16 races make up one of the longest days of racing at Woodbine in memory as the 2019 season wraps up Sunday, Dec. 15.

Over 190 horses are entered on the card that begins at 1:05 and ends around 8:30 at night and the good news, the weather looks reasonable for the weekend after bitterly cold temperatures played havoc with the Wed. night card, Dec. 11. The last 5 races of Wednesday’s card were cancelled  (and the first three were all delayed due to track maintenance and jockey meetings) when a tough wind made a cold night even colder. The Tapeta had forzen bits and a parade of jockeys booked off through the first three races.

A few of those cancelled events were added tot he Sunday card, making for the 16-race marathon which will certainly test the track ponies and pony riders as well as everyone having to bring horses over to race.

The popular VALEDICTORY STAKES (Grade 3) is the traditional closing day feature and who doesn’t have a fun story about this race, which used to be run at Greenwood, which was only a six furlong oval and meant the race had many turns.

On more than one occasion jockeys would get fooled and go to riding their horses for the wire at Greenwood when there was still one turn to go. Track announcer Dan Loiselle’s favourite memory of one edition at the former downtown Toronto track was when his father Yves, then the photo finish operator, switched on the lights  at he wire with one turn to go.

At 14 furlongs it is one of the last tests of stamina on the main track that is run in stakes conditions at Woodbine and it has been won by sturdy handicappers such as Frenetico, Monte Christo and Carney’s Point, all owned by Gardiner Farms which won the race 7 times since it began in 1952.

In two years, the race was not held, most recently in 2008 when weather conditions cancelled the races.

This year’s edition has a big field and Bill and Al Ulwelling’s PUMPKIN RUMBLE will try to become another two-time winner of the race, following Knight’s Turn, Caesar B Good, Whiteborough, Calais and Bernfield.

Eurico Rosa Da Silva, in the final stakes ride of his career, will guide the 10-time winner Pumpkin Rumble for trainer Kevin Attard.

Da Silva, a six-time Sovereign Award winner as Canada’s top jockey, who has 2,282 career wins and 248 stakes victories, plans to retire at the conclusion of the meet.

Attard, who also sends out Stronach Stables’ Sir Sahib, a four-year-old son of Fort Larned, would love to see Da Silva go out on a winning note.

“As for Eurico retiring and being on him for this race, it is a bit symbolic. The Valedictory being our final stakes of the season and a marathon race, if he could possibly win – how great of farewell and fitting end to a great career he’s had.”

An eight-year-old son of English Channel, Pumpkin Rumble took last year’s running of the Valedictory, teaming with Da Silva to carve out a half-length score over stablemate, the recently retired Melmich.

In 46 lifetime starts, Pumpkin Rumble has a record of 10-8-10 for owners Al and Bill Ulwelling.

“He’s special because of his calm demeanor and the fact that he tries his best every single race,” said the Ulwellings, whose first graded victory was delivered by Pumpkin Rumble in last year’s Valedictory.

The chestnut gelding, bred in Pennsylvania by Smart Angle, reeled off three straight wins to close out his 2018 campaign.

In four starts this year, the versatile veteran has one win, a half-length triumph in the Alphabet Soup Handicap (at Parx) on September 21, along with a pair of third-place efforts.

In the Alphabet Soup, Pumpkin Rumble set a course record, crossing the wire in 1:40.21 for the 1 1/16 miles on the firm turf. Whatever For set the previous course mark of 1:40.40 in June 1986.

He heads into the Valedictory off a fifth-place finish to Desert Encounter in the Grade 1 Pattison Canadian International on October 12, at Woodbine.

“Man, he’s a nice horse,” praised Da Silva. “He loves the distance and he’s very competitive at the end of the year. He gets better as the season goes on. He ran really well in the International. He ran very hard. And he’s a very tough competitor.”

Pumpkin Rumble launched his career in 2014 with a trio of races at Fair Grounds, producing a fifth, third and second. The chestnut recorded his milestone first win one race later at Arlington in a maiden special weight event. His first stakes success came at Canterbury Park in the 2015 edition of the Mystic Lake Mile Stakes.

In May 2017, Pumpkin Rumble made a full-time move to Woodbine (he finished second in the 2014 Toronto Cup Stakes, in his first effort at the Toronto oval). He was third in a trio of 2017 graded stakes at Woodbine, before he broke through and won the Valedictory last December.

“What’s made him a great part of the stable is that he’s a warrior,” said Attard. “Small in stature, but brings it each and every time at varied distances and surfaces. Any time you have a horse that goes out there and gives it its all, there’s nothing more than you can ask for.”

The Ulwellings, both of Elk River, Minnesota, have attended races at Canterbury Park since it opened, and got into the ownership realm in 2005.

As of October 4, they have 337 career wins. Their top horses include Stachys, Canterbury Park’s Horse of the Year in 2010, Slip Kid, Remember Daisy, and Shakopee Town, winner of this year’s Grade 3 Whimsical Stakes at Woodbine.

“What makes racing at Woodbine special is the ability to race from April to December,” said the Ulwellings. “Dealing with Kevin Attard also makes it special. The people that we deal with have been fantastic, especially (stakes manager) Julie Bell. And the facility is world class.”

Jockey Don Seymour won four straight editions of the Valedictory: 1986 with Royal Treasurer; 1987 with Bodmin Moor; 1988 with Steady Power; 1989 with Take Account. Patrick Husbands has four victories, including his latest, in 2017 with Leavem in Malibu. Try On won the inaugural running in 1952.

The Valedictory goes as race nine on Sunday’s 16-race program. First post is 1:05 p.m. Fans can also watch and wager on all the action through HPIBet.com.

$125,000 Valedictory Stakes (Grade 3)

Post – Horse – Jockey – Trainer

1 – Itstartswithadrink – Keveh Nichols – Renaldo Holder

2 – Changi – David Moran – Jeanne Marie Dolan

3 – High Noon Rider – Rafael Hernandez – Brittany Russell

4 – Auntie Katherine – Juan Crawford – Jennifer Davis

5 – Pumpkin Rumble – Eurico Rosa Da Silva – Kevin Attard

6 – Surprise Twist – Patrick Husbands – Arnaud Delacour

7 – Theregoesjojo – Kazushi Kimura – Michael De Paulo

8 – Fearsome – Emma-Jayne Wilson – Cyril Murphy

9 – Above All Names – Justin Stein – Blair Miller

10 – Ammunition – Angel Serpa – Brett Santangelo

11 – Sir Sahib – Luis Contreras – Kevin Attard