TORONTO, April 17 - More harness racing stakes action took place Thursday evening at Woodbine Racetrack as sophomore trotting fillies were showcased in a pair of Celias Counsel Trotting Series divisions. Tosca and Just Call Me Lady kicked off the series opener with victories in their respective $15,000 divisions. With heavily-favoured Flexible Woman (Steve Byron) making a miscue in the first division, Tosca and driver/trainer Per Henriksen made the most of her first start of the season. K D Bella (Mike Saftic) was the tempo-setter for most of the mile through panels of :27, :57 and 1:27.4. Around the final turn, Serendipitous (Jody Jamieson) began the first-over attack giving cover to Tosca. Henriksen angled his charge three-wide at three-quarters and wore down K D Bella in deep stretch to win by three quarters of a length in 1:56.4. Wings Of Ballykeel (Sylvain Filion) finished third. Tosca, a daughter of Muscle Mass, is owned by Asa Farm and Steve Organ. The trotting lass increased her bankroll to $35,400 with the win. She paid $16.50 to win. One race later, Just Call Me Lady posted the minor upset in 1:57.2 at odds of 3-1. In doing so, driver Trevor Ritchie enjoyed his first win of the season since arriving back in Ontario after wintering in Florida. Do The Wheelhouse (Jody Jamieson) was the first leader past the opening station in :27.1. As the field of 10 marched towards the half, Chippentail (Paul Macdonell) pulled out from third and marched to the front past the mid-way point in :58.2. Fashion Goddess (Jonathan Drury) was next to pull on the right line heading towards three-quarters with Just Call Me Lady following the speed. As the field trotted past three-quarters in 1:28.1, Just Call Me Lady was well spotted sitting second-over and the talented filly marched past her rivals down the stretch en route to victory. Post time favourite Miss Everything (Sylvain Filion) came from behind to finish second, with Do The Wheelhouse claiming third prize. Trainer Blake Macintosh co-owns the youngster with Anne Campbell and Stephen Waldman. Just Call Me Lady increased her lifetime earnings to $35,549 with the victory The daughter of Angus Hall paid $8.10 to win. Greg Gangle
Phil Hudon comes from a big harness racing family, there is Jerry and Dave who are cousins, Jerry is in Alberta and Dave is located in British Columbia, (BC). Phil also has brothers John and Steve out in BC and in Ontario, Phil has his brother Pat and dad Joe. If anyone has had the pleasure of speaking with Phil, there is something about his laugh that seems so genuine. Phil comes across laid back and easy going and the laugh suggests he truly enjoys having a good time, regardless of who he's talking to. A touching moment right of the bat is Phil describing what his brother Pat had to overcome. Several years ago during a qualifier, Phil's brother Pat was driven into the track due to a horse accident. "He's lucky to be around" Phil says. "He's good now, but it was scary at the time." Thank God Pat is okay, it is tough to think of what the drivers have to contend with at times day after day. Yes drivers wear helmets, but all their limbs are exposed and it's a blessing and a testament to the skill drivers possess that accidents rarely occur. Big Jim by far, would be Phil's most exciting horse he's raced to date. "We won the Breeders Crown (at Pocono Downs) and the Governors' Cup (at Woodbine Racetrack) and we got to race against all the top horses for a couple of years and I've never experienced that before. It's pretty thrilling to drive a horse like that, a world class horse." Phil explains. "That's what it's all about right there" says Phil. "Drivers can get good horses... but great horses make you look so much better." Away from the rush of racing horses, if Phil isn't following hockey, you can catch him at a baseball game. "I used to like the Canucks, but I like the home teams so now it's the Leafs unfortunately" says Phil laughing. Oh Phil, I feel your pain and so does every Maple Leafs fan out there. "I like the Blue Jays, LA Dodgers and the Detroit Tigers in baseball." Phil notes. Life has been hectic for Phil who races seven days a week! "I go everywhere now. I go to Flamboro once a week and Western Fair on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and the rest of the week I'm at Mohawk/Woodbine." That sure is a lot of mileage and travel time, but it only goes to show how much Phil is dedicated to the sport he's passionate about as well as doing his very best to support his family. Phil has three kids, Madison 14, Zach 7 and Delaney who is 7 months old. "It's tough; you miss out on family time because it's work, work, work." Phil acknowledges. "There are nights they're going out for dinner and you miss out on all of that. On weekends, you just can't take off and go to the cottage unless you book the weekend off but then you lose your drives." It must be difficult trying to hold together two firm commitments. On one side you have your family in your heart and the other side, there's horse racing which you love and you need to be fully committed to driving and ensuring you're always showing up to the track to be able to provide for the family you love. It is reasons like these that I feel the horsemen and women within the horse racing industry do get enough praise for what they do with the sacrifices involved. Phil does admit it's tough on the family at times with all his travelling. "I'm hustling a bit more this year" explains Phil. "I got to get back rolling because I was slumping for a bit.... I find I am sharper when I am racing everywhere. Plus I am going for 4,000 wins so I'd like to get that. I am still a couple hundred away though." It would be awesome for Phil to win his 4,000th win at Woodbine or in a major stakes race. Talk about what an awesome win photo shot of that would be, nothing short of spectacular. North America Cup for number 4,000! "Wins are wins" says Phil. "You can win a five claimer and it picks you up.... I find racing all the time keeps you sharper." Phil came to Ontario from British Columbia at a very young age, Phil was only 16. "It was tough; I had no friends, nothing." Phil says. "It was just me, my dad and his girlfriend at the time and two dogs, we only had four horses." "I quit school at 16, but I wish I didn't though." Phil explains, "I thought about (finishing school) a bit... but I wanted to drive horses, that's what I really like doing." Phil explains how it can be tough in some races when the horse you're driving is really pulling, but there isn't one particular drive that sticks out to Phil that would he would consider his most intense drive. Phil unfortunately has been in a few accidents which resulted him popping out his shoulder a few times and cracking his wrist once. Phil considers himself lucky to date, which is remarkable and that must say a lot about his driving skills and his keen awareness for the horses and drivers around him each and every race. "There's been people badly hurt, you know with broken arms and legs. I've just been lucky, touch on wood." Phil says. Luck plays a role in many things in life, but for the time Phil has been driving, I strongly believe it's his driving aptitude combined with luck that has brought him this far. Phil does not give himself enough credit. During our conversation, Phil pays respect to his fellow horsemen, the horses, the owners, but not once did Phil give any credit to himself. Phil should give himself more credit; no one lasts long in any career without being skilled, decent, humble and respectful. Of which all of these attributes Phil possesses. Phil was a big wrestling fan back in the day; Stone Cold Steve Austin and the Rock were his two guys he would cheer on. "Back in the day, the Rock was awesome and with Stone Cold, they were playing a good role." Phil says UFC is another sport Phil really enjoys watching. One of his favorite fighters is BJ Penn. "I loved BJ Penn he was awesome, the Prodigy... I like watching good fights, there's a bunch for great athletes like St. Pierre, and he was awesome." Phil says. However, don't expect Phil to be entering the Octagon, he enjoys watching the fights, not being a part of the fights. Phil enjoys the brotherhood of the driver's colony at Woodbine and Mohawk Racetracks. "I don't really do grudges" says Phil. "You go about your business; if you end up in a grudge match you're only hurting the owner and the horse. You need to keep your head on right; you always need to use your head." Phil does consider himself a joker, one who can dish out the laughs and still be able to laugh at himself. To be a fly on the wall in the driver's room, one can only imagine how much fun the drivers have with one another. by Roderick Balgobin, www.supernovasportsclub.com Twitter: ScSupernova
TORONTO, April 16 - After a commanding five and half length victory in her latest outing, Flexible Woman certainly appears to be on her game when she begins in Thursday's opening round of the Celias Counsel Series at Woodbine. The John Bax trainee didn't disappoint her backers last start as Flexible Woman trotted to a 1:59.3 mile over a sloppy track for driver Steve Byron. "She's come back really well this season," Bax said. "That's the type of effort you want to see from a filly early in the season. Her first start was impressive also despite finishing second." The homebred daughter of Federal Flex didn't go though the auction ring as a yearling as Bax bought into the lass from breeder Jim Bullock's Glengate Farm. Last season, the bay earned $29,736 from 10 starts, but the veteran conditioner wasn't satisfied with her campaign. "I was pretty high on her as a baby but there was something bothering her last year," he said. "She would fall apart at the end of a mile. Either something was pinching her or she needed to mature. We couldn't put a finger on it so we gave her time." Bax along with a team of six wintered in Florida, while his son, Matt, prepared Flexible Woman for her three-year-old season at their Peterborough farm. "Matt trained her back this winter and did a fine job and the filly did it the right way," said the veteran conditioner. "So far it's all systems go and we'll play it week by week with her. That's a nice series that she fits into (Celias Counsel) and that should get her well prepared for the summer." Bax remains hopeful that Flexible Woman can compete at the highest level in the provincial program against stablemate and O'Brien Award winner, Riveting Rosie. "It wouldn't surprise me if she turned out to be a Gold filly. I'm optimistic about that," Bax said. "She's got that attitude and fight in her. It's a fine line between ignorance and the will and fight to win. She's on the right side of the line." Bax also provided an update on Riveting Rosie, who captured the Peaceful Way final last year at Mohawk en route to racking up $468,613 in earnings. "She's right where I want her to be," he said. "I trained her in 2:06 in Florida before we shipped her home. I'll likely qualify her a few times and get her ready for the SBOA (Standardbred Breeders of Ontario Association). That will be her first stake of the year." Two divisions of the Celias Councel Series will take place on Thursday evening in races two and three. First post time is set for 7:25 p.m. The divisions will line up as follows: Race 2 1. K D Bella 2. Kadabra Lavictoire 3. Serendipitious 4. Tosca 5. Wings Of Ballykeel 6. Jamandra 7. Flexible Woman 8. Windsong Kissntell 9. Wheely Quick Race 3 1. Just Call Me Lady 2. Chippentail 3. Emerald Bling 4. Miss Everything 5. Do The Wheelhouse 6. Movintothecountry 7. Northern Secret 8. Fashion Goddess 9. Amico Love Song 10. Domedomedome The Celias Counsel Series is for three-year-old trotting fillies, who non-winners of $30,000 in 2013. by Greg Gangle, for WEG
TORONTO, April 12 - Dragon Seelster, a three-year-old son of Dragon Again, will seek his second career tally in Monday's $36,200 Youthful Series final at Woodbine. Trained and driven by Paul Macdonell, Dragon Seelster has had a credible to season to date in six appearances. The bay has crafted a 1-2-3 record this year along with $21,750 in earnings. "He's certainly been racing very well and most important is that he's been consistent," said MacDonell. "He's a beautiful horse to be around and he seems to be making a good showing of himself." The bay was a $19,000 yearling purchase for owner Dave Hudson along with former NHLer and head coach of the London Knights, Dale Hunter. Dallas Seelster, bred in Ontario by Seelster Farms, went winless as a rookie for previous trainer Charlie Norris while racing in Pennsylvania. He capped off his freshman campaign with $11,410 in earnings from five starts. This season, however, has been the turning point for the youngster. "I got him in February and to be honest, I wasn't sure what to expect from him," the Guelph resident said. "He's not the biggest horse and I wasn't sure how much speed was there. What I can say is that what he lacks in size, he makes up in determination. He's a gutsy horse and there's no quit in him." Heading into the final of the Youthful Series, MacDonell has his eye on a specific route for his pupil. "He's a trip kind of horse," he said. "He's better following horses and that's likely what's going to happen in the final. Post eight doesn't help us much either. Last week I put him on the front and he got a little lost." Following the Youthful Series, MacDonell will be getting his student ready for another up and coming series at the Rexdale oval. "The Diplomat begins in a couple of weeks, so that is What's Next for him," said MacDonell, the 2008 O'Brien Award winner as Driver of the Year. "I'm not sure what the plan is with him long term, but for now we'll take it week by week. He continues to improve and developing into a very useful racehorse." The Youthful Series final is slated as Race 7 on Monday's 10-race card. First post time is set for 7:25 p.m. The field will line up as follows: 1. Reasonable Force 2. Highland Tartan 3. Royal Reception 4. Andreios Kardia 5. Kuchar 6. Glory Beach 7. Regal Son 8. Dragon Seelster 9. Twomickeytrip 10. Account Rollover by Greg Gangle, for WEG
TORONTO, April 12 - West Side Story, driven by Chris Christoforou, provided the 6-1 upset in the lone $18,000 division in the opening round of the Don Mills Series, Saturday at Woodbine. The talented son of Conway Hall got under the wire in 1:54, one length ahead of 1/9 favourite Hldontghttoyurdrms (Jonathan Drury). Christoforou elected to use off-the-pace tactics with West Side Story as he landed fourth in the early stages as Hldontghttoyurdrms was the leader at the opening station in :27.2. Hldontghttoyurdrms continued to lead his 10 rivals past the half in :57 and three-quarters in 1:25.3. Around the final turn, Christoforou angled West Side Story off the pylons and was within striking distance of the tempo-setter at the top of the stretch. West Side Story continued to gain on the publics choice and marched past Hldontghttoyurdrms in deep stretch en route to his tenth career score. Mego Moss (Jody Jamieson) finished third.. Trained by Per Henriksen for Asa Farm and Steve Organ, West Side Story increased his bankroll to $118,657. The son of Conway Hall has crafted a 3-3-0 record from seven starts this season. He paid $15.30 to win. by Greg Gangle, for WEG
TORONTO, April 12 - Hldontghttoyurdrms, who recently captured the Horse And Groom final at The Meadowlands late last month, will headline the opening round of the Don Mills Series Saturday evening at Woodbine Racetrack. The talented son of Muscles Yankee will begin from post six in the lone division in race nine for driver Jonathan Drury and trainer Corey Johnson. A 15-time winner in his career, Hldontghttoyurdrms has certainly made his mark on the WEG Circuit this season as the five-year-old has amassed a 5-2-0 record from nine starts, including four straight wins at the Preferred level. "He definitely looks like one of the better ones in the series," said Drury. "He's had a terrific season so far and is coming into the race in top form. I can't say enough good things about him. He makes my job look easy." After finishing fourth and second in the preliminary legs of the Horse And Groom Series, Hldontghttoyurdrms showed his true colours as he led gate-to-wire to capture the rich $60,600 final by five lengths in 1:53.4. "He wasn't himself in the first leg and wasn't trotting the best in the second round, but in the final he was on his game," Drury said. "Corey did a great job getting him right and I knew at the quarter he was back to his old self. He grabbed a hold of me like he usually does and was all business." Hldontghttoyurdrms then shipped home following the final and was entered to race at Woodbine the following Thursday in the $34,000 Preferred Trot event. Drury elected to use the same tactics with Hldontghttoyurdrms, but the result was different as the bay finished second, behind Amigo De Grande. "You can't take anything away from his effort the other night," said the young reinsman. "He was parked out past the three-eights, cleared, faced pressure right away and was still around at the wire. He also shipped home from The Meadowlands on Sunday and raced Thursday, so I'm sure that took a little out of him as well." Drury was quick to mention the attributes of the career winner of $233,015, who is owned by Frank and Saverio Spagnolo along with Frank Schimizzi. "He's such a handy horse to drive," said Drury, a resident of Rockwood. "He's got terrific gate-speed and then he'll come right back to you in the second quarter. I'm not sure where his bottom is, but he's going to go a big trip one day. I think he's better off a helmet and if solid fractions are put up, I'm not sure how fast he can go." Drury is also on pace for a career year with 61 victories to his credit along with over $600,000 in purse earnings. "It's certainly been a lot of fun this season," noted the 25-year-old pilot. "Anytime you get power it certainly helps your confidence and driving horses like Hldontghttoyurdrms and for Corey (Johnson), good things usually happen. Hopefully it continues." The Don Mills is for four and five-year-olds who are non-winners of $150,000 as of December 31, 2013. The lone $18,000 division of the Don Mills will line up as follows: 1. Its Payday Friday 2. West Side Story 3. Tough Mac 4. Mego Moss 5. Photo Mass 6. Hldontghttoyurdrms 7. Enough About You 8. Crosbys Clam Bake 9. Sixth Man 10. Our Mojo 11. Quit Smoking Now by Greg Gangle, for WEG
Woodbine's newest wager is offering its biggest pot ever. The Jackpot Hi-5, which became a part of Woodbine's Standardbred nightly betting menu in October, currently offers a carryover pool of $158,056.60. The next opportunity to cash a ticket on the popular bet is Thursday night, April 10. Post time is scheduled for 7:25 p.m. The Jackpot Hi-5 requires horseplayers to select the first five finishers in exact order on the last race of the program. The Jackpot proviso means that the entire pool pays out only when there is one winning ticket sold that correctly selects the first five finishers in exact order. The wager, which offers a 20-cent minimum, also has a takeout of 15 per cent, a continent-equalling low. If there is not just one winning ticket, half of the wagering pool is carried over and offered on the next racing card. The other half will be paid out in consolation payouts to those Jackpot Hi-5 tickets which have the correct order of finish. If there are no winners of the wager, the entire pool, minus takeout, carries over. by Greg Gangle, for WEG
TORONTO , April 7 - Thirteen trotting mares made their way to Woodbine Racetrack Monday evening to kick off the opening round of the Lifetime Dream Series. Rockin With Dewey looked every bit the part of a 1/5 favourite as she captured the first $18,000 division in 1:56.1. Driven by Mario Baillargeon, Rockin With Dewey scored by a commanding five and a quarter lengths to celebrate her tenth career tally. Baillargeon was first to the front in the early stages, but allowed Justasmalltowngirl (Paul Macdonell) to the lead at the opening quarter in :26.4. Rockin With Dewey quickly regained the front and led her six rivals past the half in :56.4 and three-quarters in 1:27.1, before dashing away from her rivals en route to victory. Frisky Magic (Randy Waples) came on for second, over Bop Too The Top (James MacDonald). Trained and co-owned by Ben Baillargeon along with breeder Diane Ingham, Rockin With Dewey increased her bankroll to $219,300. She paid $2.50 to win. In the other split, 3/5 favourite Rose Run Oriana and James MacDonald got under the wire first in 1:57.2. Over a track rated as 'Good,' MacDonald elected to sit in the two-hole behind Be Winnin (Jody Jamieson) before the opening quarter in :26.3. Marabou (Jonathan Drury) angled out of third and was quickly on the move as they took over command before the :57.1 half. Rose Run Oriana quickly engaged the tempo-setter and was the new leader heading toward the three-quarter pole. MacDonald and Rose Run Oriana led their six rivals past three-quarters in 1:27.2 and fended off all comers down the lane en route to the victory. Standing My Ground (Sylvain Filion) finished second, with Her Name Is Lola (Phil Hudon) third. Trained by Joe Cirasuola for owner Shirley Halas, Rose Run Oriana enjoyed her 14th career victory as her bankroll now sits at $125,717. She paid $3.40 to win. The Lifetime Dream series is for four and five-year-old trotting mares, who are non-winners of $200,000 lifetime as of December 31, 2013. by Greg Gangle, for WEG
TORONTO, April 7 - Woodbine Entertainment Group would like to announce to all horsemen that this week's qualifiers will be held on Thursday, April 10, beginning at 4 p.m. Depending on the number of entries, qualifiers also may take place on Friday, April 11. The entry box will close on Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. Woodbine Racetrack is also available for training tomorrow, Tuesday, April 8 from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. by Greg Gangle, for WEG
Favourite Cougar Hall earned his second consecutive win over the game Machal Jordan in the featured $34,000 Preferred Pace on Saturday night at Woodbine Racetrack. Driven by Jack Moiseyev, Cougar Hall matched his 1:51.4 season's mark that he established while winning the top class by half a length over Machal Jordan last Saturday. In this evening's Preferred, J J Shark (Sylvain Filion) forced the leaving post eight starter Lucky Terror (Jonathan Drury) to settle for the pocket spot during a :26.3 first quarter battle. Dali (Luc Ouellette) got away third with 6-5 favourite Cougar Hall following in fourth. As the field headed into the backstretch, Dali moved underway from third and took over the lead before hitting the half-mile marker in :55.3. The stallion was then confronted by Cougar Hall, who cleared to command past the 1:23.4 third quarter station and began to open up multiple lengths on the field to secure the victory. The late-closing Machal Jordan (Roger Mayotte) narrowed the winning margin to one and a quarter lengths. In Commando (Chris Christoforou), a half-length winner over Cougar Hall in his last outing two weeks ago, finished third. Cougar Hall now has four wins in six starts during his four-year-old campaign and a seasonal bankroll totalling $60,100. The grey son of Somebeachsomewhere is owned by trainer Jeff Gillis, Gerald Stay, Mac Nichol, Thomas Kyron and Carl Jamieson. Cougar Hall paid $4.40 to win. by Greg Gangle, for WEG
I keep getting snake-bit in photo finishes that go the other way. That’s life in the handicapping world so you just dig in and try again this week. We have plenty of racing action with late and early closer action at Yonkers and the Meadowlands. The Matchmaker Series Friday and Levy Series Saturday at Yonkers is overrun with Ron Burke entries and thus looking at a lot of chalk in some of the race but we will try our luck in a couple of divisions. GOOD LUCK! $22,500 Artistic Vision Series Meadowlands 2nd race FRIDAY – Two top four-year-old mares will do battle here tonight with JK Letitgo taking on American In Paris. Great matchup as both have gate speed and the ability to come from off the pace so now it seems that driving tactics will play a big key to victory. I am going with JK Letitgo as she is unbeaten in seven starts this year and after last week’s big effort I think she can handle American In Paris. Use American In Paris and Hobe Sound in exotics. $40,000 Matchmaker Series Yonkers Raceway 5th race FRIDAY – This is the best of the Matchmaker divisions as more than half the field has a legit shot at making it to the winner’s circle. I am siding with Angels Delight who has been so sharp this season. She is on a four-race winning streak and has won her two legs of the series so far. She has been coming from off the pace but with good inside post tonight she should get great position early on to score from again. Use Yagonnakissmeornot and Krispy Apple in exotic plays. $25,000 Final Dash For The C Note Trot Meadowlands 10th race FRIDAY – Wide open affair here but I am going with the lone mare in the field. Bluebird Kidsqueen has been very sharp and shows she can beat the boys. Outside post position should not hinder her efforts as she is a super strong closer. Use Merited Victory and Tiger’s Too Good in exotic plays. $22,500 Whata Baron Pacing Series Meadowlands 7th race SATURDAY – With enough time to adjust to shipping up from Florida and one start under his belt, I look for Prairie Jaguar to rebound in the series. Apparently he now has a better fitting race bike too. He came up north on nine-race win streak which was no fluke so if the “old” Prairie Jaguar shows up in here he should have no trouble winning. Use Captive Audience and Scott Rocks in exotic plays. $50,000 Levy Pacing Series Yonkers Raceway 9th race SATURDAY – I may be a sucker for punishment after last week’s loss by a head but I am going to come right back with Apprentice Hanover. He had grabbed the lead in the stretch last week and just got caught at the wire. Still think he can come back just as strong and beat his older rivals tonight. Use the entries of Itrustyou/Clear Vision and Here We Go Again/Mach It So in exotic plays. $34,000 Preferred Pace Woodbine 10th race SATURDAY – Competitive field here so I am going to go with last week’s winner, Cougar Hall. Jackie Mo was willing to take him first-over and grind his way to the lead and throw in a final quarter mile in :27.4 to hold on. Did this from outside post like his has tonight so no reason to not think they can do it again. Use In Commando and Machal Jordan in exotic plays. $50,000 Levy Pacing Series Yonkers Raceway 11th race SATURDAY – Will it be a real test for world champion Foiled Again? He may have his worst post draw of the early season but this super star is just so game and apparently in such good shape he should have it somewhat easy in scoring his 79th career victory. Has crushed his opponents in his first two starts this year and is coupled with stablemate Special Forces which makes the entry even tougher. Use the entry of P H Supercam/Validus Deo and Versado in exotic plays. $30,000 Final Dash For the C Note Pace Meadowlands 11th race SATURDAY - If not for last week’s impressive win from post nine I may have passed on this one start from post ten but Quik Magic was very sharp last week and despite outside post I think he can do it again. It’s a very competitive field but the past shows Quik Magic has the ability to win from outside posts. Use the entry of Verdad/The Pan Poobah and Valentino/Up Up And Out in exotic plays. Sentimental Favorite And for a sentimental pick for Friday night, go with Sydney Weaver’s Sydney Seelster in race 2 at Woodbine. Sydney is the little darling of the harness racing world and her pacer, nicknamed “Pinky”, is switching from Flamboro to Woodbine and could pay a decent price is she can handle the big track.
If anyone knows Jonathan Dury, aside from always being busy, they know he is truly a student of harness racing. From his time working with his father, Barry Drury, at Mohawk Racetrack, (Campbellville, ON), during the summer to picking up on slight nuisances' at all possible moments is what has driven Jonathan to the level of achievement he is currently earning as one of the top drivers at Woodbine Racetrack. Jonathan would help his dad anytime he was not in school. When Jonathan was very young, his ideal dream job would have been to drive big trucks. Moving several years down the line, when Jonathan was in high school, he contemplated having a career in architecture but due to his on-track success, that venture has been put on hold. If what we have seen of Jonathan the past few years is any indication of what lies ahead, there's a strong feeling he may put a permanent hold on entering the field of architectural design. Jonathan's dad still trains horses and Jonathan noted his dad used to work for harness racing legend Ron Waples back at the old Meadowlands as an assistant trainer. Jonathan started out at Woodstock Raceway and the first horse he drove was "a trotter for Chris Christoforou Sr. "It was my first time start and it was with a trotter" says Jonathan. "I like driving both pacers and trotters and I have had success driving trotters. A lot of trotters are trickier to drive than pacers but I still love driving trotters a lot." Away from the track earlier in his career, Jonathan enjoyed playing golf in the summer and hockey during the winter. "I was playing hockey for a few years for fun, then I broke my arm and called it quits for that..." says Jonathan with a laugh. Jonathan worked for several high caliber stables, such as Anthony Macdonald who had a lot of trotters. "I really learned a lot about how to handle a trotter" says Jonathan. Anthony Montini and Casie Coleman are two other elite trainers Jonathan worked for. "You see different ways of doing things." Jonathan explains. "Anthony Montini is a really nice guy; he even let me drive Primetime Bobcat in one of his last career starts. I can't say I learned one thing from anybody, its things you pick up and expand on when you work for someone else." It's about growing and learning while remaining humble and approachable that can you a long way in every aspect of life. As he progressed Jonathan moved on to drive at Kawartha Downs, (located in Fraserville, ON), "I really dug Kawartha Downs, I love driving on the 5/8th mile track. I spent time last summer driving at one at Pocono Downs. Kawartha was a great experience because I got to drive a lot of the better horses that went down there." Jonathan explains. "I was driving all of Corey Johnson's horses at one point and I was driving a lot of Tommy Riley's horses plus I was driving whatever Casie (Coleman) brought down there." Jonathan notes he learned a lot from driving horses for top notch trainers. How did Jonathan get to the point of driving all of Corey Johnson's horses? Well, Jonathan says he didn't know Corey at first but kept seeing his name listed to drive Corey's horses. "I was having a lot of luck down there and I was one of the top guys there driving for Tommy Riley... then the entries came out one day and I was listed to drive on three of Corey's horses and it was all trotters and I won with all three of them." Take off indeed, what was set in motion at Kawartha Downs truly snowballed for Jonathan, to the point that he was able to make a seamless transition to Canada's biggest racetracks, Woodbine and Mohawk. Winning with Vegas Vacation was special to Jonathan. "I actually spent a lot of time training him when I was working for Casie. I got to qualify him and I won with him on his first lifetime start." It holds a special spot in Jonathan's heart, especially given what Vegas Vacation has accomplished. "Vegas is a wicked horse with a ton of potential, I think he is going to get bigger, stronger and better" according to Jonathan and it is safe to say everyone would agree with his opinion. I certainly do! Jonathan admits it can difficult to get good drives and yes, if it was that easy everyone would be number one on the leader board. "I just try to work hard to get me to where I am" says Jonathan. "Carmen Auciello gave me the opportunity to go down to the Poconos to drive his horses down there and it was a great experience. I think it really helped me to be to where I am at today. It's a different style of racing down (at the Poconos), it taught me a lot and I am able to use that to my advantage now." "I love the Poconos and the track; it's a beautiful facility and a fast track that also gets a lot of good horses down there." I hear the architecture aficionado in Jonathan's voice when he's describing the facility at Pocono Downs. Jonathan was at the Meadowlands for the past three weekends driving Corey Johnson's trotter Hldontghttoyurdrms in the Horse and Groom series and expresses how much the new facility at the Meadowlands has improved. Jonathan's focus is to keep driving and learning more and more so he can better not only himself, but also better the results for the trainers and owners. His approach is to zone in on a team goal, not as an individual. "That's the best thing you can do is know as much as you can" Jonathan says when it comes to learning about other horses. "Knowing your horse, and knowing the rest of the horses, you can find ways to beat them with what you know about them." Jonathan enjoys watching elite drivers like Tim Tetrick and Brian Sears, "they can get so much out of their horse, put them in all the right places." Jonathan says. "I try to learn things from everybody to better myself." "I am very content racing horses; it's something I love doing so how can I complain about something I love?" Jonathan admits. "Horse racing has been a big part of my life, and now it is my life." "I like aggressive horses racing wise, I feel I can keep them calm" says Jonathan. When he's not driving, Jonathan will go out to his dad's barn to give him a hand or in the summers past he would help with Casie Coleman's stable. "If I have time off, I take it easy for the most part; maybe play some golf in the summer. Really I try to get some rest so I am ready to go." Jonathan explains. "I haven't raced since I was at the Meadowlands on Saturday. I had Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday off and I was bored out of my mind having so many days off." In his time off, what keeps Jonathan mentally busy is music. "I'm a huge country music fan and also a huge Eminem fan. My favorite country group is Florida Georgia Line. I like all kinds of music depending on the mood I am in, but generally I listen to country." Jonathan says. As any avid music listener, Jonathan has his list of favorite concerts he has attended. The Jay Z and Eminem Home and Home tour concert, which took place in Detroit, is at the top of the list. A close second would be the concert he saw earlier this year that featured Jason Alden and Florida Georgia Line. This August, Jonathan will be rocking out to Linkin Park at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. A group he's been wanting to see live for quite some time. I posed the question to Jonathan, that if he could record a song with anyone or any group, he chose Florida Georgia Line. "Only because they look like they have a wicked time in their music videos." Jonathan says. A twist to his music curiosity is if Jonathan had the opportunity to sit down and talk with any music artist about their career, hands down it would be famed rapper, Eminem. "I've actually sat down and read through the meanings of all the lyrics to a bunch of his songs." Jonathan explains. "He's lived a very different life and gives you the courage not to give up.... He's come from a pretty rough family and battled against everything to get to where he is today. I read a documentary on him and he has boxes of papers with little groups of words scribbled on them that he just randomly has pop in his head." "And (Eminem) kept them in case he could ever use them in a song. It's really amazing what he can do with words and how each song has a meaning deep down inside the lyrics that you may not understand just listening to it." When it comes to interacting with fans, Jonathan truly enjoys the experience He's more than willing to sign autographs or give his whip away. One time at the Meadowlands, Jonathan was set to drive a couple of races and ended up giving away his whip to a fan without realizing he didn't have any more whips, as he only brought one with him to the track. Luckily Scott Zeron was there to help him out. So if you see Jonathan, don't be afraid to ask for an autograph as he is more than willing to oblige. "I wasn't expecting anyone to ask for my whip because at Woodbine the fans are so far away, you don't see them. It was shocking to see the fans up so close at different tracks. Once over a three night period at the Meadowlands, I won one race each night and gave away my whip after each race I won." How many sports can you account where the athletes and players involved give away game used items? Maybe baseball if you catch a foul ball, once in a blue moon an NFL football or a hockey puck, but in no other sport is this possible, only in harness racing where a fan can meet the people they cheer on and get an autograph on a nightly basis. by, Roderick Balgobin, www.supernovasportsclub.com Twitter: ScSupernova
The betting public didn`t have a lot of faith in Amigo De Grande going into Thursday`s $34,000 Preferred Trot at Woodbine Racetrack, but that didn`t stop the Carmen Auciello pupil from racking up his third straight win versus some of the nation`s top trotters. The majority of the money landed on Hldontghytoyurdrms, who was six days removed from his dazzling win in the final of the Horse & Groom Series at The Meadowlands. He was parked past the quarter pole in :25.4 by Cool Guy, who eventually gave way to the 4-5 favourite. Hldontghytoyurdrms led the way past the half-mile marker in :55.3 before coming under attack from Amigo De Grande around the final turn. Amigo De Grande and Anthony MacDonald took over command at the three-quarter pole in 1:24.2 before using a :29-second closing panel to win by 1-1/4 lengths over Hldontghytoyurdrms. Cool Guy tagged along to finish third. To read the rest of the story click here.
TORONTO, April 1 - With victories in her last two starts, Violet Bayama has certainly been in top form and will look to continue her winning ways in the second round of the Blossom Series, Friday at Woodbine. The talented daughter of Somebeachsomewhere-Korinna Bayama captured the opening round in 1:55.3 for Yves Filion's Bayama Farms, who co-owns and bred the lass with Jacques Damours. Trained by Stephane Larocque and driven by Yves, son, Sylvain, Violet Bayama will begin from post seven in the lone division on Friday. "Yves trained her down and raced her a few times at Rideau Carleton, before sending her to me. So far, Yves has made me look really good," Larocque said with a chuckle. "She has a lot of speed, she's versatile and a very good filly to have in the barn." Even though Violet Bayama had an unproductive campaign last year which saw the rookie earn just $1,600 from five starts, she has certainly made steady gains this season with a 3-2-2 record from 10 starts and $38,680 in earnings. "She was just immature and needed to grow and develop," Larocque said. "Yves trained her down as a baby before sending her up and she just needed time like most two-year-olds." Larocque admits that playing the waiting game on Violet Bayama has certainly benefited her so far this season. "She grew up and has really matured into a solid filly," he said. "She's tough as nails and has guts. She's the type of filly everyone wants in their barn." Larocque said he was most impressed with Violet Bayama's performance last week in the opening round of the Blossom as the bay fended off a challenge from heavily-favoured Missevil. "Most fillies would get tired at that point in the mile and give up the lead, but not her," said Larocque. "She fought right till the end and never gave up. Her heart was displayed that night." Larocque, who is stabled at Baycairn Training Center near Campellville, is optimistic Violet Bayama could be in store for a big payday in the near future. "She looks as good as any of the fillies in the series," he said. "We won our division last week, so we're in the final. All we can do is take it one day at a time." The Blossom Series is for three-year-old fillies, who are non-winners of three races or $15,000 on 2013. The rich $30,000 (added) final will take place on Friday, April 11. The field will line up as follows: 1. Rock N Roll Xample 2. Noble Jilly 3. Polk Dot Hanover 4. Deuces For Charity 5. Wildcat Magic 6. Outtathewheelhouse 7. Violet Bayama 8. Premio Loco 9. Village Jessica by Greg Gangle, for WEG
It was no April Fools' Day prank as today the Ontario Racing Commission (ORC) announced its decision in regard to the race-date applications for the nine Standardbred racetracks in the province. The ORC has announced the approved race dates for Woodbine Racetrack, Mohawk Racetrack, The Raceway at Western Fair District, Flamboro Downs, Georgian Downs, Grand River Raceway, Rideau Carleton Raceway, Clinton Raceway and Hanover Raceway. On Monday, March 31, the ORC released the proposed race dates for the period: April 1, 2014 to March 31, 2015, for almost all of the province’s racetracks. To view a list of the proposed race dates, click here. The ORC's release regarding approved dates explains that the live race date schedules for other racetracks will be announced as their agreements are finalized. The ORC release appears below. ORC approves Ontario Race Dates for 2014 and beyond Notice of Director’s decision regarding 2014 Race Dates The Director of the Ontario Racing Commission (ORC) today announced the decision regarding the schedule of live race dates for 2014 for certain racetracks. Following the successful conclusion of agreements, the following racetracks were in a position to commit to their race date schedule for the remainder of 2014: Woodbine Mohawk Western Fair Flamboro Downs Georgian Downs Grand River Rideau Carleton Clinton Hanover The live race date schedules for other racetracks will be announced as their agreements are finalized. Agreements were possible due to government’s commitment to provide funds to horse racing to support the industry`s efforts to grow its business. This five-year commitment has allowed for the negotiation of long term agreements which secure this schedule of race dates for each of the next five years. The Director confirms and approves the schedule of race dates for the 2014 as follows: APPLICANT – 1st quarter (prior approved) – Remaining dates – Total dates Woodbine Racetrack Standardbred (Premier) – 37 – 71 – 108 Thoroughbred (Premier) – 0 – 133 – 133 Mohawk Racetrack Standardbred (Premier) – 0 – 102 – 102 Western Fair Standardbred (Signature) – 38 – 87 – 125 Flamboro Downs Standardbred (Signature) – 52 – 94 – 146 Georgian Downs Standardbred (Signature) - 0 – 40 – 40 Grand River Raceway Standardbred (Signature) - 0 – 48 – 48 Rideau Carleton Raceway Standardbred (Signature) - 14 – 78 – 92 Clinton Raceway Standardbred (Grassroots) - 0 – 15 – 15 Hanover Raceway Standardbred (Grassroots) - 0 – 16 – 16 In accordance with Policy Directive 3-2007, all other race date calendars are approved, but are subject to change where a racetrack operator or other interested party makes an application to vary the approved dates, which will be considered based on the strengths of the business plans submitted and the industry funding available. The Director has been moving forward to implement the components of the five-year Horse Racing Partnership Plan (HRPP), as approved by the Ontario government. Announcements have been made awarding Woodbine Entertainment Group as the single teletheatre operator under a procurement process that is now complete. Revenue earned from the teletheatre network will be used for the benefit of the Centralized Racetracks, which include Woodbine, Mohawk, Flamboro Downs, Georgian Downs, Western Fair, Grand River, Clinton, Hanover and Ajax Downs. Additionally announcements have been made designating WEG as the single telephone account betting operator, where revenue earned will be used for the benefit of the Centralized Racetracks. Operation of regional racetracks and the related purses will be funded through a mix of on-track wagering and Horse Racing Partnership Funding Program funds. Please be advised that you or any other aggrieved party have the right to appeal the Director’s decision to the Commission. From Steve Lehman, Executive Director for the Ontario Racing Commission
The more and more I have the opportunity to speak with people within the harness racing industry, the more and more my view on humanity changes for the good. For all the negatives in the world that grab the headlines, a shadow is cast on what should be the brightest of headlines, which is the horsemen and women that form harness racing. Despite the uncertain future of horse racing in Ontario, many within the industry remain positive and hope for the best. The best being the Ontario Government will come to terms with the racetracks to ensure further growth, such as we see south of the border in states like New York and Ohio. Having to deal with these issues over the years is one of Canada's top harness racing drivers, Sylvain Filion. "In 1999 I came here to Ontario and after three years I went back to Quebec. I was there for five years and then came back here." Sylvain explains. Making a big move from his native hometown in Quebec, Sylvain Filion made the move to Ontario as racing in Quebec declined and became virtually nonexistent. "They quit racing in Montreal" says Sylvain. "The racing was very good there, but when they quit racing I came to Ontario." "It sounds kind of like what is happening here" Sylvain notes. "They had money from the slots and then the Government took the money away and that is what killed harness racing. So hopefully that won't happen here." It must be deja vu for Sylvain. There is one positive rumor circulating that the government may have a plan to help the horse racing industry. There is word that negotiations are under way that will ensure the success of harness racing for the next five years, if not longer. Speaking with Sylvain, he's currently feeding his adopted daughter, Stella-Rose and little Stella-Rose will be turning one in a few days. Sylvain and his wife Dominic adopted Stella-Rose eight months ago and they could not be happier. The cheerfulness is Sylvain's voice radiates of pride and joy all due to the new edition to the Filion family. Will Sylvain and Dominic adopt another baby so Stella-Rose may have a brother or sister? Sylvain says possibly but it's too soon to say for sure. "It's about time I became something" Sylvain says with a laugh. "Right now it's my greatest achievement. My wife and I couldn't have a baby and we have wanted a baby for over twenty years so we adopted and it has worked out. We are very very happy!!" Sylvain comes from a family with deep roots in the horse racing world. "I was born with horses all around me. My father still has that farm in Quebec and my grandfather had 5 or 6 horse as well. That's how my father and uncles got started." Sylvain says. Sylvain's father, Yves won the North America Cup and the Prix d'Ete with Runnymede Lobell in 1988. One is of his uncles, Herve, is the world renowned Hall of Fame horsemen. "There's still a lot I want to do, there's big races I'd like to win, like the North America Cup, (which takes place at Mohawk racetrack). I came second once and my father won it. The Meadowlands Pace and the Little Brown Jug are ones I would like to win." "At the start of each year, we cross our fingers and hope a horse comes through that can have us do great things." Sylvain says about any potential break out horses. Sylvain does not train any horses, as he puts it, he is 100% focused on driving. If he had to pick one of his favorite horses out of all he's driven, he feels Breeders Crown winner Goliath Bayama is the favorite. As for Sylvain preference for track type and style, he says he enjoys the one mile tracks like the Meadowlands compared to the 7/8th mile tracks. Yes, that one eight makes a difference. "When you're on the 7/8th, you have the whole stretch to get into position and at the mile tracks, when you leave the gate you have an eighth of a mile until you hit the first turn" is how Sylvain describes the flow. "If you decide to leave hard, you might have a long drive going into the first turn." Meaning you're stuck on the outside leading to a longer trip for the horse and burning unnecessary horse power. During the warm months, Sylvain loves to play golf and is an avid fan of the sport. The one golfer he admires most is 'The Lefty', Phil Mickelson. "I like his aggressive style, every time he goes for broke when he plays." Sylvain says. When the weather turns cold, Sylvain and his wife Dominic usually head south for a vacation getaway. This year was a tad different as the happy parents were basking in the warmth of their new bundle of joy, Stella-Rose. Happy Birthday Stella-Rose! When Sylvain decides to hang it up and call it a great career, what he hopes to do with his family is travel. "I like Costa Rica, the wildlife there is pretty amazing. I'd like to go to Europe. I was there once to train a horse and that was at 9/11." Sylvain went to France to work with and train a horse he was set to drive in a big trotting race in Montreal, the Trot Montreal. "They invited horses from all over the world to race in Montreal." Sylvain explains. "I was a little anxious to come back because I was stuck there for an extra five days." Sylvain was telling me about how much fun the drivers have amongst themselves. Once they're in the bike and on the track, it's strictly business and game on, "Here at Woodbine we take our jobs very seriously. Once we are out there on the track we are all professionals and may the best horse win." However between drives and/or races, the horsemen really know how to keep the atmosphere light. "There are jokes amongst the drivers" Sylvain says. "We spend so much time together. Especially in the summer when we are driving five or six nights a week, we get to the Paddock for 6:30pm and we are there until 11:30pm. So we have to find a way to have a bit of fun and enjoy ourselves." Some examples of jokes played on one another; a driver, who has a couple of races off, may grab a pair of gloves from another driver and tie knots in the fingers of those gloves. So when the owner of those gloves grabs them to head out, that driver has to go out without any gloves on or has to rush and get a pair from a trainer. For fun, sometimes baby powder is put into the helmet of an unsuspecting driver. As you may guess, when the helmet goes on, that drivers' entire head and face is covered. Another prank is putting shoe polish around the goggles of another driver where that said driver is left with rings of polish around his eyes for the rest of the night. They must be tearing up with laughter at times! Sylvain admits, one prank that happened to him is when someone tied his shoe laces "into 2000 knots so I had to cut out all the laces before I left to go home after the races." Priceless! Sometimes they tease one another, "You have to be able to laugh at yourself" says Sylvain. "You have to remain humble. When a guy is parked out the whole mile and he comes in last, he's asked if 'he's caught a cold out there?'...we are a tough group, but a fun group." By Roderick Balgobin, for Supernova Sports Club www.supernovasportsclub.com Twitter: ScSupernova