After a really wild night last night (in which I consumed nearly an entire pizza and then went to bed at about 9:30) I woke up bright-eyed and bushy tailed this morning. I had a lot to look forward to: not only was there a fantastic day of racing ahead of me at Woodbine, but I was going to get to see reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan get a gallop on the grass course here and get to meet Dimension, the only Woodbine Mile contender I hadn’t seen yet.
When we got to the track, we headed straight over to the “Euro Barn” to see Trade Storm getting ready to go for a spin on the turf course. He seemed to be listening intently as his rider received his marching orders
Once he was out on the grass, he was very much on his toes and seemed to be ready to go!
Once Trade Storm was off on his gallop, we had to boogie over to Wise Dan’s barn to see him gallop. We arrived just in time to see the big horse getting his party clothes on before his trip to the turf course. He was relaxed and happy, and seemed eager to get out to the track to stretch his legs.
Once Dan (Is it OK if I call him Dan? I mean, Wise Dan seems so formal and since I pretty much stalk him at this point, I feel like we might as well be on a nickname basis) had his bridle and saddle on, it was time for business. Since his regular exercise rider didn’t make the trip to Canada, Ruth Schmidt got to take Dan for a spin. That must have been pretty cool! As Dan walked out of his stall, Schmidt got a leg-up into the saddle and away they went.
Once Dan got to the turf course, he was all business. I was lucky enough to stand next to his trainer, Charlie LoPresti, while Dan was galloping (my internal monologue was something along the lines of: “Ohmygod, don’t say anything stupid. Don’t ask if you can ride Wise Dan. Come on, Miller, KEEP IT TOGETHER.”) Anyway, LoPresti said that he thinks that the Woodbine grass course is the best in North America, and it seemed that Wise Dan agreed with him. He looked incredibly relaxed and happy during his gallop, and rider Ruth Schmidt reported afterward that he was raring to go.
It was so neat to see how well Dan adjusted to Woodbine; he’s only been here once before for last year’s Mile, but he wasn’t at all put out by the unfamiliar surroundings. I asked LoPresti about it, and he told me that Dan is one of the smartest horses he’s ever met and that the more time he spends around him, the more he’s impressed by his adjustability and attitude.
Once Dan was back in the barn, Woodbine’s Keith McCalmont and I set out to go meet up with Dimension and his trainer Conor Murphy. If you haven’t heard Conor’s story, it’s pretty incredible. While he was an assistant trainer, he placed a £50 bet that yielded a £1 million payday when he bet on five of his stable’s horses in a series of races. He took those winnings, moved across the ocean to Kentucky, and opened his own training stable. Needless to say, he’s done very well and now has Dimension going in tomorrow’s Mile here.
If for some reason you doubt Murphy’s horsemanship, don’t: Dimension is fit as a fiddle. Yet, while Murphy was giving him a bath, the horse stood quietly and happily, never moving except to inspect the cameras taking pictures of him. Conor did warn us that he loves cameras and attention – a good sign for a horse in a sport where winners get their picture taken!
Seriously, this horse is a total ham. Keith was trying to get quotes from Conor, and Dimension kept nuzzling him as if to remind Keith that he was the star of the show. Add him to the list of horses I’m a little bit in love with!
When I got a little too close with my camera, he was right there waiting for me – fuzzy nose alert!
Like I said, I may be a little bit in love with this sweet horse.
Thanks to Keith McCalmont for the photo!
After indulging in horsey snuggles, it was time to get to the front side of the track for a little work. This is a great racing weekend at Woodbine; in addition to tomorrow’s Woodbine Mile card, the track had two very good races today: the Natalma Stakes for 2-year-old fillies (aka female horses) and the Summer Stakes which is open to all 2-year-olds. Both of these stakes are Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” races, which means that the winner gets an all expenses-paid trip to the World Championships in November. Very exciting stuff!
Before we get to the stakes, I want to take you on a quick tour of Woodbine. If you’re planning to head on out here for tomorrow’s Mile (or at any other time!) it’s always good to know where to watch the races and hang out for a day of fun.
If you want to see the horses before they run, a great place to start is the saddling area. This is an indoor walking ring where trainers take a final look at their charges before taking them out to parade in the paddock and it’s easily accessible to fans via an escalator from the main floor.
One of my favorite places at Woodbine is the paddock itself: it’s a place of serenity, with huge weeping willows and tons of space for the horses to stretch their legs before heading to the starting gate. It’s just a quick walk from the saddling area, and it really is a breathtaking space.
When the horses go out for their races, a great place to watch the action is from the apron; this is the area immediately next to the track, and at Woodbine it offers spectacular views; plus, picnic tables! Everyone likes a picnic table.
It’s also the place to get cozy with the winners, too: you can walk right next to the winner’s circle and see the horses and their human connections up close and personal.
There’s also ample seating in the Grandstand that affords unparalleled views of the racing action, making it the perfect place to cheer home your horse. Side note: the people in the photo below are rooting for eventual winner Flipcup. My college-age self would be SO angry at me for not betting on her – I was really good at that game!
You can also watch the races from inside Woodbine’s facility; there are floor-to-ceiling windows so that no one has to miss a thing no matter what the weather’s doing, plus it has TVs that show all of the action at other racetracks across North America.
There are also tons of places to grab a drink or a bite to eat inside. I found this bakery, which sells something with the intriguing name of “butter tarts.” I’m going to have to try one of those.
I also heard from reliable sources that this place, the Finish Line Bar, is where lots of trainers and owners hang out. I didn’t get a chance to go in, but the place was packed all day.
Now, off to the races! The first major stakes of the day was the Natalma for 2-year-old fillies; and as I mentioned above, the winner gets a trip to the Breeders’ Cup World Championships. With that much on the line (plus a cool $200,000 in purse money) it’s no surprise that there were eight fillies stepping up to the challenge.
After a tough race, it was Llanarmon who emerged the victor; again, I should have bet this horse, since I remarked to Keith McCalmont right before the race that she would probably win because there was no way I would be able to consistently spell her name correctly. And of course, win she did, and in good style, too! Jockey Emma-Jayne Wilson, owners Cavendish Investing, and trainer Roger Attfield were tickled by her grittiness and determination, and now they get a trip to Los Angeles to take on the world in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf!
Up next was the Summer Stakes. This is a race that’s for 2-year-olds, meaning that male and female horses can run. Such horse racing legends as Northern Dancer and Sky Classic have won this contest, so it’s a very prestigious race in addition to its Breeders’ Cup implications. This time there were nine 2-year-olds battling it out, and after looking at the horses in the paddock I had no idea who would win: there were some seriously great-looking critters entered here.
Side note: owner Bear Stable’s silks are orange and feature what appears to be a bear challenging a horse to a fight. I think this is just tremendous and I had to share it with you.
Anyway, back to the Summer Stakes: as the nine horses went to post, the race seemed to be to be wide open. But I had no idea that it would be the filly, My Conquestadory, who would beat the boys in her first career race! She won it like a horse having a blast, with her ears pricked forward and under no urging from jockey Eurico Da Silva.
As her connections met her in the winner’s circle, everyone had big smiles on their faces: after all, not only had they just won a huge race against the boys, but they were Breeders’ Cup bound! Interestingly, the rules of the Breeders’ Cup dictate that My Conquestadory run in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, so Woodbine will have at least two representatives in that race on Nov. 2.
Well, that’s it for me today; I’m off to get a good night’s sleep in anticipation of tomorrow’s Woodbine Mile day! Thank you so much for stopping by, and let me know if you have any questions for me in the comments!