11/21/09 - 'Smokey' bears down for Kennedy Road win
TORONTO, November 21 – Smokey Fire, at 6-1, captured the Grade 3 Kennedy Road Stakes, taking Saturday's $150,000 feature by three-quarters of a length.
For the Sid Attard-trained gelded son of Smoke Glacken, the six-furlong event was his fourth victory of the 2009 campaign, his first year at the races, and first added-money triumph from eight starts.
Home for Harlan broke sharply from post four, taking the field through an opening quarter-mile in :22.39, while Signature Red led by a head after a half-mile in :44.81.
Emma-Jayne Wilson, aboard Smokey Fire for the first time, had the four-year-old well-positioned around the turn, taking a half-length lead at the stretch call, and holding the lead under a drive.
Field Commission, winner of this year's Grade 2 Nearctic Stakes, rallied stoutly in the late going to finish second, 1 1/4 lengths ahead of Signature Red, another Attard trainee. His other entrant, Jungle Wave, finished sixth.
The final time was 1:08.49 on the Polytrack.
For Wilson, who recently eclipsed 100 wins on the campaign, it was a welcome opportunity.
"It couldn't have worked out any better," said Wilson, of her trip. "He's an impressive horse to look at and he's just as impressive to sit on. Sid said, 'Let him run his own race.' I was able to sit on the outside and stay comfortable. When we started cruising up beside Signature Red around the top of the lane and I was still under a hold, I had a pretty good smile on my face."
Bred and owned by Mel Lawson (Jim Dandy Stable), the grey came into his first stakes test off a victory in a seven-furlong 'Poly' race on October 17 at the Toronto oval.
A model of consistency, Smokey Fire has never finished lower than third from eight starts.
Attard was especially pleased with the Ontario-bred's gutsy performance.
"We nominated three," noted Attard. "We were supposed to run Smokey Fire and Signature Red in a conditioned non-winners of three-other-than-maiden or claiming at 6 1/2 furlongs. The races didn't go. We gave them a shot.
"He's on his way to Kentucky on Tuesday. That's it for him this year. We're hoping he's going to be a nice horse next year."
10/12/09 - Stunning Stag gets all the dough in Mt. Sassafras
TORONTO, October 12 – Janice Attard’s Stunning Stag converted a perfect trip into a Mt. Sassafras Stakes triumph on Holiday Monday at Woodbine.
It was the sixth win from 17 starts for the consistent five-year-old son of Running Stag.
The dark bay Ontario-bred ran down game pacesetter You Don’t Pass in mid-stretch to claim victory in the $100,000 event by 2 ½ lengths. Delaforce was third.
Stunning Stag, who covered seven furlongs in 1:22.21, entered the feature with 11 top-three finishes, including a second-place performance to multiple stakes winner Marchfield in last year’s Autumn Stakes.
The gelding came into the Mt. Sassafras off a fourth-place finish to Ice Bear in a 1 1/16-mile allowance event on September 11, in what was his seasonal debut.
Trainer Sid Attard was happy to see his pupil in solid form.
“Early this year, he had colic,” offered Attard. “We sent him to Guelph. He came out of that very good. We brought him back here. The first couple of days, he was really body sore. We sent him to the farm and gave him three months stall rest. We took our time.”
In the Mt. Sassafras, jockey Emma-Jayne Wilson relaxed Stunning Stag nicely, through opening splits of :23.72 and :47.43.
On the turn, Wilson had her mount, in between horses, ready to pounce and asked him to run down front-runner You Don’t Pass, who took the Kenora Stakes on September 7.
“He got a lot out of that,” said Wilson, of Stunning Stag’s 2009 debut. “That was a tough spot. There were some horses that had a lot of races under their belts all season. It was his first time off the layoff. He ran a huge race. With the cutback in distance today I knew he was going to get the job done with a good kick.”
Stunning Stag paid $7.70, $4.10 and $3.30, combining with You Don’t Pass ($3.70, $3) for a $27.40 exactor. Delaforce ($6.50) completed a $207.50 triactor. A $1 Superfecta returned $1,299.35. Costalivin was scratched.
8/30/09 - Lady Shakespeare takes Ontario Colleen, as she likes it
TORONTO, August 30 - Lady Shakespeare rallied determinedly through the stretch to notch her first career stakes score in Sunday's $167,900 Ontario Colleen at Woodbine.
The one-mile turf event was the first career added-money tally for the filly.
The three-year-old, who is a full-sister to Woodbine Mile hero Shakespeare, is owned by Charles Fipke and is trained by Hall of Famer Roger Attfield, who teamed to win last year's Queen's Plate with Not Bourbon.
Tenth and outside early, Lady Shakespeare angled outside a wall of fillies at the head of the lane and finished strongly to notch her fourth straight Woodbine score, finishing 1 1/4 lengths in front of turf debutant Carem Crescent, who was also seeking her fourth consecutive win at the Toronto oval.
Forest Uproar was third.
Lady Shakespeare travelled one mile in 1:36.79. The E.P. Taylor Turf Course was rated good.
Winning jockey Emma-Jayne Wilson said the daughter of Theatrical is easy to ride.
"She gets her legs under her and she has a good look around and when I ask her to go she really gives it," said Wilson. "She's pretty push-button."
The Bramalea native said she showed a great deal of promise as a juvenile.
"Her breeding alone was something that jumped out," she said. "When we were breezing her in company, she was always right there. She was competitive and wanted to be a racehorse. Those struck me as the right kind of qualities."
Last season, Attfield also realized Lady Shakespeare had potential, but was a challenge to develop on a mental level.
"As a two-year-old, she was quite a nervous filly. In her works, she would look around all over the place. When she was in company, she was a lot better. I'm not 100 per cent sure whether she ran as disappointingly as she did in the Natalma last year because of the going. I knew she didn't really go into the race well. Mentally, she wasn't doing well at all. That's why I stopped on her and put her away."
As her near-perfect 2008 record suggests, these issues appear to be in the past.
"Every race, she is getting better and better. She acts quite professionally. Today, she was messing around down the lane there a little bit."
Attfield isn't certain about the next assignment for Lady Shakespeare, who was bred in Kentucky.
"I haven't looked past this race," he said. "It doesn't make a difference not being Canadian-bred. There aren't too many Canadian-bred races on the turf left either. We'll get over this race, have a look around and see what makes sense. She's a quality filly and I think she has a really big future ahead of her."
Lady Shakespeare returned $5.20, $3.70 and $2.90, combining with Carem Crescent ($5.40, $4) for a $25.50 exactor. Forest Uproar ($5.30) rounded out a $171 triactor. Cosmic Queen completed a $1 superfecta worth $556.35.
Elision was scratched.
8/16/09 - San Nicola Whiskey shines in Victoriana
TORONTO, August 16 - San Nicola Whiskey upset Sunday's $125,000 Victoriana Stakes at Woodbine.
The four-year-old daughter of Whiskey Wisdom rallied from last to first in the 1 1/16-mile turf event for Ontario-sired fillies and mares.
Owned by J. D. A. C. and F. Nerone, San Nicola Whiskey finished three-quarters of a length in front of stable mate You Will Love Me. Authenicat was third.
San Nicola Whiskey travelled 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.13.
Winning jockey Emma-Jayne Wilson said the homebred is a hard-trying filly.
"She comes to play every time," she said. "I was happy with the way she was travelling, even with the ground being a little softer. She's a big powerful filly. She seems to handle both surfaces really well."
Wilson said it was unusual for her filly to be so far off the pace.
"She's usually up close and stalking. I figured the pace was decent enough," she explained. "I was happy with where I was. I just figured I'd keep her tucked in until the top of the lane and we'd swing her out and we'd come with a run. She did that."
The victory was the second Ontario stakes score of the afternoon for trainer Robert Barnett, who also won the $125,000 Rainbow Connection at Fort Erie with Anne's Purse.
"I don't think I've done that before. I'm kind of in a fog," he said. "We wanted to get her on turf. She broker her maiden on the grass. The Ontario-sired division, non-winners of three, has never come up on turf going long."
San Nicola Whiskey is now 3-for-14 with $221,225 in earnings. She's a perfect 2-for-2 on turf.
7/16/09 - Just Rushing just brilliant in Ontario Jockey Club Stakes
TORONTO, July 18 – Tucci Stables’ millionaire Just Rushing eked out a close win in Saturday's $100,000 Ontario Jockey Club Stakes.
The seven-furlong event was the first stakes score since last October’s Labeeb Stakes and the 16th victory overall for the classy eight-year-old son of Wild Rush, who was claimed by conditioner Sid Attard for $40,000 on November 20, 2005.
Multiple stakes winner Sterwins, who won the Grade 3 Connaught Cup Stakes in May, rallied to finish second, neck behind. Sand Cove, also a multiple stakes winner, fought gamely and took third, another neck back.
Just Rushing, who topped the seven-figure mark in earnings with a turf win at the Toronto oval on June 28, traveled seven furlongs over “firm” going in 1:20.66. The Ontario-bred finished third in last year’s Ontario Jockey Club.
The gelding settled in fourth behind front-runners Luvyoutothemoon and Sand Cove through opening splits of :23.42 and 46-flat. Jockey Emma-Jayne Wilson angled her mount to the outside around the turn and asked him for his best effort.
"I just wanted to see where the pace was going to set up,” said Wilson. “He usually positions himself close. I just wanted to see who was going to be out front and whether I was going to stalk or if I was going to be on the lead. It was up in the air. A couple of horses took the lead and I put him to the outside. I knew when we hit the top of the lane and I said, 'Go,' that he was going to give me everything he had."
In 35 lifetime starts, Just Rushing has 26 top-three finishes, including four wins, three seconds and two thirds on the turf.
"This horse is fun to have - in the shedrow and out here,” said Attard. “I know he's going to give 100 per cent."
Just Rushing has won races on Woodbine’s old dirt track, the temporary inner dirt course that was built in order to allow construction of the Polytrack, on Polytrack and on turf. From June 28, 2006 to November 2, 2006, he won seven consecutive starts.
7/11/09 - A perfect Toronto Cup ‘Crown’ fit
TORONTO, July 11 – Crown Isle notched his first added-money win, a 3 ½-length score in Saturday's $150,000 Toronto Cup Stakes.
The dark bay rallied from just off the pace along the inside and opened up impressively in mid-stretch to defeat runner-up Coffee Bar and third-place finisher Hisaki.
Owned by Uphill Stable and trained by John Charalambous, Crown Isle travelled 1 1/8 miles over a “good” turf in 1:48.86.
The Toronto Cup was the first career turf start for the Arch colt, who came into the race off a second-place finish to Stylish Citizen in the Charlie Barley Stakes on June 20.
The Kentucky-bred has two wins and three seconds from six starts.
In striking range early, jockey Emma-Jayne Wilson, who won last year’s Toronto Cup with Secret Getaway, allowed her mount to settle on the backstretch. On the turn, she bided her time as Coffee Bar took the lead.
“Early on, I was doing a lot of looking around, just checking around where everybody was,” said Wilson. “My horse was comfortable and galloping along easy. I was happy with where I was.”
In the stretch, Crown Isle reeled in his rival and drew off for the milestone victory.
“We were waiting for the turf,” said Charalambous. “It just didn’t happen last year. This year we’ve been trying. He got it today.”
Wilson, who has been aboard Crown Isle in all of his starts, was pleased with the effort of the three-year-old.
“He’s a big horse,” noted Wilson. “He’s still a little green. John has done a lot of work with him, prepping him for races in the right sort of way. He likes to look around a bit. Every single time I breezed him this spring we were always chasing horses down the lane and galloping out past the wire. Now he runs through the wire. He pulled away from those horses.”
Crown Isle paid $6.80 and $3.50, combining with Coffee Bar ($5) for a $24.40 exactor. Hisaki rounded out a $198.30 triactor. There was no show wagering.
4/23/09 - Bearcatt rallied to capture $150,000 Woodstock Stakes at Woodbine
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TORONTO, April 26 - Bearcatt rallied strongly to capture Sunday's $150,000 Woodstock Stakes at Woodbine.
The six-furlong contest was the first stakes score for the rapidly developing three-year-old, who has two wins and one second from three career starts.
Bearcatt seized command in mid-stretch and drew off to a convincing 3 1/4-length tally over Congor Bay. Heart of a King was third.
The running time for six furlongs was 1:09.32.
The gray son of Tapit is trained by Reade Baker and is owned by Bear Stables.
The Kentucky-bred colt broke sharp and was one of five three-year-olds across the track vying for command through the opening furlong.
Jockey Emma-Jayne Wilson, who won her second consecutive Woodstock, was able to ease Bearcatt off the pace and keep him out of a speed duel that resulted in fractions of :22.04 and :44.79.
"I couldn't tell how far in front the inside horses were," said Wilson. "Once I got a good glimpse that I was pretty close to them, I got my horse to settle back and he was able to relax."
At the five-sixteenths pole, Bearcatt actually trailed his five rivals, though he was only three lengths off the pace.
"That's when he gained his composure," added Wilson. "Once he settled down, he was able to regain his legs and come with a good run down the lane. He's got a kick."
Baker said he had prepared Bearcatt for the Woodstock all winter, but hadn't intended on the race being his first start of 2009.
"I was going in the Woodstock all along. But I wanted a prep," he said. "By hook or crook, we got here. He's a nice horse."
Purchased for $190,000 as a yearling, Bearcatt has now banked $126,403.
Bearcatt returned $13.70, $5.20 and $3.40, combining with Congor Bay ($3.70, $2.80) for a $62.30 exactor. Heart of a King ($3.70) rounded out a triactor worth $208.50.
2008 IN REVIEW
From Hong Kong to the United States and in her home country of Canada, Emma-Jayne Wilson discovered new worlds, new challenges and plenty of satisfaction in 2008.
In her second full season as a journeyman jockey at Toronto’s Woodbine racetrack (she became the first woman jockey to win the prestigious Queen’s Plate in her first season as a journeyman in 2007) Wilson solidified her position as one of the country’s top riders.
At her home meeting, Wilson won 111 races from 879 mounts and her mounts collected purse earnings of over $6.1 million.That was good for third place in the standings behind multiple champion rider Patrick Husbands and Jim McAleney.And, if you ask the 27-year-old from Brampton, Ontario – or anyone who has seen her determination and work ethic at the track - she’s just getting started.
Wilson had just settled into a routine at Fair Grounds racetrack in New Orleans , close to Christmas time, when the phone rang. The chief steward from the Hong Kong Jockey Club wanted to offer Wilson a position as a club jockey to Wilson for the winter of 2008. There was little doubt that Wilson had made an impression on the folks in Hong Kong since she had ridden there in the International Jockey Challenge in early December. “It was a once in a lifetime opportunity, I was honoured,” said Wilson.
In a flurry, Wilson packed up her tack and her belongings and headed to the other side of the world where she embarked on a new journey. “Racing in Hong Kong is very, very different than it is in North America, it is very much like European racing,” said Wilson. “We raced (on a) right-handed course and, strategically, many aspects of their races are different.”
One of the biggest challenges for Wilson was that she was her own agent: it was up to her to meet people, find horses to prep in the mornings and then hopefully ride in competition. “I guess I had taken it for granted what my agent Mike (Luider) does for me, handling all sorts of details that go into getting mounts. It was extremely challenging.”
Wilson rode for over three months in Hong Kong and gained some valuable experience. “One of the things I learned a lot about in Hong Kong was the different way trainers would have their horses worked in the mornings. The trainers would tell the riders what fractions they wanted and almost always it was 30 seconds for the first quarter mile and then finish in :24 seconds.”
Wilson’s Hong Kong career, while admittedly challenging, provided her with a unique experience and skills she would later use successfully once the Woodbine meeting got underway.
“It was extra important for her, especially in the long haul,” said Luider, who has represented Wilson since the very first day of her riding career. “There were top riders from all over the world competing there – that experience will go a long way in creating the fabric she needs to be her very best.”
The long and competitive Woodbine racing season began on Mar. 31 and admittedly, both Wilson and Luider felt the effects of being away from the Woodbine scene for four months.
“We got off to a bit of a slow start,” said Luider. “Emma had been riding on the other side of the world, it took some time for us to get into the groove.” But it didn’t take long for Wilson to make the stakes highlight reel.
In the April – Woodstock Stakes, Wilson guided Rumbling Cloud to a gritty win in the 6-furlong sprint as 8 to 1 longshots. It was a special win for Wilson since it provided former rider Larry Attard, along with his wife Veronica, with his first stakes winner.
In June, Wilson started up a special relationship with a tall, leggy chestnut colt that shipped into Woodbine for trainer Mike Stidham. Named Secret Getaway, the colt won the June 8 Victoria Park Stakes in his first partnership with Wilson and then promptly took the Toronto Cup, a turf race, over subsequent classic winner Marlang. “He’s as honest a horse as they come,” said Wilson. “He can run on anything and he’s very tenacious.” Secret Getaway and Wilson traveled to Arlington for the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes at one and one-quarter miles on grass but the pair finished eighth. Back at Woodbine, the colt went toe-to-toe in a prolonged duel with the tough stakes winner Sand Cove in the Ontario Derby and was edged only by a neck.
In June, Queen’s Plate month, Wilson formed friends with Heather Takahashi’s quirky colt named Shadowless. Third in the Queenston Stakes with Wilson up, Shadowless went into the June 22 Plate off a third-place finisher in an allowance race but the Plate distance of 10 furlongs seemed beyond him and he finished 11th. Later Wilson would play a valuable role in getting Shadowless back to top form – they finished in the top three in five of their next six trips.
A theme began to develop with Wilson with similar types of horses - horses ready to discover the best form of their careers. In 2007, Tell It As It Is was a nice allowance horse for Richard Lister and trainer Jim Smith.
“I always like her and we all knew she was good enough to be a stakes winner,” said Wilson.
Well, on June 18 on the Woodbine turf, Wilson guided Tell It As It Is to a win in the Tattling Stakes and in October, the pair would take the Maple Leaf Stakes on Polytrack, Wilson’s 3rd consecutive score in that 1 ¼ mile race.
Wilson and Luider settled into a steady groove once the spring moved into summer and the fall racing season approached. "The wins and stakes wins were coming more frequently. I got a good rhythm and comfort level going “Our jockey colony at Woodbine is large and there are so many talented riders.
Mike and I have never had a main outfit to ride for and that makes it challenging to pick and choose who we are going to ride each and every day.”
A poignant moment for Wilson came in early summer – July 12 – when she was back on board her giant friend, Mike Fox. It had been just over a year ago that Mike Fox and Emma surged to a Queen’s Plate victory and now they were back to meet allowance company. In an effort reminiscent of the Plate score, the pair were seemingly beaten late in the race but came back on to win.
In October, Wilson was reunited with one of her all-time favourite horses, Tucci Stables’ white-faced gelding Just Rushing – his likeness can be seen on her racing logo. The 7-year-old, trained by Sid Attard, was a multiple stakes winner in 2007 with Wilson as his partner and on Oct. 26 in the Labeeb Stakes the two put on quite a show.The one-mile grass event was one of the most visually impressive stakes wins by any horse at Woodbine in 2008. Appearing hopelessly beaten on the turn of the one-mile event, the pair came back on to win by a neck over stakes winner Ice Bear. “He makes me speechless,”said Wilson. “We were losing ground on the turn and I thought ‘this is not good’. I said to him, ‘Rushin, you never give up and neither do I’ and he bore down and came on again.” And Wilson had had earlier success with the Tucci family in 2008 when she rode Artie Hot to an upset score in the Grade 3 Seagram Cup, defeating two-time champion runner True Metropolitan.
The fall season at Woodbine traditionally kicks off with the running of the six yearling sales stakes races the day after Labour Day. And Wilson is especially proud of her win that day aboard the tough gelding Head Chopper in the Elgin Stakes. “I had never ridden him before but his trainer Steve Owens had always had the Elgin in mind. I started working with him in the mornings to finish his preps stronger in the late stages,” similar to the style of training she learned in Hong Kong. In the Elgin, the often win-shy Head Chopper made a last minute surge to win in the last strides. “It was very satisfying, everything really went according to plan.” Also in October, Wilson joined forces with trainer Reade Baker and piloted the undefeated filly 2-year-old High Mist to a win in the Fanfreluche Stakes.
For the first time since she began her riding career, Wilson elected to take a winter season off and, through Christmas 2008 and the early months of 2009, worked on her fitness with a personal trainer, took some vacation time on the ski slopes and freshened her mind and body. “There are just so many little things that go with riding a racehorse. There really is no playbook. At first, when you are an apprentice, it is a whirlwind, and then you have to make the transition to journeyman – learn to retain your composure.”
And Luider agrees that the winter of 2008 and 2009 has been beneficial for his star athlete.
“She is just getting smarter and stronger every day, she’s so much stronger now than she was a year ago.”
A few weeks before the opening of the Woodbine season on April 4, Wilson and Luider will head to New Orleans and Florida to re-establish connections and prep for the upcoming season. “For me, I want to continue to grow and establish myself, zoom in on the details of race strategy, such as handicapping a race and reading between the lines.”
That should ensure a lot more good storylines for Wilson in 2009.