12/02/2011 2:02PM

Woodbine: 2007 Queen's Plate winner gets plenty of practice, but no real races


ETOBICOKE, Ontario – The longest day of a long meeting is scheduled to wind up at 6:51 p.m. Eastern here at Woodbine on Sunday with the running of the 13th race.

The card, which begins at 1 p.m., also will feature the longest race of the meeting, a $32,000 starter allowance at 1 7/8 miles, and the longest stakes race of the meeting, the 1 3/4-mile Valedictory.

And it has been a particularly long year for Mike Fox, the 7-year-old horse who won the 2007 Queen’s Plate when trained by Ian Black and would have raced this season for trainer Danny Vella.

The “would have” qualification is necessary because Mike Fox did not make it to the post this year and has not seen action since finishing fourth in an allowance race at Fort Erie on June 1, 2010, in his only start of that season.

David Bell was the trainer of record for that race, following Bruce Smither, Black, Cliff Hopmans, and Reade Baker in that role.

Mike Fox, a homebred who is owned by Firestone Farm, has been shipping in from the farm to work over the Polytrack surface this year.

Last Saturday, when Mike Fox breezed five furlongs in 1:01.80, it marked the 17th time his name had appeared on the work tab with his first appearance there coming June 18.

“I’ve entered him in allowance races, eight or nine times,” said Vella. “I don’t even remember the first time I entered him, it was so long ago.”

“Maybe I should have entered him in a stakes. He’s been training super.”

Mike Fox had been nominated to Valedictory.

“I’d kept trying to tell myself that he was fit enough to run in the Valedictory but I couldn’t have done that to him, first time out,” said Vella.

With the Valedictory not being a viable option, Mike Fox’s last chance to start this year evaporated when an allowance race scheduled for Friday failed to fill.

“He’s gone home to the farm,” said Vella, on Friday morning. “It will be tough to keep him going for another year, without seeing him run a couple of races this year. That’s the tough end of this business, because these races don’t go all the time.”

Contreras breaks earnings record

Leading rider Luis Contreras established a record for earnings at the meeting here after finishing Thursday’s card with a total of $11,287,783.

Todd Kabel had held the previous record, with his mounts earning $11,284,853 at the 2003 meeting.

“This year has been amazing,” said Contreras, who began riding at Woodbine in 2009. “I feel very lucky to ride at Woodbine and I hope next year can be even better.”

Contreras had ridden 208 winners heading into Friday’s card, the second-best total in Woodbine history behind the record of 221 set by Mickey Walls in 1991.

On Monday, Contreras and his agent Tony Esposito will be heading to Gulfstream Park to continue his campaign.

Issues that may be addressed during off-season

The off-season should give the Woodbine Entertainment Group, the Ontario Racing Commission, and the Canadian Pari-Mutuel Agency a chance to look at some issues of concern to Woodbine horseplayers.

These include:

◗ More accurate reporting of first-time gelding information.

◗ Listing on the program the assistant trainer in charge of the local operation when a stable’s head trainer is based elsewhere.

◗ Explanations to the public by stewards when a horse pulls a dramatic form reversal.

◗ Instituting a rule that protects the bettor when the stronger part of an entry is a late scratch.

2012 stall applications due Jan. 19

Stall applications for the 2012 meeting, which begins on April 5, are due by Jan. 19.

The barn area will open on Feb. 10, horses will be admitted Feb. 11, and the training track and sand ring will be open for training on Feb. 12.

The Ontario Racing Commission recently approved Woodbine’s application for a 167-day meeting which will conclude on Dec. 16, two weeks later than in recent years.

The additional days will make up for the period between July 19 and Sept. 6 in which Woodbine will be dark on Thursdays.