Spurred on by much bigger fields, Woodbine had some good racing and better wagering than it’s had this year this past weekend, June 15 and 16. In fact, tracks around the province enjoyed strong wagering results on Father’s Day Sunday with large crowds turning out at Fort Erie and Ajax Downs.

After 36 races over four days at Woodbine last week, the longshot trend continues. The average win payoff was in the $15 range, a bit lower if you remove the most perplexing result of the week – THIS KATZ FOR REAL, who zoomed his way to his maiden win on Friday at 72-to-1 under Juan Crawford for trainer Devon Gittens and owner Bruno Schickedanz.

It was the first win at Woodbine for young trainer Gittens who flies back and forth from Toronto to Winnipeg where he has another string of horses. Gittens has eight wins at Assiniboia Downs this year and is the second-leading trainer.

Gittens, from Gemswick, Barbados, came to Canada in 2006 after being invited by Assiniboia General Manager Darren Dunn. He was soon galloping the best horses in the province including millionaire and champion Escape Clause. He took out his trainer’s license in 2019 at Assinibioa. Last year he sent out 25 winners and ran his first few horses at Woodbine and Fort Erie.

Before this season at Woodbine began, Gittens approached Bruno Schickedanz about training some horses and the continent’s leading owner of 2023 agreed.

This Katz For Real, a Florida-bred four-year-old by Katz My Song, was in a pace battle first time out in his career, June 2, and then checked out of traffic on his way to an 11th-place finish. Just 12 days later the gelding, with Juan Crawford riding, was dropped to $10,000 claiming, broke slowly and was in traffic late on the turn before he angled out some seven wide and flew home for the win. He went from a 10 to a 44 Beyer Speed Figure according to Daily Racing Form.


It was RAFAEL HERNANDEZ day at Woodbine on Sunday as the top rider won five of the 10 races on the card and lost by inches for six wins in the final race. Hernandez had a natural hat trick, winning races 2, 3, and 4 aboard GEM QUALITY, a 10-to-1 shot trained by Katerina Vassilieva, STONKS, also from the Vassilieva barn, and QUITE READY for trainer Don MacRae.

Later, Hernandez added a win on the Ron Sadler trained SOUPED UP, who showed surprising speed and wired a tough field at 7 furlongs, race 7, in his first race of the year. Souped Up, by Souper Speedy, is owned by Linda Theil and Harri Hosein. He posted an 85 Beyer Figure for seven furlongs in 1:23.34.

In race 8, a turf sprint at the allowance/optional claiming $50,000 level, Hernandez brought GAS ME UP from far off the pace to win in the last jumps for Exline-Border Racing, Michael Jawl, Tom Zweisler and Aaron Kennedy. An Ontario-bred  who began his career in 2022 in California as a two-year-old, Gas Me Up, a son of Hard Spun, won a one mile maiden race at Del Mar on the turf that year. He had not been seen since a fourth-place finish in the Zuma Beach Stakes (G3) in October of 2022. Kevin Attard now trains the colt, who had been working well.


The highest winning Beyer Figure of the week was the 91 earned by CAPTURE THE LION (Uncaptured) in the last race on Sunday. Gary Barber’s turf ace nabbed Niagara Skyline and Hernandez right on the wire in 1:20.02 for 7 furlongs on the grass.


FRASER AEBLY has been quietly marching up the jockey standings in his first full year riding as an apprentice at Woodbine. While much of the media coverage, as it were, has been on Sofia Vives and more recently Pietro Moran, Aebly has proven to be as good, perhaps better, than those two riders. Aebly won four races last week but unfortunately fell from Steak and Cheese in Sunday’s 7th race and he was bruised up. Agent Gerry Olguin said Aebly had clean x-rays and will be back riding soon.

Two of Aebly’s wins came for trainer Richard Morden. Morden is in the same barn as owner/trainer RENEE KIERANS, who won last Thursday with the filly Trizzel Trazzel on the turf for owner Rick Mah.