09/17/2010 1:27PM

Investing in Crowded House


ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Crowded House was supplemented to Sunday’s Grade 1, $1 million Woodbine Mile, at a cost of $20,000. But that could turn out to be money well spent if Crowded House can capture the Woodbine Mile and pick up a cool $600,000.

Ben Cecil, who conditions Crowded House for the partnership of Paul Reddam, Peter and Carmen Burrell and Jonathan Harvey, was on hand here Friday to watch his colt gallop 1 1/4 miles over the Polytrack surface.

“He’s not the greatest-moving horse I’ve ever seen,” said Cecil. “For him, that looked pretty good.”

Crowded House began his career in England, and was purchased privately just prior to winning the Group 1 Racing Post Trophy in his fourth start as a 2-year-old. That win still stands as his most recent, although Crowded House did place in a pair of Group 3 events at Dubai this winter and was beaten just three lengths as the ninth-place finisher in the World Cup before returning to England with trainer Brian Meehan.

Following a pair of disappointing efforts in Group 2 stakes over 1 1/2 miles, Crowded House was shipped to California and finished fourth when making his final start for Meehan in Del Mar’s Grade 1 Eddie Read. The Usual Q.T. and Victor’s Cry, the one-two finishers in the Eddie Read, also are here for the Woodbine Mile.

Crowded House, starting just 16 days after racing in the Princess of Wales’s Stakes at Newmarket, was beaten 3 1/4 lengths in the Read.

“He was last early, and they didn’t go that fast,” said Cecil. “He was left with way too much to do, but he finished as strong as anyone.”

Five weeks later, Crowded House made his first official appearance for Cecil in the Grade 1 Pacific Classic, a 1 1/4-mile Polytrack race in which he was beaten three-quarters of a length as the runner-up to Richard’s Kid.

“We had to be pretty pleased,” said Cecil. “I thought he was going to win a furlong out. “The distance was a little bit of a question for him.”

Following that solid effort, Crowded House was being considered for the Grade 1 Goodwood, a 1 1/8 mile race at Hollywood Park on Oct. 2.

“We were originally going to go to the Goodwood, but we were talking it over the day after the nominations closed for this race closed and decided to come to Woodbine.”

Crowded House’s Racing Post victory had been over one mile of turf and he had not been tried at that distance in the interim.

“He was running a mile and a half early on this year, and that’s definitely too far for him,” said Cecil. I think eight or nine furlongs is probably his best trip.”

Crowded House drew post 1 in the Woodbine Mile’s field of 13 and will be ridden for the first time by Joel Rosario, who will be making his Canadian debut on Sunday.

“It looks like it will be a strongly run race; there should be plenty of pace,” said Cecil. “He got a good draw, and the long stretch will suit him.”

A live Northern Dancer longshot

Memorial Maniac is unlikely to get much attention in Sunday’s Grade 1, $750,000 Northern Dancer, in which he will face more accomplished rivals in Marsh Side, Expansion, and Spice Route. But Memorial Maniac, a 5-year-old gelding trained by Larry Demeritte, is coming into the Northern Dancer on the upswing and is looming as a live longshot.

“The horse is really good, and this is an opportunity to give him this shot now and see what kind of horse he wants to be,” said Demeritte, who is based at Arlington Park. “He’s such a sound horse, and an improving horse with every race.”

Memorial Maniac began his career in Kentucky with trainer Katherine Ball and won his maiden over Turfway Park’s Polytrack surface. After joining Demeritte’s barn last summer, Memorial Maniac won his first allowance condition over 1 1/8 miles of turf at Arlington and began to show an affinity for going long on the grass.

But Memorial Maniac remained eligible for a second-level allowance as recently as June 20, when he finished third at that level over 1 1/8 miles of turf.

Since then, however, Memorial Maniac has moved into a new dimension. Racing outside his conditions in a third-level allowance at Arlington July 23, and with James Graham in the irons for the first time, Memorial Maniac rallied smartly to score by a half-length over 1 1/16 miles of firm turf.

Four weeks later, making his stakes debut, Memorial Maniac came from well off the pace under Graham to score by a neck in Arlington’s Grade 3 Stars N Stripes over 1 5/8 miles of good going.

“I think the horse was slow maturing,” said Demeritte. “When he was a 4-year-old, he almost had a 2-year-old mind. He’s really come into his own now. He’s understanding what racing is all about.”

Graham, whose only previous visit here yielded a fourth-place finish in this year’s Marine Stakes, will be on hand for the Northern Dancer.

◗ The main turf course was open for training on Friday morning, but the only horses who took advantage were European invaders Famous Name and Redwood, who both galloped over the surface. Famous Name, trained by Dermot Weld, is entered in the Woodbine Mile, while Redwood, conditioned by Barry Hills, goes in the Northern Dancer.

◗ Woodbine television commentator and analyst Jim Bannon will host a Woodbine Mile handicapping seminar here Sunday. The session will begin at 11 a.m. on the east end of the third floor of the grandstand.

◗ Tickets still are available for Monday’s “Longrun Bar B Q and Hoedown,” which will take place beginning at 5:30 p.m. in the trackside tent. To order tickets, which are $56.50 apiece and include cocktails, dinner, and live entertainment, contact the LongRun office at (416) 675-3993, ext. 3440.

All proceeds will go to the LongRun Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary.