Racing in Canada Remains Resolute Amid COVID Turbulence

by Nigel Reid The memory of what COVID-19 restrictions did to Canada's racing industry during the past 18 months, allied to the looming spectre of the troubling new variant, has done little to dispel the general uncertainty surrounding the sport north of the 49th parallel. However, if the results of what was a truncated season are to be believed, there is cause for optimism over the manner in which the sport, especially at the country's flagship Woodbine facility in Toronto, bounced back in 2021. Indeed, rumours of Canadian racing's demise...

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Woodbine Sees Third Highest Handle in 2021

Woodbine's 2021 Thoroughbred season produced an all-sources handle of $505,348,339, the third-highest season total in Woodbine Thoroughbred history. For the second consecutive season, the COVID-19 pandemic caused a shortened season as the 2021 Woodbine Thoroughbred meet did not begin until June 12. Originally scheduled for 133 race dates, the 2021 season included 99 race days, three more than last year, and 946 races contested. Despite the delayed start, the 2021 season topped $500 million in all-sources handle, propelled mightily by Woodbine's highest single-season foreign wagering handle ever of $420,666,755. The...

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Woodbine Wraps with Casse, Kimura, Barber Titles

With a record closing day handle of $8,530,593, Woodbine's 2021 Thoroughbred meet concluded Sunday with meet titles for trainer Mark Casse, jockey Kazushi Kimura, and owner Gary Barber. Casse secured the leading training title with 110 wins from his 539 starts and earnings of $8,189,186. Martin Drexler trailed in second by wins with 56. It was Casse's 13th time atop the Woodbine leaderboard and his 27 stakes victories at the Toronto oval in 2021 were 19 more than his closest rival. Casse, who is a member of the Hall of...

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God of Love First Graded Winner for Cupid

God of Love closed stoutly to give freshman sire Cupid (Tapit) his first graded victory in the GIII Grey S. at Woodbine Sunday. The chestnut colt broke from the outside and was caught five wide into the first turn while racing towards the back of the field. He had one horse beaten down the backstretch behind an opening quarter in :24.42 and a half in :49.58, but he began inching closer approaching the far turn. Caught wide once again turning for home, God of Love stormed into contention at the...

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The Week in Review: Pink Lloyd Reminds Us How Special the Thoroughbred Is

With the Medina Spirit (Protonico) positive, the GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf debacle, the on-going saga of Jorge Navarro, Jason Servis and the rest and the closing of Arlington Park, it's been another tough year for horse racing. This game sure can get you down at times. But we will always have the horse. These beautiful, athletic, noble, graceful animals, they always find a way to make you feel good about the sport. Which is why so many people were smiling and cheering Saturday at Woodbine as Pink Lloyd (Old...

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The Minkster Looks to Remain Perfect in Grey

The Minkster (English Channel) looks to take his record to three-for-three in Woodbine's GIII Grey S. Sunday. Romping by 6 1/4 lengths in his career bow on the Woodbine turf Oct. 2, the bay took to a route of ground with ease, capturing the nine-furlong Coronation Futurity S. on the synthetic here four weeks later. Kevin Attard sends out two here in Hicksy (Hootenanny) and Be Like Clint (Point of Entry). A dominant second-out graduate on the local main track Oct. 3, Hicksy captured the Display S. at this oval...

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Casse Saddles Half of Mazarine Field

Multiple Sovereign Award winner Mark Casse sends out four of the nine runners in Sunday's GIII Mazarine S. at Woodbine. Leading the quartet is Conrad Farms homebred Aubrieta (Speightster). A debut winner sprinting at this oval Sept. 11, the bay was second in the state-bred Shady Well S. Oct. 8 and returned to winning ways in the Glorious Song S. here 22 days later. Live Oak's $550,000 OBSMAR buy Souper Hoity Toity (Uncle Mo) graduated at second asking on the grass here Oct. 1 and won an optional claimer on...

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Canadian Star Pink Lloyd to be Retired After Kennedy Road

In the all-good-things-must-come-to-an-end department, the venerable 9-year-old Ontario-bred Pink Lloyd (Old Forester) will make his final career start in Saturday's GII Kennedy Road S. at Woodbine, trainer Bob Tiller has announced. "He's getting old, like me," Tiller said. "What does he have to prove? I just don't want to put him out there against the very best anymore. He deserves to be retired. He was never going to go out there and run in $20,000 claimers. The decision has been made and we will stick to it. It's been a...

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Lady Speightspeare Remains Perfect in Bessarabian

'TDN Rising Star' Lady Speightspeare (Speightstown) made a successful transition to the Tapeta track Saturday, racing away to a convincing score in the GII Bessarabian S., remaining unbeaten from four starts in the process. The Fipke homebred, whose prior victories include the GI Natalma S. over the local turf course last season, wired a Sept. 6 turf allowance over 8 1/2 furlongs, but was scratched after becoming fractious in the gate ahead of the GI Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Oct. 16 at Keeneland and was a trainer scratch prior...

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Unbeaten Lady Speightspeare Makes All-Weather Debut in Bessarabian

'TDN Rising Star' Lady Speightspeare (Speightstown), three-for-three on turf to start her career, will try all-weather racing for the first time Saturday at Woodbine, going seven furlongs on the Tapeta in the GII Bessarabian S. A sharp 3 3/4-length frontrunning winner debuting on the local turf last August to earn her 'Rising Star' badge, the Chuck Fipke homebred quickly backed up that distinction with a score in the GI Natalma S. The chestnut was sidelined for nearly a year after that, however, before returning with an optional claiming success in...

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Hall of Fame Jockey Hugo Dittfach Passes Away

Canadian Hall of Fame jockey Hugo Dittfach passed away at the age of 85. A refugee from East Germany, Dittfach spent three years in a Russian concentration camp in Poland during World War II before emigrating to Canada. He began his riding career in 1956 and was a leading rider in Western Canada before relocating to Ontario. Dittfach won the 1961 Queen's Plate aboard 20-1 longshot Blue Light. The pair just edged the world's leading race-winning jockey Johnny Longden and race-favorite Just Don't Shove in one of the closest finishes...

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Hicksy Becomes First Stakes Winner for Hootenanny

Hicksy became the first black-type winner for his GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf-winning freshman sire Hootenanny Saturday in Woodbine's Display S. Fourth on debut over the local synthetic Sept. 12, he rebounded with a six-length demolition next out at this oval Oct. 3, earning an 80 Beyer Speed Figure. Keeping a watchful eye on the leading favorite from second through a :46.10 half-mile, the bay swept up alongside the chalk in the final sixteenth and edged clear to score. The winner is the first foal out of Fantastic Score, whose...

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