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Woodbine: Get A Grip opts for Valedictory Stakes
By Bill Tallon
ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Trainer Kevin Attard had a pair of options for Get A Grip on Sunday, the final day of the Ontario and Canadian racing seasons.
Get A Grip, an Irish-bred 5-year-old who races in the name of Attard’s son Joshua Attard, was nominated to the Grade 3, $175,000 Valedictory Stakes, which at 1 3/4 miles is the longest stakes race of the Woodbine meeting. But Get A Grip had run for a claiming price of $25,000 in September 2011 and was eligible for a 1 7/8-mile starter allowance that offered a purse of $47,400.
In the end, Attard decided to go for the gold in the Valedictory.
“I was waiting to see how the field would be shaping up,” Attard said. “When I found out a couple of shippers weren’t coming, I decided to give it a shot.
“I know he can get the distance, that’s for sure.”
Get A Grip began his career in England, winning his maiden on a synthetic surface in his second career start.
Resurfacing in California as a 3-year-old, Get A Grip raced for trainers John Sadler and Neil Drysdale before coming east to Graham Motion and being claimed by Ken and Sarah Ramsay at Saratoga.
This past January, Get A Grip was in for $30,000 at Gulfstream when trainer Tino Attard, Kevin’s father, dropped a claim slip.
“He broke his maiden on the Poly and ran some good races in California,” Attard said. “He was eligible for a ‘a-other-than,’ and his numbers at the time would have given him a good chance in them.”
Get A Grip was far from an instant sensation for his new connections, however, as he was unplaced in two starts at Gulfstream and two more here at Woodbine heading into the summer.
“He just wasn’t running well,” Attard said. “We sent him to the farm for a bit of a freshening.
“Since we brought him back in, he’s been pretty consistent. He’s run pretty well.”
Get A Grip picked up minor awards in a pair of conditioned claiming turf races, at one mile and 1 1/16 miles.
But the light went on when Get A Grip stretched out to 1 3/4 miles on the turf for a $40,000 starter allowance as he finished a solid second under his new regular rider, Davy Moran, behind veteran marathoner Serious Indeed.
Returning four weeks later in the 1 1/2-mile allowance prep for the Valedictory and racing with blinkers for the first time since his break, Get A Grip again ran on well to end the runner-up to Peyton, who will be among the Valedictory favorites.
“He’s doing really well,” Attard said. “I really liked the way he worked last weekend. He was more relaxed as opposed to the way he worked going into the prep.”
Get A Grip had his tune-up for the Valedictory here last Saturday, breezing seven furlongs in 1:29.80 with Moran in the irons.
In addition to Get A Grip and Peyton, the nine-horse field for the Valedictory, which did not attract a stakes winner, includes Attendant, Heathcote, Imperial Pippin, Political Fever, Quaesitor, So Long George, and Th Original Scotty.
Hamnet to winter in Florida
Following the Valedictory, Get A Grip is scheduled to join Tino Attard at Gulfstream along with several other Kevin Attard charges.
Foremost amongst these is Hamnet, a 2-year-old Shakespeare colt who was a solid second-place finisher in his first lifetime start here last Sunday.
“I think highly of him,” said Attard, who trains Hamnet for Jason and Frank Justice. “His first race was a pretty good race; he galloped out really well.
“I think he’ll be a two-turn horse, but I wanted to get a short start into him to see where we are. Hopefully, he’ll have a productive winter in Florida.”
Sired by Shakespeare, Hamnet was named in honor of the playwright’s only son, who died at age 11. Hamnet, the horse, also is a full brother to Shakespeare’s Brew, who was tabbed as one to watch after winning his maiden first crack out over six furlongs of turf here last year.
Shakespeare’s Brew failed to live up to that potential this year, however, despite beginning his campaign with a good second-place finish in a first-level allowance behind the talented shipper Doctor Chit.
“He had some setbacks, and we brought him back,” Attard said. “His second start back, he ran really well, but his last race was a big letdown.”
Shakespeare’s Brew recorded his third second-place finish of the season in a first-level allowance sprint here Nov. 17, but then was a non-threatening fifth here last Sunday.
Despite their common parentage, Hamnet is a Kentucky-bred, while Shakespeare’s Brew was foaled in Ontario.
Attard, with 18 wins here plus another pair at Fort Erie, has sent out the winners of more than $1 million this season.
“That’s one thing I wanted to achieve,” Attard said of the monetary milestone. “It also would be very nice if we could win 20 races here.”
One undisputed highlight for Attard was Surtsey’s victory in the $150,000 Fanfreluche Stakes for owner/breeder Yvonne Schwabe.
Surtsey had come into the six-furlong Fanfreluche off a third-place finish for $40,000, but Attard accurately gauged the competition and supplemented the filly at a cost of $3,000.
Bans carrying into next year
Several Ontario Racing Commission matters will be carrying forward into next season as the ORC released its rulings on five positive tests recently.
Terry Jordan, trainer of Hollywood Hit, was suspended six months after the horse tested positive for acepromazine. Jordan’s suspension was to run from Dec. 5 through Dec. 16 with the balance to be served beginning with the yet-to-be-determined start of next season.
Carlo Fuoco and Ravendra Raghunath both have been suspended 60 days, Dec. 5-16 and resuming next spring, for acepromazine positives.
Jordan, Fuoco, and Ravendrath all have appealed the rulings, but have begun serving their suspensions after the ORC refused to stay the matters.
Pat Parente and Marilyn McMullen were suspended 15 days, Dec. 2-16, for ketoprofen violations, but their requests for stays were granted by the ORC and both remain active.
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