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Woodbine notes: Late opening allows for longer races early
ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Woodbine’s Thoroughbred meeting is getting off to a late start this year, and the compressed 133-day schedule presents a different scenario for Steve Lym, racing secretary and a director of racing.
“I’ve tried to write a few long races early in the book, but I still tried to write as many short races as I could,” Lym said. “I think some of our guys are still a little ways off from going a mile and a sixteenth, or seven-eighths.
“But I think there are enough horses coming from down south – and Keeneland – that we should be okay. And there are horses here that are ready for those races.
“It’s always a struggle to try to do this right, for horses that are here and horses that are shipping back from the States. I think we’ve got the right balance.”
Lym’s premise appears to have paid off opening weekend.
Saturday’s longest race, at seven furlongs, attracted a nine-horse field, with five members having raced over the winter. The race is perhaps the most interesting event on the program.
On Sunday, a 1 1/16-mile allowance race that is a prep for the May 12 Eclipse Stakes attracted an excellent group of six horses, five of whom have raced in 2013.
Horse population up from 2012
Current figures show more than 1,800 racehorses on the grounds, about 100 more than the comparable figure in 2012.
The work tabs have been strong, with head clocker Alison Read noting that through Thursday 2,356 workouts have been recorded since the Polytrack surface opened March 20 and that another 1,124 horses have worked on the dirt training track.
An astounding 320 horses were clocked on the main track last Sunday, which Read said eclipses the previous of record of 271 on the surface that opened in summer 2006.
The opening-day card attracted a respectable but not overwhelming 87 horses Saturday and 78 for Sunday.
“It’s a little lighter than I’d like,” Lym acknowledged.
On opening day 2012, which fell on the Good Friday holiday, 101 horses (including also eligibles) were entered and 89 raced. On Day 2, 100 were entered and 93 went to the post.
Casse skips weekend stakes
Mark Casse, the leading stakes-winning trainer here last year with 20 wins, nominated Honorable Guest and Conquestor to Sunday’s $150,000 Woodstock and Bold Birdie to Saturday’s $150,000 Star Shoot but will be bypassing both events.
Honorable Guest, a homebred owned by Nancy Guest, was a stakes winner of more than $200,000 last year and would have been the horse to beat in the Woodstock, an open six-furlong race for 3-year-olds.
But a mishap prior to the start of Turfway Park’s March 13 Rushaway has put the Ontario-sired Honorable Guest’s return on hold.
“He got loose on post parade and slid down the road,” Casse said. “He’s better now, but he’s not quite ready.”
Honorable Guest could return in the $150,000 Queenston, a seven-furlong race for Ontario-foaled 3-year-olds here May 11.
Bold Birdie, owned by John Oxley, was entered in Saturday’s second race, a five-furlong, first-level allowance for 3-year-old fillies.
Uncaptured, Dynamic Sky back home
The Casse-trained Uncaptured and Dynamic Sky, off the Kentucky Derby trail after finishing off the board in last Saturday’s Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland, checked back into Woodbine on Thursday and will be resetting their sights on the July 7 Queen’s Plate.
Nominations for the $1 million Queen’s Plate, a 1 1/4-mile race for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds, close May 1. A $500 payment is due by that date and a $1,000 payment to maintain eligibility is due June 1. Entry-day supplements can be made at a cost of $25,000.
Nominations for the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks, a 1 1/8-mile race for 3-year-old fillies on June 9, also are due May 1 at a cost of $750. There will be no other payment.
“We’re regrouping,” said Casse, who in addition to the Queenston has stakes options for his 3-year-olds in the May 5 Wando at 1 1/16 miles, the May 26 Marine at the same distance, and the June 9 Plate Trial at 1 1/8 miles.
Facility changes for new meet
A number of changes are in effect for racing patrons, including the consolidation of simulcast wagering on the third floor for days when there is no live racing.
The third-floor Champions area, which formerly was a premium area with a $5 entry fee, now will be free.
The charge for admission to the second-floor Finish Line Bar has been upped from $4 to $5. Bar service will be remain available, but food service has been discontinued.
The popular Favorite’s dining room, on the second floor, will be switching roles with the fourth-floor Post Parade room and will be open for group bookings only.
Valet parking service at the west end of the grandstand no longer will be available. Woodbine Club members will receive preferred self-serve west-end parking and the east-end slots entrance will continue to offer valet parking at a cost of $10.
Moore back after injury
When last seen here at Woodbine, Matt Moore was prostrate on the racetrack after being thrown just after the start of the scheduled 10th race Sept. 22, which was declared no contest after the rider could not be moved safely.
Now, Moore is back and eager to return to action on the opening weekend.
“I separated my shoulder,” said the 30-year-old Moore, who was born in Murray Harbour, Prince Edward Island, and rode his first races in 2006 after learning the ropes under the tutelage of the late trainer Donnie Campbell.
Moore underwent surgery, to have a plate put in his shoulder, and following a winter with family on P.E.I., he returned to have the plate removed.
“The pain didn’t go away until December; that was my hardest couple of months,” Moore said. “I’ve made a full recovery now; everything’s good.”
Moore, who had won 12 races here and another seven at Fort Erie for purses of more than $600,000 when his 2012 campaign was cut short, has been getting on horses in the mornings for the past three weeks.
“I’ve been really busy,” said Moore, who has a new agent this year in veteran Al Raymond and plans to compete at both Woodbine and Fort Erie.
Raymond, who also represents journeyman Martin Ramirez and apprentice Jeffrey Alderson, lined up three mounts for Moore on opening day.
“We’d like to try to win 40 or 50 races this year,” Raymond said.
Moore’s most productive campaign to date came in 2007, when he was a Sovereign Award finalist as outstanding apprentice after winning 54 races – 34 here and 20 at Fort Erie – for earnings of $1.7 million.
◗ Jim Mazur will be here Saturday to host a one-hour handicapping seminar, beginning at 2 p.m. on the second floor east. Attendees will receive free copies of “Winning at Woodbine Handicapper” and “Woodbine Blue Chip Trainer Angles.”