11/29/2012 4:09PM

Woodbine: Bobcaygeon, Courtville set to take on champ in Sir Barton Stakes

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Sunday’s $125,000 Sir Barton Stakes for Ontario-sired 3-year-olds and up gained some unexpected firepower when Fifty Proof, Canada’s reigning champion older male, was supplemented at a cost of $3,000.

But Fifty Proof will be making his first start in 16 months, and he could get serious arguments from any of several rivals, including Bobcaygeon and Courtville, who both are coming into the 1 1/16-mile Sir Barton in top form.

Bobcaygeon, trained by Julia Carey, and Courtville, owned and trained by Laurie Silvera, both will be seeking their first stakes victories in the Sir Barton.

The 4-year-old gelding Bobcaygeon was purchased for $90,000 by Florida-based agent Tom McCrocklin at the local select yearling sale and has banked $151,346 for owners Elliot Kohn and Weila Ye.

Courtville, a 3-year-old gelding, was bought for $5,000 by Silvera here at the 2010 winter mixed sale and has earned $244,640 for the owner/trainer.

Bobcaygeon made his first start here in July 2011 and was successful in a restricted maiden race at 1 1/16 miles.

“I didn’t run him as a 2-year-old; he was way too big,” Carey said. “And he only got to run twice last year. He hurt his back leg when he kicked the wall in his stall.”

Bobcaygeon had finished a closing second in a restricted first-level allowance in his final start of 2011 and, after wintering on McCrocklin’s farm in Ocala, returned to Carey in mid-April and was a bang-up second in his June 13 seasonal debut at seven furlongs.

The son of Niigon has since cleared his second and third restricted allowance conditions, both at 1 1/16 miles, and will be making his stakes debut in the Sir Barton.

“I’ve been sort of pointing him toward this race since the summer,” Carey said. “I was toying with going in one of the yearling sales stakes, but I didn’t want to run against Pender Harbour and I didn’t want to run him on the turf.”

Bobcaygeon competed outside the Ontario-sired ranks for the first time in his most recent start, closing strongly in a first-level allowance race at seven furlongs.

“I would have preferred to run him at 1 1/16 miles, but the race just wasn’t there,” Carey said. “He ran great anyway.”

In his final tune-up for the Sir Barton, Bobcaygeon breezed five furlongs in 1:05 here last Saturday under exercise rider Joey Belowus.

The track was very slow that day, and a strong headwind also contributed to some slow clockings.

“He got enough out of it,” Carey said. “He breezed in 1:04 before his last win. It didn’t seem to make any difference.”

Unlike Bobcaygeon, Courtville is no stranger to stakes races, with six of his previous 13 starts having come in stakes company.

And Courtville has not finished worse than fourth in those ventures. His efforts this year include a second-place finish in the Deputy Minister and a third in the Overskate, both restricted races at seven furlongs, and a third in the open Victoria Park at 1 1/8 miles.

Following the Overskate, Courtville returned to the allowance ranks and landed his third restricted condition at seven furlongs before stretching out to win an open first-level allowance at 1 1/16 miles.

At the beginning of the year, in Florida, the horse would not even go to the track,” said Silvera, whose off-season base is Classic Mile Farm in Florida. “I couldn’t even get a jockey to take him there. He was so angry; something was visibly not right.

“Happily, he recovered from that and now he’s just getting better with every race.”

Courtville’s last victory under Omar Moreno, who has been his only rider through his racing career, prompted Silvera to head toward the Sir Barton.

“From his last race, naturally, this was the race he was pointing to,” Silvera said. “It’s really his only option for the rest of the year, and it’s not a bad option.”

Courtville also breezed five furlongs in 1:05 here last Saturday, but Silvera took little notice of the winds and track condition.

“Be that as it may, that’s all I wanted him to do anyway,” Silvera said.

“He couldn’t be better; he’s in excellent order. Who beats him gets the money.”

Thursday racing set to resume

Thursday racing is returning to Woodbine, with cards scheduled for the last two weeks of the meeting, which is to conclude Dec. 16.

First post for the Dec. 6 and Dec. 13 Thursday programs will be 2 p.m.

“We’re committed to [the 2 p.m. post]; that’s what we applied for,” said Steve Koch, vice president of Thoroughbred racing for the Woodbine Entertainment Group.

“To change it, we’d have to go back to the commission. We’ll just leave it as if we’d run all those other Thursdays.”

Woodbine began Thursday racing this year on June 7, and its original dates application had called for no Thursday racing between July 19 and Sept. 6.

But the Ontario Racing Commission granted Woodbine’s request in late August to eliminate 11 additional Thursday dates between Sept. 13 and Nov. 29. The move was expected to wipe out most of a projected $3.4 million purse overpayment projected for the season.

Tampa Bay handicapping book available

Copies of Peter Mallett’s “Betting Tampa Bay Downs, 2012-2013” will be available free of charge at the customer-service desk here Saturday.

Mallett, a regular collaborator with handicapping author Jim Mazur, has been a fixture at Tampa Bay Downs for several years, and his guide provides some valuable statistics and insights.

The Tampa Bay Downs meeting begins Saturday as does the 2012-13 meeting at Gulfstream.

To mark the occasions, Woodbine will be adding fractional betting to its menu in several pools for those two racetracks.

Canadian players now will be able to wager minimums of 20 cents on superfectas and 60  cents on pick fours and pick fives.

◗ The Toronto Thoroughbred Racing Club will be holding its final meeting of the season here Wednesday, beginning at 7 p.m. in the third-floor Champions area. Scheduled guests include jockey Emma-Jayne Wilson and Dawn Lupul, Sandy Hawley, and Jim Bannon from the Woodbine television department. Yours truly, Bill Tallon, will be the guest emcee.

◗ The Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society will be conducting its winter mixed sale next Saturday, beginning at 5 p.m. in the Woodbine sales pavilion. The sale will include horses of racing age, yearlings, weanlings, broodmares, stallions, and stallion seasons.