Canadian Thoroughbred racing will honour its brightest stars of last season at the Sovereign Awards dinner, Friday evening at Woodbine, as a prelude to Opening weekend. The Sovereign Awards were established in 1975 to honour Canada’s best each year.
Jockey Club of Canada Chief Steward, Jim Lawson (middle right) presents Canada’s 2013 Horse of the Year Award to the connections of Sam-Son Farm, owner and breeder of Up With the Birds.
– Michael Burns photo
Who will be the 2014 Horse of the Year?
We’ll find out this Friday.
Woodbine Press Release – April 8, 2015
The 2015 live Thoroughbred racing season kicks off this weekend at Woodbine, the first two of 133 programs scheduled for the year.
Saturday’s Opening Day 10-race card, highlighted by the six furlong, $125,000 Woodstock Stakes on Polytrack for three-year-olds, was drawn on Wednesday. First race post time is 1:00 p.m. Sunday’s card, to be drawn on Thursday, features the $125,000 Star Shoot Stakes for three-year-old fillies, also at six furlongs over the Poly.
Woodbine’s perennial leading jockeys and trainers will once again be in action. Patrick Husbands, a seven-time Sovereign Award recipient and 2014 finalist, has four mounts on Opening Day. Last year, in a renaissance campaign, Husbands led all Woodbine riders in wins (170), purse earnings ($10.6 million) and stakes victories (27).
Luis Contreras, a two-time consecutive Sovereign Award winner and a finalist for 2014, has six mounts on Saturday, while 2013 Sovereign Award winner and 2014 finalist Eurico Rosa da Silva is named on seven, including an entry in the fifth.
Another well-known jockey, Alan Garcia, has committed to ride at Woodbine this year after many successful seasons in the United States. Among his Grade 1 wins are the 2008 Belmont Stakes aboard Da’Tara, when upsetting Triple Crown hopeful Big Brown. He also rode Real Solution to victory in the 2013 Arlington Million and took the 2007 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf aboard Lahudood. Garcia will be busy on Saturday, as he is named on seven horses.
Trainer Mark Casse, a six-time Sovereign Award winner and once again a 2014 finalist, sends out three on Opening Day. Casse comes off a 2014 season when he won a Woodbine-leading 93 races, a whopping $7.7 million in purse earnings, and of course, trained likely Canadian Horse of the Year Lexie Lou to victories in the Woodbine Oaks and historic Queen’s Plate.
This year, Canada’s most famous horse race, the aforementioned $1 million Queen’s Plate, will be staged on Sunday, July 5, when the mile and one-quarter classic for Canadian-bred three-year-olds will be contested for the 156th consecutive time, making it the oldest, continuously-run stakes race in North America.
The $500,000 Woodbine Oaks, presented by Budweiser, for Canadian-foaled three-year-old fillies, and the $150,000 Plate Trial for Canadian-bred three-year-olds, both at one and one-eighth miles, will be run on Sunday, June 14.
Other major races at Woodbine include the $500,000 Breeders’ Stakes, the third leg in the Canadian Triple Crown, on August 16 at one and one-half miles over the E.P. Taylor Turf Course; the $1 million, Grade 1, turf Ricoh Woodbine Mile and the Grade 1 Northern Dancer Turf on September 13; the $1 million Pattison Canadian International and the $500,000 E.P. Taylor Stakes, also both Grade 1 turf events, on Sunday, October 18.
Saturday’s Woodstock, scheduled for 4:39 p.m., drew a talented group of eight hopefuls, including four undefeated colts/geldings. Topping the group but making his Polytrack debut is Conquest Stables’ Conquest Bigluck E, trained by Casse and to be ridden by Husbands. The Kentucky-bred son of Lookin At Lucky broke his maiden at Churchill Downs last June then returned to action in October, winning an allowance contest at Keeneland.
Kentucky-based trainer Wesley Ward has sent up undefeated City of Vengeance, a gelded son of City Zip, who has won both of his outings on the turf at Gulfstream Park this year. Rafael Hernandez rides. Locals Hammerstein and Jacks Escarpment are also undefeated for trainers Darwin Banach and Nick Gonzalez, respectively, while U.S. conditioner Mike Maker has shipped a pair for the Woodstock – Serious Talk, a three-time winner in four starts, to be handled by Emma-Jayne Wilson and one-time winner Indygo Bo, to be ridden by Garcia.
First race post times for Saturdays, Sundays and holiday Mondays throughout the year will be 1:00 p.m. Friday racing, also with a 1:00 p.m. first race post, begins on April 24 while Wednesday night racing, beginning at 6:45 p.m., is slated to start on May 27.
What’s new for this year’s Opening Day?
A number of jockeys will be participating in a meet and greet session on the second floor from 12:30 – 12:45 p.m. The first 500 fans will receive free programs. There will also be $5,000 distributed in Instant Cash Giveaways while live music will be featured throughout the day.
On the wagering front, Woodbine will introduce a new wager, the 20-cent Pick 5 (Races 2 through 6 on Saturday), as well as continue to offer the horseplayer 20-cent Triactor, Pick 3, Pick 4 and Superfecta minimum bets. There’s also a $100,000 guaranteed pool for the early Pick 4’s each weekend. The 20-cent Jackpot Hi-5 (first five finishers in the day’s last race), inaugurated in 2013, will also continue to be attractive, especially as a carryover, until only a single ticket wins the entire pot.
Woodbine’s 2015 Thoroughbred season comes to a close on Sunday, November 29.