AVIE’S FLATTER is the ‘now’ horse at Woodbine these days as the 5-year-old horse, owned and bred by Ivan Dalos, powered his way to victory in the Grade 2 Connaught Cup at seven furlongs on turf at Woodbine on July 18. The son of Flatter – Avie’s Empire by Empire Maker is two-for-two in 2021 and and signs point to the Josie Carroll trainee being a contender for the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile, Sept. 18.

Ridden by Luis Contreras, who had a good day at the track office on Sunday, Avie’s Flatter parlayed a booming season debut win on Tapeta into his Connaught score.

Avie’s Flatter settled in the pocket spot behind defending champion and early pacesetter Silent Poet, who was joined on the lead by the streaking Irish-bred Chuck Willis through a :23.46 opening quarter over the ‘good’ course.

As Chuck Willis forged ahead on the way to the half-mile mark in :46.18, Contreras had Avie’s Flatter ready to roll and went three-wide off the turn to take command. The handsome bay rallied down the E.P. Taylor stretch with a two-length lead before Olympic Runner cut into that margin with a late bid and missed by just a neck at the end of the seven-furlong sprint.

Avie’s Flatter stopped the clock in 1:20.99 and returned $5.60 to win as the 9-5 favourite. Olympic Runner settled for second while fellow Mark Casse trainee Proven Strategies finished 2 ¼ lengths back in third over Gray’s Fable and Silent Poet.

Chuck Willis, Tap It to Win and Eskiminzin completed the order of finish. Holiday Stone was scratched.

“I got a great trip. He broke really sharp and I just wanted to sit behind the speed, and he was just dragging me the whole way,” said Contreras, who also partnered with Avie’s Flatter for a 5 ¼-length Tapeta triumph in his season’s debut last month. “A win is a win and he runs good whatever the surface is.”

“That’s what’s really nice about him – we do have those options,” said Carroll in reference to her trainee’s proven talent on both surfaces. “I think we’ll just see how things develop and try and place him in the best spots we can.”

Avie’s Flatter has a tremendous resume as he was named Canada’s Champion Two-Year-Old Colt in 2018, landed in the top three in all three legs of the OLG Canadian Triple Crown the following year, including runner-up finishes in the Queen’s Plate and Prince of Wales Stakes. Earlier that season he won his first graded stakes, taking the Grade 3 Transylvania at Keeneland. Last year, he ran second in the Grade 2 Eclipse Stakes in one of his three starts.

“This is a really special horse and it’s very exciting for us because he’s finally come back to himself,” said the Hall of Fame horsewoman. “He had a bit of an off year last year and he’s just a monster this year. He’s so happy. We came into this race very confident but respectful of the kind of horses that were in here.”

Avie’s Flatter has now compiled a career record reading 6-3-2 from 15 starts and is approaching the million-dollar mark in Canadian earnings.

*It was another blockbuster day for betting at Woodbine as the weekend cards are usually chock-a-block with entries and the races often tough handicapping puzzles.

Just four favourites through the long, 12-race card honoured their backing. The first of those was the fleet 2-year-old FEELTHEBEAT, who had just missed in his debut at Churchill Downs for Trinity Racing Stables and trainer Norm McKnight. The Florida-bred, under jockey Sunny Singh, flew to a long lead early in the 5 1/2 furlong, 6th race, and lasted to win by a nose over a fast closing Heat Merchant from the Ralph Biamonte barn. Feelthebeat is the first winner for his sire Cupid, a son of Tapit.

FEELTHEBEAT, a 2-year-old winner for Trinity Racing and trainer Norm McKnight – JM

Avie’s Flatter was next followed by Live Oak Plantation’s OLD CHESTNUT who won a wild finish in an allowance race at 6 1/2 furlongs on turf. This Florida-bred by Speightstown, trained by Mark Casse, had not won a race since he began his career at Woodbine in 2019, taking his maiden the Ontario Racing Stakes. As with most Mark Casse trainees, the ridgling went on the road, to Aqueduct, Gulfstream, Saratoga, Kentucky Downs and then back to Florida, while seeking out stakes races. Patrick Husbands rode in this winning ‘homecoming’.  The fourth favourite to win was Mary Self and Timothy Murray’s IMA DAREDEVIL, who won a 6 furlong turf starter race for trainer Zeljko Krcmar and jockey Kazushi Kimura.

Trainer VITO ARMATA won a pair of races, both with Luis Contreras riding. MODUS OPERANDI, at the age of 9, won race 1 for $7,500 claiming just 10 days after finishing fifth for just $5,000 claiming. And 8-year-old LAPOCHKA, who had a breakout season in 2020 for trainer BIll Tharrenos with 4 wins, surprised in a $40,000 claiming turf race in just his second outing of the season.

Dave Cotey has had a banner beginning to 2021 with three wins as HIGHLAND SOCIETY came from last to win his maiden in race 2 for $15,000 claiming. This Linmac Farms sophomore was 11th in his only race last season. Skye Chernetz rode, her 5th winner of the season.

SPEEDY HANS is now 4-for-6 at Woodbine for Gary Barber and Mark Casse, rallying to win an allowance race at 6 1/2 furlongs under Kimura and 11 to shot MASON’S GAMBLE was a rare front running winner through the past week, taking race 4, an optional event.

Mason’s Gamble, a son of Ontario sire Gamble’s Exchange – Dynaco by Dynaformer, is an Ivan Dalos-bred and the first horse for ATA Stables. Josie Carroll trains.

HELLO FRIENDS was a  popular winner as she took a turf sprint and optional event for Maggie and John LeBlanc. The homebred by Court Vision was one of a trio of winners for jockey Emma-Jayne Wilson. Wilson once again won the last race on the card, quickly becoming one of the hottest betting angles at the track, guiding Windhaven’s MISS FLOKI to her maiden win. Trained by Gail Cox, Miss Floki is one of the few horses in training for the farm owned by the late Bill Graham.

Roger Attfield’s own GRAZELY, a son of Kantharos, won his maiden in race 10, a 1 1/16 mile claiming event with Wilson riding. Wilson is now tied with Kazushi Kimura for the lead in wins by jockeys at 25.

*Speaking of riders, with more than 40 at Woodbine already ‘jockeying’ for mounts, two more have arrived to settle in Ontario. SHAUN BRIDGMOHAN, with 3,300 winners and the 1998 Eclipse award Apprentice of the Year, began riding Sunday at Woodbine. Born in Jamaica, the 42-year-old has been riding in Kentucky and has 28 wins this season. His agent is Tom Patton, who has guided the careers of so many top riders including Eurico Rosa da Silva.

Patton, who has been away from the track for some time, also has brought in ANTONIO GALLARDO, who has won a litany of riding titles at Tampa Bay Downs and has already won 89 races this year. Gallardo has won over 2,000 races.

The race for mounts at Woodbine just got a whole lot tougher.