By Gene Kershner
Just back from Florida and looking for the guy who turned down the heat!
It was my pleasure to emcee last weekend's ThoroFan Awards Breakfast honoring Dogwood Stables' Cot Campbell as the second annual ThoroFan Award winner. During the breakfast, Jim Mulvihill, Communications Director for the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA), presented the NTRA Moment of the Year which was the Breeders' Cup Classic win by Mucho Macho Man. The Macho Man was in the gates over the weekend, easily winning the Sunshine Millions Classic.
After the breakfast, I enjoyed some live racing action for the first time since the Breeders' Cup and was fortunate to run into Fort Erie trainer Nick Gonzalez and Hall of Fame trainer Roger Attfield at Gulfstream. Gonzalez is high on the 4-year-old River Seven, runner-up in last year's Prince of Wales Stakes at Fort Erie Race Track and may run him in the Donn Handicap. Attfield was engaging as ever and was lamenting the possible closure of Fort Erie. He said he may have a promising 3-year-old to try the Plate trail, but he appears to favor the turf at present and wouldn't commit to his plans otherwise.
Due to my travel down to Florida I missed the premiere episode but based on the reaction of the twitterverse, other than a few miscues, it appears that the initial episode on the Esquire Network was a hit. Team Rotondo, John Conte and Christian Hellmers all made their debut in the opener and most reviews have been positive. Check out last week's Q&A with cast member Peter Rotondo.
Fox Sports 1 Racing Telecasts
More positive news on the television front as Fox Sports 1 announced their inaugural 2014 television schedule of nine dates representing "The Jockey Club Tour on FOX," which includes seven Sunday afternoon broadcasts. The first broadcast will be the Donn from Gulfstream on Sunday, Feb. 9 at 5:00 p.m. Included in the broadcast schedule is Ricoh Woodbine Mile at Woodbine in September and three races from Saratoga including the Coaching Club American Oaks, the Saratoga Special and the Sword Dancer.
The 2003 Canadian Horse of the Year and last Canadian Triple Crown champion passed away at the age of 14 on Wednesday of a suspected heart attack. He won the Prince of Wales at Fort Erie with a four-length score, which set up a historic Triple Crown bid at Woodbine a few weeks later where he prevailed by 1 1/2-lengths. He had career earnings of over $2.5 million and had a record of 11-2-2 in 23 career starts. He entered stud at Lane's End Farm in 2006, eventually returning to stand stud at his home at Schonberg Farm for the 2011 breeding season, where he passed away. His progeny includes Turallure, who captured the 2011 Woodbine Mile. He is honored each May at Woodbine with the running of the Wando Stakes, a key prep race on the road to the Queen's Plate.
Sovereign Award Finalists
The Fort Erie-based Gonzalez was tabbed as one of four finalists for Outstanding Trainer and the four finalists for 3-year-old male champion were Five Iron, Plate winner Midnight Aria, River Seven and Up With The Birds. The three finalists for Canadian Horse of the Year will be announced the evening of the awards in April.
The Derby trail heads south to Gulfstream with the running of the Holy Bull Stakes which has attracted 11 colts. Kiaran McLaughlin-trained Cairo Prince (3-1) is the morning line favorite in a race that appears to be wide open and could be an excellent betting opportunity. John Velazquez will return to the races on Saturday at Gulfstream after suffering a spill at the Breeders' Cup that claimed his spleen. He'll ride Coup de Grace (4-1) for Chad Brown in the Holy Bull.