#7: the fifth annual Twelve Days of Curlin Babies

Welcome back to the Twelve Days of Curlin Babies, where we celebrate the twelve most memorable races from Curlin’s progeny throughout 2018. Through all the hundreds of races in which they ran this year, these are the ones to which my mind keeps wandering back.

#12: Timeless Curls Marks Herself a Rising Star
#11: Secret Passage Comes Into His Own

#10: Legit Proves Aptly Named in His Gulfstream Unveiling
#9: Bishop’s Pond Proves She Is a Dirt Horse, After All
#8: Good Magic Reasserts His Class in the Blue Grass

#7: Dixie Moon Never Quits in the Carotene

High hopes have always followed Dixie Moon (Dixie Chicken, by Rahy). The odds-on favourite in her debut at Woodbine in August of 2017, she won comfortably over another first-time starter named Avie’s Mineshaft.

Dixie Moon and Avie’s Mineshaft would not meet again at two. Dixie Moon, Catherine Day Phillips trainee who races as a homebred for Sean and Dorothy Fitzhenry, went on to become one of Canada’s leading juvenile fillies. She finished second in the Natalma (G1), beat males in the Cup and Saucer, finished a troubled yet competitive sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1), and ended her first season with a gutsy triumph in the Ontario Lassie.

But, the Ontario-bred pair would trade blows through their three-year-old season. Dixie Moon and Avie’s Mineshaft crossed paths again in the Selene (G3) in May, where both made their second start of the year. Though neither won, Dixie Moon was second by a neck to Miss Mo Mentum, whereas Avie’s Mineshaft chased home fourth.

Their paths diverged again through Oaks and Plate season. As Avie’s Mineshaft pursued other targets, Dixie Moon outslugged Wonder Gadot to prevail in the Woodbine Oaks, though it was Wonder Gadot who had her day three weeks later in the Queen’s Plate.

After a midsummer freshening, Dixie Moon and Avie’s Mineshaft took to the grass and crossed paths again in the Wonder Where Stakes. The pair formed the exacta — but that day, Avie’s Mineshaft drove past Dixie Moon to capture the top spot.

Leading into the Carotene Stakes on October 20, each filly had started one more time, and each filly was coming in off a September outing that wasn’t her best. Dixie Moon had flattened to sixth in the Ontario Damsel; Avie’s Mineshaft had tired to eighth in the La Lorgnette. They both sought to find their best when they renewed their rivalry, and they fought to the best finish of any of their races to date.

Dixie Moon wears down Avie’s Mineshaft in the 2018 Carotene Stakes.

Despite her class, Dixie Moon went off only the joint second choice in the field of five, behind Avie’s Mineshaft. Behind Avie’s Mineshaft is where she sat most off the race, too: the favourite came away sharply, with Dixie Moon settled just behind her, outside of the keen Desert Isle. Avie’s Mineshaft set a modest pace up front — neither slow nor fast, though the closest she had to comepetition came as jockey Eurico Rosa Da Silva ensured that Dixie Moon’s nose never got too far away from the leader’s outside rear hip.

Through Woodbine’s sweeping far turn, still outside, Dixie Moon inched closer. Avie’s Mineshaft’s advantage became three quarters of a length, half a length, a neck.

Into the lane, Avie’s Mineshaft dug in. Her advantage had dwindled to a head, but she channeled everything she could not to let Dixie Moon go by. Dixie Moon pressed on, even as more competition descended. Line of Vision and Desert Isle, settled further back through the turn, loomed in striking range to her outside.

Just past the furlong pole, the stamina that saturated Dixie Moon’s blood rushed to the surface. She turned back the foes to her outside, willed her head in front of Avie’s Mineshaft, and edged away to beat her by half a length.

The story of Dixie Moon’s career still unfolds. She has raced just once since the Carotene, finishing ninth in the My Charmer Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream Park. It was a new frontier for her, her first try against older fillies and mares. But, knowing her heart, her stamina, and the durability in her pedigree, the odds are good that we still haven’t seen the best of Dixie Moon yet.

And, assuming Avie’s Mineshaft also returns at four, she’ll have to come with her best to take on Dixie Moon.

Canadian Triple Crown Trifectas

As soon as Wonder Gadot, Aheadbyacentury, and Cooler Mike crossed the wire 1-2-3 in the Prince of Wales, I wondered whether they were the first repeat trifecta in the first two races of the Canadian Triple Crown.

They are.  Never before yesterday had the trifecta repeated itself in the Queen’s Plate (or the King’s Plate, depending on who wears the British crown) and the Prince of Wales.

The only other time two races now known as parts of the Canadian Triple Crown even had the same trifecta predated the Canadian Triple Crown as we know it.

The Prince of Wales didn’t exist yet in 1921, but that was the year when the King’s Plate and the Breeders’ Stakes saw the same three horses cross the wire first in the same order. Herendesy, Royal Visitor, and Moll Cutpurse crossed the wire in the first three spots in the King’s Plate that year, and repeated that achievement in order in the Breeders’ that year.  The Prince of Wales didn’t yet exist; it would first be run in 1929 at Thorncliffe.

Those who like to box their bets got lucky a few times with Plate trifectas in later Canadian Triple Crown races.

In 1940, Willie the Kid, Curwen, and Hood finished 1-2-3 in the King’s Plate. In the Prince of Wales Hood found the wire first, but Willie the Kid and Curwen followed him home in the next two slots.

In 1942 there was another trifecta box.  Ten to Ace, Cossack Post, and Depressor filled out the top three in the King’s Plate; Ten to Ace won the Prince of Wales, but Depressor beat out Cossack Post for the place that time.

It was a few years, but there was another trifecta box in 1989.  With Approval won the Queen’s Plate, with Most Valiant and Domasca Dan next across the wire.  With Approval scored in the Prince of Wales — but that time Domasca Dan beat Most Valiant for place honours.  The trifecta box didn’t repeat again in the Breeders’ that year — after all, Domasca Dan didn’t contest the race.  But, two other familiar faces finished in familiar places: Most Valiant did chased home second behind With Approval, who clinched the Canadian Triple Crown.

A trifecta box next happened in 1994. Basqueian, Bruce’s Mill, and Parental Pressure crossed the wire in the first three spots in the Plate. Bruce’s Mill won the Prince of Wales — but the next two horses to cross the wire were Basqueian and Parental Pressure. Basqueian won the Breeders’, but neither Bruce’s Mill nor Parental Pressure contested that race.

And now, if Canadian horse racing history comes up at your next pub quiz, you know.

Picks and Ponderings: 2017 Canadian International in Pictures

Sunday was Canadian International Day at Woodbine.  The day’s racing action featured four graded stakes races: the Canadian International (G1) for open company at a mile and a half on grass, the E. P. Taylor (G1) for fillies going a mile and a quarter on the turf, the six-furlong Nearctic Stakes (G2) for turf sprinters, and the Ontario Derby (G3), the day’s lone Tapeta stakes race, a mile and an eighth for sophomores.  NN spent a long weekend in Toronto to enjoy the lead-up, visit the horses, and cover the races.

Head over to Picks and Ponderings, and see what made last weekend at Woodbine a time to remember!

Picks and Ponderings: Canadian International Stakes Recap

Today was the last of Woodbine’s flagship race days: Canadian International Day!

Anchoring the card was a pair of Grade I turf routes: the Canadian International for open company, and the E. P. Taylor for fillies and mares.  The Canadian International went to a shipper; the E. P Taylor went to a horse familiar to anyone who followed Arlington this summer.

Sprinters also had their day in the Nearctic (GII) and the Ontario Fashion (GIII).  As with the two Grade Is, neither of these went to favourites, either.  There was a minor upset in the Ontario Fashion…and a big upset in the Nearctic from a horse with championship credentials.

Head over to Picks and Ponderings, and catch up on a classy day of racing at Woodbine!

Picks and Ponderings: back to Woodbine!

This week is another big one at Woodbine, with a Sunday card that features four stakes races including the Grade I, $1 million Canadian International.

Illinois-bred The Pizza Man, winner of last month’s Northern Dancer (GI – CAN), makes his second try for Canadian International glory.  He will have to face a tough field, however, including 2014 Melbourne Cup hero Protectionist.  The fillies and mares also get the spotlight in the E. P. Taylor (GI), with local prep winner Rainha da Bateria facing an international field of thirteen.

The Nearctic (GII – CAN) and the Ontario Fashion (GIII) round out the day.  The Nearctic is a six-furlong turf sprint featuring a pair of horses cutting back from the Woodbine Mile, Full Mast and Passion for Action.  In the Ontario Fashion, Cactus Kris will attempt to defend her crown.

Head over to Picks and Ponderings, read my preview of the Canadian International day stakes, and get ready for Sunday’s big day at Woodbine!

a long weekend at Woodbine

As silly as it sounds, I would never have gotten on a plane to Toronto for the Woodbine Mile last week if it were not for the insistence of one sassy tweeting barn cat. But, thanks to plenty of tweets threatening whips to anyone who missed the Gator Kitten Mile, I decided I would plan my first international racing trip. I booked my flight and hotel back in May, and looked forward to that racing adventure all summer.

Of course, meeting that sassy barn cat was one of the first things that happened during my long weekend at Gatorbine.  Gator’s momma Sarah picked me up from the airport, and I brought over some presents for the feline who runs the barn.

Gator, the charismatic barn cat who rules over Mark Frostad’s barn, demands full-service feeding of the treats I brought.

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Picks and Ponderings: At Woodbine, Redemption for The Pizza Man

Though it had been a tough year for The Pizza Man so far, he put it all back together in today’s Northern Dancer (GI) at Woodbine.

He looked like The Pizza Man of old — not only because he saw the winner’s circle for the first time since November, but also because he reverted to a running style that he used to use earlier in his career.

Head over to Picks and Ponderings, and read my recap of the day’s stakes races — including a gutsy and game victory by Illinois’s favourite turf horse.

Picks and Ponderings: Woodbine Mile Day Stakes Preview

This Saturday is the Woodbine Mile, and the card features four competitive stakes races headlined by the return of Tepin in the Woodbine Mile (GI – CAN)!  In addition to the Mile, the card also offers the Northern Dancer (GI – CAN), the Canadian (GII – CAN), and the Ontario Derby (GIII – CAN).

I have handicapped all four races, and have full analysis.

In addition, if that’s not enough Woodbine for you (or you prefer pictures to handicapping), you’re in luck there as well.  I’m at Woodbine, and both the Picks and Ponderings Twitter feed (@picksponderings) and my personal feed (@rogueclown) are full of pictures from the backside, the frontside, and everything in between.

(I’m not lying about the in between part.  I took a lot of pictures from the interstices between the turf course and the Tapeta course today.)

Head over to Picks and Ponderings, read my preview of Saturday’s stakes races at Woodbine, and let me know in the comments what you think!

a gutsy run from Copperplate

On April 24, Copperplate (Verdana Bold, by Rahy) posted his last win: an authoritative two-length score in a five and a half furlong dash at Indiana Grand, against $25,000 N2L company.  Since then, he tried allowance-optional company, twice on the dirt and twice on the turf.  After finishing off the board in all four of those starts, maybe he needed a change.

He got a few.  The four-year-old gelding went to Canada, moved from the barn of Susan Anderson to that of Daniel Vella, and gave the polytrack a try for the first time.

The changes must have agreed with him.

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the luckiest guess

Before today, I had never bet a harness race, and I had never bet a high five.

At Hawthorne yesterday, people could not stop talking about the nightcap at Woodbine Harness.  The $0.20 jackpot high five had a $847,458.26 carryover and a mandatory payout.

One of the people who told me about the bet pointed out what an overlay it would be, and suggested I play a dollar’s worth of quick-picks.  I considered it, and could not deny that carryover + mandatory payout = overlay.  But, I’m not a quick-picks kind of person.  I do my own handicapping!  I think, and think, and often overthink.  I’m cerebral, right?

I could not play a race like a lottery.

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Picks and Ponderings: Canadian International Day at Woodbine

It is not a stakes weekend at Hawthorne yet; those do not get underway until November.  So, this weekend, Paul Mazur and I are taking another figurative road trip.  This time, it is back to the Great White North for Canadian International Day at Woodbine.  Paul takes a look at the Canadian International Stakes (GI) and the Nearctic Stakes (GII); I dive into the E. P. Taylor Stakes (GI) and the Ontario Fashion Stakes (GIII).  The two Grade I affairs are both for the turf route set: the Canadian International is a mile and a half for open company, and the E. P. Taylor is a mile and a quarter for fillies and mares.  The Nearctic is an open-company turf sprint, and the Ontario Fashion is the lone polytrack stakes of the day, a sprint for fillies and mares.

Head on over to Picks and Ponderings, and see what we have to say about the big weekend of stakes at Woodbine this weekend.  Let us know in the comments what you think, or if you have any questions.