Thursday, March 12 2009


Woodbine main track open for business


TORONTO, March 12 - Woodbine's main track opened for training on Thursday morning, a key sign that the start of the 2009 thoroughbred season is just around the corner.

The 167-day meet opens in less than a month, on Saturday, April 4.

Since the backstretch opened in early February, training has taken place on the quarter-mile sand ring and the one-mile dirt training track.





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CIANI OBIT


Father Francis Ciani, a Roman Catholic priest who was one of the biggest fans of New York racing, died at Our Lady of Mercy Life Center in Guilderland, N.Y. on March 7. He was 95.

A regular on the backstretch and on the front side at Aqueduct, Belmont Park and Saratoga, “Father Quinella” was a beloved man who listed God, family and country as his priorities. Racing was a close fourth.





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BIG DRAMA DECLARED OUT OF KENTUCKY DERBY 135


Harold Queen’s Big Drama, who won the Delta Jackpot (Grade III) and swept the Florida Stallion Stakes series last year at Calder Race Course, is no longer being pointed toward the $2 million Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) and wagering on the colt has been suspended for Pool 2 of Churchill Downs’ Kentucky Derby Future Wager (“KDFW”), which opens its four-day run on Thursday, March 12.

The official rules of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager state that betting will be suspended on any wagering interest if it is definitely determined that the horse will not compete in the Kentucky Derby. If that determination is made while the four-day wagering pool is underway, wagering is suspended immediately, but money already wagered on the horse remains in the pool. There are no scratches or refunds in the Kentucky Derby Future Wager.





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ODDS-ON CHOICE MR GRUFF EASY WINNER OF MIDNIGHT MOONLIGHT


Lightly-raced 5-year-old gelding Mr Gruff, who broke his maiden on Jan. 3 of this year, served notice of being a late-bloomer on Thursday and sent his rivals howling while easily winning the $52,480 Midnight Moonlight Purse at 6 ½ furlongs over Santa Anita’s downhill turf course.

Sent off at odds of 2-5 with Joel Rosario in the saddle, Mr Gruff gained a short early lead, controlled a soft early pace and drew off impressively under a hand ride to defeat Suit Yourself by 2 ¼ lengths while timed in 1:12.11. The latter nodded Stand Tall by a head for the place.





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STABLE NOTES, WEDNESDAY, MARCH 11TH, 2009


PIONEEROF THE NILE HEAVY SAN FELIPE CHOICE; GOMEZ NEARS RECORD

Leading Triple Crown contender Pioneerof the Nile drew post position No. 2 in a field of seven for Saturday’s Grade II San Felipe Stakes, his final major prep for the Grade I, $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 4. Pioneerof the Nile figures to be an odds-on favorite in the 1 1/16-mile test.

Trainer Bob Baffert pronounced “all systems are go” after the son of Empire Maker worked five furlongs last Sunday in a bullet :58.80 under regular rider Garrett Gomez.







 

$1 MILLION ST. PAT’S HORSESHOE PITCH SATURDAY


ARCADIA, Calif. (Mar. 11, 2009)—On the heels of a first-ever $1 million winner, Santa Anita Park will once again conduct its popular $1 million St. Patrick’s Horseshoe Pitch contest this Saturday between races.

Shown live last year on HRTV, the contest generated national news when John Placzankis, of Ranch Cucamonga, tossed a perfect ringer which set off instant bedlam both trackside and throughout the grandstand.





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San Felipe and Santa Margarita Stakes Advances


Six ambitious 3-year-olds were named to take on Pioneerof the Nile Saturday when the West Coast’s leading Kentucky Derby candidate continues his journey down the Triple Crown trail in Santa Anita’s Grade II, $200,000 San Felipe Stakes at 1 1/16 miles.

The 72nd running of the San Felipe, joined on the program by the Grade I, $300,000 Santa Margarita Stakes for fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles, will serve as the final stepping-stone to the Grade I, $750,000 Santa Anita Derby at 1 1/8 miles on April 4.





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Lane’s End Stakes offers dress-up, dress-down fun


FLORENCE, KY . . . March 11, 2009 . . . Like Thoroughbred racing everywhere, the Lane’s End Stakes at Turfway Park offers something for everyone, from the serious handicapper to the most casual fan, and from those dressed Derby-style to the blue-jeans crowd along the rail.

The 2009 Lane’s End Stakes is scheduled for Saturday, March 21. This year marks the 38th running of the race, which was established in 1972 as a prep race for the Kentucky Derby. The race carries a $500,000 purse, virtually guaranteeing the winner a spot in the Derby field.





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AFTER SLOW START(S), ONE SMOKIN’ LADY HAS GOTTEN WISE


When it all settles down, there is only so much a trainer can do.

Eventually, the routine, the repetition and the lessons learned every day either sink in or they don’t.

For trainer Robert Reid Jr., CJZ Racing Stable’s One Smokin’ Lady was particularly frustrating because she got almost everything right.





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‘Cool Man’ & Smooth Air Clash in Gulfstream Park Handicap


Mount Joy Stable’s Smooth Air and Robert LaPenta’s Cool Coal Man were prominent winning Grade 2 stakes at Gulfstream Park at this time last year on the road to the Kentucky Derby (G1), but checked in 11th and 15th, respectively, behind Big Brown at Churchill Downs on the First Saturday in May in their only meeting.

The two 4-year-olds will likely be the favorites in a field of six older horses entered in Saturday’s $300,000 Gulfstream Park Handicap (G2) to be run at one mile for the first time after decades contested at 1 ¼ miles and at 1 3/16 miles the last four renewals.





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Barn Notes - Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Smooth Air on Schedule for 2009 Season Goals

Mount Joy Stable’s Florida homebred Smooth Air finished a very respectable seventh in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Santa Anita on Oct. 25, beaten only 5 ¼ lengths for it all by Raven’s Pass, and shortly thereafter trainer Bennie Stutts, Jr. and owner-breeder Brian Burns set out to plan ahead for the 2009 season.

“We gave him a month off at the farm (in Ocala) in November,” said Stutts Wednesday morning after entering the 4-year-old son of Smooth Jazz in Saturday’s $300,000 Gulfstream Park Handicap (G2), an historic test shortened from the 1 3/16 miles distance of the last four years to a mile for this season.





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SPECHT ENTERS PAIR IN WORK THE CROWD STAKES


ALBANY -- Trainer Steve Specht will saddle two of the five entrants in Saturday's $75,000 Work The Crowd Stakes at Golden Gate Fields.

The Work The Crowd is restricted to California-bred fillies and mares and will be contested at 1 1/16-miles on the Tapeta racing surface. The feature is the third event on a nine-race program that begins at 12:45 p.m.





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