TORONTO, March 10, 2021 – Each week, in the lead-up to Opening Day (April 17) of the 2021 Woodbine Thoroughbred season, we’ll follow some of the top storylines of key horses and horsepeople, and also share other important news and notes.
From horses on the Queen’s Plate trail, to horses to keep tabs on ahead of the new Woodbine season, to catching up with Woodbine trainers, the weekly report keeps racing fans and the racing community in the loop.
In this week’s report, Robert Landry shares his thoughts on Grade 3 Gotham champ Weyburn, what’s up next for Queen’s Plate winner Mighty Heart, Steven Chircop looks back at his 2020 season and ahead to his 2021 campaign, plus much more.
Path to the Plate:
Sire: Pioneerof the Nile
Dam: Sunday Affair
Trainer: James Jerkens
Owner & Breeder: Chiefswood Stables
Record: 2-1-0 from 4 starts (click here to watch the Gotham Stakes win on March 6, 2021)
Rob Landry shares his thoughts on Weyburn:
On Weyburn’s Gotham score…
“It’s nice to start the year with a win like that. We’ve always had high hopes for this guy. The plan wasn’t really to run in him there – we were going to run him in an allowance race – but as it turned out, it worked out really well. This is what you hope to achieve, to win races like this with good horses. Winning a race like this just solidifies what we’re trying to achieve.”
On the dark bay’s grit down the lane…
“No, I wasn’t surprised. That whole family, Yorkton [a multiple graded stakes winning son of Speightstown-Sunday Affair] was a gutsy-running horse and the same thing with his other half-brother Nipigon [a multiple graded stakes placed son of Niigon-Sunday Affair], who always fought hard. Obviously, seasoning-wise, he’s still a big kid, and it was a big step up for him, going from a maiden win to a graded stakes race. It wasn’t the plan, but good horses overcome those kinds of things. Jimmy [trainer, Jerkens] was really happy with the way he was training and it all worked out.”
On showing his talent early on…
“He trained really well as a young horse when we had him down in Ocala. He was training well and we were really happy with him. Every foal out of that mare [Sunday Affair] has been a runner. That’s always telling too. He was a big, good-looking horse, very athletic and he was showing the signs early. He actually wanted to do more than he was ready to do as a young horse. I’m just happy with our whole team, from our broodmare farm, to our training centre, to our people in Ocala, to Jimmy – it’s a team effort. Everyone has done a tremendous job with this horse. I’m just very happy for everyone and the owners.”
On upcoming plans for Weyburn…
“Obviously, I didn’t nominate him to the U.S. Triple Crown with the way we were going. We had a couple of minor setbacks with a foot bruise and some other little things that caused us to miss a race. I don’t like to force horses somewhere they’re not ready to go. He stepped up and we have a little time to make the supplemental payment for the U.S. Triple Crown. I’ll talk to Jimmy and Mark and Bob Krembil [Chiefswood] as well.”
“We don’t know if that [Queen’s Plate] is the direction we’ll go with him. If we think he’s good enough to compete in the U.S. Triple Crown, being a different schedule, we still do have a shot at being in the Plate. We’ve nominated him for the Plate, but we do have some others that could potentially run in there as well.”
On similarities between Weyburn and Niigon, the Chiefswood horse Landry won the 2004 Queen’s Plate with…
“He does remind me of Niigon. Weyburn is also bred to have the stamina and is built to handle the [1 ¼ mile] distance. This is a really nice horse we have here now.”
Career wins: 140
Winter home: “I stayed in Ontario. It’s been a winter full of planning and getting ready for the upcoming season. I’m just like everyone else… I can’t wait to get going again. Getting back into the barn at Woodbine is a great feeling.”
Last season: “It was a pretty decent season considering how short it was because of the pandemic. I would say the standout from 2020 was a horse, Sweet Yare N Dira [a 7-year-old daughter of Biondetti] that I claimed at Gulfstream, who was undefeated on the Woodbine Inner Turf last year. We claimed her for $16,000 and she won for $25,000, $40,000 and $62,000. She won a race on my birthday [July 18], so that was a nice present to have.”
Claim to fame: “Sweet Yare N Dira was very consistent. I went to claim another horse out of the race that I really liked, but the horse got scratched. I liked Sweet Yare N Dira, so I thought that I’d go ahead and claim her. But then I felt like I really didn’t want to rush things and go for her because I didn’t get the other horse. So I didn’t claim her and actually watched her run. She walked out of the gate going 5 furlongs and then won by a couple of lengths. That day, there were no claims for her. I ended up getting her the next start. It was a three-way shake and I got lucky.”
This season: “We bought a bunch of babies. We have 10 2-year-olds, and they’ll be the future of our barn. I’m hoping that Sweet Yare N Dira comes back and is as good as she was last year.”
The more the merrier: “We’ll have 25 horses this year. This is the most number of horses I’ve had in my career. I’ve had 20 and 21 in the past. I do a lot of claiming and the barn gets bigger mid-way through the season. This year, I’ve had a few good owners jump on board and we’ve sent some of the horses to Florida to train. I’m really excited to see what this year holds for us.”
Final furlong: “If someone were to say I had a successful year, I’d say that some of our 2-year-olds turned out to be decent, we finished in the top 15 of the standings, we had fans and owners back, I was able to get my wife and daughter in a win photo, and it was a healthy year for the horses and horsepeople.”
Ones to Watch:
From Canadian Thoroughbred’s Jennifer Morrison…
The 2020 Queen’s Plate hero Mighty Heart is up to 5-furlong workouts at Palm Meadows in Florida with his Hall of Fame trainer Josie Carroll. Mighty Heart, a finalist for Champion 3-year-old colt in Canada, is doing very well in preparation for his 4-year-old season.
The son of Dramedy, who won last year’s Plate and Prince of Wales Stakes, could make his first start of 2021 at Gulfstream Park towards the end of March. Carroll thinks Larry Cordes’ colt will enjoy the dirt track at the Florida oval.
Carroll also reports that Breeders’ Stakes winner Belichick is thriving and is up to 4-furlong workouts at Palm Meadows. The trainer noted that Belichick will head to Woodbine at the end of March to begin training on the Tapeta.
Ontario Stallion Spotlight:
Click here to get to know Turfiste, who notched consecutive added-money scores in 2009, taking the Black Gold Stakes and Hansel Stakes.
2020 Race Rewind:
Click here to watch Dreaming of Drew crown her rivals in the 75th edition of the Princess Elizabeth Stakes on October 31, 2020.
Click here to check out the latest promotions from HPIbet.
Key Upcoming 2021 Woodbine Dates:
March 17 – Starting Gate will open on training track
April 17 – Scheduled Opening Day
Woodbine Press Release
Photos: Courtesy of Michael Burns, Aqueduct and NYRA