Atlantic Hurricane surged from claim to fame in a single season to capture the Sovereign Award as Canada’s Outstanding Female Sprinter.
The Halo’s Image-It’s The Cats Meow chestnut, bred in Florida by Joseph J. DiGrazia & Thomas J. DiGrazia, started the year with a second-place finish while running for a $40,000 tag for then-owners Calypso Racing and Rousseau Racing.
In her next start, again entered for a $40,000 tag but this time on the turf, Atlantic Hurricane sprinted home a four and a quarter length winner, but in the process was claimed by trainer Stuart Simon for himself and Brent and Russell McLellan and Carl Hollick. “We were looking for solid, higher-claiming level, type of horses,” explained Simon. “We saw in the past some Florida turf horses had run well here (at Woodbine), and it looked like she would be a solid turf filly.”
With three wins in nine lifetime starts (including the race she was claimed from), Simon had every right to expect a profitable horse. But what came next, six wins in seven starts including four added-money scores of which two were graded, surely exceeded all expectations.
Simon kept Atlantic Hurricane on the turf for her next two starts, a pair of 6 1/2 furlong allowance/optional claiming events, which she won handily under regular rider Emile Ramsammy.
On September 3, following a four-week freshening, Simon entered the filly in the Grade III Seaway Stakes going seven furlongs on the main track. Atlantic Hurricane dueled with multiple graded stakes winner Embur’s Song throughout, and despite losing the lead briefly at the top of the lane, Atlantic Hurricane re-rallied and persevered for a three-quarter length score.
In her next start, the Avowal Stakes, Atlantic Hurricane held the lead early but faded down the lane to finish third nearly ten lengths in arrears of Ariana D. It was the lone blip in an otherwise spectacular season.
Atlantic Hurricane would return to form three weeks later in the Ontario Fashion stalking the early pace of Waccamaw before taking the lead with a sixteenth of a mile to run, holding on to win by half a length.
The talented filly stamped her Sovereign Award credentials with an emphatic victory in the Grade III Bessarabian to close out her campaign.
Sent to post as the second choice in a credentialed 10-horse field, Atlantic Hurricane sat off the early pace of Moonlit Beauty then took command at the top of the lane and ran away from the field to score by five lengths, while earning a lifetime best 97 Beyer Speed Figure.
There’s no doubt in Simon’s mind which of the filly’s wins was the biggest. “Her last race,” he said, emphatically. “She ran well in the Seaway to beat Embur’s Song outright. She gutted it out all the way and beat her. In the Fashion she ran well again, but the last race and that field of horses, I totalled it up and the total purse earnings of that field was over six million dollars and there were stakes winners in there that were 15 or 20-1, that’s how deep of a field it was.”
Simon, who is assisted at his barn by Adrian Lee, is modest in his reasoning behind the filly’s substantial improvement through six starts since joining his barn. “I think the biggest thing is she kept maturing,” he said. “She was a little bit nervous and she just seemed to relax and fit into our schedule well. She seemed to really thrive as time went on and relaxed and focused on her training and ultimately her running.”
It’s entirely possible that Atlantic Hurricane could find herself a contender for a grassy Sovereign Award this season should the filly continue to meet the trainer’s expectations. “We’ll start off sprinting her and try to progress her and continue to stretch her out,” Simon said. “It won’t surprise me if you don’t see her run a mile on the turf yet. She’s very capable of doing that. It’s just hard to bypass these sprint races. I think she’s just as good on the turf if not better.”