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2005: Jalen at Woodbine Race Track

June 24, 2008

Woodbine_15.JPGOctober 2005 — Raptors player Jalen Rose was the honourary drawmaster
for the $2 million Pattison Canadian International at Woodbine
Racetrack.

The Woodbine Racetrack visit was part of the Raptors Paint the Town Red
community development initiative where players and coaches made
spontaneous appearances across Toronto to promote the upcoming 2005-06
season.

October 21, 2005 — Toronto Star — Racing powers mark out turf… The
gloves are off between Woodbine and the Breeders’ Cup in the battle to
attract the top horses Sunday’s $2 million Pattison Canadian
International has drawn a classy field, led by Electrocutionist

Jalen Rose was on hand out at Woodbine yesterday, pulling the peas, as
they say, in his role as drawmaster for the $2 million Pattison
Canadian International scheduled for Sunday.

The Woodbine people apparently couldn’t get any of the Maccabi stars to handle the draw.

Anyway, what caught Rose’s eye – and the attention of many other
improvers of the breed ? was the purse for a race that was put on the
map by the great Secretariat three-plus decades back, and kept there by
a succession of tremendous champions over the years.

For starters, $2 million is the most lucrative thoroughbred race in
Canadian history, aside from the pot for a couple of Breeders’ Cup
races back in 1996, the one and only time the event will touch Canadian
soil. But the timing for the International also confirms that Woodbine
is more than content to run its big race in direct conflict with the
Breeders’ Cup Turf event, which this year goes six days later, meaning
next Saturday in New York.

That one also carries a $2 million purse, meaning the difference
between the races is the U.S.-Canadian dollar exchange. Which sure
isn’t what it used to be.

It may be overstating to say that the gloves are off between Woodbine
and the Breeders’ Cup in the never-ending battle to attract the good
horses to their events. Those two aren’t the only suitors, either. Turf
races in Hong Kong and Japan also want the stars. It’s a highly
competitive business and maybe it’s no surprise that this year’s 1
1/2-mile International carries an extra half-million in rewards over
last year’s event, which was won by the outstanding Sulamani, arguably
the best grass horse in the world at the time. His absence from the Cup
damaged that field substantially and a peek at the crew of 10 assembled
for this year’s International makes it clear that the BC Turf, six days
later, has been at least halved in quality.

Electrocutionist is the 2-to-1 morning line favourite, with Yeats next
at 3-to-1, and both display outstanding credentials at
international-level racing. All told, there are five Grade 1 stakes
winners in the Woodbine field, including Grey Swallow, King’s Drama and
Meteor Storm. No one is saying it’s a decidedly stronger race than the
BC Turf, but it certainly compares favourably. For the money, of
course, it should.

The Italian-based Electrocutionist has won three in a row this year and
six of seven life-time for owner Earle Mack and trainer Valfredo
Valiani. Those who know say he appreciates firm turf.

Woodbine used to run its International as a prep for the Cup, but the
Cup perhaps isn’t quite what it used to be. It was promoted, and
usually treated, as the end-of-year championship for thoroughbred
racing’s many divisions. But the long year and incredible wealth
attainable by U.S. classics champions seems to remove more and more of
the so-called big-name horses every year. Throw in only lukewarm
interest by some European trainers for warm-weather Breeders’ Cup
(although likely not this year at Belmont Park) and the BC isn’t
necessarily the cat’s pajamas for everyone.

One of Woodbine’s top trainers said yesterday the price of nominating
foals to the Cup is getting so dear that maybe half the animals listed
in the sales catalogues now aren’t nominated.

"Used to be one that wasn’t nominated would jump out at you," he said.

Woodbine is a terrific alternative for some good turf horses. The firm
ground of the E.P. Taylor Turf Course, named in honour of old Empty
Pockets himself, is another attraction and, further, Woodbine also
presents a $1 million turf race for fillies named, conveniently, the
E.P. Taylor Stakes. Those seven figures also catch the eye of far-away
trainers and owners.

It’s not the Breeders’ Cup, but it’s sure not bad, either. For the horse fans left out there, it’s an annual treat.

By DAVE PERKINS