river seven CREDIT Kenny Martin






Fairytale season for the Tucci family continues

RIVER SEVEN powered past a decent field of older horses at Gulfstream Park yesterday and won the $100,000 Harlan’s Holiday Handicap for his 3rd straight stakes win of 2013.
Here is a 3yo (bred by Bill Graham in Ontario) who was a lot of people’s pick for the Queen’s Plate this year off his strong win in the Grade 3 Grey Stakes as a 2yo.
But he was behind the eight ball in his training to start 2013, as said by trainer Nick Gonzalez, and was 3rd in the Queenston and then 10th in the Plate, beaten 32 lengths.

But once this son of Johannesburg – Sans Souci Island by Chester House got off the Plate trail and off the Polytrack, he turned into the runner many thought he was, actually better. He was 2nd in the Prince of Wales to Uncaptured and has since won the Labeeb on soft grass, the Commonwealth at Keeneland and now the Harlan’s Holiday.

“It’s quite a thrill. This is my first stakes win at Gulfstream. It was an impressive performance – a track record.

“I was wanting to get him back on the dirt from the time he ran (second) in the Prince of Wales at Fort Erie. That option was over in Canada because all we had was Polytrack and turf. We got him on turf and he was a rock star on turf so we couldn’t take him off that.

“I didn’t want to cut him back to a mile in the El Prado (on turf) next week because it might screw up our schedule because we’re obviously looking down the road (to the Grade 1 $500,000 Donn Handicap on Feb. 8), especially after this performance.

“Things fell into place. We got a nice pace in front of us and Joe (Rocco Jr.) sat patiently on him. He told me he had a ton (of horse) at the three-eighths pole and he said, ‘We might as well make the race now.’”

Jockey Joe Rocco (River Seven): “Things worked out really good. I was able to get close to the rail around the first turn and just followed the two (Csaba) because I thought he was the horse to beat. He was going so good that when I asked him to step on it he really accelerated. The only horse I was worried about after that was Bourbon Courage because I thought he might come late.

(On the track record): “I knew they were going fast early, but I didn’t know we were going that fast. He did it really comfortably.”

The time if 1:41 .76 for 1 1/16 miles was a 102 Beyer Figure.

RIVER SEVEN deserves mention as a top horse of 2013 and should be a finalist for champion 3yo male along with UP WITH THE BIRDS.




Horses and humans alike, tread carefully on the slick ice, watch for falling trees (photo at right by RENEE KIERANS Monday a.m. in the horse country of the Puslinch area)






GULFSTREAM NOTES – Casse Planning Ahead for Trio of Juveniles

Trainer Mark Casse issued an upbeat bulletin about a trio of juvenile colts in his Palm Meadows barn. Two of them, Coastline and Awesome Sky, are owned by John Oxley, while Conquest Titan carries the colors of Ernie Semersky and Dory Newell’s Conquest Stable. Both Coastline and Conquest Titan under consideration for the $400,000 Holy Bull Stakes (G3) on January 25, while Awesome Sky will be looking for a softer spot.

A troubled fifth as the favorite in his second start in a Churchill Downs maiden on November 7, the gray colt rallied to finish third in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) at the Louisville oval on November 30.




Leading Woodbine rider leaves Ontario early to fly south


Leading Woodbine rider Luis Contreras has just begun his third winter sojourn at Gulfstream Park. A native of Mexico City, the 27-year-old reinsman began his riding career in Mexico before moving his tack to northern California. He arrived at Woodbine four years ago and swiftly moved up the ranks, taking the riding title at the Ontario oval in each of the last three seasons.

The “winter” weather is especially attractive, he said.

“Right now? I’m very happy to be here,” Contreras quipped. “The last time I rode [at Woodbine on December 11] it was at night, and it was something like minus 14 [degrees]. It was very cold.”

In 2011, Contreras became the first rider to win all three races of the Canadian Triple Crown—the Queen’s Plate, the Prince of Wales Stakes and the Breeders’ Stakes—with two different horses. He booted home Pender Harbour in the latter two events, and piloted the filly Inglorious to beat the boys in the Queen’s Plate that summer.            “Winning the Queen’s Plate with Inglorious was a tremendous feeling,” Contreras remarked. “But I enjoy winning every race.”

After his stint at Golden Gate Fields in California, Contreras made his way to Woodbine with the help of trainer Steve Asmussen, and later forged his own reputation.

“I was under contract to Steve Asmussen,” Contreras explained. “After Asmussen stopped sending horses there, I was going to come back to the States, but a lot of trainers and owners and my agent [Tony Esposito], they helped me a lot and supported me.”

Contreras has a friend here in trainer Tino Attard, for whom he rode Wonderfully in Friday’s fourth race. Sent off at 10-1, the chestnut mare was making her first start on traditional dirt after 22 outings on the Polytrack at Woodbine. She finished second, beaten just a half-length.

“Tino Attard—he’s one of the guys that have helped me a lot,” Contreras noted. “I’m happy that he gives me the opportunity to ride his horses here.”

Contreras, who won the Orchid Handicap (G3) last year aboard Regalo Mio, noted that there are differences between riding on the synthetic surfaces versus dirt.

“I like the Poly because I don’t get dirty,” Contreras joked. “But it is a little different. If you’re coming from behind, you don’t get that much dirt on your face. If it’s a six or 6 ½-furlong race you can go to the lead and you’ll have a lot of horse all the way. But if it’s longer—a mile, a mile and a sixteenth—a lot of horses get tired towards the end, even if you have a slow pace.

Behold A Pale Horse

Registered White Thoroughbred Track Favorite

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – There are over 1,300 horses stabled and training at Gulfstream Park, but it’s remarkably easy to pick out Lady Valentine among the sea of shimmering bay and chestnut coats. A rare Thoroughbred registered as white, the 2-year-old filly has just a few dark freckle marks on her ghostly coat.

“This is the first white horse I’ve seen down here,” trainer Aubrey Maragh remarked. “She’s a track favorite; everybody loves her out there. She has two little black spots near her ears. When she has her bath, she gets pink.”

Lady Valentine is a daughter of Allamystique, a uniquely marked white stallion who is known for his colorful offspring. She is the first foal from the hard-knocking chestnut mare Evolutionary Lady, a winner of seven of 53 career starts.

It has been six weeks since the unique filly joined Maragh’s 19-horse string at Gulfstream. Lady Valentine has breezed twice during that period and will eventually carry the colors of Box It Stable, but the conditioner is taking his time with her.

“She’s still growing and really needs to fill out,” Maragh explained. “She’s a baby. She’s a very nice horse, very playful. She doesn’t kick, she doesn’t bite. She doesn’t eat a lot, so we’re trying to get her to eat and put a little weight on.”

According to Maragh, Lady Valentine was purchased as a pet for her owner’s 13-year-old daughter, but will get a chance to see what she can do on the racetrack before a possible career as a show horse.

“He and his daughter come out to watch her train, mostly on weekends,” Maragh said. “They love that horse. I know I definitely won’t be running her [in claiming races].”

LADY VALENTINE, by Allamystique, is training at Gulfstream – GULFSTREAM PARK PHOTO









KIMBERLEY DOWNS wins feature in Malta

The 2013 Equestrian Festival was held at the Marsa racetrack, yesterday.

The event consisted of various activities including pony races, polo tournament, show jumping, six finals for trotters and a final for flat horses.

In flat racing, Kimberley Downs (Michael Sultana) gained its sixth win of the year and a fifth in a row on the way to winning the Coronation Cup.



Kimberley Downs (right) winning the flat race at Marsa yesterday.

from the TIMES OF MALTA, this is an older picture of KIMBERLEY DOWNS, a son of Giant’s Causeway – Fountain Lake by Vigors. He is a 7yo now with wins in Belgium and mostly in Malta. He was bred by Gaines-Gentry Thoroughbreds.