With a worldwide viewership, Woodbine, horsepeople and company team put on a great show on Saturday, September 16, dubbed Turf Champions Day. And through the four-day week, which was blessed with superb weather for the most part, there were many big wins, some on a smaller scale, for the locals.
PATCHES O’HOULIHAN is quickly becoming the most popular horse at Woodbine this year and the three-year-old gelding won arguably the most exciting race of last weekend when he snuck up on rivals to take the Vigil Stakes (G3) by a nose to remain undefeated in 2023.
Owned and bred by Frank DiGiulio Jr and trained by Robert Tiller, Patches O’Houlihan and his rider Daisuke Fukumoto dueled stakes winner Rockcrest throughout the 6 furlongs on Tapeta, edged clear in deep stretch and then held off a host of closers. He earned a 90 Beyer Speed Figure for the win in 1:09.16. Last American Exit, bred by DiGiulio just missed and landed second for owner Kirk Sutherland with a flying Secret Reserve grabbing third.
Patches O’Houlihan won his career debut last September 11 before winding up sixth after a messy trip in the Bull Page Stakes on grass. While he was beginning his career, his famous stablemate Pink Lloyd, co-owned by DiGiulio as part of Entourage Stable, was comfortably settled in his retirement home, LongRun, after a career of multiple championships as Canada’s best sprinter.
A son of Ontario stallion Reload from the Silent Name (Jpn) mare Maythefourthbewithu, Patches O’Houlihan won two allowance/optional claiming races to begin this year, took two legs of the Ontario Heritage Series, the Lake Huron and Lake Superior Stakes, before testing open company in the Grade 3 Bold Venture, a race he won handily.
Now six-for-six this year and seven-for-eight in his career, Patches has earned $329,167.
Trainer and co-owner Don MacRae has won with five of his last eight starters including all three of his starters last week. One of those winners was the Ontario-sired and -bred CRUDEN BAY, owned by Michael Lay, who won a 1 1/8 mile allowance/optional claiming event under Kazushi Kimura. Cruden Bay, by Big Screen, has four career wins and over $200,000 in earnings.
Also on a roll is STEVEN CHIRCOP, who had three winners last week and has had seven this month (one at Fort Erie). Chircop has blown past his previous career best number of winners for a season of 29 as he is at 33 currently.
His name is WEALLLIKEDHIM but not many did when he made his Woodbine debut for owner Deryck Lynch and trainer Krisa Cole-Simpson on Sunday. The five-year-old maiden, who arrived in late summer at Cole’s Woodbine barn after seven drab races in New York – he was last in his most recent three starts beaten over 63 lengths in total – was up in class off the layoff. Racing for $40,000 maiden claiming and sent off at 39-to-1 odds in just a six-horse field, the son of Maclean’s Music stalked the pace and went on to a one-length victory under jockey Rico Walcott.
Cole-Simpson, well on her way to a career year, has six wins this season and 20 seconds and thirds.
VEERY ran one of the fastest races of the week when she won a 6 furlong starter/optional race for $15,000 claiming in 1:09.28 for a 90 Beyer Speed Figure according to Daily Racing Form. The Ontario-bred by Giant Gizmo – Roust em Bertie, bred by Dr. Rolph Davis, was claimed off a January – September layoff for TEC Stable and trainer Martin Drexler. She raced for the claiming price.
Woodbine trainer RENEE KIERANS saddled Lael Stables’ READY TO VENTURE (GB) for trainer Michael Stidham on Sunday and watched the filly win the Seaway Stakes (G3). Ridden by Rafael Hernandez, Ready to Venture powered to a 1 1/4 length win in the 7 furlong sprint for fillies and mares. She ran in a fast time of 1:21.60. This was just the second start for Ready to Venture, a daughter of Kingman (GB) since January and it was her fourth win on an all-weather surface.