Back To The Best

After a brief drop in class to try and break her maiden, Club II filly Warrior’s Promise finds herself back in three-year-old filly Stakes company with her race, The Supernaturel Handicap, getting prime billing as the sixth event on a Canada Day extravaganza. Regular jockey Jeff Burningham retains the ride after guiding his mount to three consecutive runner-up finishes.

A return to the “creme de la femme” means crossing paths again with two rivals from the Emerald Downs Stakes – reigning two-year-old champion Summerland and her 2018 rival, Dancin Shoes. The field of six is, however rounded out with some intriguing new faces in Sunburst, Above All Names and Krissy.

Warrior’s Promise has stepped into her role as a racing club horse well this year, seen here giving her ever-growing fanbase a confident glance in the paddock.

Sunburst has been a revelation in her short career so far. After a respectable second place on debut, she quickly broke her maiden when winning a Maiden Special Weight against many of the same company that Warrior’s Promise squared up against on June 15th. Even more impressively, she came back three weeks later to triumph over the boys in a three-year-old allowance race, besting River Rock Casino Stakes runner up, Dat Day in the process. The filly has made her move late in all her races and looks to be one who will relish the chance to go longer the route course at Hastings.

Krissy has made significant strides forward in 2019 for owner/trainer/breeder, Dino Condilenios. After hitting the board in every one of her five 2018 starts, the daughter of Pop Artist made light work of a Maiden Special Weight field on opening weekend. Any worry of a drop off against winners were soundly dismissed two weeks later with an eight length romp in Allowance company. The Emerald Downs Stakes probably came a little bit too quickly for Krissy, resulting in just over a month off and will leave her in good condition to discover if she can compete with the class of her division. Most effective when going gate-to-wire, Krissy adds an interesting twist to the pace scenario in this upcoming race and may be the one to ensure that Summerland is forced into honest fractions.

Krissy has been turning heads in the paddock and on the track during the 2019 season.

Above All Names is a new face around these parts having previously plied her trade at Woodbine. After notching her first win in an October 2018 Maiden Special Weight, the daughter of Skipshot picked up her second score in her most recent outing against a Allowance Optional $75,000 Claiming field on the turf. Although there is no doubting her ability, there may be question-marks about her ability to hit the ground running in this race. Hastings features a much tighter track than she will be used to in Toronto and the change in racing surface to Dirt will be another change the handicappers will have to navigate. Any concerns about her lack of Hastings experience may be slightly offset by the booking of multiple Champion Jockey, Richard Hamel.

For those left feeling the field for the Emerald Downs Stakes was a little bit lackluster, the Supernaturel should pique the interest of bettors and racing fans alike. Newcomers Krissy and Sunburst have already proven that their maiden-breaking wins were no fluke and the added distance inserts an element of doubt into the chances of the likely favourite, Summerland. Although the two-year-old champion has won over this distance once before in the 2018 Fantasy Stakes, that was a hard fought 3/4 length win against Dancin Shoes and her most spectacular wins have been over sprint distances. Further boosting the chances of an upset, Summerland has the highest weight in the field by some margin, carrying 125 pounds.

Jeff Burningham and Patty Leaney discuss race tactics in a Club II filled paddock.

For Club II owners, there may be an element of trepidation coming into this race after Northern Graystar upset their odds-on favourite last time out. Their filly has finished all of her races strongly though and trainer Patty Leaney spoke hopefully earlier in the year about her chances of going a longer distance. Krissy injecting some pace on the front end may open the race up a little, however Warrior’s Promise will have to accept that Dancin Shoes, Sunburst and Above All Names will be lining up alongside her trying to knock Summerland off her perch.

It should be an exciting race for the neutrals and is a fitting crown jewel on the Canada Day festivities at Hastings. This is always one of the better attended days of the year and we had a full paddock for the last race for our star filly so please get trackside nice and early to grab your program and get your name down on the paddock list.

Weekend Round Up: June 15th/16th

Warrior’s Promise

After an impressive pair of runner-up efforts behind star filly Summerland, Club II’s three-year-old, Warrior’s Promise was given some class relief and entered into a Maiden Option Claiming $50,000 race on Saturday with Jeff Burningham retaining the mount.

Warrior’s Promise taking in a large crowd of Club II members in the paddock.

After an exemplary paddocking and post-parade from the Club star, the field of seven was reduced by one with the gate scratch of one of the projected pacesetters, Amazonian. In a fashion consistent with her previous starts Warrior’s Promise broke cleanly and settled to track the leaders, giving a couple of lengths to Butterscotch Blend and the front-running Northern Graystar.

Towards the conclusion of the back stretch, Butterscotch Blend started tiring, forcing Jeff to move his mount to the outside to navigate around her. It turned out that neither occupying the rail, nor being in the three-wide position that Warrior’s Promise found herself in would have made a difference to the outcome of the race.

Warrior’s Promise being asked to settle behind the front runners coming down the opening stretch.

Despite being involved in the early battle for the lead, Northern Graystar took Scott Williams’ cue to head for home and powered around the final turn, stretching out down the home straight to record a four and a quarter length win. In a performance that few saw coming, the 15/1 winner put the three-year-old division on notice, stopping the clock in a time only marginally slower than Summerland had achieved two weeks earlier.

Although being a beaten odds-on favourite always brings some disappointment, Warrior’s Promise looked strong down the stretch yet again and was almost five lengths clear of third place Solarity.

An unfortunately familiar sight as Warrior’s Promise tries in vain to chase down an impressive winner.

Warrior’s Promise ran a very similar race to last time out and in the vast majority of Maiden races at Hastings would have been more than good enough to get her illusive first win. It will go down as a race that Club II members will be shrugging their shoulders at, wondering when they will stop running into hot fillies – although a trio of second place finishes is at least a moderate consolation.

Square Dancer

There are few horses at Hastings that draw as much anticipation for their season debut as 2015 Horse of the Year, Square Dancer. After a carefully managed pre-season, the Club I gelding found himself in tough company facing a host of former Stakes winners in a $25,000 Waiver Claiming event. The entry saw Scott Williams pick up the mount – a definite positive after being the one who guided him to his only win in the 2018 racing season.

Square Dancer is reunited with his reliable partner in crime, Scott Williams.

The weekend’s racing at Hastings had tended to benefit horses running towards the front of the pack, which certainly doesn’t favour a late closer like Square Dancer. Although not taking part in the early pace-setting, Dancer settled a few lengths off the lead in fifth position and kept well in advance of the early trailer, Speculator who took the patient approach hoping for some tired horses to run into at the conclusion of the race.

Dancer settling off the early pace hitting the clubhouse turn.

With AP Zona and Not Yet occupying the space to the inside, Dancer was pushed out five wide going into the first turn, maintaining his position until the end of the second trip down the back stretch. As the front runners started to get asked for more he found himself to the outside of AP Zona yet again, having to settle for a wide trip around the turn for home.

At this point, some of Dancer’s freshness became apparent. The typical kick of speed down the stretch didn’t materialize and after realizing his mount wouldn’t be bothering the judges, Scott took care of him as he came home in seventh place. While owners would undoubtedly have hoped for a more positive outcome, the toughness of this event was confirmed as the finishing time was almost as quick as the preceding race – the John Longden 6000 Stakes.

Dancer and Scott come back to unsaddle before heading off to get cleaned up.

While the wide trip and speed favouring nature of the track didn’t help, the fact that five of the six horses who finished ahead of him had already races in 2019 may explain the result. Although he has worked out 6 furlongs on a couple of occasions, it is tough to be firing on full cylinders first time out, especially over a route distance with such tough company. For those Club I members looking for further reassurance, their star has often needed a race under his belt to begin the season and hasn’t hit the board on his last 4 season debuts at Hastings. In more ways than one, with our beloved nine-year-old it is often a marathon, rather than a sprint.

Dancer back in the shed-row cooling down .

The First Dance

Coming into his fifth season at Hastings, Square Dancer’s trainer Steve Henson has got his pre-season schedule down to a science, gradually building up his fitness waiting for June 1st when his preferred longer distance races at Hastings begin to fill the condition book.

Club I and their favourite son will get the chance to kick off their 2019 season as Dancer takes his spot in a field of eight $25,000 claimers. The race has attracted a strong lineup, including the top three finishers from the 2018 SW Randall Plate Stakes.

Square Dancer strikes a typically serious pose while taking a break from pre-season training.

A pair from Peter Redekop’s impressive string of horses occupy the inside gates in the form of two former Stakes winners at Hastings – Absolutely Stylish and AP Zona. Club I members may have chosen to forget the front-running Absolutely Stylish after his narrow win over a late closing Square Dancer last yearmail. AP Zona had a scintillating three-year-old year, however has struggled to find form in his first two starts of 2019 after missing the entirety of last season. Trainer Phil Hall’s chances will be strengthened by the variation in their running styles, with Absolutely Stylish most effective when trying to lead the pack from gate to wire and AP Zona coming off the pace to pick off any tiring horses.

In gate three is Steve Henson’s other entrant, Don’t Hold Me Back. Making his seasonal Hastings debut, the son of Hold Me Back is another who managed to best our Club I horse in 2018, winning by 5 lengths in a race he lead all the way. He spent the winter down in Arizona with Steve performing respectably finishing in the money in 3 of his 5 starts.

Pioneerof The West will make his first start at Hastings on Sunday having recently shipped up from California. His last win came in January at Santa Anita at the $12,500 level and he has placed in a $20,000 claimer since then. Although he was running at a lower claiming level than he is entered for on Sunday, the quality of the circuit down South means some reasonable caution will have to be given to the seven-year-old.

Dancer parading before his second place effort to Dashing Don on July 27th, 2018.

Next across the starting gate is four-year-old Not Yet who will be making his first start of 2019 for Rob Gilker. He comes off of a sophomore campaign that would best be described as hot and cold. After failing to hit the board in his first three starts, he turned heads and demanded an entry to the BC Derby when winning by over 8 lengths in an Allowance Optional Claimer in August. Although he has shown glimpses of real quality, making his first run of the year against a field of this quality will likely be a big ask for him to replicate one of his outstanding performances from last year.

Highway Boss will make his first start for a claiming price since the summer of 2017. A familiar figure from the Stakes division he picked up a 6th place in this year’s George Royal Stakes and will relish the extra distance and class relief that Sunday brings. Typically running in mid-pack and making his move late, he would benefit from any contested lead this weekend and will likely be one of the top choices at the mutuel tellers.

The final challenger is Speculator, a home-bred of the Bennett family and their sire Sungold. He has made one start this season finishing a non-threatening 5th. That was however over a distance of six furlongs and while he will need to improve on his Maiden $50,000 Optional Claiming win on closing day last year, he is another who has proven be far more competitive over the longer distance.

All smiles from Square Dancer and Scott Williams to the Club I owners after his solo victory in 2018.

Despite a trouble free pre-season and careful management of his schedule from trainer Steve, Square Dancer undoubtedly has a tough assignment. Sunday’s event features several horses who remain on the bubble of being legitimate Stakes contenders. Having one of Dancer’s previous riders, Scott Williams back on board is a bonus though and members will be hoping that a couple of the front runners show a little too much eagerness to open an opportunity for Dancer.

Regardless of the result there will be a lot of excitement to see the horse who started the Racing Clubs juggernaut back in 2015 back on the track doing what he loves doing the most.

A Maiden’s Challenge

After two big Stakes runner-up efforts, Warrior’s Promise has been entered to run again this Saturday with Jeff Burningham retaining the ride. Although the race is officially a Maiden $50,000 Optional Claimer, her six competitors closely resemble the Maiden Special Weight ranks.

Having been bested by only the leading three-year-old Summerland this year, our Club II filly will likely be a popular option with the wagering public. Although her task should be less daunting than her first two outings of the year, a few of her competitors have been quietly putting together strong openings to their campaigns as well.

Warrior’s Promise, Jeff Burningham and a thick layer of dirt after the Emerald Downs Handicap Stakes.

Two of her foes, Amazonian and Solarity know each other very well having stared each other down in their previous start. Both fillies went to the front early in a Maiden Special Weight on May 26th, battling for the lead until the final stretch where they both succumbed to a bold late run from Sunburst. These two have consistently threatened to notch their first wins, having hit the board in all of their five combined starts at the Maiden Special Weight level and cannot be discounted on Saturday.

The Rob Gilker trained Butterscotch Blend also comes out of the same May 26th race. Although she finished in fourth, she was only a length behind Amazonian and was the making her seasonal debut, so a bump in her fitness may well see her in contention this weekend.

Occupying the six-hole is Glen Todd’s filly Northern Graystar – a $100,000 sale topping purchase from the 2017 CTHS BC sale. She hasn’t raced since opening weekend, where she finished fifth in a Maiden Special Weight dominated by the now two-time winner, Krissy. While her race performances will need to pick up to compete against this group she has trained forwardly over the last couple of weeks, most recently travelling five furlongs in 59.60 on June 9th.

Suzy Mascara is another who last started in Krissy’s Maiden Special Weight win and has enlisted the services of veteran jockey JR Dailey who will be picking up his first day of mounts since 2016. Finishing a nose in front of Northern Graystar on that occasion, she could be one to improve, especially considering her late closing running style and the anticipated speed in this event.

The wildcard of the field will be Nice Brown Girl, who will be making her career debut for trainer Rob Maybin and will benefit from the experienced hands of Enrique Gonzalez who picks up the mount. The daughter of Alternation has been training steadily for this race, last posting a 1:00.20 five-furlong workout on June 9th.

Jockey Jeff and Trainer Patty admire their horse and have a post-race debrief after the last outing for Warrior’s Promise.

There will naturally be a lot of enthusiasm for Warrior’s Promise coming into this race. Her experience sitting off an early lead may be a useful asset should Amazonian and Solarity battle to lead the way again. The only minor concern for Club II members will be the outside gate position, although she has typically shown enough speed out of the gate to clear any traffic and find a comfortable spot around the middle of the pack.

We look forward to seeing everyone trackside on Saturday and we’ll all be crossing our fingers, toes and hooves that we’re celebrating our first winner of the 2019 season.

Battling ‘Til The End

If anyone needed reminding how well regarded the reigning two-year-old champion Summerland is, the lack of entries in the Emerald Downs Stakes underlined it as strongly as the tote board. The first four finishers from the Ross McLeod Stakes made up the entire field, with many casual observers wondering what change of tactics could possibly throw the star filly off of her game.

Warrior’s Promise crosses the line for the first time, with confirmation in the background of the respect that Summerland has in these parts, going off at odds of 1/9.

Club II filly Warrior’s Promise, fresh off her runner up effort in her three-year-old debut, looked impressive in the paddock and was as well mannered as her 200 owners could have hoped for. The entrants made it through the post-parade and loaded into the gate quickly, which was a welcome departure from the slight delay that the late scratch of Imevinimleavin had caused in their last race.

A calm and collected Warrior’s Promise in the paddock.

After sitting well off the pace in the Ross McLeod, Dancin Shoes changed her approach and tucked inside an early lead set by Summerland, joined closely in tow by Notice. Jeff Burningham decided that a ground saving trip behind the contesting front-runners was a good spot for the Club II filly as a swift opening quarter of 21.84 was posted.

The front running three continued to travel closely together until they hit the top of the home stretch. With only minimal urging from jockey Enrique Gonzalez, the front-running Summerland began to pull away from those who had tried to track her and never looked back, posting a six length margin of victory. Her finishing time knocked was a full second quicker than both her previous outing in the Ross McLeod and the time that Explode stopped the clock at during Sunday’s River Rock Casino Stakes for the boys.

The battle for the remainder of the $50,000 purse was a much tighter affair. Despite trailing the pack coming into the home stretch, Warrior’s Promise was directed to the inside rail and appeared to relish the challenge. Leaving her best turn of foot until the very end she managed to slip past both Notice and Dancin Shoes to finish second by a head. Considering the two and a half lengths she was behind Notice at the top of the stretch it was no doubt a placing that the Club II faithful will be happy with.

Warrior’s Promise makes her dash up the inside to pick up her second runners up finish in a row.

While the order of finish was similar to their previous outing, the victor was much improved and any hope that being pushed into a faster pace would weaken her chances proved futile. Although Warrior’s Promise didn’t have the same stylish stretch run she did last time out, she managed to overcome a significant amount of kickback and kept to her task all the way to the line. The continued presence of Summerland in the Stakes division may continue to attract small fields, however our filly has become multiple Stakes placed with a mixture of class and resilience which is never a bad combination to have in a racehorse.

Time for our two Warriors to head to the comfort of the backstretch and cleanup.