Norm Files photo
Appropriately, ABSOULUTE HEAVEN won the first race of the 57th Woodbine season yesterday: it was heaven to be back watching live thoroughbred racing, seeing all the grooms and hotwalkers and trainers and ponies.
This mare, bred by David Cassidy in New York, has been a gem for owner/trainer JIM ENSOM, who conditions his horses at TEEN RANCH north of Toronto.
The mare showed one, four furlong workout, but was very ready to battle all the way through the 5 furlongs and win for the 12th time in her career. Steve Bahen rode the winner.
The DEBUT STAKES went to 1 to 5 fave GYPSY RING, who was outrun early in the 5 furlong dash but the 21 2/5 pace did in the speedsters and he rallied to score with an 86 Beyer Figure. Justin Stein rode.
It was a sunny, crisp day but everyone was outside at Woodbine, cheering on their favourite horses and jockeys.
The jockeys were certainly pumped up too. There was no shortage of fun stuff including 2 very noticebale fists pump/celebratory finishes by jockeys Gerry Olguin and Eurico Rosa da Silva.
Oh yes, WESLEY WARD dominated again – he won 3 races on the card (last year he won 5). His winners were the 3yo’s CHIQUIS, SWEET AND LOWDOWN and ZIGWELLA.
Top trainers MARK CASSE and READE BAKER were both winners on the day. The former won with DELIGHTFUL SONG in a maiden allowance, race 5. She beat the much buzzed about GRAVELLY BAY after an early stretch duel.
The latter won with SIR LOWRY’S PASS, a grey 4yo owned by Roger Fortier.
One event of the 9 was not at 5 furlongs – that was a 7 furlong starter allowance won by Ace Racing, TC Racing and Kingview’s HOLY SCHNEIKIES, now 7 for 25 in his career. Scott Fairlie trains the son of Harlan’s Holiday.
Nice win by ZIP IT NANCE in an allowance race at 5 furlongs. This guy looked super on the track and while he raced for $20K claiming most of last year, he surged wide into the turn and put away the other speed to win for thr 4th time in his career.
Trained by Denyse McClahrie for Shale Wagman and Dan Pivnick, Zip It Nance came to Woodbine from Florida last year.
Not many winning trainers were in the winner’s circle yesterday – absentees included Casse, Paul Buttigieg, Brian Lynch and Ward.
Ward had a rider change on his horses from Jeff Sanchez to Jesus Rios.
Handicappers picked anywhere from 3 to 5 winners on the card, Woodbine’s Jeff Bratt picked the first Pick 4 for $54.00 so if you had that much for the bet as Jeff did, you walked away with over $500.
Betting on the card was $2.5 million, down a bit from last year’s opening day which was on a Saturday.
Today is the Jacques Cartier Stakes, a longtime and popular stakes event and the speedy ESSENCE HIT MAN, who won it last year, is the one to catch.
He’s baaack. EURICO ROSA DA SILVA, winning his first race since last fall when he got hurt. He’s pretty happy about riding Ballycroy’s PROUD OF MY ROOTS to victory. Norm Files photo