JOSIE CARROLL, a finalist for the 2020 Sovereign Award for Outstanding Trainer, sent out her first winner of 2021 on Feb. 14 when Twirling Faith scampered away to win a $35,000 claiming race for fillies and mares at Gulfstream Park. Owned by Dewberry Thoroughbreds, Twirling Faith was making her first start since November at Woodbine and won the 6 furlong sprint by 2 lengths in 1:11.54.

Twirling Faith sped to a 2-length win at Gulfstream on Feb. 14 for trainer Josie Carroll – Gulfstream Park photo











Carroll also sent out Queen’s Plate and Prince of Wales winner MIGHTY HEART for his first breeze as a 4-year-old. The son of Dramedy, a leading contender for Champion Three-Year-Old colt in Canada for 2020, went an easy 3 furlongs in 39.95 at Palm Meadows. Mighty Heart had a vacation at Cook’s Training Center in Ocala and will make his way back to Canada to race with a possible start at Gulfstream or Keeneland before he returns to Woodbine.

Other Canadian trainers who have recently won a race in 2021 include Norm McKnight at Oaklawn, Mike DePaulo at Gulfstream, Greg Tracy at Delta Downs and Mike Wright at Tampa Bay Downs (see below).

♥ Owner/trainer DON MACRAE has been keeping busy this winter in Ontario, except not just with his horses. MacRae’s partner LeighAnn gave birth to their daughter Blake Olivia MacRae December 14, giving them lots to enjoy during the Ontario lockdown.

MacRae is excited to get the 2021 racing season underway at Woodbine and like all horsepeople, hopes the meeting begins on time April 17.

The barn area on the Woodbine backstretch opens for set-up a week today (Feb. 22) and horses can ship in Feb. 24.

Recently, the MacRaes took a visit to Carrick Hill Equestrian Centre in Roseneath to see some of the barn’s runners for 2021. Carrick Hill is operated by Ursula Selby and Peter Carr.

Two exciting prospects are potential Queen’s Plate contenders – stakes winner AVOMAN (Old Forester) and impressive debut winner CRUDEN BAY (Big Screen).

“Avoman is doing every well,” said MacRae. “He’s grown a little bit and he was big to begin with so hopefully he fits in the starting gate this year.”

“They both look healthy and seem to be having a good winter. They will start jogging there around the 15th for about 10 days and then come into the track when it opens.”

MacRae owns Avoman with Jim and Graeme Bruce’s La Huerta Racing and the bay was the first stakes winner for the Bruces when he won the Bull Page Stakes.

Cruden Bay is owned by Michael Lay, newest director at Woodbine Entertainment.

MacRae describes his 2020 season, in which he sent out 14 winners, bringing his career total to 525,  as somewhat difficult. And one incident devastated him and his team so much he had a hard time getting past it.

“We started off very rough in the spring,” said MacRae about his 2020 season which was delayed by the COVID-10 pandemic. “We had horses in Florida, but I made a mistake. I overtrained them and when it came time for them to race they were all flat. I had talked to owners and asked them to be patient. All the horses eventually began to run true to form. but it was a big learning curve. We never had to deal with something like the COVID pandemic before.”

On August 2, MacRae watched in horror as the 4-year-old Ruggero, owned and bred by Michel Loughrey, fell when trying to jump a fallen rival in a maiden race that had an accident. Ruggero did not survive.

“It was a freak accident but it was devastating. I love the animals so much; I was very  close to taking a step back out the business. It hit me kind of hard. Actually I had a long talk with my wife and clients after that. I really don’t think I ever could [leave racing] but I was really shook up.”

In the fall, the MacRae horses started winning frequently; Big Mamba, Cheeky Pint, Post to Post, Avoman and Cruden Bay lifted spirits.

Now MacRae is eager to see how his horses do in a new year and he would love to see his owners be able to attend races soon.

“We are hoping things pick up for us in 2021, get some momentum going. I hope we can get owners in there to visit their horses and watch them race, too. Woodbine did a great job throughout 2020 but watching races in a little area on the apron, it was hard for anyone to see anything. And these owners pay a couple of thousand a month to keep their horses in training, they want to come to the barn area and interact with them.”

Don MacRae, at left, with horse Elijah, and jockey Eurico da Silva – Woodbine Photo












Woodbine key dates:
Monday, February 22, 2021 – Backstretch re-opens for set-up
Wednesday, February 24, 2021 – Horses begin shipping in
Thursday, February 25, 2021 – Sand Ring and Training Track open- weather permitting
Saturday, March 2021 – Main Track opens – weather permitting and date TBD based on spring thaw
Saturday, April 17, 2021 – Scheduled Opening Day


Andrew Wright’s SILENT JET, by Silent Name (Jpn) won a $16,000 claiming race at 1 mile on the grass at Tampa Bay Downs Feb. 6. Mike Wright trains: