    I couldn't open the link!

  • At 9:33 PM, Blogger Tote Board Brad said…

    If you enter an email address, even a fake one, you can get in. it's the 5th race.


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Sunday, August 13, 2006

Poly makes a landing and other notes

POLYTRACK landed on the Woodbine main track Friday as a quarter-mile of the new surface was dumped on the one-mile track. Reports are that the Aug. 23 opening of Polytrack at Woodbine ("Poly-wood"?) is still attainable.

Meanwhile, handicappers and horsmeen continue to slog their way through the inner-dirt meeting, with a surface that was inrecibly fast on its first weekend and now very slow and sometimes very loose. Finding a horse to bet that handles it makes the task all that much tougher.
The outside paths have been playing better Friday and Saturday.

RED HOT DOT - It is one of the most impressive improvements in a runner so far in the 2006 season. MISS DOROTHY and her best friend, jockey Michelle Rainford, was a high 60's Beyer Figure runner in 2005 and early this year in Oaklawn Park.
Since being claimed by Scott Fairlie for the partnership of Wellwood and Titchner, the filly has won three straight with Beyers in the mid 80s. Turf or dirt, the Kentucky bred by Stormin Fever is a monster now. She won a $62,500 allowance/optional claimer on Saturday at none furlongs on the grass.

TOM SAYS IT WELL - Track announcer Tom Durkin's speech at the Hall of Fame dinner last week at the Spa was on the mark. Check out:


  • At 7:38 PM, Blogger QQ said…

    Thanks for the link to Durkin's remarks. Somehow I missed them -- and oh, does he capture why I love racing.


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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The madness that is this summer

Monsoon rains, storms, track washouts and continuing gate woes at the Woodbine inner-dirt meeting add to the excitement these days - indeed, the raceing has been pretty good despite all the silliness.
Woodbine made it through the long weekend without bad weather but the troubles at the starting gate came to a head in the Shepperton Stakes on Sunday when heavily favoured MAIN EXECUTIVE wasn't able to come out of the gate as his back door was still open and he was being held. Big time Ooops!
On Monday, more loose horses and horses flipping in the gate.
Can only shake the head now.

ROYAL CHALLENGER put up an 86 Beyer Figure in his Breeders' stakes win, the first classic score in Canada for the Stronach team since Awesome Again's Plate. Stronach was in town and had positive remarks about the installation of Polytrack at Woodbine in a post-race press scrum.

The fastest 2-year-old in Canada? Okay it could be BARILKO, who won the Colin Stakes last month with an 88 Beyer Figure but what about Shyman Farms' FIRST CAVALRY, the Winnipeg Futurity winner who sped over a slow surface as Assinboia Downs to win the 6 furlong test with an 84?
The colt is one of several horses sent to red-hot trainer Martin Drexler by Toronto's Stuart Hyman. First Cavalry began his career at Woodbine and was still a maiden heading to the Futurity. Could this one be headed to California next?

ENOUGH ALREADY! Classy PAROSE, a millionaire who has been through the 'mill' was a non-threatening 4th at Fort Erie for $10,000 claiming on Sunday. The 12-year-old deserves a home away from the races it seems.

UP THIS WEEK - Emma-Jayne Wilson is in England for the Shergar Cup on Saturday at Ascot, a jockey's championship. No racing tonight or tomorrow as Polytrack continues to be installed. The Duchess (3yo fillies) and Vandal (Ontario-foaled 2yo's) on tap for the weekend.




  • At 10:12 AM, Blogger Tote Board Brad said…

    Hey, did you send this out as a press release, too or is that ### 30 ### just for show? Love the old school notation!


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Thursday, August 03, 2006

Mother and her Nature

The wild and wacky summer weather continued in T.O. last night when a sharp storm roared through southern Ontario and wiped out the last 3 races at Woodbine.
The cancellation of those races was the fourth such occurence since the horses moved to the inner dirt (harness) track while Polytrack is being installed.
The bizarre weather in the last month has been almost comical, perhaps not to the folks at Woodbine.

WEEKEND NOTES - Heading into the looooong weekend (racing Saturday, Sunday AND Monday), watch for Justin Stein on Saturday, his first day as a journeyman rider. Also, Steve Bahen is out of town to ride classy, old LE CINQUIEME ESSAI in a stakes event.
Sunday, last year's Horse of the Year A BIT O'GOLD will parade in the paddock from 12 to 1 and fans can meet his trainer, Catherine Day Phillips and jockey, Jono Jones.


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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Okay, Now it's too hot

Sun and heat lovers need not read, it's too hot!!
Humidity readings - 45 yesterday, 47 today... gack!
How would you look to be a horse or human in a stall today?

Who's hot at Woodbine?
A few barns are heating up (Dan Vella, Mike Keogh) while others like Mark Casse and Mike DePaulo remain on a good roll.

One to watch - TWILIGHT METEOR could be at Woodbine for some 2-year-old stakes on the grass for trainer Todd Pletcher after an impressive debut win (although with a 68 Beyer Figure) at Saratoga on Saturday. The Canadian-bred colt is by Smart Strike out of the With Approval mare One Over Prime and was bred by Kinghaven Farms.
A $57,000 weanling purchase, the colt was bought last year by John Fort (Peachtree Stable) for $150,000 as a yearling. Twilight Meteor's big brother, Stormkick, races at Woodbine for trainer Mike Doyle.

The Casse family and top trainer Reade Baker were active at Fasig-Tipton recently, purchasing one yearling each. Baker, as agent, bought a Forst Camp youngster for $97,000 while Casse Racing paid $175,000 for a Successful Appeal colt.


  • At 11:17 AM, Blogger Tote Board Brad said…

    Now, don't get all terrance & phillip on me, but what's a humidity reading? Is that per cent humidity? 45% isn't too bad at all. At first I thought that was the temp in celsius. When I went to the converter and found 47c to be something like 116f, I was aghast. Perhaps that's the heat index?


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