The exciting victory of HARD NOT TO LOVE in the Grade 1 La Brea Stakes on Saturday, Dec. 28 at Santa Anita could predict great things for Canadian-bred horses in 2020.

David Anderson, owner of Anderson Farms in St. Thomas, was still pinching himself Monday morning, Dec. 30 after watching Hard Not to Love, a filly born on his farm three years ago, run down the very good Bellafina to win the La Brea with an impressive 102 Beyer Speed Figure. The lightly raced filly has been a project for trainer John Shirreffs since the daughter of Hard Spun – Loving Vindication by Vindication lost her left eye in a paddock accident as a 2-year-old.

Anderson wrote on Facebook following the win:

I am so proud of our homebred filly Hard Not to Love who won the Grade 1 La Brea Stakes on opening day today at Santa Anita Park. She is the little sister of Canadian Horse of the Year Wonder Gadot.
She has one eye after losing an eye in a paddock accident as a 2 yr old. As you can imagine, she can be quite nervous and head shy at times. John Shirreffs who trains her also trained the great Zenyatta. He is one of the most incredible and patient horsemen in the game. He and his amazing groom have given this filly the time and confidence she needed in order to compete. Ridden by the legendary Mike Smith, HNTL proved her ability today making us at Anderson Farms so incredibly proud. Congratulations to all of the connections and best of luck with this promising filly.

Loving Vindication is already the dam of a star runner, Horse of the Year Wonder Gadot and her first foal to race, Solemn Tribute, is also a stakes winner. Her 2-year-old of this year, Loch Garman, by Bodemeister, was in training at Woodbine this summer.

The Grade 1 win by Hard Not to Love follows other amazing conquests by Canadian-breds in 2019. Channel Maker, bred by Ivan Dalos, and El Tormenta, bred by Sam-Son Farms, won Grade 1’s and Manitoba-bred Escape Clause came within inches of winning the Grade 1 Apple Blossom at Oaklawn Park in one of the most amazing runs by a Canuck-bred this year.

As 2019 comes to close you will see plenty of Canadians on the list of top breeders of the year. In the top 50 alone is Ivan Dalos, Sam-Son, Chiefswood and Adena Springs.

More stuff from the weekend:

TOMCAT BLACK, a 2-year-old Ontario bred by Bernardini, won his maiden at Tampa Bay Downs on Dec. 28 for Sam-Son Farms. Making his fifth career start and first since he was fifth in the Coronation Futurity to Halo Again, the Queen’s Plate hopeful took the lead at about the quarter pole in the 1 mile and 40 yard race on the dirt for maidens and powered to a one-length win in 1:40.66 for trainer Graham Motion. The dark bay is from the mare Smartyfly by Smart Strike. This is the first foal of Smartyfly who won the Wonder Where Stakes at 10 furlongs on the turf at Woodbine. Tomcat Black posted a solid 75 Beyer Speed Figure.

ADMIRALTY PIER, Canada’s Champion 2-year-old Colt of 2017 ended a lengthy winless streak with a win in an allowance/optional claiming event at Tampa Bay Downs, Dec. 29. Trained by Barbara Minshall for Hoolie Racing and Bruce Lunsford, Admiralty Pier led all the way through 1 mile and 40 yards on the dirt (the race was originally scheduled for turf) and won by 2 lengths at 2 to 1. The Kentucky bred by English Channel earned $13,500 (US).  Admiralty Pier’s previous win came at Tampa Bay Downs on Jan. 18. He has 4 wins in 17 races and $181,000 in earnings. Before today, the only time Admiralty Pier had raced on a dirt track was more than two years ago, when he finished fourth as a 2-year-old in the Grade III Dixiana Bourbon Stakes on a sloppy surface at Keeneland in a race taken off the turf. But after his impressive victory (Sunday) on a fast Oldsmar main surface in the seventh race on dirt, the 4-year-old gelding could have another avenue to showcase his talent. Admiralty Pier and jockey Samy Camacho shook off an early challenge from Grade III winner No Dozing, then turned back an upset bid by Minnesota-bred Fireman Oscar, to post a 2-length victory in a time of 1:40.37 for the mile-and-40-yard distance. (with files from Tampa Bay Downs media).

Also at Tampa Bay Downs, BOURBON EXTENSION, an Ontario bred by Not Bourbon – Extend by Unbridled’s Song won a starter allowance for owner/breeder Colebrook Farms and trainer Mike Wright last week.

Both Colebrook Farms, of John Burness, and trainer Mike Wright annually have good meetings at Tampa Bay Downs and horses from these two stables should always be considered when playing the Tampa races.