CHAMPION TURF MALE
FORTE DEI MARMI (GB)
Owner: Stella Perdomo.
Trainer: Roger Attfield.
Breeder: Fittocks Stud (GB).
The little gelding, named after a sea town in northern Tuscany, made plenty of waves in 2013.
It was in September’s Grade 1 Northern Dancer Stakes, contested at 1 1/2-miles over Woodbine’s E.P. Taylor Turf Course, where Forte Dei Marmi displayed the gumption and grit that his Hall of Fame trainer spoke of regularly, and glowingly.
“He’s just a lovely, little gelding,” said Hall of Fame conditioner Roger Attfield. “He has his own way of thinking sometimes, usually when it comes to training, but he’s a very competitive horse. I didn’t know a lot about him at one point, but that’s not the case anymore. He’s a very hard-trying horse.”
A horse that made the grade, so to speak, in a trio of notable races last year.
The British-bred, owned by Stella Perdomo, took the Grade 3 Singspiel, Grade 2 Sky Classic, along with his Northern Dancer triumph.
In the latter, Forte Dei Marmi held on for a neck victory in 2:28.46, pushing him over the $1 million mark in career earnings.
Eurico Rosa Da Silva, who won the 2013 Sovereign Award for top jockey, engineered the bay’s 10th career win and third straight graded stakes score.
Out of the winning Sadler’s Wells mare Frangy, Forte Dei Marmi is a son of Selkirk, who captured the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II as well as being a multiple Group 2 champion with scores in the Challenge Stakes, Lockinge Stakes and the Celebration Mile Stakes.
After a ninth-place performance in his career bow on August 8, 2008, at Newmarket, Forte Dei Marmi was seventh in his following start, then fourth, before a maiden-breaking nose win at Goodwood on May 20, 2009, his first start of the campaign.
When Attfield took over as his trainer, he didn’t know much about Forte Dei Marmi, who made his first North American start in the 2011 Woodbine Mile.
Three-plus years later, however, the duo are quite familiar with one another, a formidable one-two punch that saw Forte Dei Marmi earn more than $400,000 in 2013.
Though he’s a well-traveled sort, Forte Dei Marmi showed he feels right at home at Woodbine, earning a Sovereign Award for his efforts at the Toronto oval last year.
“He’s just a horse that has a big kick and a very relaxed horse early on,” said Attfield.
But, according to the man who now knows his pupil inside and out, not a horse that always enjoys showing up in the mornings.
“Forte Dei Marmi, sometimes he really doesn’t want to train, sometimes he does,” said Attfield. “That’s how I got inside his head. I realized that when he doesn’t really feel like training one morning, I just don’t train him. Just jog him or something. Then, he’ll feel like doing it one morning so I’ll work him.”
Come the afternoons, however, Forte Dei Marmi is definitely the little gelding that could.
CHAMPION TURF FEMALE
Owners: Jim and Susan Hill.
Trainer: Reade Baker.
Breeder: Select Bloodstock, LLC. (KY).
Solid Appeal 126
Leigh Court 76
by Chris Lomon
Solid Appeal and Jesse Campbell won the Nassau Stakes in May at Woodbine.
Solid Appeal more than lived up to her name in 2013, taking a shine to the green scene, with two Grade 2 scores.
When the first word a jockey says after a big win is, “Wow,” that should tell you something about the talent of the horse he rode.
For Jesse Campbell, it was an appropriate, and accurate, description of Solid Appeal’s performance in the Grade 2 Dance Smartly Stakes, contested last July at Woodbine.
“Wow is all I have to say. She just ran huge,” said Campbell, of Jim and Susan Hill’s dark bay. “She popped out of the gate running. We weren’t going that fast and she was very comfortable. She just traveled so well to the quarter pole and when I asked her, she actually moved quicker than I thought she was going to. I didn’t want to make the lead that soon, but thank God I had that much horse. She just raced so hard to the wire. This horse is as confident as a horse can get.”
Trained by Reade Baker, Solid Appeal came into the Dance Smartly off a similarly impressive tally in the one-mile, (turf) Nassau Stakes on May 25, after opening the year in Keeneland with an allowance win on the synthetic track.
In the Nassau, Solid Appeal, under a sly ride from Campbell, raced outside of the favoured Irish Mission, before taking command and notching a 1 1/2-length triumph in a time of 1:34.01.
While it wasn’t in Campbell’s original game plan to be so close up in the seven-horse field, he was full of confidence when the real running began.
“I did not expect to be that forwardly placed,” said the veteran rider. “I let her be there because she was in the bit and I also had the five horse (Irish Mission) where I wanted her. I was riding my race around the five horse, being in the position I was, but she gave me a tremendous kick down to the wire.”
It took the daughter of Success Appeal seven tries to break her maiden, a win on July 8, 2012, representing her first test on the turf.
Campbell, however, saw a different horse in 2013, a consistent competitor that delivered when called upon.
“She’s a better horse than when I rode her the year before,” said Campbell, of the Kentucky-bred (Select Bloodstock). “I think she took a bit of growing up. She was a little green last year, but she’s a stronger horse now.”
In 17 career starts, Solid Appeals has five wins, two seconds and three thirds.
Eurico Rosa Da Silva
Eurico Rosa Da Silva 126
Luis Contreras 83
Rico Walcott 39
by Chris Lomon
Ten years ago, Eurico Rosa Da Silva launched his riding career at Woodbine determined to be a top jockey. Mission accomplished.
In 2004, three weeks after the Toronto oval’s thoroughbred season had started, Da Silva, who won 500-plus races over a five-year span competing in Brazil, and close to 300 victories in four-and-a-half years in Macau, was looking to make his mark at Canada’s Showplace of Racing.
A family vacation to Toronto one year earlier had set the table for where he wanted to compete.
“I don’t know how long it will take for me to be top jockey here, but that’s what I’d like to achieve,” Da Silva said in the days leading up to his Woodbine debut. “I want to win all the races I’m in. My heart is in my throat when I win. It’s as though I am saying to myself, “I can do it.” It’s a great feeling.”
He would win 47 races in his first year at Woodbine, good enough to rank 13th in one of the most competitive colonies in North America. The next two seasons, Da Silva finished 11th in the standings. From 2007-09, the Brazilian was sixth, fourth and third, respectively.
In 2010, Da Silva, who won his first Queen’s Plate one year earlier with Sam-Son Farm’s Eye of The Leopard, achieved what he had set out to do, ruling the number one spot.
“I want to give everything I have every time I ride,” recalled the 38-year-old, who also took the Plate in 2010, this time with Big Red Mike. “I love everything about racing and I love the feeling of winning.”
In 2013, Da Silva could definitely feel the love.
He enjoyed his second-best season ever, in terms of purse earnings, with over $8.2 million, accompanied by 143 trips to the winner’s circle. His 27 stakes victories were easily the tops of any rider in Canada.
Called on to ride for high-profile stables such as Sam-Son Farm and champion trainer Mark Casse, Da Silva notched victories with Up With the Birds (2013 Horse of the Year), Forte Dei Marmi (2013 Champion Turf Male), My Conquestadory, His Race to Win and Overheard.
Even with a pair of Queen’s Plate scores, two top rider Sovereigns (the first came in 2010) and standing as one of the top jockeys in Canada, complacency isn’t a concern for Da Silva, who rode in Singapore during the winter months of 2007, 2008 and 2009.
“I go out every race with the same focus,” he said. “I want to be the best I can be.”
Which is just what Da Silva intended to do nearly 10 years ago.
OUTSTANDING APPRENTICE JOCKEY
Skye Chernetz 111
Amie Pooli 108
Tommy Wong 18
by Chris Lomon
Skye Chernetz didn’t need to be wearing jockey silks to get her 2014 season started on a winning note.
One night before the current Woodbine thoroughbred season began, Chernetz experienced a major career highlight, namely, being honoured with the Sovereign Award as Canada’s Top Apprentice.
The victory was not unlike a photo finish on the racetrack, with Chernetz receiving 111 votes, three more than British Columbia native Amie Pooli, who also had a big year.
It made the win that much sweeter for Chernetz, who was a finalist in the same Sovereign category in 2012.
Her second season in the saddle was memorable for many reasons, including her first stakes score.
The daughter of one of Canada’s first women riders, Bonnie Eshelman, Chernetz guided the filly On Rainbow Bridge to victory in July’s 5 1/2-furlong Shady Well Stakes at Woodbine, for Triple K Stable and trainer Dave Cotey.
Not surprisingly, Chernetz was all smiles, and a little awestruck, after the milestone moment.
“We had a perfect trip, sat behind, a spot opened up and she just went,” she said of how the race unfolded.
It would turn out to be twice as nice for the rider-horse duo come August, when the pair teamed to take the six-furlong Nandi Stakes.
“She’s very smart,” said Chernetz of On Rainbow Bridge, a dark bay daughter of Bold Executive. “She’s so classy and does everything right. There was a lot of pressure, but she handled it so well.”
And so, too, has Chernetz, who knew she wanted to ride racehorses at the age of eight.
She honed her skills at Assiniboia Downs, before heading east for her first season in the irons at Woodbine in 2012 under the watchful eye of veteran trainer Dave Cotey.
Chernetz didn’t let a slow start derail her desire to make inroads at Canada’s Showplace of Racing.
With only 10 wins in her first 239 mounts, Chernetz, who won her first career race with Sheza Rounder on May 19, 2012, found her best stride in the last six weeks of the season. She finished strongly, notching 14 wins in her rookie campaign.
There was no sophomore jinx last year.
Chernetz posted 54 wins, 57 seconds, 60 thirds, along with $2.1 million in purse earnings.
The day before the 2013 Woodbine campaign got out of the gates, she spoke of what she hoped to achieve, including her ultimate goal.
“I want the Top Apprentice (Sovereign Award) to be mine, no question,” Chernetz said with a laugh.
Despite what would be a hotly-contested race for the cherished honour, Chernetz, much like her year on the racetrack, worked hard to get the win.