Kavala at Woodbine (photo courtesy of Bill Tharrenos)
By Chris Lomon – Woodbine Communications
TORONTO— Trainer Bill Tharrenos sends out Kavala in Saturday’s $125,000 Star Shoot, the first stakes race of the 2023 Woodbine Thoroughbred season.
The six-furlong Star Shoot, for 3-year-old fillies, has traditionally been a key prep for the Woodbine Oaks Presented by Budweiser, slated for July 23, the first leg of the prestigious Canadian Triple Tiara series.
Kavala was claimed by Tharrenos for owner James William Fleming out of her first race, a maiden claiming event contested over 5 ½ furlongs on the Tapeta at Gulfstream on January 4.
“She got left at the gate, but she came running,” said Tharrenos. “I got lucky to win the shake because it was a two-way shake, so we’re very glad things worked out.”
Six weeks later, the daughter of Mohaymen followed up her three-length triumph with a 1 ¾-length score at the same distance and same surface, once again with Irad Ortiz, Jr. in the irons.
“Irad wanted to ride her back and she finished up strong again,” noted Tharrenos. “It was nice to see her come back with another big effort.”
Bred in Kentucky by Frankfort Park Farm, Kavala had her first test over the Toronto oval Tapeta on April 9, breezing four furlongs in :49.40. One week later, she covered five panels in :59.40, handily, with Rafael Hernandez in the saddle. On April 23, she breezed four furlongs on the Tapeta in :48.20.
Tharrenos, coming off a career-best year, highlighted by 36 wins and $1,049,418 (U.S.) in purse earnings, likes what he sees in Kavala, both on and off the racetrack.
The veteran conditioner is hoping she can step up in her first stakes appearance.
“We’re asking her to do a lot, but she’s coming into the race in really good shape,” said Tharrenos, who won eight races and notched 16 top-three finishes from 40 starts at Gulfstream Park this year. “I know we’re going to run into some good horses here, but she’s worked well and she’s undefeated. She’s still a little immature, but she’s a 3-year-old who is getting better by the day. We’ll take a chance in this race with a fit horse.”
Tharrenos, a two-time winner on April 22, opening day of the 2023 Woodbine meet, turned down an offer to sell the filly.
“We want to keep her. The sky is the limit, we hope. I had overheard, through the grapevine, that she was a tough filly to train because she had some attitude. I like the challenging ones, the horses you can dedicate a little more time to and bring out the best in them. I’ll tell you this, she’s a doll to be around. We’re hoping for a big day on Saturday.”
Antihero, Fearless Angel, and Strokes (IRE), all trained by Mark Casse, along with Collecting Flatter and Dolce Sopresa, both from the barn of conditioner Josie Carroll, will also contest the Star Shoot.
Last year, Beautiful Empire, trained by Mark Casse and ridden by Emma-Jayne Wilson, won the Star Shoot in a time of 1:08.70.
Jockey Luis Contreras won three straight editions of the race, in 2015 with Ancient Goddess, in 2016 with Treasuring and in 2017 with R Naja.
The Star Shoot is Race 7 on Saturday’s 10-race card. First post time is 1:10 p.m.
Fans can watch and wager on all the action via HPIbet.com and the Dark Horse Bets app.
FIELD FOR THE $125,000 STAR SHOOT
POST – HORSE – JOCKEY – TRAINER
1 – Collecting Flatter – Luis Contreras – Josie Carroll
2 – Fearless Angel – Patrick Husbands – Mark Casse
3 – Kavala – Rafael Hernandez – Bill Tharrenos
4 – Dolce Sopresa – Justin Stein – Josie Carroll
5 – Jill Jitterbug – Sahin Civaci – Ryan Walsh
6 – Blind Spot (S) – Tyler Conner – Saffie Joseph, Jr.
7 – Strokes (IRE) – Emma-Jayne Wilson – Mark Casse
8 – Antihero (S) – Emma-Jayne Wilson – Mark Casse