04/07/2011 1:20PM

Woodbine: Minshall's stable growing in quality and quantity

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Barbara Minshall was on a roll here at Woodbine from the mid through late 1990s, taking home a Sovereign Award as outstanding trainer in 1996 and conditioning the likes of champions Mt. Sassafras and Bold Ruritana, as well as multiple stakes winners Kiridashi and Stephanotis.

And, while Minshall has kept a relatively low profile in recent years, she has come into the 2011 meeting with improved prospects in terms of both quantity and quality.

“I have 20 stalls here but I have double that number of horses,” said Minshall, in her office here the other morning. “Most of them are still in South Carolina, but I’ll figure something out.”

The Minshall heyday already was waning when Shawn and Patrick Minshall, sons of the late Aubrey Minshall and stepsons of Barbara, dissolved their partnership and sold the farm in 2006.

“Since the farm sold it’s been tough sledding,” said Minshall. “I had to build up a stable.

“When you’ve been a private trainer, with a 40-horse stable, and you’re down to 15 horses it’s hard to get going. Your momentum is down. But I stuck to my program, my way of training horses.”

Minshall has been rewarded this year as she has kept her key existing owners while adding a number of new clients.

“I have a wider base of people, and a wider base of horses,” said Minshall. “I’ve still got a lot of 2-year-olds, but there’s the potential to have much more action.”

Minshall will get a taste of that action on Saturday when she saddles Portside for the $150,000 Star Shoot, the six-furlong feature for 3-year-old fillies.

Portside, who had been trained in New York by Gary Contessa, was purchased privately this winter and will race for owner Warren Byrne.

Bred in Florida, Portside has made her last two starts in overnight stakes over a mile and 70 yards on Aqueduct’s inner track, finishing third in the Busher and then a close second in the Out Ruled.

“She hasn’t been here with me long, but Gary told me a lot about her,” said Minshall, who sent out Portside to breeze three furlongs in 36.20 seconds on Tuesday.

Jazzy Jessy, another private purchase who will run in Byrne’s name, also was nominated to the Star Shoot but will not run.

Bred in Kentucky, Jazzy Jessy won the Happy Ticket over 1 1/16 miles of grass at Louisiana Downs last fall but most recently ran third for a $25,000 claiming price on the Fair Grounds turf course.

“I’ve had her for a few weeks,” said Minshall. “She likes the turf, and I think she’ll take to the Poly. She’ll get better as we stretch her out a little bit, and she gets a chance to acclimatize.”

Minshall’s other 3-year-olds include the maiden Ontario-sired geldings Nanaimo, one of several horses whom she trains for Ray Noble, and Namath, whom she owns in partnership with Avelino Gomez Jr.

Nanaimo started five times last year with his best effort coming in his last start, when he finished second at 1 1/16 miles.

“He’s really made some advances,” said Minshall. “He’s really improved; he’s breezing very well.

Namath reported home seven lengths in front in a seven-furlong maiden race here Sept. 5 but had his number taken down and his frustrating campaign continued with three consecutive second-place finishes.

“I gave him a little extra time off,” said Minshall, noting that Namath should return later this month.

Nanaimo and Namath both wintered at Webb Carroll’s training center in South Carolina, which also hosted a number of Minshall 2-year-olds. Bruce Lundsford, one of Minshall’s main clients, had his 2-year-olds at Holly Hill Farm in South Carolina.

Torched Cherry ambitiously spotted

Torched Cherry, trained by Ian Howard, will be among Portside’s five opponents and will be making just her second career start in the Star Shoot.

“I was going to run her in an allowance race,” said Howard, who sent out Torched Cherry to breeze four furlongs in 47.80 here Monday. “But, being an American-bred, there are limited chances for her. I thought I’d run her in here and maybe get some black type – hopefully, even win.”

Bred in Florida by her owner, Luis de Hechavarria, Torched Cherry won a five-furlong “B” maiden race at first asking here last Nov. 24 under jockey Slade Callaghan..

“She was sick for a lot of the summer, and she was probably only 80 percent when she ran there,” said Howard. “It was late in the year, and I wanted to get a race into her.”

Following the end of the meeting Torched Cherry shipped to Classic Mile, which was Howard’s off-season headquarters in Florida.

“It was a great winter to train down there,” said Howard, who also had stakes winners Resentless and her half-sister, Isabella Bay, at Classic Mile.

Sovereign finalists resume rivalry at Keeneland

Delightful Mary and Wyomia, the one-two finishers in the Sovereign Award voting for the 2-year-old filly division, will renew their rivalry on the racetrack in Saturday’s Grade 1 Ashland at Keeneland.

Wyomia and Delightful Mary met in the Grade 3 Mazarine at 1 1/16 miles here last fall with Wyomia emerging a rather comfortable 2 3/4-length winner.

Delightful Mary went on to finish third in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Churchill Downs in a performance which evidently swayed the majority of the Canadian voters.

Both fillies have returned to win their only outings of this season with Delightful Mary capturing the restricted 1 1/16 mile OBS Championship at the Ocala Training Center and Wyomia taking the mile-and-40-yard Suncoast at Tampa Bay Downs.

More money for also-rans in stakes

One of the best-kept secrets here this spring has been Woodbine’s new method of purse distribution for stakes races.

Previously, the percentage breakdown was 60-20-11-6-3 for the first five spots with all other finishers getting $400.

Now, the third through fifth-place finishers each will sacrifice 1 per cent which will go to the sixth, seventh, and eighth-place horses. The $400 consolation prize will remain for any other finishers.

“When you pay the top eight, those other three will get their entry fee back,” said Steve Lym, racing secretary and a director of racing for Woodbine.

“It will apply to all stakes races. It’s a way to round out your field size.”

The 1 per cent entry fees range from $1,000 for an overnight stakes to $15,000 for the $1.5 million Canadian International, which is the richest stakes of the meeting.