Monday, August 30, 2010

New Ontario-bred Grade I Winner

El Brujo, a 4-year-old son of Candy Ride, added his name to a growing list of prominent Canadian-bred racehorses when he won the grade I Pat O'Brien Handicap at Del Mar in California on August 28.

Bred in Ontario, Canada by the prominent Windways Farm, El Brujo is out of the Devil's Bag mare Enchanted Spell.

Click here to read about El Brujo's win, and to watch a replay of the race.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Off to a Flying Start

Prior to my arrival in Ireland, I was offered two general pieces of useful knowledge by countless friends, family, and casual bystanders:

1. It’s always raining.

2. It’s very green.

So naturally, when my plane arrived at 7 a.m. on August 16 to bright beams of sunshine, I was cautiously optimistic. Throughout my first week in the Emerald Isle I have found that the previous statement is in fact true (it has rained every day), but the amazing experiences I have already had the wonderful people I have already met far outshine the dreary clouds that often hover overhead.

Last week was my first week on the Darley Flying Start programme. If it was any indication of the two years that lie ahead, I think we’re in for the experience of a lifetime.

On the morning of August 15, the 12 trainees from the United States, Ireland, England, Australia, South Africa, and Canada (myself) all arrived at Kildangan Stud in good order, albeit Kate was short a bag when one of her suitcases decided it wasn’t quite ready to leave America (the luggage was quickly retained and immediately reunited with its owner). After settling in to our various new homes, we met up for a beautiful lunch at Kildangan House, where we were lucky enough to meet some of the personnel of Darley Ireland.

After spending the first few days sorting out administrative needs like computers, bank accounts, clothing, and bikes, we were treated to a stallion show and farm tour of Kildangan as well as three of Sheikh Mohammed’s other local properties: Ragusa, Old Connell, and Blackhall Studs. Here we saw mares, foals and yearlings with royal pedigrees, with yearlings by Street Cry, Invincible Spirit, and Pivotal among the lots, as well as mares that are sisters to Elusive Quality, Dubawi, Mozart, Goldikova, and Shamardal. The Americans were especially pleased to meet Bedazzle, the dam of Street Sense, and we were all intrigued by a gorgeous Street Cry colt out of a daughter of the great Miesque.

Our local tours were followed up by a Saturday of racing at The Curragh. For many of us, including myself, it was our first trip to the historic Irish track. Thankfully, we have our Irish representatives Barry and Michael to help us along, and they certainly have been helpful. After spending the day learning to read the Irish form and studying the horses in the paddock, we watched Pathfork roll to victory in the Futurity Stakes, a race historically known for turning out champions and top runners like New Approach and Giant’s Causeway. I’m pleased to say I picked another winner on the day: the Coolmore charge Meow, an American-bred daughter of Storm Cat.

The week was wrapped up with a trip to Dublin on Sunday, and I’m convinced the day could not have been better. For the first time since our arrival, the rain managed to stay in check all day, and we explored breathtaking cobblestone streets, historic buildings, and perfectly manicured parks beneath the beaming sun.

Our first week is over with a few minor observations on my part: first, it feels like we’ve been here far longer than a week, for two reasons:

1. The 12 of us seem to get along so well that it feels like we’ve known each other for a long time, and...

2. Kildangan has been made to feel like our home, and the wonderful people here have treated us like one of them since our arrival.

With much of the dirty work over, our coursework looks to pick up in the near future. I think we’re all eager to get started with the amazing learning and growing experiences that lie ahead.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Paths to Victory

On August 21, I had the pleasure of watching two particularly thrilling races on two continents. On my first trip to the Curragh racecourse in Ireland, I was treated to an exciting Futurity Stakes win by Pathfork, who has been labelled one of the early favourites for next year's 2000 Guineas. The American-bred son of Distorted Humor - Visions of Clarity (Sadler's Wells) remained unbeaten in two career starts with the Futurity win.

Later that night, some of my Darley Flying Start classmates and I stayed up to watch the Arlington Million from Chicago. We were treated to an exciting finish by Debussy, who edged our reining American turf champion Gio Ponti with a late kick up the rail. It seemed rather fitting that after our first week with Darley Flying Start that we should witness this win by a horse who was bred by Darley and is now owned by Princess Haya, the wife of Sheikh Mohammed. (Props to my buddy Jason Shandler for this one)

Canada-Bound Euros

The connections of Darley Prix Jean Romanet (gr. I) top two finishers Stacelita and Antara have both indicated that stops in Canada could be on the radar for their fillies after the August 22 contest at Deauville in France. Both fillies are reported by the Racing Post as being considered for the October 16 E.P. Taylor (gr. I) at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto, Ontario. The E.P. Taylor, a Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" series race, will be contested at 1 1/4 miles on Woodbine's E.P. Taylor turf course.

Read more about Stacelita and Antara HERE.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Places to Go

For those interested, here is my itinerary for the next two years:

Sweet Flying Dreams

Thinking back over the last few years, and of what is coming next, it’s hard not to feel emotional. I remember clearly Christmas Day in 2005, flipping through the Canadian Thoroughbred magazine and landing on a story about Carolyn Costigan, a young Canadian who was enrolled in the Darley Flying Start programme. My interest immediately piqued, I jumped online to learn more. That’s where the dream began.

Now, I’m just days away from beginning my own Flying Start journey. In the five years that have elapsed since that Christmas Day, I’ve met many of my goals in my quest to becoming a Thoroughbred industry leader. I’ve worked with broodmares and in foaling units, with yearlings doing sales prep, breaking, and training, at the racetrack as a groom and hotwalker, as an office assistant and an editorial intern. All of these were wonderful accomplishments, and important stepping stones along the path to Flying Start, which was the most important target.

Like in any journey, there have been important people to help me along the way. There are a few special ones I’d like to point out:

My parents: My parents ingrained in me many valuable principles from a young age. Three things in particular I have always known are to work hard, have proper manners, and most importantly, to always go after your dream. I think once my parents realized it was inevitable that I would have a career with Thoroughbreds, they pushed me to reach the very top; mediocrity was never an option. For that I will be forever grateful.

My parents are also the type of people that did everything to help me succeed. They gave up their days off to take me to the races to see my favourite horses, including nationwide treks to Kentucky, New York, and California. They ensured that I met the most influential people in the business at a young age, whether that meant bullying our way into paddocks or sneaking onto backstretches. They made me realize that it takes more than just a name to succeed. It takes heart and resilience and a little faith, and today I’m realizing the results of all of those things.

Lauri Kenny: The day I started working at Schonberg Farm (July 4, 2005), I believe was also the day Lauri took me in as another daughter. Over the last five years I have been closer to Lauri than anyone else, and there are times I swear we are telepathically connected. We basically finish one another’s sentences, and it still amazes me how Lauri always seems to know what’s best for me. He can tell me something I hate hearing at the time, but it won’t take me long to realize he knew what he was doing. Lauri understands me better than anyone else does, he is unconditionally there for me, and I don’t know what I would ever do without him.

Liz Pathak: I’m a firm believer that things happen for a reason, and when I met Liz in September 2008, I knew this was good news. Liz had just returned to Ontario fresh from Flying Start, and I was never more eager to meet someone than when I met up with Liz to inspect yearlings at Woodbine. From the day we met Liz began helping me with my flying start quest, and I believe having her as a reference had a great impact on my being selected for the programme.

So here I go, on to the next great chapter of my life. I cannot imagine the wonderful happenings the next two years will hold, but I can promise to cherish each one and do myself and those who believe in me proud. I hope you will follow my journey, every step along the way.     

Monday, August 9, 2010

Big Weekend for Canadian Sires

While interning at The Blood-Horse earlier this year, I wrote this feature on the improving market for Canadian sires. This weekend, the status of that market was confirmed, as three young sires with Canadian connections made headlines.

The most notable development was the rise of first year sire Old Forester to the top of the North American freshman sire list after his daughters Tree Pose and Shadowsinthenight finished 1-2 in the August 8 Nandi Stakes at Woodbine. The son of Forestry, who stood in 2010 at T.C. Westmeath Stud in Ontario for a $4,000 fee, now has four winners from 10 runners with earnings of $349,678. That puts him atop Congrats (2010 stud fee $4,500) and Bluegrass Cat ($25,000) on the freshman sire list.

The previous day, Sam-Son Farm stallion Strut the Stage earned his first winner as a sire when Born to Boogie won in his initial start at Woodbine. Strut the Stage, a grade II winner and multiple stakes winner, stands at Sam-Son’s Milton, Ontario farm. The son of Theatrical’s 2010 fee was $2,500.

Finally, Added Edge, a son of Smart Strike who stands in Iowa, earned his first winner when his daughter Ginger Added scored at Prairie Meadows on August 7. Added Edge was not bred or based in Canada and does not stand there. He was, however, Canada’s champion 2-year-old of 2002.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Camera Shy

I've been trying to gather the courage for a few months now to start video blogging (vlogging?). My source of inspiration is Rick Mercer, a Canadian television personality who enjoys reporting on trends and politics in this country. His show each week features a rant, such as the following:

Can I pull it off? Do you see a "Riley Report" in my future?

Wando Wanders Home

While I’ve let Turf Beat go quiet recently as I prepare for Darley Flying Start, I couldn’t go without mentioning the homecoming of Wando.

On July 17, Wando returned to Schonberg Farm from Lane’s End in Versailles, Kentucky, where he stood his first five seasons at stud. For those who don’t know Wando (you’ve obviously had your head buried in the sand…er, Polytrack? but nonetheless…) he is owned and bred by Gus Schickedanz, and is the last winner of the Canadian Triple Crown, a hat trick he achieved in 2003 for trainer Mike Keogh.

For me, there is no other horse (or human), like Wando. I won’t go through the tiresome story about how as a 15-year-old fan I gained the friendship of Wando’s human connections and went on to work for both Schickedanz and Keogh. That’s not the real story here. The real story is the feeling I experience each and every time I see Wando.

It’s not something that words can do justice, and it can only be really understood by someone who has felt the same thing. It’s the lump in my throat as I take in his spectacular aura, and the butterflies that flutter about in my stomach when I touch him. As I let my fingers caress his coppery coat, I sometimes have to fight back tears as I attempt to understand how such a fantastic animal can be so serene and loving. Something in me jumps to life when I see my Wando. I can recall once being particularly sad and visiting him. While nothing made any more sense, everything somehow seemed to be ok.

Just last week while spending the night at the farm, I wandered to the stallion barn to visit Wando. I found him snoozing near the door. Slipping inside, I wrapped my arms around his withers and pressed my cheek against his neck, staying this way for at least 10 minutes. Wando didn’t so much as twitch a muscle.

It’s hard for me to write about my horse without gushing and ranting on, so I’ll wrap this up. I just want to say, I’m glad Wando is home, and I hope I get to spend many more special moments with him.