Monday, August 18, 2008
In reviewing all the fine equine athletes that made up the Sheldon Wolfe Racing Stable. We cannot complete this blog without doing a posting for "Don't Get Smart". I have to laugh when I read her name. Being a huge fan of Don Adams and his award winning situation comedy show "Get Smart". A T.V. show named "Don't Get Smart" would have been a spoof of a spoof. I am sure that Don Adams would have enjoyed to watch Don't Get Smart race though. In real life Don Adams was a huge fan of the sport of Kings. Don't Get Smart was as honest a race mare as they come. I know Don would have enjoyed cashing a few tickets on her.
Don't Get Smart had two nick names in the barn. Dianne A. who enjoyed being her race groom. Simply called her "Smarty". However I had another nick name that I though suited her well. It was "Mrs Mean". Don't Get Smart wasn't really a mean or vicious horse. However she always had that kind of crabby and don't bug me attitude. That's how I came to call her that. Of course the nick name meant, that I had the highest regard and respect for her. Don't Get Smart was a very talented and serious racehorse in her own right.
I did compare her to "Hopenscope". In fact Don't Get Smart was like a female version of the Bull. For Don't Get Smart had very good natural speed. So she was very effective in sprint races. Also she was able to conserve that speed, so she was also effective running a distance of ground. To Mrs. Mean's way of thinking, "just put her in a race, and she would take care of business". Don't Get Smart loved to compete and she loved to win races. And we all loved her.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Dancing Emerald after winner her fist race had problems winner her second. That would all change when the fall Woodbine meet ended, and racing moved to Greenwood for the final meet of the 1983 racing season. Our fortunes were about to change for the better. Dancing Emerald had arrived in her realm. There is a saying at the racetrack; "horses for courses". That is very true. Racehorses can be very comfortable and successful runneing at a certain racetrack. This is usually due to the racetrack surface, or the amenities of the racetrack. Dancing Emerald "The Queen of Greenwood" enjoyed running at Greenwood, yes because of the racing surface. Also she loved and maneuvered extremely well around the tight turns at Greenwood. Emmy had amazing speed. That could prove to a huge advantage for a front running racehorse, when running at Greenwood .
Dancing Emerald would make her first start of her career at Greenwood on November 9, 1983, under the lights. A big part of her success. Was being paired up with jockey Robbie King Jr. Robbie was an excellent rider, and was very comfortable riding a front runner. They were a great duo and worked extremely well together. Get us started Daryl Wells, "There at the post, there off!" "That is Dancing Emerald reaching for the lead" "Dancing Emerald has a 2 length lead" "That's Dancing Emerald by a good margin". These were just some of Daryl Wells descriptions, that would become predicable and carbon copy when this excellent filly raced, at Greenwood. Emmy would go wire to wire in her first race at Greenwood. Golden Champ would try her coming to the 1/4 mile pole. However it was apparent that Dancing Emerald could sprint around the tight turns. As quickly as she could, running on the straight a ways. The Queen had arrived! Emmy pulled away and beat Golden Champ by 4 lengths, easily! The Wolfe Stable, and Toronto racing fans were going to be treated to some fantastic racing, by the "Queen of Greenwood".
Emmy would race back for her second race, and win at Greenwood on November 17, 1983. This event would race at 6 1/2 furlongs, and would match her against tough older, and more experienced females. Also Dancing Emerald would have to break from the 8 post position. All these obstacles didn't matter to the "Queen of Greenwood". I remember Emmy was in a particularly horrible mood that November night. She took it out on her opponents. O.K. Daryl get the race started, "There at the Post, There Off" That's Dancing Emerald reaching for the lead". Emmy broke like a bat out of hell, and she was flying going into the clubhouse turn. Midway through the turn, Emmy had cleared the field and made the lead. Now Robbie dropped Emmy into the rail, and it was up to the field of older mares to try and catch, our speed demon! They had no chance. Emmy made her competitors feel really old that night, and maybe ready to call it a career. Down the run down the backstretch, by the time she reached the racetrack kitchen, Emmy had opened up a commanding 4 length lead. By the time she reached the far turn, the lead had expanded to 6 lengths. In the run for the finish line. Emmy just coasted to the line by a staggering 8 length margin of victory. Robbie King had eased the Queen up at the 1/16 pole, as he tried to save her for the next race, and not to embarrass her beaten opponents. It was all smiles in the win picture for this one.
Dancing Emerald would race back on November 30, 1983 in her final start as a 3 year old. This race would complete the natural hat trick for the "Queen". Emmy would become only the second Wolfe runner to win 3 races in a row. The challenge for this race would be to find a replacement for Emmy's very talented regular jockey, Robbie King Jr. Robbie had been suspended for a riding infraction, and could not pilot the Queen in this race. A replacement had to be found. Enter David Piques. Dave was an up a comer, and had enjoyed a very successful fall Greenwood meet. Dave was sitting fifth in the jockey standing at the 1983 fall meet. He was riding very well. David Piques was also very suited riding a racehorse. Who enjoyed a front running style. My father made the wise choice of picking Dave to replace Robbie for this important race. I remembered Dave being thrilled that my dad had picked him to ride Dancing Emerald. He was honored that he would be getting a chance to pilot the Queen! Emmy was again meeting a tough group of more experienced fellow females. The toughest of the group was "Tiffany Tam" from the Sam Son Farm. Tiffany Tam was being ridden by champion jockey "Irwin Driedger". They would prove to put forth a tough challenge to our star performer.
David Piques did an excellent job in this race. Emmy broke very well, and moved into a commanding lead going into the clubhouse turn. Dave let her relax and cruise in the run down the backstretch. Going into the far turn. Tiffany Tam was starting to try and harass Emmy. Dave and Dancing Emerald responded by opening up a 2 1/2 length lead, turning for home, and the run for the finish line. Tiffany Tam and Irwin Driedger would make one last attempt to ruin Emmy's third win. However Emmy and Dave both would bare down, and repel the late challenge of Tiffany Tam, and win this race by a margin of 1 1/2 lengths. It was a great feeling for the win picture, for this third win. It is a special accomplishment for a top caliber racehorse to win multiple races, racing at this level. Thank you David Piques for doing a excellent job, riding Dancing Emerald. The "Queen of Greenwood" winning streak was far from over. It would continue well into the 1984 racing season.
Dancing Emerald enjoyed a very good winter up at the Hindmarsh Farm. Physically and mentally she could not wait to get back to the races. Emmy trained brilliantly coming up to her first race of the year. Which took place at Greenwood, on March 31, 1984. The distance for this race was 4 1/2 furlongs.
In the good old days. The Greenwood Spring meet use to open with 4 1/2 furlong races for the first 3 weeks of the meet, almost exclusively. This use to give the horsemen that wintered in Toronto a chance to compete with the horsemen that had wintered away in the sunny south in the U.S.A. Also it gave the trainers with pure speed racehorses a chance to compete at this shorter distance. From a racing fans point of view. I use to enjoy watching the races at Greenwood. The smaller 6 furlong oval, gave the racing fans a more intimate view of the races. The 4 1/2 furlong races were a real treat to watch.
This would be Emmy's first try at 4 1/2 furlongs. The Queen of Greenwood was ready to defend her throne. "There at the post, there off" Was the opening call from Daryl Wells. Dancing Emerald broke alertly, as the the talented field of fillies and mares sprinted down the backstretch at Greenwood. To try and open up a lead going into the far turn. There was a big battle that was being fought between Emmy, and Shantilly Liz, and Forest Green. The threesome were altogether going into the turn. Midway through the turn. Dancing Emerald was starting to win the fight. Turning for home the challenging pair could not keep up the pace. Robbie King set Emmy down for the stretch drive, and she pulled away to win this 4 1/2 furlong dash in a quick time of .52.3 by 1 1/2 lengths. Dancing Emerald had now won 4 races in a row! The Wolfe Stable and Lee Family were ecstatic.
A special thanks for the great success of Dancing Emerald has to go to Debbie Goldman. Debbie is an American from New York State. Debbie Goldman was a very competent exercise rider, and did a great job riding Emmy for her morning training. Dancing Emerald was not a very easy horse to ride in the morning. Emmy was very aggressive, and like to do things her own way. Debbie did a excellent job to get her. To all of these fantastic races, in great shape. Debbie did suffer from stretched arms for her dedicated efforts. The "ass-sistant" trainer thanks you, Debbie!
Emmy would run back on April 12, 1984. She would be trying for her second win of the year, and her unbelievable fifth win in a row! This Greenwood dash would be at 6 1/2 furlongs. Her main competition in this overnight Handicap. Would be her stablemate "No. One Busheling" This very fine filly would push Dancing Emerald to her limit. To win her fifth race in a row. I will be honoring and remembering "No. One Busheling" on this blog.
Emmy broke alertly and quickly moved to take control of this race, in her usual style. Everything was going well in the run down the backstretch. However No. One Busheling was tracking Dancing Emerald in second place. No. One Busheling was also a very fast female racehorse. Who also loved racing at Greenwood. No. One Busheling was coming off an impressive win on March 24th. So she was also in very good form. Our two stars raced that way down the backstretch, and into the far turn. Then No. One Busheling made her move, and actually ran by Emmy, and opened up a 1/2 length advantage coming to the 1/8 pole. Was the "Queen of Greenwood" winning streak over at 4? No! Robbie King who was also a fierce competitor, who hated losing. Robbie put his whip into his left hand, and gave Emmy a couple of slaps with the whip. To awaken her bad temper. It worked! Emmy responded with a come from behind win. Running past No. One Busheling, strides before they hit the finish line. It was an unbelievable feeling being in the winner's circle again! Dancing Emerald had accomplished the unbelievable. Winning her fifth race in a row! Emmy's groom and assistant trainer, me! Saluted the Queen in the win picture. Holding up five fingers. One for each win! Of note in this race. The 1 and 1 exactor paid off at $4.10. It is the smallest exactor payout I have ever seen at the racetrack.
Dancing Emerald, the "Queen of Greenwood" would race back on April 28th, and win the 2nd Division of the "Whimsical Stakes". What an accomplishment for this outstanding racehorse. Emmy dominated the field in every stage of this race. Dancing Emerald sprinted to the front. Robbie King had the Queen in cruise control in the run down the backstretch. Going into the final turn. There was no doubt who would win the 2nd Division of the Whimsical. Emmy started to pull away in the run through the final turn. Robbie set her down for the final 1/8 of a mile to the finish line. Emmy pulled away to win by a commanding 4 horse lengths. The Lee family and the Wolfe family were very proud to be part of such of this accomplished and talented racehorse. Dancing Emerald would come back as a 5 year old mare in 1985, and win the Whimsical stakes race again. She refused to ever give up her title of being a Queen!
Monday, July 28, 2008
It it time to talk about pure royalty. Her title was; "The Queen of Greenwood". Her racing name was "Dancing Emerald" This talented performer was the best speed female from the Sheldon Wolfe Racing Stable. Dancing Emerald stood about 15.1 hands high. She was dark bay in color, and had a beautiful star between those piercing eyes of hers. Dancing Emerald was the epitome of a highly talented female. Dancing Emerald nickname became "Emmy". Dancing Emerald knew she was from royalty and was talented. She was very sure of herself, she was very confident, very demanding, and had a extremely bad temper. Emmy would quickly let you know if you did something that displeased your heinous. Then you would have to try and cope with her wrath! It was difficult for Emmy to show affection or to show her approval. I knew her well, because I was her groom for most of her exciting career.
My father purchased a yearling for the Les Lee family at the Keeneland Sales in the fall of 1981. He purchased a filly by Cutlass, out of the mare Jestaemerald for $17,000. The Lee's choose the name "Dancing Emerald". Emmy would be the second prolific Lee runner in there horse history, in the Sheldon Wolfe Racing Stable. Dancing Emerald would go on to win 10 races including winning the Whimsical Stakes race twice. Also she would put together a 6 race win streak in her brilliant racing career. Eight of her wins would take place at Greenwood. Sadly Greenwood is just a memory now. There is nothing left of Toronto's historic racetrack. All that stands now, is rows of houses, where the thoroughbreds use to entertain loyal horse racing fans for generations.
Dancing Emerald showed tremendous talent very early in career. However she never made it to the races during her two year old campaign. This was due to being plagued with shore shins. My father reassured Les Lee that he should not worry. That he owned a very talented race filly. Giving her the time would pay off in the future. Les agreed to my father's advise. We were all rewarded by the correct decision that was made. Dancing Emerald enjoyed a very good winter, and started to train great as a 3 year old. However there was still some soreness in her front shins. We kept working on them. Finally we resolved her shin problems. It was now time to see how good this talented filly was. Emmy kept telling us that she was good. Emmy showed great speed in the morning trials. She was breed for speed. That would become her style and her trademark. Even with the amazing talent that she had. It took the Queen a while to perfect her success in the racing business.
Dancing Emerald broke her maiden (won her first race) on July 2, 1983. She was confidently ridden by ridden by Jack Lauzon in this race. It would be the only race that she would win running from behind, in her career. Emmy broke well in this race. She stalked from fourth position on the outside, and was never far behind. Running past the quarter mile pole, Emmy laid a menacing second on the outside. The front runner "Plum Fun" was no match for Dancing Emerald in the final eight of a mile to the finish line. Dancing Emerald pulled away to win one lenght. Emmy was on her way!
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
After Captain Sunburst broke his maiden in his first start. It put his happy owners in a very good situation. However he came out of his maiden win with sore shins. We were now prepared to do the right thing, and give our promising colt the time he needed to get over his bucked shins. He wouldn't run again to the fall. His next win would come on October 21st, 1982. This win would be his first on the turf course. The race would be run at a mile on the Marshall Turf Course. There had been some rainy weather conditions prior to the race, as the turf course came up as soft conditions, and was officially listed as yielding.
Captain Sunburst was ridden by Richard Dos Ramos in this race. The Captain broke alertly and was allowed to relax and find his best stride, and settle in 4th position. Captain Sunburst stayed that way until they turned into the long home stretch. He was clear on the outside and was responding to Rick's urging. After the crossing of the main track it was apparent that Captain Sunburst was going to win his second race. He pulled away to win by 1 and 1/2 lenghts going away. The syndicate was on cloud nine in the winner's circle. The winter of 1982-83 would be filled with dreams and optimism for his three year old year. In the win picture for Captain Sunburst's second win. You could clearly see why I added the Sunburst to this handsome colt's name. Also of note. Was the decision to use the beautiful orange and yellow racing silks. Used by the D'angelo brothers for Captain Dawn. That was an appropriate nice touch.
Captain Sunburst had a very good winter going into his three year old year. He came to the racetrack in fine shape. He was looking forward to getting back to the races. His training went very well. He made his first start as a 3 year old, at Woodbine on May 21, 1983. Richard Dos Ramos was back aboard "The Captain" for his first start as a 3 year old. The race would be run at a 1 mile & 70 yards on the main track. I believe that this race was taken off the grass because of a lot of rain prior to this race being run. The main track conditions for the race did not come up muddy. However the racetrack came up deep and tiring. Over the winter the syndicate and my father had discussed the future plans for our promising star. We all agreed to drop the nomination for the Queens Plate. We all felt that Captain Sunburst was at his best on the turf course. From the beginning of the racing year. We decided to point Captain Sunburst for the final two thirds of Canada's tripe crown. The "Prince Of Wales" was the second leg, which at that time was run at a distance of 1 mile and 3/8 on the turf at Fort Erie. The final leg the "Breeders Stakes" was ran back at Woodbine at 1 1/2 miles on the Marshall Turf Course.
Daryl Wells announced "There at the Post, There Off". Captain Sunburst never had an easy trip in this race. He never looked comfortable racing on the track. Captain Sunburst was trying hard, however he looked like he was laboring badly, trying to run on the tiring race. Turning into the stretch drive, and the final 1/4 mile of the race. It appeared that Captain Sunburst would only finish fourth or third at best. However Richard Dos Ramos had other plans, he wasn't beat yet, and either was the "Captain". In the final 1/16 to the finish line. The outcome of this race would radically change. A determined Captain Sunburst and Richard Dos Ramos stormed up the inside to pass all of the now dead tired front runners. The "Captain and "Rick" had pulled a rabbit out of the hat, and like magic had given up a very exciting first win of his 1983 campaign. I do have the video of this race, and hope to have it uploaded to this post in the near future.
Win number four was a very impressive race. Even though Captain Sunburst was not eligible for the Queens Plate. He next start would see him run in the final prep for the Queen's Plate. This allowance race was run at 1 mile & 1/8, and was called the "Semi-final". The date of this race was June 18, 1983. My father liked the distance for him. However he wasn't that happy to run him on the main track. My dad was looking for grass races for our up coming star. The Plate "Semi-final" came up a very small field, it ran with only 5 horses. So my dad entered the Captain in this race. There would be a change of jockeys for this race. Robbie King would be Captain Sunburst's pilot for this winning race.
After the start Robbie relaxed Captain Sunburst, and took him back to last place. The pace was fast in this small field. Robbie and the Captain were content to bide there time, and wait to do battle later on in this race. In the run down the back stretch. Young Captain Sunburst looked just like his namesake "Captain Dawn". Robbie started to ask the Captain to pick up the pace. He was ready to delivery. Captain Sunburst glided up on the outside and quickly moved in to second place by the time the front runner had reached the 3/8 pole. It was now very obvious that Captain Sunburst had this race in complete control. He quickly soared by the front runner, who was starting to shorten his stride. Captain Sunburst and Robbie King put on a great show in the home stretch. They came to the finish in fine style, winning this race by and impressive 8 lenghts, easily! After this race we were all starting to second guess ourselves. Did we make the right decision by dropping Captain Sunburst out of the Queen's Plate? His winning time for a mile and 1/8 was the impressive time of 1.51.4, and his final quarter time was also very impressive. This race was his best effort on the main track in his short career. I also hope to include the video of this race, to this posting.
The climax of this odyssey would take place on July 24th at Woodbine. Our Captain Sunburst would win the first division of the "Heresey Stakes". It is difficult to put into words, what winning this race meant to the syndicate, to the Wolfe Racing Stable, and to Captain Dawn! There are a lot of people, very wealthy people who venture into the Thoroughbred Horse Racing Business. Very few ever achieve the thrill of winning a stakes race. We did, with a very talented and courageous racehorse named "Captain Sunburst".
Here is the description of the race. We had very good fortune going into the race. We acquired the services of Brain Swatuk. Brain, I nicknamed him (Brain the Lion) was one of the most prolific jockeys to ever ride at Woodbine. He was an outstanding talent. It was a pleasure to work with him, and to watch him ride. Captain Sunburst was getting more confident, and getting better with ever start. He came into the Heresy in perfect condition. It was a full field, the Captain broke from the 3 post position. I was excited as Daryl Wells got the race under way. "There at the Post, There Off". Captain Sunburst broke well. Brain got him to relax, and they had a good trip going into the clubhouse turn. The pace of the race was moderate. Brain was deciding what there next move would be. Then there was some concern. About 5 horses ran by Captain Sunburst in the run down the backstretch, as they stayed to the inside. It made me feel nervous. However Brain Swatuk the great professional he was. Did not panic. He knew he was on a very talented racehorse. He would give Captain Sunburst every chance, in order to win the race. Brain kept the Captain to the inside. By the time the field turned into the home stretch. Captain Sunburst was about 5 lenghts from the leader. The good news was that he had a clear path to run. Brian gave Captain Sunburst the signal it was time to go! I can still hear the call from Daryl Wells, "And hear Comes Captain Sunburst"! There was a burst from our champion, a "Sunburst". The 5 lenght disadvantage, evaporated in the blink of an eye. It was victory! Our Captain Sunburst had won the Heresy Stakes going away by 2 lenghts. It was a fantastic day I will never, ever forget.
The video posted on YouTube of Captain Sunburst's Heresy win.
Brain Swatuk came back after the race, and told us that we had an exceptional racehorse on our hands. We were all very confidant going into the "Prince Of Wales". Captain Sunburst went into the race as second favorite. Brian Swatuk was very confident that we would win the race. However it wasn't to be. During the running of the race. Captain Sunburst had suffered a serious injury. He didn't race well and only beat one horse. He pulled up lame, and had to vanned off in the ambulance. Captain Sunburst had badly torn the tendin in his right front leg. His life wasn't in danger. However his very promising racing career was over. It was an unfair and sad ending to a very happy story. Captain Sunburst won 5 races from only 13 starts, including one stakes win.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
The Captain Dawn story will always be one of my favorite in the history of the Sheldon Wolfe Racing Stable. How about another great story? The D'angelo and Wolfe families would often ask the question. "How good a racehorse. Would Captain Dawn have been, if he would have had four goods legs to run with, instead of only three?" We were all about to find out.
This story begins at the Hindmarsh farm located in Hillsborough, Ontario. During my father's training career the Hindmarsh Farm was used as winter stabling for our horses. In the winter of 1980 my father was up at the farm with good friend John Rubino. My father went up to look and check the horses that were resting at the farm that winter. During the visit Harry Hindmarsh offered to show my dad and John Rubino his weanling's that were out in the paddocks. The colts were out in a separate paddock all together. During there brief stay in the paddock a playful roan colt took a run by his human visitors. This startled John Rubino who was really unfamiliar with being around horses. John actually tripped and fell to his knees when the colt went running by. The colt made a good impression on him. John asked, "who was that colt?" Mr. Hindmarsh announced that was his roan colt by "Rouge Sang" out of his mare "Regal Ruth".
We now go to September of 1981, and the Canadian select yearling sales. My father and John Rubino are at the sales. However they are there as spectators, as my father has no money to buy any yearling for any of our clients. Then the next yearling is lead into the sales ring. The auctioneer announces it a roan colt by Rouge Sang, out of the mare "Regal Ruth". John quickly asks my dad. "Isn’t that the same colt that we looked at on the farm that knocked my down, when he ran by us? My father answered, "That was the same colt". John then responded "if he sells cheap, I’m going to buy him" My dad asked" do you have the money to pay for him?" John replied "I'll raise it" Sure enough there wasn't much interest in the colt. Rouge Sang had done poorly as a stallion after being imported from Europe. John Rubino was the winning bidder at $11,000. This great story had it's beginning.
John Rubino was on the phone that night. He had to raise some money right away to pay for our new addition, to our stable. Sam D'angelo was called. The D'angelo family was in for another chance of being racehorse owners. Long time friends of Sam, The Wakling family was contacted they were also in. John Rubino and his brothers were going to keep and interest. The last part of the quickly formed syndicate. Was myself and my brother John. We were both in for 10% each. I remember how much money I had in the Bank at that time. I had a whole $1,500. I spent $1,100 to purchase a 10% interest in the roan colt by Rouge Sang. The syndicate now had the fun of giving our new racehorse a name. Some ideas were talked out. I came up with the idea of honoring our Cinderella star Captain Dawn. The name I submitted was "Captain Sunburst". The Sunburst part of his name came by looking at him. Our new racehorse was a very rare looking individual. He was a strawberry roan. That meant that he was a gray, white, and black colored horse. He was also streaked with red hair throughout his body. Also this special colt had a very handsome face, with very intelligent eyes that would look right through you. The markings on his face were extraordinary. He had a spiral of color, a exploding sunburst between those magnificent eyes. About 6 weeks after our names were submitted to the New York jockey club. It was official, his racing name would be "Captain Sunburst".
This exciting, talented, and special racehorse was very well named. Captain Sunburst would be the only racehorse that I would have the privilege to name. He was named in honor of Captain Dawn. He never let his namesake, or his connections down. He would, like his namesake take us all on an amazing ride. Captain Sunburst looked totally different to Captain Dawn. Yet there were many similarities between the two. Both horses enjoyed to run and win from behind. Both had the showmen in them. They had that way of winning a race. That would get your Adrenalin flowing, and bring you right out of your seat. Both racehorses had tremendous endurance. They both would run there competitors into exhaustion, and then beat them!
In the spring of 1982. We were very aware that Captain Sunburst was a talented racing prospect. The Captain was a very playful colt, and enjoyed to be mischievous. However he was all business when it came to the business of racing. He showed the long loping stride of am endurance horse. He didn't show any raw speed of a sprinter. However he was proving that he had the talent and attitude to be a very successful racehorse. He was training well. My father had him up to his first race. Everything was looking good. Except he was starting to show some signs of sore shins. This is a common problem with young thoroughbreds. With time they will grow out of this problem. The problem of our syndicate was lack of money. We wern't wealthy people. We were operating on a shoestring. We had to make the tough decision. Were were going to run Captain Sunburst in a $20,000 maiden claiming race, and run the risk of having him claimed in his first race. Or enter him in maiden allowance race. To find out exactly how much talent our young racehorse actually had, and not run the risk of losing him in a claiming race. There was a lot of emotion at this discussion. The decision was made. Captain Sunburst was entered in a 5 furlong $20,000 claiming race. This race took place on May 15, 1982, at Woodbine.
Jockey Jimmy Fazio who was doing a lot of work for our barn at this time would get the mount. The 5 furlong distant of this race was against our talented colt. He broke well in his first start. However he was outrun in the first quarter mile in this race. Until Jimmy Fazio asked Captain to try and win the race. Young Captain Sunburst just like a seasoned veteran took off, and started to run by his competitors. Turning into the home stretch. Captain Sunburst was lying in third, and moving. At the 1/8 pole there was only Autumn Alley to beat. Captain Sunburst ran by him, and gave him a cold in doing so. Our "Captain Sunburst" was for real! We had a good racehorse on our hands. Also the great news was. There was no claims in for our racehorse. His sire "Rouge Sang" who was very unpopular had scared any would be claimers away. Our groups' plan had worked. We now had a promising young horse in our stable, and money in the bank. We were on our way! Captain Sunburst would never run in a claiming race again.
Sunday, June 29, 2008
Up now is a great story from the history of the Sheldon Wolfe Racing Stable. The story is of the Les Lee family from Grand Island N.Y. They owned two of the best racehorses that were in our barn. Myrthful Mynx was the first horse owned by the Lee's. She was claimed for $16,000 and went on to win several races. She won the Canadian Stakes at Woodbine in 1982, and set the track record for 7 furlongs on the turf in Ft. Erie. The Mynx was a very honest racehorse, and was very exciting to watch race. Myrthful was a spitting image of her father, Lord Vancouver. Lord Vancouver was one of the best Turf Horses that I ever watched race at Woodbine. Myrthful Mynx was not very far from being as good as her dad.
We met the Lee's like most of our great American owners, through the Schmidt's. Les Lee was originally from Saratoga Springs N.Y. So it is very understandable that he grew up with a real appreciation for watching gifted equine athletes race. Les met his lovely wife Dianne in college. They feel in love and got married and started a family. Like most men who get married. Sacrifice becomes a way of life. In order to raise children, and to try and create a happy and enjoyable environment for all the members of the family in which to live. The dream of becoming a horse owner remained just that, a dream for Les Lee. However Les had become ill. There was some major reason for concern that the problem could be serious. Dianne made a promise to Les. That if his health problem was not serious, and if it meant there would be no disruption to the family income. Then he could live out his dream and become a horse owner. Les had dodged the demon, and regained his health. It was now time to kick back and try and create some real fun. He was going into the racehorse business, and his trainer was going to be Sheldon Wolfe!
When we met the Lee's. They were very nice people from the start. Les was very excited to living out his dream. Dianne who is also a very excellent person. Was very supportive to Les and looking forward to the challenge. However Dianne was skeptical there would be any success at all. She thought that Les would have his fling. It would be over quick, and that would be that. Little did she know what was about to happen.
Attractive orange and navy blue silks were designed and made. Les Lee opened a horseman's account and deposited $16,000 in the account. My dad had selected lightly raced Myrthful Mynx to be the horse to be claimed. Mynx never ran at two. She had recently broken her maiden, and had showed very good speed. The hope was that she would be a grass horse like her father Lord Vancouver. That she would have a lot of good races in front of her. If she would prove to have endurance and could improve racing on the grass. Then there would be a lot of potential for a very good claim. The claim was put in for Myrthful Mynx. Les and Dianne Lee were now the proud owners. The Mynx didn't race well in the race that we claimed here. However she came back to the barn in very sound condition. Her legs were in very good shape. Myrthful Mynx had a very laid back almost stoic personality. She was an attractive tall dark bay filly. She was almost black in color. Like I said early Myrthful Mynx almost looked identical to her sire, Lord Vancouver.
Before not to long Myrthful Mynx started to adapt and train very well in our barn. She was starting to show the signs that there was potential for her to become a very good racehorse. Here is the meaning of her name. Myrthful "full of or showing high-spirited merriment" Mynx "A girl or young woman who is considered pert, flirtatious, or impudent". I think that our Mynx showed a lot of those qualities when she raced!
The "Mynx" won 9 races in our stable. Her ninth win would be her only stakes win. She won the Canadian Stakes on October 2nd, 1982. That would prove to be the last win of her successful racing career. She would become my father fourth stakes winner, and the second racehorse to become a stakes winner after coming from the claiming ranks. I will now feature 3 of my favorite Myrthful Mynx wins. I didn't look after Mynx until her 4 year old year. Her initial caretaker was Danny "C" who was an excellent horseman and did an excellent job with her. Danny departed working at the racetrack after 1980. I took over Mynx's care for her 4 year old year, in 1981.
The first win I will do took place at Woodbine on June 6, 1981. It was a 7 furlong race on the Marshall Turf course. At this point in Mynx's career she had proved that she was a better racehorse, racing on the turf. Also she loved racing on the Marshall course. It is now gone from Woodbine. The old Marshall course was similar to the Hillside Turf course that still exists at Santa Anita racetrack, located in California. Just past the quarter pole, the horses momentarily race over the main dirt track, and switch back to the turf. Myrthful Mynx became expert at races over the Marshall. Crossing over the main track didn't affect her races at all. In fact she did win at least 2 of her races. After making the crossover, without any problem, and taking full advantage of her opponents, who did not cross over the main track nearly as well.
Mike Quong rode Myrthful Mynx as a 3 year old, and did an excellent job. However Brian Swatuk who had proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that he was one of the best jockeys’s at Woodbine. Had become the number 1 rider for the Wolfe Stable. Brian also became the regular rider on the Mynx. This race went to order for Mynx. She really had one horse to beat in this race. That horse was the speedy and very promising filly Sneaker Streaker. This quick filly was training well for her connections, and they were very confident that they were going to beat the talented and much more experience Myrthful Mynx. However that was not going to be the case in this race. Brian and the Mynx tracked and pressured Sneaker Streaker throughout this race. After the crossing of the main track. Sneaker Streaker could not challenge the big move of Mynx in the last 1/8 of a mile. Myrthful Mynx pulled away for a convincing 2 length win. The Mynx and the Wolfe Barn were in for a very good year. I do have the video of this race. I do hope to learn the skills necessary to upload this video, to this post. For all viewers of this blog to enjoy.
The next Myrthful Mynx win. Would be here best effort on the main track, in her career. It took place at Woodbine on September 16th, 1981. It was a special race for me personally. I will fill you in on the story. Myrthful Mynx had some special help to win this race. The help came from her talented jockey Dave Borden. Dave Borden was flown in from New York City, from Belmont Park to ride the Mynx in this race. Who was Dave Borden, and why did Sheldon Wolfe and owner Les Lee, fly a New York jockey in to ride the Mynx in a 6 furlong allowance race? I will give you the answers.
Before I started to work at the racetrack for my dad, in 1979. I had become an astute racing fan. I followed the races and jockeys from all over the U.S. and Canada. I knew who the good riders and horses were at all the race tracks. My brother John and I had always wanted to experience watching the races live in New York City. On a November weekend in 1978 we were to get our wish. After school on Friday. My brother John picked me up in his car, and we drove all the way to watch the races at the Meadowlands racetrack that night. The Meadowlands sports complex is located right across from N.Y.C, in East Rutherford, New Jersey. We enjoyed watching the races that night. It was also the first time we had watched the thoroughbreds run under the lights. We found a place to stay in Hackensack New Jersey. The next morning we were off to watch the races at Aqueduct, "The Big A". We were both very excited! My favorite race on the card was a $25,000 claiming race for 3 year olds. I had selected as my bet in the race a horse named "Chabua" I liked him because he had back class. Chabua had run against tougher competition earlier in the year, and was dropping down in competition, for this race. His best effort would see him outclass the field. Chabua was trained by Marvin Cohen, and was being ridden by Dave Borden. Dave Borden, who was originally from Ohio, was a former top apprentice, and leading rider from Thistledown racetrack in Cleveland. He came to ride in New York in the winter meet in 1977, while he was still and apprentice. He had done well and was working hard to establish himself in the very difficult New York circuit. The Chabua race was 7 furlongs. The race went to form. There was some good speed in the race. Dave was content and very patience to allow Chabua to settle in his best stride and track the two front runners in third position. When the front running pair hit the quarter pole. I expected Dave to start to ask Chabua for his run and try and win the race. However Dave was still content to wait, and stay in 3rd position. I was starting to get anxious. Did Dave Borden know what he was doing? Or did I bet my money on another loser? Now the front pair had reached the 1/8 pole. The horse on the outside had started to drift out, creating a hole in between the pair. At this point, I was amazed as what I was about to see. Dave reached up and hit Chabua with his whip, in his right hand. Chabua started his charge. At this point Chabua was already a head in front. Running between the front pair. Dave as quick as you can blink your eye had switched his whip to his left hand, and again gave Chabua a slap on his left side. Chabua again responded and began to open up his lead. This race was over! Chabua pulled away to win by 2 1/2 lengths. What a fantastic race! I was star struck. I had never in my life watched a jockey ride a race when such precision, and execution. I was about to become a big Dave Borden fan. This race would be the highlight of my weekend in the big apple!
From that weekend on I began to follow Dave Borden's career. I was looking forward to the day when he could ride some of our horses. That dream came true when we rode Mt. Tabor Rd. in the Select stakes race at Monmouth Park in May of 1981. When we shipped to Monmouth, my dad decided to use a local rider instead of paying to bring down a jockey from Toronto. I recommended Dave to my dad. He knew that I had good sense and intuition when it came to the horses and racing. My father decided to give Dave Borden agent a call and see if he could get him to ride Mt. Tabor Rd. in the Select Stakes. Dave Borden agent was happy to hear from my dad and was delighted to ride Mt. Tabor Rd. for us. I was excited that Dave would finally be riding one of our horses in a big race. It was great to meet Dave the day of the race. He showed up in the morning at the barn to meet us. The race went well. We finished 3rd in the Select. This was a very good race, in spite of the track coming up a sloppy horrible mess. Also the ship down to Monmouth didn't go well. We failed to ship Mt. Tabor Rd. down in a box stall. We had a delay of 4 hours waiting for the state vet to arrive and clear Mt. Tabor Rd for entry into the U.S. He was not feeling well when he arrived, and almost never made the race.
The summer went by and it was now September. Myrthful Mynx was training well and in very good shape and was being prepared for a Sprint Stake race at the end of the month. The major prep race was coming up. We were without a jockey as we could not get a commitment from Brian Swatuk to ride Mynx in the up coming stakes race. Being a small stable has its disadvantages when you do have a good racehorse. It can be difficult to get the best jockeys to ride for you. They usually want to ride for the big stables that have the abundance of the best horses at the track. My dad and Les Lee talked it over. Les Lee was very aware who Dave Borden was. The decision was made to contact Dave Borden's agent to see if he would ride Mynx for us in the allowance race. If she raced well. He would have first call for the upcoming stakes race. Again Dave's agent was happy to hear from my Dad. He was happy to come to Toronto to ride Myrthful Mynx for us. I was delighted when I found out this exciting news.
It is September 16, 1981. Myrthful Mynx is running in a tough allowance race. It is a big field. However the Wolfe barn has the advantage for this one. We have the best jockey at the track on this day. When Dave arrived he was happy to be in Toronto. It was his first time in Toronto, and his first race ever at Woodbine. He was confindent that he would win the race for us. Dave said "that he always had good luck riding for the first time, at a new racetrack. Mynx broke from the 4 post position in the 13 horse field of fillies and mares. Myrthful Mynx broke alertly, and showed good speed from the start. Dave knew that if Mynx had any chance to win. He had to be aggressive in this large and talented field. After the opening half mile in a fast: 46.1, Mynx was lying in 4th, in good striking position, on the rail. Dave was now thinking on how he was going to win this race. Turning in the stretch Dave had Mynx were in full stride. There was only one option available to win the race. Look for an opening to run between horses, and then on to victory. There could not be any mistake now. If Dave had to check Mynx the race would be lost. There in front of my eyes, was what I had witnessed the first time I watched Dave Borden ride, on Chabua. I could not believe it. It was surreal! The front runner Moneda started to drift out. There was the hole; there was no time to loose. Dave asked Mynx to run through the opening. The Mynx was in full agreement with her talented jockey. Myrthful Mynx exploded through the opening. This race was over! Mynx was under a powerful hand ride from Dave Borden, on to a convincing 2 1/2 length victory. This winning race will always be one of my best thrills in the racing business.
I do have the video of this race and intend to upload it, to this post. Dave Borden came back and rode Mynx in the Stakes Race. She finished 3rd. I was always disappointed that Dave Borden never had the opportunity. To ride Myrthful Mynx in a grass race.
It is October 2, 1982. Myrthful Mynx is now a 5 year mare. She has enjoyed an excellent season. She has four wins to her credit. Two big wins were both at 1 mile, and 1 1/16 respectively. The Mynx had proved that like her dad Lord Vancouver could run all day and night on the turf. Talented young jockey Richard Dos Ramos had started to do a lot of good race riding for the Wolfe Stable. Rick had been the first jockey to win with Myrthful Mynx at a mile. Rick had done an excellent job riding her, and it was to be no surprise that Rick Dos Ramos got the ride for Mynx last race. It would be her last chance to become a stakes winner, in the 28th edition of the Canadian Stakes Race. The race was to run at 1 1/16 on the inner turf course. This beautiful grass course is sadly also a memory at Woodbine.
The grass course was listed as yielding for the race. The main challenger in the race was Eternal Search. This pint size princess was one of the best race mares that I ever had the pleasure to watch race at Woodbine. Myrthful Mynx had a lot of battles with her. Up until this race she was unable to beat her. That was about to change. It is also an interesting fact. That Richard Dos Ramos had not won a stakes race, until this day. My father had a great talk with Rick prior to the race. He discussed strategy with Rick. My father felt that there was good speed in the race to pressure Eternal Search in the race. Eternal Search enjoyed controlling the race. With left unchallenged. She became a very difficult foe to beat. Rick agreed with this strategy. He was confident that he could get Mynx to relax off a fast past. He would let the speed soften up Eternal Search. Then when they were through with her. He would make his move on Mynx, and try to win the race. Myrthful Mynx came up to her final race in great shape. She looked confident in the paddock and the post parade prior to the race. The horses were loaded in the gate. Then we go the famous call from Daryl Wells. "There at the post, there off" The race went to plan. Eternal Search broke well, and sprung to the lead. However Rosy Briar in hot pursuit. Myrthful Mynx was also on her game. Richard had placed Mynx in third position into the club house turn, with in close striking distance to Eternal Search. When this talented field had run 3/4 of a mile. Rosy Briar had given up the ghost and had started to fade out of the race. Richard knew it was time to take up the fight with Eternal Search. Mynx drew up along side of her old nemesis, and the big battle begun. Turning into the stretch. Richard and Mynx had won the battle. Eternal Search was no match for Mynx on this day. Myrthful Mynx had command of the race down the stretch. However Noble Martha with jockey David Clark had made a huge move from off the pace, and was ready to try and snatch the race from Mynx and Rick. At the 1/8pole from the finish line. Noble Martha slightly had an advantage in the race. However Rick asked Mynx for one last great effort to beat off the challenge from Noble Martha. Mynx would not let Noble Martha past her, and open up a neck advantage to the final run to the finish. Mynx and Richard had done it. What a great way to end her great career. It was a very happy occasion for the Lee and Wolfe connections. It was also a major thrill for Richard Dos Ramos winning his first stakes race on Myrthful Mynx. It was a fantastic ride! Posted is an ultra rare picture of; yours truly, Mynx, and Richard Dos Ramos, celebrating there first stakes win!
Here is the link for the Dave Borden race; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZX4XDAR2nSw
Some just recently discovered of Myrthful Mynx..
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
This post is dedicated to three of the very fine female racehorses that were a valued part of the Sheldon Wolfe Racing Stable. During the course of my father's training career he would build a reputation of being great with the ladies. The success of the excellent fillies that came into the barn would account for a large part of our enjoyment in the racing business. During this posting I will remember and honor; Clover Lass, Cocagne, and True Hope. These classy ladies all had something in common. There were all excellent Wolfe runners. They spent most of there careers in the claiming ranks. However they were all quality athletes, and were just a shade away of being stakes caliber performers.
This classy lady was claimed by my father for $8,000. Like Mt. Tabor Rd. Clover Lass was owned in our barn by John DeLongis. Clover Lass ran poorly in the race we claimed her. When we got her back to the barn and had her checked out. We were disgusted in the rundown condition Clover Lass was in. This fine racing mare was in a total state of neglect. Her previous trainer should have been reported to the humane society. Our stable went to work on Clover Lass to see if we could rebuild her, and turn her into the bionic racehorse. It shows you what some hard work and tender loving care will do for these fine athletes. Clover Lass started to train like the talented athlete she was.
Clover Lass started to train so well that she won two electrifying races in our stable back to back. The first race took place on July 11, 1979. She won at the $16,000 level showing excellent speed and leading all the way going 7 furlongs. Then on the 27th of July Clover Lass would run the greatest race in her career. She was entered in a $12,500 starter handicap going 7 furlongs. The race came up with tough competition. Trainer Ritchie Papa had entered his talented mare “Don’t Be Shy” in this race. Don’t Be Shy had won recently at the $50,000 claiming level. Also she had won a condition allowance race recently as well. Don’t Be Shy was odds on favorite to win this race. However Clover Lass was up for the challenge. She had come out of her winning race in fine shape, and trained very well coming up to this race. Clover Lass was ready to rock and roll! Our female version of Captain Dawn looked excellent in the saddling area and in the warm up. Usually horses that are turned out well and look good. Will also perform very well. The horses were loaded in the gate, and there off! Clover Lass was very serious in winning this race from the start. She exploded from the starting gate and opened up a 3 length lead. Now the rest of the field was under pressure to try and keep pace with her. The fractions for the race were fast. The opening quarter was: 22.2 the half mile time was: 45.3. Don’t Be Shy was starting to try and harass Clover Lass. But she was having none of it. Clover Lass responded with a ¾ mile time in 1:10.2. At the 1/8 pole Clover Lass still had a 2 length advantage. Don’t Be Shy and Impetuous Deb were both trying to run by Clover Lass. To our happiness Paul Souter and Clover Lass were equally determined to not let them pass. The margin of victory was 1 length and the final time for this 7 furlong race was 1:23.1. Clover Lass was tried and proud when she came back to the winner’s circle. Ritchie Papa could not believe that Clover Lass was capable of racing to that level. Yes she could!
Up next is Cocagne. Her name is French. The meaning in English is “An imaginary country of idleness and luxury” This talented filly was claimed by from the very successful French Canadian owner Jean-Louis Lévesque. My father claimed her as a two year old. Cocagne turned out to be a very successful runner in our stable.
Quickly her barn nickname became “Cocaine”. It was difficult for most of the predominantly English speaking barn staff to correctly pronounce her French name. Richard C., who was my dad’s first assistant trainer, gave her the nickname. Richard is a very talented horsemen and rider. He was a great asset to our stable, and became a great teacher and a friend to me. The name Cocaine seemed the easiest English translation from her French name. Also Richard enjoyed singing the famous Eric Clapton song. When he use to ride her. I can still hear Richard sing the lyrics. “If you got bad news, you wanna kick them blues; cocaine.
When your day is done and you wanna run; cocaine.
She don't lie, she don't lie, she don't lie; cocaine”.
Cocaine was a very honest racehorse. She had a lot of speed and desire, and hated to loose. Cocagne won 4 times in the Sheldon Wolfe racing stable in very few starts. She was a very serious racehorse that was just a shade away from being a really top performer. I will feature her winning race that took place on October 2, 1980. This race was at the $30,000 claiming level. She was ridden to victory by Michael “Killer” Quong. Cocaine broke very alertly from the starting gate. She pressed the pacesetter “Matched to Win” from the outset. Coming to the quarter pole Cocagne kicked into high gear and blew to the lead. Opening up a 2 ½ length advantage. She held off the determined challenge of “pertinent Solution” to win the race by 1 length. I have included the winning picture from this race. Also included is the official racing form chart. From the Wolfe family archives I have included a rare photo of “Cocagne”. In this picture you could easily see the beauty and great character that she processed that made her an excellent race filly.
True Hope "Butterball"
This filly was very popular in the Wolfe Stable. Not only with me, but everyone that came into contact with her. True Hope was just that kind of a girl! Her nickname came to be "Butterball". Richard C. gave her that name and it just stuck. The name to me just describes how popular she was. I will try and describe her personality. True Hope was like the pretty girl that lived next door. The girl that had the happy go lucky personality, that was always vivacious. Butterball was the ultimate tomboy who loved to play her sports. But never forgot that she was also an attractive, very feminine woman. That was our True Hope!
She came to the Wolfe barn by the way of the claiming box, in the fall of 1980. In fact we claimed her on closing day of the Greenwood meet. She had a very gruelling campaign as a 3 year old, and was completely worn out. True Hope was sent to the farm for a badly needed rest. There was nothing that some quality rest and relaxation would not fix. Butterball came back to the racetrack in the Spring of 1981 full of life, and looking forward to getting back to business. She started to train very well, and also started to make a great impression on ever one in the barn including yours truly. I was her groom and it was a real pleasure and an honour to look after her. True Hope was easy to get along with. She was always very enthusiastic, and always put her groom into a great mood. That is the benefit of being in the company of a classy woman.
I'm going to feature two of "True Hope's" exciting wins. The first winning race in the Wolfe Racing Stable took place on April 22, 1981. The distance was 6 and 1/2 furlongs at Greenwood Racetrack. At this point Butterball was training very well, and was a totally different horse. Compared to the exhausted filly that we had claimed 5 months earlier. Talented jockey Brian Swatuk was just starting to do some excellent race riding on our horses. Brian did a fantastic job of riding True Hope. In the earlier races in True Hope career. She had showed the preference of being a come from behind sprinter. True Hope enjoyed to relax in the earlier part of the race. She would let the speed horses battle for the lead. Beat themselves up, fighting for the lead. Then in the last 3/8 of the race. True Hope would make her run, and try hard to outrun her competitors. The first win for the Wolfe's, Butterball would win in classic come from behind style.
True Hope was owned by another of our excellent owners from Buffalo. Mr. Norm Stager was a great fan of the Sport of Kings. He was an excellent man to work for, and enjoyed a lot of success in the Wolfe Racing Stable. Now back to the race. I was very confident in True Hope going into this race. Yes it is true that horses cannot speak English. Yet if you become an prolific horse person. You definitely develop a direct communication with your animal friends. True Hope going into this race told me that she was going to win this race. I had total faith in her. I bet accordingly before Daryl Wells said "There at the post, there off!" Brain took True Hope into hand and she fell back off the lead. During the run down the backstretch. You could see that True Hope was enjoying the race, and she was looking forward to throw it into high gear and try and win the race, and keep her promise to me. There was no room for error running at Greenwood. The tight turns at Greenwood could make it difficult for horses to try and win from off the pace. However True Hope had no problem with the tight turns. Butterball enjoyed running at Toronto "Bull Ring Racetrack. Bull Ring is the slang for a racetrack that is less then 1 mile in circumference. Greenwood was only a 3/4 mile track. Coming to the 1/4 pole True Hope was waiting in 4th position and full of run. She was in tight quarters. Brian Swatuk was patiently waiting for room to forge for the lead, and the win. Coming to the 1/8 pole. There was now and opening for True Hope. Without any hesitation Butterball and Brian shot through the hole and emerged with the lead. This race was over! True Hope had kept her promise to me. Scoring an impressive 2 1/2 win. I was in seventh heaven!
True Hope was on her way to a very successful 4 year old year. She would become one of the best racehorses that we had in 1981. Butterball would score 4 wins for our stable in very limited starts. True Hope won right back at Greenwood on April 29th. Scoring a 2 length victory in a carbon copy fashion. I was away for that race. We had shipped Mt. Tabor Rd. for a stakes race at Monmouth Park in Oceanport New Jersey. Mt. Tabor Rd. finished 3rd in that race. True Hope would win again at Woodbine on July 15th at Woodbine. For this race her racing style would change. True Hope was ridden in this winning race by up and coming apprentice jockey Richard Dos Ramos. When the gate opened for this race. Butterball came storming out of the gate with vengeance on her mind. There was no relaxing or taking back for this race. Richard had enough good sense to try and argue with a angry woman and let True Hope have her own way. After a quarter of a mile True Hope had opened up a commanding 6 length lead. She was never challenged in the race and coasted home to a easy 5 length win.
On August 2nd True Hope would sadly run her last race for the Wolfe Racing Stable. Butterball had moved up to the $25,000 claiming level and was reunited with top veteran rider Brian Swatuk. The race was run at the distance of 7 furlongs. In this race True Hope showed again a very good turn of speed and a lot of determination and grit to win. At the 1/8 pole she found herself in front. However she was involved in a cat flight with a formidable foe in Sunny Christo ridden by Dave Penna. Brian asked True Hope to dig in a not to let Sunny Christo run past and defeat her. Butterball pinned her ears and was ready to flight! No way she was she going to let Sunny Christo run by her. True Hope won this exciting race by a neck. I was delighted with her effort. However sadly I would soon learn that our True Hope had been claimed by a visiting U.S. stable. We would loose one of our best girls. She would never be forgotten!
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
The next racehorse that will be remembered on this blog is Mt. Tabor Rd. When I remember this prolific racehorse the first thought that comes to mind is speed, pure speed! This very successful runner was to be the third stakes winner in my dad’s training career, and the first horse claimed by our stable to become a stakes winner.
Mt. Tabor Rd. was owned by Mr. John C. DeLongis who was living in Buffalo N.Y at the time. As it turned out a lot of the best financial backers we had were Americans based in the Western New York area, during my father’s training career. Marge and Al Schmidt were excellent horse owners. They loved the horses and enjoyed watchers there horses run very much. There career began at Finger Lakes. It ended at Churchill Downs in Louisville in the Kentucky Derby. They always let everyone in Buffalo know who the best trainer at Woodbine was. It was Sheldon Wolfe of course. Many great people from Buffalo that we had the chance to work for, came by way of the Schmidt’s. We enjoyed an excellent partnership in the horse racing business with them.
John C. DeLongis was originally from Pennsylvania. He always enjoyed horse racing. It was his hobby and enjoyment in life. He lived near the Penn National racetrack. Where most of the horses he raced, ran. John and his lovely wife Helen moved to the Buffalo area because John had developed mouth cancer. He required ongoing treatment. It was recommended to him to move to Buffalo. Where he would get the best possible treatment to treat his cancer. After moving to Buffalo he still wanted to continue in the horse racing business. He was looking for a trainer based at Woodbine. Somehow he was introduced to Al Schmidt who recommended that he talk to Sheldon Wolfe. I am shure Al said “You can’t go wrong having Sheldon Wolfe as your trainer.” “He is very honest and always gets the best out of his horses.” Sure enough Mr. John DeLongis called my dad to hire him. He still owned a cheap horse that was currently racing at Finger Lakes. He had the horse shipped to us. So we could run him at Woodbine. This would allow Mr. DeLongis to be eligible to claim a horse. The first horse we claimed for him was a nice honest filly named Marglad. We won one race with Marglad before she was claimed from us. They we claimed a classy mare named “Clover Lass”. Our stable won 2 races with speedy and courageous Clover Lass. Before she to was also claimed from Mr. DeLongis. The next horse would be a very special horse. Destined to be owned by a very special man. Mr. DeLongis said to my dad. “That he had never owned a stakes caliber racehorse before, all he wanted was to enjoy watching his caliming horses run, and that they should be competitive.” However my dad had other planes. He liked Mr. John DeLongis very much. He was an excellent man to work for. He also knew sadly that Mr. DeLongis was in poor health. He was determined to obtain a talented racehorse for him.
When my dad had raced in California in 1974. He had come up against a very talented grass horse named “Captain Cee Jay”. This horse had equaled the track record for 1 mile ¼ on the grass at Santa Anita. My father never forgot about him. Gord Huntley the very successful two year old trainer had a two year old in his barn by Captain Cee Jay. His name was “Mt. Tabor Rd.” Mt. Tabor Rd. made his first start of his career in a maiden allowance race with Robin Platts ridding him. He wore no blinkers in this race. My father went over see Mt. Tabor Rd. and to watch him race. Mt. Tabor Rd. was a medium sized dark bay gelding. He ran lack luster in his debut. Not running a bad race. He would finish in the middle of the pack, in his debut. My father liked this horse. He knew being sired by Captain Cee Jay. That he was bred for distance, and could prefer running on the grass. He was interested to obtain Mt. Tabor Rd. for Mr. John DeLongis. Sure enough Gord Huntley ran Mt. Tabor Rd back 10 days later in a maiden $16,000 claiming race. Now jockey David Clark would be riding him. Also blinkers were now added for his second race. My father called Mr. DeLongis and told him that he was putting in a claim for Mt. Tabor Rd. for him. John had complete trust in my Dad and asked him to call him later if he was successful in claiming this horse. I went over to pick up Mt. Tabor Rd. if we won the claim for him. The maiden two year olds were loaded in the gate. “There at the post, there off” I was astonished when the started gate opened. Mt Tabor Rd. left the gate like a lighting bolt. Before you could say his name he had opened up a commanding 4 length advantage. David Clark was just steering him. He wasn’t urging him to run at all. Mt. Tabor Rd. lead in this race was growing bigger with each of his quick strides. Turning into the stretch Mt. Tabor Rd. was know leading by 7 lengths. He coasted to the finish line winning by an official margin of 9 ½ lengths. His time for the 5 furlongs was: 59.1. I was smiling from ear to ear. When I learned that Mr. DeLongis had won the claim for him. No other owners had put a claim in for this horse. My dad had the pleasure of calling John that evening. Informing him that he was now the proud owner of Mt. Tabor Rd. My dad gave him the description of his performance. He told John "that he now owned a stakes caliber horse". Mr. DeLongis was delighted!
The acquisition of Mt. Tabor Rd. had brought new excitement into our barn. I was appointed by my dad to be the groom of our new star. We now had one of the fastest two year olds at Woodbine and we were getting ready to prove it. He came out of his maiden victory in fine shape. His front legs were like iron. No sign of any problems, no sign of any buck shins. Bucked shins is a painful two year old problem. It is inflammation that develops at the front of there shin bones. They can’t run well if they develop this problem. The Colin Stakes race was now a month away. The dream began of winning this race with Mt. Tabor Rd. for John DeLongis.
We ran Mt. Tabor Rd. in the prep race for the Colin Stakes. It was a 5 ½ furlong allowance for two year olds. Joey Belowus was hired to be the pilot on Mt. Tabor Rd. Joey had done an excellent job riding Ontario Princess. He deserved to get the chance to ride our new star. Mt. Tabor Rd. barn debut occurred on June 29, 1980. “There at the post, there off” When the gate opened again this dark bay blur, in the shape of a racehorse exploded from the starting gate. As in his maiden win. Mt. Tabor Rd. and Joey Belowus made mash meat out of the tougher competition in this race. He opened up a 3 length advantage at the quarter pole running the opening half mile in a quick 46 seconds flat. He challenged any of the other horses to try and keep the hot pace. There were no challengers. Mt. Tabor Rd. cruised to the finish wire in a sizzling time of 1:04.4 and won by 4 lengths. Mr. DeLongis was thrilled in the winner circle. Mt. Tabor Rd. was for real! We now had one of the main contenders for the Colin Stakes in two weeks. We just could not wait for his next race now. The excitement was starting to build.
This is what attracts people to invest there hard earned money into the racing business. It is the challenge of trying to come up with a star racehorse. It isn’t easy! Many have tried and come out of the horse business. With much less money then they started and a lot of bad experience. Also people that love to dream. Can have there dreams come true in the horse racing game. On July 6th, 1980 a dream was getting ready to come true for the Wolfe Racing Stable. Our Mt. Tabor Rd. was the second favorite to win the prestigious Colin Stakes race. There was one main challenger in this race. That would try and prevent our happy story from having a very happy end. That horse was from the Laurie Silvera stable. His name was “Solo Guy”. Solo Guy was considered the fastest two year old at Woodbine in 1980. A lot of the racing community was still very skeptical that the ex claimer form the Wolfe Stable would have talent to out run Solo Guy. We were equally as confident going into the race. That Mt. Tabor Rd. was ready to take on Solo Guy and show him who the fastest gun at Woodbine was. Mt. Tabor Rd. trained to perfection going into the Colin, and his front legs remained as sound as a bell made from brass. The field for the Colin Stakes was loaded in the gate. Daryl Wells was now ready to get this contest underway. I was watching with excitement and optimism. “There at the post, there off’. Both of the main contenders broke alertly. Solo Guy for the moment made the lead. However Mt. Tabor Rd. was ready to take him on. He headed him right away. Down the backstretch they went. The opening fractions were quick: 22.1 for the opening quarter mile. This race was a match race all the way. The second quarter went in: 23.2 for an opening half in: 45.3. At this point in the race my optimism had now turned to joy. Mt. Tabor Rd. and Joey Belowus had won the battle. Solo Guy and his jockey George Hosang had lost the fight and had started there retreat. Mt. Tabor Rd. now had complete control of the Colin. He cruised to the finish line with a commanding 3 length victory! The emotion was running high after this win. Happy, yes the Wolfe Stable and this horse’s proud owner were beyond happy. Mt. Tabor Rd. had made our dream come true, and taken us all to that happier and friendlier world. This is a much friendlier world then the real one. Mr. John DeLongis would say after this race. “Thanks to the Wolfe stable for giving him the happiest day of his life” Thank you Mr. John DeLongis for making this day happen! Mt. Tabor Rd. would be my first stakes winner that I would look after in my horse racing career.
Friday, May 30, 2008
When Cinderella pays you a visit. You will always be happy with the gift she leaves behind. After the tragic loss of Ontario Princess. The Wolfe barn was very down, but not out. It was very difficult emotionally and financially to recover from her loss.
Enter the D’Angelo brothers. Sam, Joey, and Mario had been school buddies to me, and my brother John. The D’Angelo family and the Wolfe family had a common denominator. We were horse racing crazy! I remember many happy times of going to the races with Sam, Joe, and Mario. The brothers became great friends and fans of my Dad. They were looking forward to the day when they starting working full time and were finished with school. So they could take a shot in the horse racing business, as horse owners. By 1979 the brothers were ready to invest in the Sport of Kings, and buy a racehorse. They had raised $5,000 to claim a horse from the races. They were all licensed. Beautiful yellow and orange silks were designed and made. The D’Angelo brothers were ready for action.
Enter Cinderella. The D’Angelo brothers had deposited there $5,000 into a horseman's account. Sam had selected the horse that they wanted to claim. The claim slip was filled out, and the claim put in for the horse. If more then one claim goes in for a horse. Then during the running of the race a random chance draw is made. The winner of the draw owns the horse. Sam lost the draw. So the brothers were still without a horse. The second claim was put in for a horse named "Snow Fence". Again we lost the draw on Snow Fence. So again the D’Angelo brothers were still not the owners of a racehorse. They would try again. Sam had a selected a filly this time. Her name was Idle Time. She was from the Carl Chapman stable. The gate opened and disaster struck. Idle Time had pulled up soon after the start of this race. She had suffered a serious injury! There were two claims in for Idle Time. Sam D’Angelo and Frank Passero. Lucky for us, Frank Passero had won the draw. We quickly learned that Idle Time had broken her leg, and had to be euthanized. Sam D’Angelo was very thankful to still have the $5,000 in hand. There were very close to having a disaster in the horse business, and not even having the chance to enjoy one race. To the D’Angelo brothers credit they never gave up. Remember the name of this blog. "Keep Turning Left". Sam went to my dad right after this close call. Sam said to my Dad. "I hired you to be our trainer. So you can pick out the horse to claim for us". My father agreed. In the Snow Fence race. A horse named Captain Dawn was making his first start of 1979. He was a handsome big chestnut 5 year old gelding by Gray Dawn II. He was running in a 6 furlong sprint race. He finished in the middle of the pack in this race. My dad thought that he looked like an honest racehorse. He was also bred for endurance and not sprint races. He thought that he could make a useful runner in our barn, if he was sound. Most claiming horses run in cheap claiming racing because they have suffered leg injuries in the past. And they never fully recover from these injuries. So when Captain Dawn ran back in another sprint race. A claim slip was made out in the name of Sam D’Angelo. There were no other claims put in for him. He again finished in the middle of the pack. The "Captain" came into the Wolfe Racing Stable. With great fortune we lost the draw all three times. On horses Sam had selected and put claims in for. All three of these horses never raced again. Thank you Cinderella!
This wonderful horse would soon become the pride and joy of our barn. He was racing sound when he came into the barn. However he had a badly deformed right front leg. He had suffered a serious injury as a 3 year old. He had fallen in a race on the Marshall Turf course while crossing the main track. Captain Dawn had fractured the split bone in his right front leg. When this injury occurs. It is very serious. The fractured bone has to surgically removed to give the horse any chance of every racing again. Also he had arrived in a depressed condition. A lot of claiming horses are disregarded in large racing stables. There care and training can be mediocre at best. Captain Dawn would now have an overhaul in the Wolfe Stable. He would now get the care and training program that this talented and courageous racehorse deserved. The Captain as he would soon be called by everyone made his Wolfe Stable debut 10 days after we claimed him. The date was June 23rd 1979. It would be a $6,250 claiming race going 1 mile & 1/16. Jockey Paul Souter (The Squirrel) would be in the saddle for his first race in the D'Angelo colors. I was his groom for his debut. When I went over to observe him, before the race that we claimed him. He acted mild mannered and quiet. However for his debut with us. There was now a complete transformation in this racehorse. I turned him into the saddling stall to be saddled. The Captain refused to stand to be saddled. It was like I was now holding a hungry lion, which couldn't wait to be let out of his cage. This horse was mad and angry, and could not wait for the race to begin. The decision was made to saddle the Captain on the move, while I was walking him in a circle in the saddling area. Even doing so, we were life and death to get the saddle on him. We finally did! My dad had no opportunity to give Paul Souter any instructions or information about this horse. He just wished Paul Souter good luck!
In the post parade and warm up. I am sure that Paul Souter knew that he wasn't on a cheap claiming horse with little chance to win this race. Paul was a very accomplished jockey at this point in his career. I'm sure he felt very confident when he was loaded in the gate on Captain Dawn. "There at the post, there off" Paul gathered Captain Dawn in hand after the start of the race. He rated well going into the clubhouse turn. In the run down the back stretch you could easily see that Captain Dawn was now the hungry lion that had been let out of his cage! He was now ready to feast on his pray! Past the 3/8's pole Paul was looking for an opening to let the Captain loose. Paul found it, and this race was over! Captain Dawn bounded to the lead with ease. He was home and cooled out by the time he reached the finish line. He glided to a five and 1/2 length victory with lots of speed to spare. Captain Dawn was ready to take the Wolfe and D’Angelo families on a very exciting ride!
After Captain Dawn exciting debut. You just could not help but get motivated by this classy racehorse. He came out of his Wolfe stable debut in very fine shape. Captain Dawn had been reborn. The Captain was now confident, and happy to be alive. He was starting to enjoy his training and looking forward to running in his next race. Captain was ready to show the Woodbine faithful that he was not a cheap claiming horse. Now he was ready to show the Toronto racing community that he was a very proud and talented athlete. Captain Dawn ran back a week later on June 30th 1979, Queen's Plate day in the second race. Sadly it rained heavily that morning. This created very muddy track conditions. It takes a very courageous racehorse to run in these conditions. The horses have to try and adjust there stride to the slippery and muddy conditions. Also there eyesight can be badly impaired by the mud thrown into there faces, running behind other horses. A lot of horses do not like it, and refuse to run well in these hazardous conditions. Captain Dawn didn't enjoy running in the mud and slop either. However he was a professional, and was set on proving a point to everyone that he was a serious racehorse. His second Wolfe start would see the Captain moved up in class to the $8,000 level. Again completing at the 1 mile 1/16 distance. The race began the same way as his first race. Paul Souter took the Captain back off the pace, and rated him with confidence. Down the back stretch. He began to make his move. He moved into serious contention along the inside. Approaching the 1/4 pole he was now lying in third position and ready again to take command of this race. Down the stretch drive Captain Dawn again outclassed his opponents with ease, scoring a handy 3 length win. In the winner circle picture. After the Captain's blinkers had begin removed. You could easily see. That Captain Dawn's vision had been badly impaired by the sloppy, and muddy racing conditions. He won this race. In his trust in his faithful and talented jockey Paul Souter, and in his own courage! I enjoyed nicknaming this great partnership; "Bread and Butter". Win number two was in the books. It was time for Wolfe and D'Angelo families to celebrate again!
Before Captain Dawn came into the Sheldon Wolfe racing stable. We had never enjoyed a racehorse to win 3 consecutive starts in a row. That was soon about to change. But first some more information about our new star performer. The Captain was a 5 year old racehorse when he came into the barn. He was a handsome chestnut gelding. He stood about 16.2 hands high. He had a slight white star that he wore on his face between his wonderful and very intelligent eyes. He also was born with a bad parrot mouth. A parrot mouth is a severe overbite. The Captain was actually a very friendly horse with a very pleasing personality. He had a bad temper. However he only lost it when he was in the races. All excellent athletes must have one, to be a winner. He father was Gray Dawn II, and his mother was Lady Hillsbourgh. His pedigree was endurance and stamina. Our Captain was bred to run to the moon and back, without ever getting tired.
His next race for the Wolfe Racing Stable was to take place at Woodbine on July 8th, 1979. He was moving up in class again. He would run in the “Slow Moe Starter Handicap”, at the distance of 1 mile and ¼. The condition of this race was any horse that had competed in an $8,000 claiming race or less in 1978-1979. The big advantage of these races are, that they are non claiming, and carry a higher purse. You can run your horse in this race without any risk of selling them. This was a perfect opportunity for our rising star. The track condition came up lighting fast. We were all confident and in a state of euphoria going into this race, including the Captain. We were all looking forward to give him the chance to stretch his legs and lungs to the 1 mile and ¼ distance, and the great possibility of him winning 3 races in a row. This would be one of my favorite races in the history of my father’s training career.
The Captain trained perfect for this race, and looked great in the saddling area and paddock. He had put on weight and now looked the part now of a stakes calibere horse, and not a cheap claimer. He was ready and so were the Wolfe and D’Angelo families. The call for riders up was given. My dad gave Paul Souter his leg up on the Captain. I had the pleasure of leading “Bread and Butter" to the racetrack. I wished Paul a safe trip, and gave the Captain a pat on his neck for good luck, and they were off to the races. Captain Dawn and Paul looked great in the post parade and warm up. I was full of emotion and optimism for this race. The horses were loaded in the gate, “There at the post, there off’. Was the opening call from Daryl Wells. Captain broke from the gate in fine style; he was off to a great start. Then Paul asked him to relax, and take back off of the front runners. Which he was happy to do. The Captain looked fantastic in the run to the finish line for the first time. The field for the Slow Moe Starter Handicap now had one mile to complete to see who the winner would be. It was apparent to me, right away, who the winner would be. It would be Captain Dawn! You could see that this classy racehorse was enjoying himself and having fun. He was just playing with this field of horses like a cat does with a mouse, right before he eats it. In the run down the back stretch Captain was tracking in fourth position and was laying about 4 lenghts from the leaders. The Captain and Paul had complete control of this race. Just past the 3/8 pole the rest of the competition was starting to get tired. Captain Dawn was starting to get stronger and was moving in for the kill! Before he had reached the ¼ pole Captain Dawn had already made the lead by 1 lenght without any serious urging from Paul Souter. This was a race to remember, and to enjoy! I started the salute to our gallant warrior. I started to scream his name, Captain Dawn! In the final ¼ mile all the way to the finish line. My adrenal glade was in full motion, and the adrenalin was pouring into my body. I was in another world. All the sadness that I was carrying with me, from the death of Ontario Princess had now tuned to complete joy. Captain Dawn performance was flawless. He easily won this race by 4 lengths, and his last quarter mile time was 24.3 seconds. He completed the 1 mile and ¼ in 2:04.3. He had won all three races we had run him. Improving with each race. It was pandemonium in the winner’s circle. It was like we had won the Kentucky Derby and Queens' Plate combined. It was a winning race I will never forget!
I will profile the last wining race we had with Captain Dawn. It took place on July 28th, 1980. We call it the miracle win. This race was also a starter handicap. This race was run at the marathon distance of 1 mile and ¾. Captain Dawn was a star performer in the Wolfe stable in 1979. He will always be remembered as one of the best thoroughbred racehorses that my father ever had the pleasure to train. The last win was also a race I will never forget. The Captain like any great performer, just had the special knack of entertaining his audience to the max.
Captain Dawn had won 5 races for us in 1979. In doing so it took its toll on his front legs. His right front leg was handicapped from the injury that occurred when he was a 3 year old. His left front leg had tried to take more of the stress, compensating for the weakness in his right leg. He required a well deserved rest to get ready for his 6 year old racing season. He came back to the races in 1980 in fine shape, and ran some excellent races for us. Yet he did not get back to the winners’ circle until we shipped to good old Ft. Erie for the summer meet. A perfect spot was in the condition book for the Captain. A starter $5,000 Handicap going 1 mile and ¾. The chance to run this marathon distance would be a great opportunity for him.
The bad luck was the weather conditions. It poured rain that morning which created very muddy track conditions. Captain Dawn didn’t really enjoy running in these conditions. However he always tried to win every race he ran in our barn! The Wolfe stable always tried our best to look after him. The Captain always did his best to look after us! We were hoping for a fast track because it was a very good possibility for the Captain to have a real shot of breaking the track record for 1 mile & ¾, at Ft. Erie. However the track conditions came up muddy slop. Now the challenge for the Captain was to just try and win this race.
The main competition in the race was a horse named Sainfield. He was owned by Vikki James. He was an honest racehorse. He was going to be the pacesetter in the race. Also Sainfield had the advantage of enjoying running in the muddy going. Michael (Killer) Quong was now the jockey riding Captain Dawn. Mike had replaced Paul Souter as our number one rider in 1980. Mike Quong is also a very talented jockey and won a lot of races for our stable. I nicknamed him the “Killer” the giant killer for his incredible ride on a Conn Smyth’s horse named Lucky Conn. In 1976 Lucky Conn defeated the Queen’s Plate winner Norcliffe in the prep race for the Prince of Wales Stakes. It was an incredible ride when Mike was an inexperienced apprentice rider. Mike Quong out finished Jeff Fell on Norcliffe to win this race. Beating Jeffery Fell in a close finish was never easy.
They say that the true test of Character is coping with adversity. Captain Dawn would be faced with a lot of adversity in this race. “There at the post, there off”! Saintfield sprung to the lead at the start. Jimmy Standring was riding Saintfield. Mike Quong took Captain Dawn off the pace to try and let him settle, and to let him try and get comfortable running on the off track. In this race Captain Dawn didn’t look conformable at all in the race. He was laboring in the mudding conditions. He was trying as hard as ever, but it was a struggle for him. The prospects of the Captain winning this race were not looking good. After the field had run 1 mile and ¼, and still had ½ mile to run. Captain Dawn was still in third position. Mike Quong was working hard on the Captain to get him into contention. Sainfield who had enjoyed a dream trip. Had opened up a commanding 9 length lead by the time he reached the ¼ mile pole. Captain Dawn had now moved into second. It looked like second place would be the best case scenario on this day. At the 1/8 pole Sainfield lead was down to 5 lengths he was beginning to get tired. Then the miracle occurred! I always watched the races on the close circuit T.V. To get the best view of the race. I was watching Captain Dawn. Mike Quong was still urging him on. Even though the possibility looked hopeless to win. Then I watched as Captain Dawn finally realized that Saintfield was in from of him. I’m sure that again the Captain’s eyesight had been impaired by the sloppy track conditions. At this point Captain Dawn reached inside himself for something extra. A big shot of adrenalin is always good. The Captain started his late surge at Saintfield. Was there time for him to catch Saintfield? There was now some hope. Saintfield lead started to dwindle. Four lengths, 2 lengths, 1 length. In the last 3 strides to the finish line Captain Dawn had completed this impossible comeback win. He soared by Saintfield to win this race by a neck. We were all astonished! That the Captain had won! Sadly it would be Captain Dawn last win in his career. It was a fitting way for him to go out. He was a remarkable horse. The Wolfe family, and the D’Angelo family were very fortunate to have this special horse touch our lives. We will never forget the happiness and joy that he gave to us. Watching him run was a special pleasure!
In the win picture for the miracle win. You can see that Captain Dawn was still well behind Sainfield when the photo was taken.