07/05/2010 11:56AM

Full Plate

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Queen It was just lovely that Helen Mirren had time to stop by Woodbine on Sunday to take in the Queen's Plate. But was all that security really necessary for an English movie star? Word back here is that winning owner Don Romeo (wasn't that Zorro's cover identity?) was in flagrant violation of protocol in the gentle placing of his hand upon her royal back. Compared to the way Americans treat celebrities, she got off light.

Bravo to Big Red Mike and his wire-to-wire waltz in the Plate, which is oldest continually run stakes race in North America. It is also the oldest continually run restricted stakes race run in North America, which leaves the rest of the continent a little cold. But as long as an occasional Canadian-bred Plate winner turns out to be Northern Dancer, Kennedy Road, L'Enjouleur, Izvestia, Alydeed, Dance Smartly or Awesome Again, let them celebrate their home-cooked horses in high style. In the meantime, we've got bikini contests at the Sunshine Millions.

Climaxed by the Queen's Plate, it was a week chock full of Canadian racing news. Kent Desormeaux made headlines by lighting up Woodbine's breathalizer upon arriving at the track on Thursday to ride WinStar Farm's Hold Me Back in the Dominion Day Stakes. He was summarily removed from the mount, fined $100 (about 93 bucks American) and was considered suspended for the day, not that he felt like doing much of anything after that anyway. Desormeaux later publicly apologized profusely for the incident. Whether or not that washes with his patrons remains to be seen. The good news was that Hold Me Back won the race, under replacement Tyler Pizarro, a name almost as cool as Don Romeo.

One of the people Desormeaux must answert to is Bill Casner, who owns WinStar with Kenny Troutt. WinStar is managed by Elliott Walden, and Bill Mott trains Hold Me Back, along with WinStar's Belmont Stakes winner, Drosselmeyer. Casner was asked if he had received a personal apology from Desormeaux.

"Not that I know of," Casner replied. "Maybe he apologized to Bill, or Elliott, or someone I don't know about. But sometimes things work out for the best. One door opens and another closes. We had another rider that had the benefit, and the outcome was good for us. I was thrilled for Tyler. When something like that happens, it puts a rider in a heightened pressure situation, and the good riders relish that."

As for Desormeaux's future with WinStar horses, Casner was circumspect. Before the Belmont, Kent had been replaced aboard Drosselmeyer by Mike Smith.

"I think it's very reasonable to ask riders to submit to these tests," Casner said. "There's a responsibility to the industry, to the fans, to the horses and to their fellow riders.

"From what he was quoted as saying, Kent has accepted responsibility and holds himself accountable," Casner added. "Maybe this will be an eye-opener for him, because the only thing we can do in this life is learn from our mistakes. We'll all be getting together next week at the sales, and I'm sure this will be a topic of conversation."

More significant than Desormeaux's .02, however, were the deaths of two beloved Canadian champions during the week leading up to the Queen's Plate. It was learned that 1989 Queen's Plate winner and Canadian Horse of the Year With Approval died on June 21 at England's Lanwades Stud, at the ripe old age of 24. South of the border, With Approval won the Bowling Green and the Tidal, while becoming known as the horse who beat all but one in races like the Arlington Million, Turf Classic and Breeders' Cup Classic. That was David Willmot, With Approval's owner and Woodbine chairman, escorting QEII during the Queen's Plate ceremonies on Sunday.

Sadly, the 2002 Canadian Horse of the Year Wake at Noon will not be resting in similar peace. He was 13 when, as a failed stud, he was put back into training at the farm of his owner, Bruno Schickedanz (nephew of two-time Queen's Plate winner Gus Schickedanz), and then sent to Woodbine on June 29 for a workout under the supervision of trainer Tom Marino. During the work, Wake at Noon sustained a catastrophic injury and had to be euthanized.

Woodbine immediately launched an investigation as to why a horse ineligible to race there was allowed on the grounds at all. Bang-zoom, just like that, Schickedanz was told to remove his horses from the Woodbine property and Marino was indefinitely banned. There are lawyers involved now, as the case goes before the Ontario Racing Commission. But in the meantime, praise be to Woodbine officials for quick action in terrible situation.

blackseabass More than 1 year ago
Jay, I'm not a big fan of Kent D. but .02? 1/2 a shot of cough medicine will make you blow that. If the racing powers were interested in protecting the fans (they aren't) they would be more stringent on failure to persevere for maximum placing. Its a good thing they didn't have some jockeys of yore blowing or they would have been on permanent suspension. I agree with the nameless asst. trainer. Kenny Black stone drunk could outride most of the stumblebums being passed off as riders today. I'm more concerned with criminal activity by the riders, trainers and owners than I am weather they had a drink the night before.
willy More than 1 year ago
So Don Diego became too much of a Bold Renegade with the Queen, eh? Thanks for that and the other Hovdeyisms that make your articles such a pleasure to read. My bubba Hotep didn't get much press from anyone, though... I thought he ran a great race from the 11 hole - but the stretch turn did him in.
Anne More than 1 year ago
The incident with Kent was not a surprise. I have seen him in action and was glad that something was finally done. Mr. Casner's comments are to be praised,as he sounded very diplomatic. From everything I have read about Mr. Casner and his family, this was no surprise. Classy and forgiving people. I had recently brought up Kent's drinking to an assistant trainer, as he rode one of their horses poorly in a stake race. His reply was "all we care about is a win or placing. I don't care if they are drunk,stoned or coked up. It doesn't matter. He is a good jock" I was shocked! My concerns are for the horse and other jockeys in the race. I, as an owner, would NOT take this lightly but I guess some trainers do not find it of any concern. This reminds me of Hollywood when other actors, producers, directors etc... all know about an actor's substance abuse and keep it mum. They are protecting the wrong person. In this case an innocent animal is involved. So much can happen when a jockey is NOT focused or balanced correctly. I hope other tracks start doing this same scanning technique. Another great article,Jay. You certainly know how to get your point across using humor and creative flair. A writing genius.
Diceman More than 1 year ago
Hi Jayl Where have you been lately? We miss your Blog articles. Please try to publish once a week for your loyal and supportive fans! As the DRF West Coast Correspondent, you have personally witnessed a steady and irreversible decline in the quality and quanity of Racing at our three beautiful tracks: Del Mar, Hollywood and Santa Anita. To reinforce this obvious point, Hollywood was again forced to cancel Thursday's Live Card for a lack of entries! Jay, please get involved and help stop Racing's Detioration and Destruction! There is a solution. As you know, Alan Shuback, the DRF European Columinist, wrote a brilliant and compelling article last week encouraging the immediate adoption of "Racinos" at our dying Race Tracks! Alan is a serious and professional correspondent. He is absolutely correct. West Coas Racetracks and their loyal fans desperately need "Racinos" to provide a level playing field if they are to survive and prosper! Jay, please support the need for "Racinos!" Your fans would love to hear your important views on this HOT topic! Good Luck and Good Health! Hope we can meet at the Breeders Cup, CD, Nov, 2010. Diceman
jerry murphy More than 1 year ago
Jay, great to see you've re-discovered the Great White North. I seem to recall the last time you recognized racing at Woodbine it was being lumped in with the likes of Lone Star as a questionable location for the Breeder's Cup, history notwithstanding. Given that having the best run track with the highest purse structure on the continent isn't enough, perhaps we could get the Queen to put in an appearance. We'd throw the redcoated mounties in for nothing!
scorptraduh More than 1 year ago
Great story Jay! Loved watching the race, and all the pomp and circumstance with the Queen. Don't know why but I found the sight of her limo leaving the track surrounded by the Royal Mounted Police amusing. :) Just curious, what other tracks ask their riders (and race officials) to submit to breathalyzers? Thanks!
eeebayou More than 1 year ago
I think that the comments from Team WinStar speak volumes about Kent D. at this time--it sounds like a big door has slammed shut.
hialeah More than 1 year ago
Hi Jay, Well I guess Big Red Mike is off to Fort Erie for the Prince of Wales. FE is a really beautiful track just down the road from Niagara Falls and worth the trip. The Canadian Triple is three races on three different surfaces (poly, dirt, turf) at just two tracks as the last jewel is back at Woodbine. Sacre bleu, indeed!
TomF More than 1 year ago
I don't often make this sort of comment, instead making opinions for or against something, but this article was really fun to read. Interesting, informative, and intelligent. Nice.