Saturday, October 26, 2013

Christmas in October! It's International Day at Woodbine...

International day is, by far, my favourite racing day of the year at Woodbine.  It brings back so many memories of coming to the races with my dad, an Irishman, who likely backed every Irish jockey to ever leave the gate in a race I still sometimes mistakenly call the Rothmans International.

Remember the Rothmans?

I was just a kid in 1983 when I watched Englishman Walter Swinburn guide All Along to victory in the International, but I knew I was seeing something special.

This wasn’t just a filly beating the boys, this was an Arc de Triomphe winner coming back on two-weeks rest after a flight across the ocean. Imagine anyone trying that in this day and age?

All Along went on to capture the Turf Classic at Aqueduct and the Washington, D.C. International Stakes at Laurel earning a $1-million bonus for capturing three of North America’s top turf races.

Although we do not have a horse of All Along’s significant character at Woodbine this weekend (let’s not forget we were treated to back-to-back Woodbine Mile wins from Wise Dan), this is still a day loaded with talent.

We have Group / Graded winners from all parts of the world such as the Irish-bred fillies No Explaining, Moment In Time and Tannery; the French-bred Minakshi; and German-bred Samba Brazil along with U.S-bred Colonial Flag.

The PATTISON International is loaded with quality and potential including the Irish-bred Joshua Tree who makes his fourth appearance in the race having won it twice to go along with a second-place effort.

Seismos, bred in Ireland but racing primarily in Germany, is a Group 1 winner.

British-breds Forte Dei Marmi, Slumber and Now We Can add to the International appeal.
Forte Dei Marmi
And as a fan that hung out at the rail and collected autographs as a kid, the star potential on Sunday’s jockey index is staggering.

Andrea Atzeni arrives at Woodbine fresh off a Group 1 score in Saturday’s Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster.

Stephane Pasquier rode Rail Link to victory in the 2006 edition of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.

Ryan Moore was champion jockey in 2006, 2008 and 2009 and has won the Arc and Epsom Derby to name just a couple major European races.

Joel Rosario, Mike Smith and  John Velazquez have accomplishments too numerous to mention in North America
Fans can meet the greats like John Velazquez
Part of the joy of this day is a chance to see “our” talent match up with the best of the world.

Eurico Rosa da Silva, one of Woodbine’s top local jockeys, will ride 3-1 morning line favourite Forte Dei Marmi in the International.  Forte Dei Marmi is trained by local legend Roger Attfield, a Hall of Fame trainer.

Know that the grandstand will erupt if little Forte can topple this field.

Perfect Timber, a horse bred right here in Ontario, is 12-1 on the morning line and is a live long shot in his race.  I had the pleasure of writing a feature story on Perfect Timber’s exercise rider AllysonWalker this week and I have high hopes for a storybook post script.
Irish Mission!

Irish Mission, a lanky filly known as ‘Biggins’, is cross-entered in both big races and is a huge fan favourite at Woodbine. 

And Nancy O, bred in Ireland but based at Woodbine in the barn of Carolyn Costigan, has developed a local following as well.

International day packs a lot of emotion into a few short hours.  I’m excited to be a part of it and, rain or shine, I can’t wait for Dan Loiselle’s call.


If you’re betting Woodbine tomorrow, you MUST visit our Canadian International site which is loaded with key information.

Val Grash and Sid Fernando have analyzed the E.P. Taylor Stakes with an eye on pedigree power.

Pat Cummings of Trakus provides a full data analysis of theCanadian International field.

In addition to all that info, there are feature stories, news and notes and so many great pictures courtesy of Mike Burns.


Here’s my selections for the two big races on the card:


Samba Brazil (12-1) is going to be the wise guy horse. She won a Group 3 race at a mile on yielding ground followed by a fourth-place run in a Group 1 at a mile on soft turf against the boys.  Atzeni arrives from Europe for the mount. 

Tannery (2-1) is going to be tough as she LOVES soft going. Tannery was a Group 3 winner in Ireland and is a Grade 2 winner in the US. Last time out she finished second to Breeders Cup bound Laughing in the Grade 1 Flower Bowl.  And she races against the boys too having notched a fourth-place finish, defeated less than three lengths in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer won by Big Blue Kitten. Added bonus: she has defeated E.P. Taylor rival Minakshi this year on soft going and Minakshi defeated a few of the horses in this field last out in the Grade 2 Canadian.

NANCY O (30-1) – Her mum, Arravale, won this race on soft turf. Lightly raced, Nancy O was very impressive in her recent maiden score going seven furlongs.  Taking on quality Group 1 fillies is quite a step up, but she has faced good company throughout her short career including stakes winners Spring Venture, Spring in the Air, Are You Kidding Me and was closing on the rail in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf when shut off.

IRISH MISSION (8-1) – She’s always looking for distance on the turf and often takes on the boys.  She more than held her own in the Grade 1 Northern Dancer when she got rolling a little too late ending up fourth, defeated only a length, by three starters in the International field including the favoured Forte Dei Marmi.

  1. Tannery
  2. Samba Brazil
  3. Irish Mission


JOSHUA TREE (6-1) saved all the ground going wire to wire in last year’s edition.  He figures to rate off the pace of SEISMOS and STORMY LEN here. Ryan Moore will be charged with pushing the button at the right time and we know from experience this is a stubborn horse proven on the E.P. Taylor Turf Course.

SEISMOS (10-1) finished second to Novellist in a German Group 1 two starts back.  Novellist was the early favourite for the Arc De Triomphe before catching a fever and sold to stud.  It’s worth noting that the third-place finisher in that event came back to be 10th in the ARC in front of Joshua Tree (13th). Throw out his last race, a 2 ½-mile Group 1.

FORTE DEI MARMI (3-1) set a track record here winning the Sky Classic, a 1 ¼-mile race. He’s a little horse and loves the soft going as evidenced by his romp in the Grade 1 Singspiel in a monsoon. He finished third in this race last year. He NARROWLY defeated stablemate PERFECT TIMBER last time out in the G1 Northern Dancer while saving all the ground.

LUCAYAN (8-1) won the French Guineas over good to soft turf. It will be much softer than that on Sunday and as a deep closer, I’m a little worried, he’ll have a hard time digging in. He’s recently had traffic trouble in graded events in California. That said, Woodbine’s lengthy and expansive turf stretch, might suit him.


  1. Lucayan
  2. Seismos
  3. Joshua Tree
To borrow a line from Eurico Rosa da Silva - - Good luck to everybody!!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Queen's Plate Preview: Nipissing set to make a splash in Queen's Plate

On Sunday, a field of 12 will burst from the gate in the $1-million Queen's Plate, at Woodbine.

The Plate, the first jewel in the Canadian Triple Crown, is raced at a distance of 1 1/4-miles.  It will be the first attempt at the distance for each of the contenders and there are numerous questions to be answered in trying to decipher the race. 
Woodbine Oaks winner Nipissing
Who can get the distance?
 If Midnight Aria (15-1), as the lone pace presence, dictates a slow tempo, can he win gate to wire?

How much will the projected relaxed pace hamper closers such as Up With the Birds (2-1) and Pyrite Mountain (6-1)?

How will the fillies, Nipissing (7-2) and Spring in the Air (10-1), match up against the boys?

And, which horses have trained best coming into the race?

As an employee of the Woodbine media office, I’m hopeful that our QueensPlate.Com website can assist handicappers interpret an answer to all these questions, and more.

Over the past week, we’ve posted a number of resources on the site including video footage of final workouts for the contenders and a quintet of #QP2013 pieces, written by a talented group of Twitter personalities, each with their own angle.

Sid Fernando, an internationally known pedigree writer whose work has appeared in Daily Racing Form, Racing Post, Pacemaker and Thoroughbred Daily News, took a closer look at which contenders should be able to traverse 1¼-miles the quickest.

Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer who blogs at EquiSpace and has a weekly racing column in The Buffalo News, sat down with trainer Mark Casse to talk about his FOUR Queen’s Plate hopefuls - - DynamicSky, Spring in the Air, Jagger M and Kaigun.

On Saturday, we’ll hear from Pat Cummings, Director of Racing Information for Trakus, with a piece that analyzes pace dynamics by pouring over data from the Woodbine Oaks, presented by Budweiser, as well as the Plate Trial.

On Sunday, Ed DeRosa, Director of Marketing for BRISNet, will offer up a final #QP2013 piece that will include a Pick 4 matrix to help handicappers take down the guaranteed $200K Late Pick 4.

As an added bonus, free Queen’s Plate selections by HorsePlayer Now and BRISNet have been posted on the QueensPlate.Com homepage. And that's all in addition to Woodbine's daily handicapping resources.

That’s a lot of information to absorb, but I’m hopeful that by 5:38 p.m. EST on Sunday, we’ll all have selected the Queen’s Plate winner.

There are three main preps to review in advance of the Queen's Plate.  

The Marine Stakes won by Up With the Birds.

The Plate Trial won by Dynamic Sky.

The Woodbine Oaks won by Nipissing.

Let’s take a closer look at the field:

1 / Midnight Aria / Jesse Campbell / Nick Gonzalez / 15-1

In the Plate Trial, Midnight Aria was pushed through the opening quarter by longshot Holy Whirlwind. When the pressure subsided, jockey Jesse Campbell managed to carve out more moderate middle fractions and battled on gamely to be third, defeated less than two lengths by Dynamic Sky and runner-up His Race to Win.
Midnight Aria
It’s worth noting that Midnight Aria stayed on strong beyond the wire in the Plate Trial - - distance should not be a problem, as this was not a fading horse.  Trainer Nick Gonzalez has opened up the blinkers on the bay which should help him relax on the lead on Sunday.

If there’s a golden rail on Sunday at Woodbine, this is the only horse in the race with the front-running form to benefit.  He’s winter raced, making his eighth start of the season in the Plate, so fitness is not an issue.

The Midnight Lute colt put in a sharp :59.40 breeze on June 27 with fellow contender River Seven. (Watch thework here.)

2 / Dynamic Sky / Joel Rosario / Mark Casse / 4-1

A three-time winner, Dynamic Sky doesn’t always get a perfect trip.  He won the Pasco at Tampa in January; but then finished second, when racing wide, in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis.

In the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby, Dynamic Sky raced too close, and too wide, to the quick step of Verrazano, eventually finishing fourth.  His time on the Kentucky Derby trail came to a close when 9th, following a slow start, in the Grade 1 Blue Grass, at Keeneland.
Dynamic Sky 
Returned to the comfortable confines of Woodbine, Dynamic Sky closed to be third, with a good effort, in the seven furlong Queenston won by speedster Black Hornet. That winner came back to score in the Achievement Stakes.

Dynamic Sky, back at two turns, put in a sharp performance in the Plate Trial, going nine furlongs, closing from well back to nose out His Race to Win…for the win.

Joel Rosario, your 2013 Eclipse Award winning rider (let’s face it, he’s won), will pilot Dynamic Sky.  Rosario has enjoyed a remarkable season with wins in the $10-million Dubai World Cup, G1 Kentucky Derby, G1 Met Mile and he dominated the Keeneland meet like no other. He recently won at Royal Ascot, so why not add a Canadian classic to the mix?

Dynamic Sky breezed five furlongs in 1:01 on June 26. (Watch the work here.)

3 / Jagger M / Shaun Bridgmohan / Mark Casse / 20-1

Has Jagger M got the moves to win the Plate?

He’s a maiden winner, but he appears to have talent.  Two starts ago he finished in front of fellow Casse trainee Dynamic Sky in the Queenston.

Last time out in the Plate Trial, Jagger M closed from tenth, and last, to be sixth.  But, it might have been a better effort than it appears on paper

“It was the first time (for him) going two turns and they sprinted home,” said Casse. “He came home the last three-eighths in 36 and change.  So it was impossible for him to close so I thought all in all, his race was good.”

Since there’s likely no pace to run at in the Plate, it will be up to Shaun Bridgmohan to work out a trip.

Jagger M breezed five furlongs in 1:02.20 on June 30. (Watch the work here.)

4 / Spring in the Air / Joel Rosario / Mark Casse / 10-1

She’s the only Grade 1 winner in the field.  Sure, she’s a girl, but 34 fillies have won the Plate.  Inglorious, a daughter of Hennessy, won the Plate in 2011 so this is not an impossible or unheard of task.

By Spring at Last, the Casse trainee romped a maiden score by 10 lengths in August and nearly collared stablemate Spring Venture in the G2 Natalma when second, defeated less than two lengths.
Spring in the Air
Spring in the Air then shipped to Keeneland and won the G1 Darley Alcibiades before completing her campaign with a fifth-place run in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.

In her most recent starts, at Woodbine, Spring in the Air has flourished winning the seven furlong Fury Stakes and then closed from eighth, and last, to be second to Nipissing in the Woodbine Oaks.

Nipissing got the jump on Spring in the Air in the Oaks.

“Even (jockey) Joel (Rosario) said maybe he was too far back,” said Casse, about the Oaks.  “I don’t know.  I thought she had her opportunity to win. I just think Nipissing outran her that day.  We had every chance to beat her but she proved best. Hopefully we can move up a length or two (in the Plate).”

Gary Boulanger will take over the reins on Sunday with Rosario slated to ride Dynamic Sky.

Spring in the Air breezed five furlongs in 1:00.40 on June 29. To watch the work and interview with Boulanger, click here.

5 / County Lineman / Alex Solis / Mark Frostad / 30-1

He’s consistent.  Two wins and two thirds from six starts.  But, both his wins came at seven furlongs.

Last time out, the Mark Frostad trainee finished third in an allowance route won (by nearly nine lengths) by Good Better Best. That winner, a five-year-old, came back to be second in the Steady Growth Stakes.
County Lineman

Still, County Lineman, a rallying son of Silent Name, is on the improve even if stable mate Pyrite Mountain gets more column inches.

“He’s not a bad horse now.  He might surprise a few people,” offered Frostad.  “He’s a different type than the other one (Pyrite Mountain).   He’s very active.  He gets revved up pretty easily but he’s been getting better and I think he’ll give a good account of himself.” 

County Lineman breezed six furlongs, in company with Pyrite Mountain, in 1:12.20 on June 29. (Watch the work here.)

6 / Kaigun / Justin Stein / Mark Casse / 20-1

With only three starts to his name, Kaigun is likely to be the longest priced horse of the Casse quartet.

A son of Northern Afleet, Kaigun broke his maiden going two turns in a May 18 allowance route at Woodbine.  Last time out, in the Plate Trial, Kaigun, normally a deep closer, raced closer to the pace and finished seventh.

He’ll go back to closing on Sunday, but he’ll be one of many coming from the back into little pace.

“We’ve kind of rushed him along,” said Casse.  “His first two races he was way back and came running.  I thought in his last race we tried to keep him closer and it didn’t work. Jockey) Gary (Boulanger) said he was just running on and off (the bridle).   We’re going to give him another shot.   He’s trained probably as good as anybody other than Spring in the Air.”

Justin Stein, last year’s Plate winner, takes over on Sunday.

Kaigun breezed five furlongs in 1:00.20 on June 30. (Watchthe work here.)

7 / Up With the Birds / Eurico Rosa da Silva / Malcolm Pierce / 2-1

Ladies and gentlemen, your deserving Plate favourite! A four-time winner from six starts (to go along with a second and a third), the Stormy Atlantic colt regularly posts 80+ Beyer numbers.

Last time out, Up With the Birds earned a 90 Beyer Speed Figure when running away with the Marine Stakes over Grade 3 Lexington champ Winning Cause.

Up With the Birds has proven his talent on both sides of the border winning the Black Gold Stakes at Fair Grounds in Louisiana, and he also finished an excellent second, defeated a neck by Jack Milton, in the grassy Grade 3 Transylvania, at Keeneland.
Up With the Birds
Jockey Eurico Rosa da Silva has won this race on two occasions so the colt, trained by Malcolm Pierce for Sam-Son Farms, is in excellent hands.

Pierce isn’t concerned, at all, about the time off (six weeks) between the Marine and Queen’s Plate.

 “It was kind of planned,” said Pierce, about running in the Marine (on May 26) and directly into the Plate, while skipping the Plate Trial.  “We did that on purpose to give him six weeks (between starts).   He’s an easy horse to train, not hard on himself.  He’s medium-sized but he carries good weight.   I’m not worried about it (time between races).  I think the timing’s good.   I want to go into the Plate with a fresh horse.”

Up With the Birds breezed five furlongs in 1:00.60 with stablemate His Race to Win on June 30. (Watch the work here.)

8 / Rackman / Jim McAleney / Nick Nosowenko / 50-1

He’s 50-1 and likely longer odds come post time for the Plate, but you have to be in it to win it.

Like Oaks winning filly Nipissing, he’s sired by 2004 Plate winner Niigon - - and that alone, gave aforementioned pedigree expert SidFernando, pause to reflect:

Rackman, a homebred for Mike and Nick Nosowenko, is not as accomplished as Nipissing. It took him nine starts to break his maiden, and even that was accomplished in a dead heat last time out. But he, too, stalks the pace, and his race record bears some resemblance to that of his sire's. It took Niigon seven starts to win his first race, and the Queen's Plate was only his second win from nine starts.
Nosowenko knows his horse is taking a huge step up in class, but is certain his horse can handle the distance if he can work out a clean trip.

"Woodbine opened a little later this year, so he had extra time off and we've only got three races into him," noted Nosowenko. "He went seven-eighths (on debut) and made a nice close. Then we ran a mile and a sixteenth and he was dead last, 18 lengths behind where we wanted him to be, and he ended up fourth, just four lengths behind, closing on the outside.  Plus, he got into trouble on the turn for home."

9 / Nipissing / Steve Bahen / Rachel Halden / 7-2

Isn’t she lovely. She’s a long-striding daughter of Niigon, trained by Rachel Halden, and she gets better the further she goes.  I’ve yet to hear anyone (expert, pundit, trainer or jockey) question Nipissing’s ability to travel 1 1/4-miles.

She arrives at the Plate off the biggest win of her career, in the Woodbine Oaks, which earned an 87 Beyer Speed Figure.  Regular rider Steve Bahen fits her like a glove and will be tasked with getting the big filly into gear when the field turns for home.
If there is no speed in this race, then the stalking trip Bahen engineered in the Oaks should be preferred over the deep closers.

"The trip will probably be the same as the Oaks," said Bahen. "Sit within four or five lengths, get a clean trip and hopefully it (a win) will happen again."

Bahen, who captured the 2002 Queen's Plate with 82-1 longshot T J's Lucky Moon, was aboard Nipissing for her final breeze on June 30 in advance of the Plate, covering a half-mile in :48 flat. "It was very easy for her," said Bahen. "She galloped out strongly and you have to tell her to pull up."  (Watch thework here.)

10 / Pyrite Mountain / Luis Contreras / Mark Frostad / 6-1

Call up the replay of the Plate Trial and watch the gallop out.  Pyrite Mountain, from the inside post, closed from way back into slow fractions to be fourth in the Plate Trial.

But he won the gallop out by open lengths.

Some will say that gallop out doesn’t matter, but it’s certainly encouraging to think Pyrite Mountain had that much energy at the end of a nine furlong test.

Hall of Fame trainer Mark Frostad was well pleased with the effort.

“I thought he ran a great race,” said Frostad, about in the Plate Trial.   “The first quarter was a good solid quarter (23.56), then they slowed it down in the next two quarters (48.57 and 1:14.06), 50 (seconds) and change.   That didn’t help him.  It gave him a lot to do, but he was getting there late and he galloped out very strongly.   So I was very pleased with the effort.  It’s tough to close into a pace like that.”

Top Woodbine rider Luis Contreras retains the mount and those considering a wager can only be encouraged by Pyrite Mountain’s six furlong breeze, in company with County Lineman, in 1:12.20 on June 29. (Watch the work here.)

11 / His Race to Win / John Velazquez / Malcolm Pierce / 10-1

A headline writer’s dream.  This bay son of Stormy Atlantic, trained by Malcolm Pierce for Sam-Son Farms, is improving with each race. Following starts at Fair Grounds (2nd) and Keeneland (6th), His Race to Win returned to Woodbine and broke his maiden by 5 ½-lengths.

Last time out, in the Plate Trial, His Race to Win surged between rivals in deep stretch only to be caught in the final jump by Dynamic Sky.

His Race to Win
“He came home here after a little bit of a disappointing race at Keeneland,” explained Pierce.   “But it seems like the light bulb went off in his head.    It took him a while (to break his maiden) but I thought it was a pretty impressive race.   Since then, he seems to be marching forward.  He just seems to be doing better and better every week.   So, he’s going in the right direction into the Plate, that’s for sure.  I think people were surprised at how big a race he ran in the Plate Trial.  But for all of us at the barn, we thought he was doing good enough to deserve a start there.”

With jockey Eurico Rosa da Silva taking the call on Plate favourite, and stablemate Up With the Birds, Pierce has called on Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez. 

His Race to Win breezed five furlongs in 1:00.60 with stablemate Up With the Birds on June 30. (Watch the work here.)

12 / River Seven / Todd Kabel / Nick Gonzalez / 20-1

If you draw a line through River Seven’s last start his form is suddenly much better than the 20-1 offered here.

River Seven, trained by Nick Gonzalez for Tucci Stables, finished a defeated eighth in the Plate Trial after stumbling badly out of the gate.

“He's doing very well right now,” said Martha Gonzalez, assistant, and wife, to trainer Nick Gonzalez. “This is his third start off a layoff. In the Plate Trial, he fell out of the gate. He was a little fractious the first time he ran this year and I thought it was opening day jitters for him. For this race, he's been schooled at the gate and he'll be standing up better in the gate this time.”

River Seven won the Grade 3 Grey Stakes, going 1 1/16-miles in October, so he can handle two turns.

The Johannesburg colt breezed five furlongs in :59.80 on June 27 with fellow contender Midnight Aria. (Watch the work here.)


Someone is going to have to pressure Midnight Aria, but who?  And they can’t all engineer the same stalking trip that Nipissing used so successfully in the Woodbine Oaks.

I’m convinced that Nipissing can get the distance and concerned that Spring in the Air could be more prominently placed this time around - will she have enough left when the real running starts?

I expect both fillies to be getting into gear as they turn for home, but can either filly hold off the rallying Up With the Birds and Pyrite Mountain?  I think one of them can.

1.    Nipissing
2.    Up With the Birds
3.    Pyrite Mountain

Be sure to follow @TripleDeadHeat  and #QP2013 on Twitter throughout the Queen’s Plate weekend for live updates from Woodbine.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Northern Dancer continues to inspire...

Earlier this morning, on Bayview Avenue in Toronto, on the grounds of the Windfields Estate, the Canadian Film Centre (CFC) celebrated the commencement of the construction of the Northern Dancer Pavilion, a landmark building that will allow the CFC to expand its film, television, digital media, screen acting and music program activities.
Groundbreaking moment led by a capped Norman Jewison!

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, federal Labour Minister Lisa Raitt, filmmaker Norman Jewison and horse owner Don Ross - - who suggested honouring the 1964 Kentucky Derby winner - - were among a throng of supporters on hand to fete E.P Taylor's star stud.

"I think the little fellow, the 'Dancer', really was the best in the world," said Ross. "He brought honour to his country and he has spread that honour throughout the racing world. I think this will reinvigorate his memory coming up to the 50th anniversary of his record win in the Kentucky Derby next year. His influence around the racing world continues to dominate and I think he truly is Canada's greatest athlete."

The estate is truly hallowed ground for any fan of horse racing.

Located at E.P. Taylor's former home, which was constructed in 1932, the famous philanthropist expanded the property thereafter to include cottages, stables and a gate house as well as a green house/potting shed.

Jewison, considered Canada's most celebrated filmmaker, has an astounding list of film credits including In the Heat of the Night, The Thomas Crown Affair, Fiddler on the Roof, Moonstruck and The Hurricane.
Charles Taylor and Norman Jewison
As one of Canada’s bright lights of film, Jewison was instrumental in founding the CFC and he spoke at length about his efforts in that regard, which ultimately were successful as in 1988, the Taylor family transferred ownership of the property to the City of Toronto for the use of CFC.

Now, with the CFC thriving and in need of expansion, construction of the Northern Dancer Pavilion will allow the institution an opportunity to further develop Canadian culture and communication.

"This is an historic occasion.  About 26 years ago, I was looking for a home for the Canadian Film Centre. A place for advanced film studies for this country," said Jewison. "We were behind everybody. The British had the British Film Institute. The French had the Cinematheque. Australia was way ahead of us making big films and training their young directors."

Hoping to make Toronto a permanent location for a national film school, Jewison reached out to Mel Lastman, the former mayor of Toronto, for ideas on where he could build his landmark.

"Lastman said, 'Why don't you go and talk to Charles and Noreen Taylor and present your ideas," recalled Jewison.
The original Taylor home, now home to the CFC
The Taylors invited Jewison to the Bayview Avenue property and promptly wowed the filmmaker with a tour of the facility.

"Taylor took me to a barn and he said, 'This is where Northern Dancer was and this is the paddock where we used to parade him around,'" noted Jewison.

It was also on this property that Taylor held the infamous yearling sales at which Northern Dancer failed to find a buyer at the $25,000 reserve price, allowing the legend to race in the famous Windfields silks.

As the tour continued, Jewison was told much of the vast history of the property that also included a visit from Queen Elizabeth, an avid racing fan.

The visit inspired Jewison.

"There is a heritage here. A heritage of champions. A heritage of excellence," said Jewison.

And Jewison clearly made an impression with Charles and Noreen Taylor who supported the filmmaker’s efforts.

"When we started out, I went to the then Premier of Ontario, David Peterson, and then I went to Ottawa and tried to convince our governments, both Ontario and federal, that Canada had to have a centre to make something wonderful happen in the area of communications.  That was the beginning," said Jewison.

His plan worked, perhaps even better than Jewison could expect, as the CFC has grown from a staff of six, and 12 residents, to over 45 staff, running 11 programs and three initiatives for more than 1500 residents since 1988.
The grounds are well kept
At this point, more than $2.6-million of the estimated $3-million total cost of the Northern Dancer Pavilion has been raised and Jewison is hopeful that the facility, in addition to creating jobs, will continue to inspire the creation of great art.

It's incredible to think that the world's most successful 'sire of sires' might soon be responsible for inspiring new and prodigious talent outside the world of horse racing.

"We're reaching out to successful Canadians all over the world to help us push forward and this building is going to be a centrepiece, the jewel in the crown," said Jewison. "I'm so proud it's being called the Northern Dancer Pavilion because Northern Dancer was a champion, a true champion.  And that's what we do here, we train champions."


For more on the project:
Follow the CFC on Twitter: @CFCcreates
And read: Government of Canada release: Canadian Film Centre get a beautifying boost

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Fipke hoping to unearth a Derby gem

When 20 horses spring from the gate in Saturday's Grade 1, $2-million Kentucky Derby, two of the jockeys will proudly sport the white, yellow and blue silks of Edmonton, Alberta born owner-breeder Charles Fipke.

Java's War, winner of the Grade 1, $750,000 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland, will be amongst the top choices in the 1 1/-4-mile test, under rider Julien Leparoux.
Perfect Soul will be represented at the Derby by Golden Soul

His other starter, Golden Soul, a son of Fipke's stallion Perfect Soul, will be ridden by Robby Albarado. After failing to win a trio of Derby preps at the Fair Grounds in Louisiana, Golden Soul only backed into the Derby thanks to a pair of defections from horses above him in the points standings used to determine a position in the starting gate.

Despite their radically different paths to the First Saturday In May, one can draw a straight, bold line from both horses back to Fipke as the man who engineered their destiny.

And yet Fipke, who graduated with a Bachelor of Sciences in honors geology in 1970 from the University of British Columbia and was later awarded an honorary Ph.D. in Technology from the UBC Okanagan, is humble in his considerable success both in business and with horses.

"You don't want to get too excited about these horses. As soon as you get too excited, you get cut right down to size," laughs Fipke, whose lone trip to the Kentucky Derby, in 2008, resulted in a fourth-place finish for Tale of Ekati.

"There's a lot more times you lose, than you win," he admits.

Golden Soul, a chestnut son of Perfect Soul out of Hollywood Gold, finished second, sixth and fourth respectively in the Grade 3 Lecomte and Grade 2 Risen Star and Louisiana Derby, in races marred by wide trips and too-late rallies.

It's the fourth time Fipke experimented with this particular mating (of Perfect Soul with Hollywood Gold) after full siblings Hollywood Soul, Soul of Gold and Soul of Hollywood, didn't quite pan out as expected.

"It's a good mating. It if wasn't a good mating, I wouldn't go back all the time," explains Fipke. "We've got this method where we measure distance aptitudes. The mating for Golden Soul, according to our calculations, has the stamina in him to go about 12 furlongs. So, a mile and a quarter (10 furlongs) should be no problem for him. He has natural stamina."

As a well-regarded geologist, Fipke, chairman of Metalex (a diamond exploration company) and Cantex (a gold prospecting company), is a leading figure in the discovery of diamonds and precious stones across North America.
Fipke's silks are familiar to Woodbine racing fans

His patience, both in geology and the world of thoroughbreds, has been well rewarded.

"Mating is not perfectly precise," says Fipke, by way of explaining his repeated attempts at creating a winner with Perfect Soul and Hollywood Gold.

Hollywood Gold, before being purchased by Fipke, did produce a Derby starter in Quintons Gold Rush who was 18th, and eased, in the 2004 edition of the Run For The Roses, won by Smarty Jones.

Fipke makes no apologies for his repeated efforts at making the mating work.

"When its good breeding, you stick with it," he says. "Of course, some of the others haven't done as well as Golden Soul."

Research is the key to Fipke's success in all his business ventures, equine or otherwise.

"I do a lot of mineral research and probes and we've developed a lot of unique methods for looking for diamonds," says Fipke. "We're on the leading edge of that and most of the best diamond geologists in the world will visit me and study my methods.  A lot of unique technology has gone into it and that type of
research has paid off in horse breeding too."

Java's War, the more accomplished of his two Derby entrants, finished a closing second to possible Derby favourite Verrazano in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby back in March, before his Blue Grass score.

Java's War, a bay son of War Pass out of Java, found a different route to Fipke's stable as the diamond magnate purchased Java, the mare of Java's War, in foal with the eventual Derby dreamer for $350,000 at Keeneland's November sale, in 2009.

War Pass, undefeated as a two-year-old en route to a win in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, resonates on many levels with Fipke.

"We used to race against War Pass with Tale of Ekati and War Pass cleaned our clock every time we went against him as a two-year-old," he laughs. "However, Tale of Ekati eventually beat War Pass in the Wood Memorial on the road to the Kentucky Derby."

Of course, more than nostalgia went into the purchase of Java and her yet-to-be-born foal.

Fipke was curious, indeed, about the potential of Java’s War’s damsire (1985 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner, Rainbow Quest), and, more importantly, he was excited at how that family matched up with another young stallion he is working to promote.

"War Pass, was early maturing, and an American champion at two," starts Fipke. "And when you look at him mated to a Rainbow Quest mare (Java), which is late maturing, you think you just might get it right.  But, before buying the mare, there were a couple things we analyzed about the mare.  There are literally thousands of mares sold and you have to pick the best one for you."

Fipke believes that Java's family lines compliment Not Bourbon, his Queen's Plate winner of 2008, who stands at Norse Ridge, just north of Toronto. Not Bourbon became trainer Roger Attfield's eight Queen's Plate champion, and Fipke's first, when he held off Woodbine Oaks champ, Ginger Brew, to win the
guineas by a head.

"It was a very good mating to duplicate the bottom lines of Not Bourbon to the bottom lines of Java, so it fit well with my own stallion and it also fit very well with War Pass," says Fipke. "So, the reason I wanted to buy her is that I thought I had a chance at a good horse in utero and also in combination later with one of my own stallions. I get a double whammy!"

On Saturday, Java's War will try to race his way into the history books in the Kentucky Derby.  Fipke, mindful of that potential brilliance, is already planning ahead for another potential classic attempt in Canada.

"I have a Canadian-bred Not Bourbon (out of Java), who is one of the best yearlings I own," he says of the yet-to-be-named colt, a half-brother to a potential Kentucky Derby winner.

Breeding great horses, particularly colts, which have tremendous value as stallions after their racing career, is paramount to Fipke's continued success.

Perfect Soul, who stands for a $7,000 stud fee at Darby Dan Farm in Kentucky, is a perfect example of a racehorse earning his keep after a stellar racing career that included wins in the Grade 2 Breeders' Cup Handicap at Woodbine and Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile, at Keeneland, en route to being named Canada's
Champion Male Turf Horse for 2003.

Perfect Soul, a Fipke homebred son of Sadler's Wells, took the Grade 2 Makers Mark Mile at Keeneland as a four-year-old setting a course record in the process. He now stands at Darby Dan along with fellow Fipke stallions, Tale of Ekati and Jersey Town.

"The only way you can recover your losses is by getting good stallions," says Fipke. "If you get a stallion that produces a lot of Group 1 winners, then the stud fees go up and you can make a lot of money. I'm hoping I can recuperate some of my losses and maybe one of these two horses in the Derby will be my real pot of gold."

But Fipke is not getting too far in front of himself, on the eve of the Derby.

"I'm not counting on winning. The competition is fierce," says Fipke. "Orb has the stamina to do it and he's a wonderful horse.  There are a lot of wonderful horses in the race. You can get high on your own horses, but you have to be realistic. I was in the Derby once before with Tale of Ekati and came fourth. I was quite disappointed at that time. And this time I don't want to be disappointed. I just want to do the best we can."

Fipke is hopeful that Golden Soul, who closed to be fourth to Revolutionary from 18 lengths off the pace on March 30th in the Louisiana Derby, might be ready to step forward.

"Golden Soul is a very good horse. He hasn't raced for five or six weeks and he's really in good shape now," offers Fipke. "He's by Perfect Soul, whose offspring are a little later maturing. So, he's just starting to peak right now. Hopefully he'll peak at the Derby. He might surprise everybody."

And Fipke is realistic about the chances of Grade 1 winner Java's War, Kentucky-bred but Canadian-owned, in a field full of graded stakes winners.

"I hope Java's War doesn't bounce as it's only been three weeks since he won the Blue Grass," says Fipke.
Is another Churchill Downs upset in the cards for Fipke?

As storm clouds threaten to rumble Saturday's Derby, it's hard not to be reminded of Fipke's coup de grace at the 2011 Breeders' Cup with another offspring of Perfect Soul - - champion turf filly, Perfect Shirl.

Sent to post at odds of 27-1 in the Grade 1 $2-million Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf, Perfect Shirl saved ground in the early going of the 1 3/-8-mile turf test under John Velazquez, before tipping out late in the stretch to launch a winning five-wide rally to score by three-quarters of a length over Nahrain.

A nose, and two heads separated the second to fifth place finishers in what was a thrilling finish.

And yet, Perfect Shirl, trained by the Woodbine-based Attfield, almost didn't make the race.

"It had rained a day or so before the race and we didn't think our horse liked a soft turf. So, Roger went around the course that morning and said, 'It's not really hard, but it's not really soft either. It's moderate. We've come this far, we might as well go in'," recalls Fipke. "So we did, not thinking we'd succeed, but we won."

Fipke, an animated sort, rushed to find Perfect Shirl in the winner's enclosure following the race and planted a kiss on the filly's two-million dollar nose.

"I was in a daze, it was so wonderful. It was like being in heaven," he recalls. "They're wonderful animals and you admire that they put out such effort. And to win a world championship was something else."

The weatherman is calling for a 40 per cent chance of rain in Louisville on Saturday, but regardless of the condition of the track, Golden Soul will leave the starting gate at odds greater than that of Perfect Shirl in her Breeders' Cup win.

Fipke, who has been down this road many times before, remains undaunted by the challenge, "It's when you least expect it that it happens."