Weekend Round-Up: September 14th and 15th

Square Dancer

Taking part in the second leg of the Marathon Series, Square Dancer came into this race off the back of a couple of respectable third place finishes. Retaining Richard Hamel, Dancer was sent off as the narrow favourite by the betting public and showed typical calmness in an uneventful paddocking and post-parade.

Breaking well, and with the anticipation of a lack of speed in the race the Club I stalwart was placed six lengths off the early pace, which was set by Payton’s Best and tracked by Mousey Mousey in second. As is often the case in these races, there was little significant change throughout the opening circuit, with all of the jockeys being mindful to leave their mount with enough gas in the tank at the end of the 11 furlong trip.

As the pack passed the finish line for the second time the room afforded to Payton’s Best had been reduced to a length, while Mousey Mousey slowly began dropping back, leaving Dancer in prime striking position.

Dancer driving down the lane to hold off the advance of Cyclone Dan. Thanks to Club Member, Irvin for supplying the image.

Coming around the turn for home, the race sprung into life. Dancer breezed past a tiring Payton’s Best, with Sanawar and Cyclone Dan rallying to the outside. As the grueling stretch drive progressed, Cyclone Dan had the most left in his tank and began inching away at Dancer’s lead, however Dancer gamely stuck to his task and held off the challenger by a neck to secure the win.

Cold, wet and ecstatic racehorse owners! (Picture courtesy of Hastings).

Credit goes out to the Club I members who braved the poor weather to cheer on their hard-knocking champion and were treated to a trademark Hamel victory cheer as Dancer was welcomed back to the paddock.

Richard Hamel leads a cheer with the Club I winners circle. Thanks to Club Member, Austin for this great picture!

Warrior’s Promise

With her maiden status laid to waste in her last outing, Warrior’s Promise looked to repeat the feat going long against a tough Allowance field of “never won three” fillies and geldings.

WP, in buoyant mood, strikes a pose for the crowd.

Teaming up with jockey, Alex Marti for the first time, our Club II filly looked in good order while paddocking, looking like a horse who knew the commanding fashion she had dispatched her last group of rivals with.

A reassuring pat for our filly at the conclusion of the post-parade.

After coming out of the gate well, Warrior’s was sent toward the front of the pack, sitting off of the early pacesetter, Finally Gotcha. In a deviation from tactics earlier this year, this type of trip appeared to suit her well last time out at the sprint distance, so the repeat plan was no surprise for Club Members.

WP sits a length of the early pace while passing the tote board for the first time.

Heading into the clubhouse turn, Alex tried to save some ground and tuck her in behind the pacesetter along the rail, while El Noble moved alongside to inch into second place.

Whether it was the ground or the kickback that affected our filly, she didn’t appear to be travelling very well and as the pace quickened she quickly lost places, leaving Alex to swing her to the outside as the stretch commenced. Alex accepted that her chance of a placing were over and took care of her down the stretch.

Alex, Jaymie and and WP head back to get cleaned up after a sobering result.

After the elation of her win, it was not the follow up performance that Club II members would have been wishing for. Patti did report that our filly looked well after coming back to the barn, so this may be one that we need to forgot about as quickly as possible and give her another chance to prove that she can put her best foot forward against winners.

Extra Extra! Hastings Round-Up by Nigel Reid

With the Derby Bar and Grill Newsletter on it’s annual “Keeneland Yearling Sale Summer Vacation”, a few club members may have been drinking their morning coffee with a lack of suitable reading literature. Fear not – here is the Round-Up for yesterday’s huge day for Club I.

Hastings Round-Up: September 14th

Dancer dries damp spirits with Marathon win

by Nigel Reid

The seemingly early onset of the autumn monsoon season failed to dampen the spirits of a small army of Hastings Racing Club horse owners, all intent on cheering their pride and joy home in the second leg of the Hastings Marathon Series.

Now a battle-hardened nine-year-old, Square Dancer has retained his enthusiasm under the consummate handling of trainer Steve Henson, even if it did appear earlier in the season as though the war horse’s powers may be slightly on the wane.

However, underestimate the old fellow at your peril was the message when, after joining forces with another campaign veteran in Richard Hamel, the wily pair saw off a tough group to take the lion’s share of the $16,000 purse on offer for the second leg of the Marathon Series.

What a servant Square Dancer has been. His neck win on Saturday may have been his first since July 2018, but it was his eleventh in a 52-race career and made a mockery of the concerns anyone had that he might not enjoy the rain-soaked surface or the 11-furlong distance. Hell or high water is all the same to “The Dancer” and he was cheered rapturously upon his return to a winner’s circle filled to the brim by Hastings Racing Club I members.

A super shot of Dancer, taken by track photographer Patti Tubbs.

Syndicate, or group, ownership in all sizes is the future of our sport, and it was good to see another bunch of friends, albeit a slightly smaller crew than the Hastings Racing Club army, land the second race of the afternoon.

Cape Lite was making her first start for her new connections since they shrewdly claimed her last month. Now owned by Mark Freeman’s Renfrew Racing III and trained by David Milburn, the daughter of Cape Blanco has demonstrated real consistency this season for her previous trainer Craig MacPherson, hitting the board in all but her first run.

Ridden in the $8,000 claimer by lightweight apprentice Lenny Seecharan (which allowed connections to reduce her weight and claiming price down to $7,000), Cape Lite was settled near the lead early before moving to challenge running into the far turn. Rousted along two wide by Seecharan, the filly had too much for her rivals and handling the conditions best, was pulling away at the line to win by a comfy length-and-three-quarters.

Cape Lite was a second winner of the afternoon for Seecharan after he steered Sea Cadet to victory in the opener, a $4,000 claiming contest over six-and-a-half furlongs.

Owned by the Rocking Bar B outfit and trained (and bred) by Frank Barroby, the three-year-old Numaany gelding made a decisive move entering the far turn and just had enough to see off the late-driving P S Charlie Brown.

Seecharan’s excellent double was overshadowed by a treble for leading rider Amadeo Perez. The first came in the six-and-a-half furlong maiden claimer event for juveniles where, riding Walkinthewalk for Mark Cloutier and Canmor Farms, he eventually got the better of Queen’s Park after a furious stretch duel.

Queen’s Park, who finished third in last month’s $50,000 CTHS Sales Stake, had taken Walkinthewalk on from the outset. Together, the pair drew right away from their rivals in what looked, superficially at least, to be an above average event.

By the freshman sire Danza, Walkinthewalk was another winning graduate of the CTHS Horse of Racing Age Sale back in March, where she was knocked down to Canmor’s Ole Nielson for $15,000, and is one of four recent winners to have passed through the auction.

Both Queen’s Park and Walkinthewalk had bumped into the young superstar Infinite Patience on previous outings and their impressive display on Saturday has done nothing but frank the form of the best juvenile seen at Hastings in 2019.

The next race on the card was also a juvenile contest; this one a maiden optional claimer over six-and-a-half furlongs that threw up another impressive performer in the shape of RJ and Lois Bennett’s homebred, Synergy.

Trained by Barb Heads, Synergy was among the best moving youngsters in the paddock prior to the $20,000 heat and confirmed that impression with an eye-catching win on just his second ever start.

Like so many of his progeny seem to, the Sungold gelding was doing all his best work at the business end, running on with real purpose to neutralize the gap to Gottcha Cowboy in a matter of strides, before powering away to win gearing down under a cute ride by Antonio Reyes.

The ongoing four-way battle for leading rider honors continues to go back and forth with each passing race and, not content to watch Reyes move ahead of him, Amadeo Perez took the final two races of an increasingly wet afternoon.

The first came aboard Stevie’s Song in a $4,000 claiming contest for trainer Mark Cloutier and owners, Roy and Dixie Jacobson and Toni Cloutier.

Yet another winner for the BC sire Storm Victory, Stevie’s Song has been knocking on the gate to the winner’s circle all season, with three seconds and a third from his previous five runs. Such consistency, the Holy Grail of equine attributes, had obviously alerted the backstretch however, and the three-year-old was snagged at the claims box after the race and will now join trainer Demetris Topouzis for owners MJD Stables.

Perez then struck again in the nightcap, taking the $8,000 claimer aboard The Odds R Good for trainer Mel Snow and his fellow owners, Don Danard and Rob McKellar. Breaking sharply, the distinctive seven-year-old grey seemed to relish the sloppy track, bounding his way to a gate-to-wire victory that was his first of the season, but tenth overall and third on an off surface.

Predictably, the intermittent downpours did little to help the on-track handle – the just more than $56,000 coming in around $10,000 lower than 12 months ago. The off-track figure held up well when compared to 2018 and, at a shade above $265,000, was even a little ahead of last year.

Going Long

Racing Clubbers of both persuasions will have some action as Square Dancer and Warrior’s Promise hit the track again this weekend, stretching out to longer distances than they faced last time. With the Friday Night Live racedays finished for the summer, Dancer will be on Saturday afternoon and Warrior’s Promise the following day.

Square Dancer

Dancer looks to have a great chance as he stretches out to the marathon distance.

In a race that Club I members will be all to familiar with, Dancer has been entered into a field of 6 for the second leg of BC Marathon Series, being ran over 11 furlongs. Retaining Richard Hamel on board, this will be Dancer’s longest trip to date, which should suit him well as he has always been one to enjoy longer distances and make late runs.

Installed as the 8/5 morning line favourite, Dancer should be well supported in the betting market, however on the rail will be Sanawar who made an impact on the first leg of the Marathon Series, when his late charge saw him finishing only a head behind Pioneerof the West. With a similar late closing running style to Dancer, this could end up being coming down to which of the two can get the trip the better, given that all horses at Hastings are unexposed at this one-off distance.

The front end will likely occupied by Paytons Best and Flemings Beach. Both have shown route speed before and we’ll be hoping that neither one will be afforded a long leash, as the biggest change of an upset in this race would be posed by a pedestrian pace on the front end.

Filling out the field will be a pair of winning machines who have proven very capable at the $4,000 level at Hastings this year. The only filly in the race, Mousey Mousey has been a revelation, rattling off 4 wins in her 8 starts – the most recent coming after jumping in class to a $7,500 claiming event at Emerald Downs. Cyclone Dan, fresh off a pair of wins at the $4,000 level will make his first start off the claim for new trainer Pat Jarvis and will be another looking for some pace to close into late.

Given everything that we know about Dancer, he fits into this field very well. Provided there is at least an honest pace on the head end club members will be hoping that he can improve on his last two third place finishes and get Club I off the mark for the year.

Warrior’s Promise

Warrior’s Promise takes on the boys in a tough allowance race.

The jump in class from maiden company to running against winners can be one of the biggest leaps a racehorse will make in their career, and indeed it appears to be that way for Club II’s Warrior’s Promise. After an electrifying win a couple of weeks ago, she will be stepping up to the route distance for an Allowance race (for non winners of three races) and slots into a field of seven fillies and geldings. Alex Marti, who has recently recovered from injury will pick up the ride as Amadeo Perez is down at Emerald Downs riding in Stakes races.

One to watch out for will be El Noble has been running consistently this year, finishing second best in three different allowance races and retains the services of leading jockey Enrique Gonzalez. Fourth in the BC Derby last year, distance is no problem for this son of Istan and given recent results his second career win must be a case of when, not if.

The other four-year-old will be Harry’s Hammer. Another winner of one, Harry’s Hammer has been a bit off form this year since his season debut that saw him dead-heat for second place. He will enlist the services of Romario Saunders as connections keep the faith and try to unlock his impressive 2018 form again.

The only other filly in the event will be Cha Ching, who will need to introduction to Club II owners. Although she has not raced since beating Warrior’s Promise into third on August 5th she looked like one that had the ability to stretch out to a longer distance and could a threat to notch up a win against the boys in a similar fashion that her stablemate Sunburst did earlier this year.

Fright Night is a winner of two who will slot to the inside of the 3 hole that Warrior’s Promise will occupy. Managing to benefit from the conditions of this race, the son of New Year’s Day actually beat a couple of this field last time out in a non-winners-of-two and will be a popular pick to repeat this feat with Richard Hamel retaining the ride.

One of those that Fright Night beat last time out is Dat Day. After a runners up finish in the River Rock Casino Handicap, the Craig MacPherson trainee has been running consistently all year, not finishing worse than fourth in the fie races since that effort.

Rounding out the field will be Finally Gottcha who will break from the rail under the benefit of a weight allowance from apprentice rider Lenny Seecharan. After fading late in a route allowance race a couple of starts ago there will be question-marks about the distance, however his two third place sprint finishes against similar opposition on either side of that race show that there is some quality lurking in the son of Gottcha Gold.

With such talent field of opponents, this will be an interesting learning experience for Club II members as they find out how their filly can handle some of the better winners on the grounds and also hope to get an indicator of whether she has as much ability going long as she does sprinting. Whatever the result, this race should give us a good indicator of how the season will conclude for our most successful Club horse for the year.

Weekend Round-Up: September 7th

Although thousands of eyes were glued to the scintillating stretch duel between Five Star General and Explode in the BC Derby, there were 200 racegoers just as interested in the nightcap for the big day.

Fast Bid, making her second appearance for Club II, looked to have found a much more suitable spot against $6,250 claiming fillies and mares and was installed as the second favourite by the wagering public in a competitive field of eight.

All smiles from Antonio who greeted the Club II crowd with enthusiasm in the paddock.

After a little apprehension last time out, Bidder was a professional in the paddock, being uneventfully united with her new rider – Antonio Reyes. Antonio has been having a stellar year and came into the race in excellent form, having made two trips to the winners circle on Friday evening.

Bidder and Antonio set off onto the track in relaxed fashion.

Out of the gate, Bidder broke well and moved up into second place, sitting a length off the expected early pacesetter, Veloso Raptor. Clubbers who have scouted out Fast Bid’s old races from California will know that this is not something she has been asked to do before and fortunately she looked more than willing to mix things up towards the head end.

Follow the leader. Bidder sits a length off the lead heading down the stretch for the first time.

Before the race we’d noted that despite the big field, there was a lack of obvious speed and indeed the race played out that way. Bidder was the closest to Veloso Raptor throughout the first half of the race, resulting in some quite comfortable fractions of 24.71 and 48.48.

After sitting in behind our mare for the early proceedings, Mori Girl made a move along the rail to briefly pass her at the conclusion of the back stretch. That move proved short lived though, as Antonio gave Bidder her cue around the turn for home and she quickly sprung back into second position.

Bidder stays on gamely for third down the lane.

Hitting the top of the lane, Veloso Raptor was enjoying the surplus of energy that an easy lead at Hastings will afford you and never saw her lead drop below two lengths all the way to the finish line, securing her second win of the season. Coming from deep in the pack, the betting favourite – Seeking Bull make a smart late move under Mario Gutierrez , which proved enough to bump a slightly tiring Bidder into third spot.

A solid showing for the Club II newcomer, who came back with significantly less mud on her face than in her Hastings debut.

The consensus after the race appeared to be one of satisfaction and many will have been happy to see Bidder hit the board, especially as she appears to have added sitting off the pace to her raceday arsenal. She appeared happy with herself during her post-race wash-down with groom Danny and we look forward to seeing her build on what will go down as a solid showing.

Smiles all around as Bidder cools off after the race.

Second Bid

After a lack of options in the condition book, Fast Bid failed to make an impact against a tough field of boys in her opening race of her Hastings Racecourse career. Thankfully a much more suitable option has come up – a $6,250 route race for fillies and mares. Carded as the tenth race on Saturday it is exciting that we’ll be able to have a runner on BC Derby Day, even if we are not competing for one of the main prizes.

Bidder looks to become the second Club II winner of the year after the maiden-breaking Warrior’s Promise got her win photo last Friday/

While this coming race may not have the Stakes winning form that her last one did, her nine competitors certainly do not lack experience and there are multiple 2019 winners over the 8.5 furlong distance. Bidder will team up with the experienced rider, Antonio Reyes, who will have an excellent idea of how the track is playing, given that he has a mount in every race on Saturday.

With the healthy sized field we’ll have a quick overview of each of the runners taking part on Saturday:

  • Don’t Tell Judy – ridden by Jose Gomez, the Jean Lavallee trained daughter of Rocky Bar has struggled to find her best stride this year. After an impressive 2018 that saw her make 4 visits to the winners circle, she has only one third from her eight starts in 2019 and that came in a sprint race.
  • Seven Chances – the Steve Henson trained Gotcha Gold filly has found a new lease of life since the middle of last year, in no small part to her connection with Jose Asencio. She already has a Hastings win this season over this distance at the $4,000 level and her consistent late running has seen her hit the board in all but two of her nine starts this year.
  • Storm Cruiser – as one of two entrants opting to buy down their weight (entering for a reduced $5,000 claiming price) will be further bolstered by apprentice jockey Learie Seecharan taking off a further seven pounds. Connections will be hoping that her significantly lighter weight, coupled with a quickly ran race will be enough for her to try to close into down the home stretch.
  • Seeking Bull – multiple Kentucky Derby winning jockey, Mario Gutierrez is back in town for Derby Day and will ride for Glen Todd. A winner last time out over this distance at $4,000, she will be another looking for a swift pace to run into at the business end of the race.
  • Expensive Taste – Richard Hamel will ride the daughter of Giant’s Causeway who is back from a three race stint at Century Mile. She has not hit the board since a pair of sprint wins to finish off her 2018 campaign and while relatively untested, is yet to hit the board at this distance.
  • Veloso Raptor – as one of the likely front-runners in this event, the J C Roque ridden son of Regal Ransom will benefit from any lack of action on the head-end. The distance will not be an issue and back on June 22nd led a field of $4,000 fillies and mares for the entirety of their 8.5 furlong event.
  • Bad and Bougie – ridden by Rigo Sarmiento, the Erick Gutierrez trainee has been the model of consistency this year. Hitting the board in all five starts and picking up a couple of wins she has raced through her conditions. The challenge to her today will be both the step up in claiming price and also tackling the route distance for the first time this year.
  • Commercial Appeal the ten time winner has already picked up a win photo this year going today’s distance. Although the length of the trip won’t be a problem, she is making the step up from $4,000 and she has a similar late closing style to quite a few others in this event.
  • Mori Girl – a distant sixth last time out in a sprint, Mori Girl will enjoy returning to the longer distance and the weight allowance afforded by apprentice Lenny Seecharan. Like others in this race, she already has a win at $4,000 at this trip this year and the biggest question will be how she can adjust to the tougher field.

After what could be discounted as a Hastings training race last time our for Bidder, it will be exciting to see how she compares with some of the most battle tested fillies and mares on the grounds. Although you are typically guaranteed a strong pace with a field of ten entrants, there do appear to be quite a few who prefer to leave their best move for late – including our Club II newcomer. We’ll be crossing our fingers that a couple of competitors decide to mix up their race tactics and ensure that we have a decent shot of passing some tiring front runners down the home stretch.

Bidder has been inserted as the 3/1 morning line favourite, however this is a hugely competitive race and the betting public may have their own ideas about who will be belle of the ball in this event.

We will have the program table set out nice and early before the first race and look forward to seeing a large contingent from both clubs at the track for the biggest day in our racing calendar.

Weekend Round-Up: August 30th

When not racing star three-year-olds in Stakes races, Warrior’s Promise has been drawing the short straw, finding soon-to-be-star fillies in the Maiden ranks. Friday night saw her take her third shot of the season against follow “never wons” in the form of a Maiden $50,000 Optional Claimer.

The field looked a touch softer than the other two Maiden races this year and with the raceday scratch of second favourite, Reproach, there was a cautious optimism that this may be the day for Club II owners to get their picture taken with their leading lady.

WP seemed to be interested by the change of scenery for her first Friday night race at Hastings.

Despite having blinkers on for the first time this year and the lights in the paddock going out shortly after the horses got there, Warrior’s took to her pre-race duties with typical calmness, her top lip chatting away to Jaymie as she was led around. Being united with new jockey Amadeo Perez, our filly headed off to the gate without event, along with the other five entrants.

Warrior’s Promise getting settled in the starting gate (thanks to Club Member, Myra for supplying this awesome unique perspective!).

Perhaps with flashbacks to Northern Graystar’s win against our filly earlier in the year, there was a consensus that our filly would hopefully break well and not afford a leader too much room. WP was perhaps half a step slower out of the gate than her rival to the outside – La Principessa, but showed a good turn of foot down the opening stretch to leave herself within a length of the early leader.

Amadeo, cool as a cucumber lets Warrior’s bask in her moment of glory as she passes the line. (Thanks to Michael Bye for this outstanding photo!).

Moving down the backstretch our filly was eager to get going, and as the turn for home approached, her reins were loosened a little and she glided past the second favourite. Travelling around the bend, all Amadeo had to do was have a look behind to see the distance opening up as she hit the stretch with a cozy four length lead.

Although the Club II crowd did more urging than Amadeo did down the stretch, she kept opening up, basking in the Friday night spotlight. The official chart pegs her margin of victory as 10 and 1/4 lengths ahead of La Principessa who held on gamely for second.

Amadeo did a fantastic job of getting to the paddock on time for his next race (which he also won!) after shaking hands with dozens of Club Members.

It was a mixture of excitement, with a touch of relief for Club II members after the race, who have seen their filly run some excellent races this year only to come up short against some top quality opposition. Seeing her win in such convincing style was great to see and although the pace setup perfectly for her she was more than eager to stretch her legs down the stretch and finish things in style.

Can horses smile? We’ll let WP be the decider of that one!

We would be amiss not to include a huge thank you to Patty, Jaymie and the crew in the barn, along with Amadeo who let her shine on Friday night. Also in our minds is her regular rider, Jeff Burningham who would have had one of the biggest smiles of all in the Winners Circle if not for his unfortunate injury earlier in the season.

Congratulations Club II, and onwards and upwards!

A midnight snack of hay, mixed in with handfuls of carrots from Patti’s secret stash were awaiting our girl after she got back to her stall.