Sunday, July 26, 2009

Sutherland, plus Parabola, times two: Is that the formula for another wild win in the Breeders' Stakes?

When Parabola begins the anticipated march from his stall at Woodbine Racetrack a week from today in preparation for the Breeders' Stakes -- last leg of the Canadian Triple Crown -- his connections will be hoping for a much less eventful afternoon than his most recent race, but with equally good results.

The 3-year-old Trajectory gelding won his last out on July 8, but not until after creating a ruckus in the outdoor saddling enclosure for Woodbine's turf course. The frantic horse seemed likely to have left his race in the paddock. But owner Janet Jeanpierre credits jockey Chantal Sutherland -- who'd never ridden Parabola prior -- for keeping her cool so that the horse could regain his, and could go on to win the race.

Jeanpierre is convinced there isn't a better rider in the Woodbine colony.

"Chantal is the best jockey here at Woodbine, although second in the standings," she wrote in a response to the Fugue's inquiry about her horse and his rider. "The favorites usually go to Patrick Husbands."

Husbands has earned his reputation as Canada's premier rider, notching his record-tying sixth Sovereign Award in 2008 as the country's best jockey. His mounts have won both the Canadian Triple Crown (Wando, 2003) and Triple Tiara (Sealy Hill, 2007). And, Husbands at this writing leads Sutherland in the jockey standings at Woodbine with 85 wins from 425 mounts to her 63 wins from 408 mounts.

But Sutherland might be the personification of the vintage Avis rent-a-car campaign -- that nobody tries harder than the person in second place.

"Chantal has an incredible work ethic. ... She is always ready to breeze horses," Jeanpierre writes. "She tries every time, even with the long shots. ... I'll tell you, when a horse Chantal is riding crosses the finish line, it staggers. She gets everything out of her horse. She is a really strong rider."

That's the sort of rider Jeanpierre saw when she watched Sutherland win the recent Bison City Stakes, second leg of Canada's Triple Tiara, aboard 3-year-old filly Dance for Us, who is trained by Parabola's conditioner, Barbara Minshall. It appeared as though the race might be stolen by a 48/1 long-shot maiden, Flashy Got Even, but Sutherland's shrewd riding aboard her filly gave Dance for Us the chance to get up and win -- and she did, by a hard-fought nose.

"When the two top fillies who were 1-2 in the (Canadian) Oaks elected to run in the Queen's Plate, my trainer entered Dance For Us," in the Bison City, Jeanpierre writes. "Chantal made a key move in the middle of the race that put the filly in a position from where she could win the race (and) she did. ... My trainer credits that move Chantal made with the win.

"Dance for Us and Parabola run in very similar styles," Jeanpierre continued. "When I saw what she did with 'Dance' in the Bison City, I told my trainer that I would love to get Chantal on Parabola. Fortunately she rode for us (July 8)."

Fortunate indeed, at least according to the results. Especially when the day looked like it could be finished early for Parabola, who came into 2009 as one of the "futures" favorites for the Queen's Plate, first leg of Canada's Triple Crown.

Parabola ended his juvenile campaign with a victory in Woodbine's Kingarvie Stakes going a mile and a sixteenth on Polytrack, and for a time was in the top five horses to watch, according to Woodbine's Web site. But the gelding finished last in both of his early prep races -- the seven-furlong Queenston and the 8 1/2-furlong Marine S.-G3 -- and his connections were left scratching their plans for the 'Plate and scrambling for answers.

A thorough vetting of the horse discovered evidence of a sneaky, but serious infection, even though the chestnut gelding had shown no symptoms such as coughing or "snots," Jeanpierre said.

"At least we have a reason for him stopping so badly," Jeanpierre wrote at the time.

The infection seemingly cleared, Minshall pointed Parabola to the Charlie Barley Stakes, an overnight race set for a mile on turf the day prior to the Queen's Plate. But the race was taken off the grass course, run at a mile and 70 yards on the main track, and again Parabola straggled home in arrears.

Change was in order, so Minshall again tried to get the horse on the grass, and in lesser company. Because of her ride aboard Dance for Us in the Bison City, Sutherland was booked to ride Parabola in the mile and a sixteenth test on turf.

"After all the setbacks Parabola had for his first two races, and then the puzzler of the third, we dropped him way down in class into an allowance, non-winners of three lifetime and restricted to Ontario-sired horses," Parabola's owner, Jeanpierre, said. "He was the only 3-year-old in the field."

Prior to the July 8 race, Parabola was schooled in Woodbine's spacious outer paddock, which serves the turf course. He "had been great" in the schooling, Jeanpierre recalls.

"But this was his first race from the outside paddock," she said. "He went ballastic and got really angry. His groom couldn't control him and when the pony person went to grab him and walk him, he reared and broke away."

Horse Canada reports that Parabola threw Sutherland in the paddock. Jeanpierre said Parabola "ended up running around for several minutes trying to jump out into the parking lot. Thankfully, no one and no horses were hurt."

But the trouble wasn't over. During his misbehavior, Parabola had sprung two shoes and had to be reshod, holding up the race. Then he gave the starters grief at the gate.

"Bless Chantal Sutherland, who just rode him as if nothing had happened before the race," Jeanpierre said. "He was running easily in fifth down the back stretch. Chantal had him in third at the top of the stretch and he just kept on rolling by the horses, winning going away."

Parabola won by a widening length in 1:41.17 for the 8 1/2 furlongs on grass. Jeanpierre said his Beyer Speed Figure for the race was an 82, but after all the problems leading up to it -- not just the mayhem in the paddock, but the three clunkers he ran prior -- his performance had to seem scintillating.

Parabola has now won three of 10 lifetime for $140,511 (U.S.) for his breeder and owner, Jeanpierre.

Minshall and Jeanpierre planned to turn the horse out for a bit of rest, but he came out of the race quite well, and had handled the turf admirably, so they started looking for the next test.

Few races in the coming weeks at Woodbine could be more of a step up than the Breeders' Stakes: last race of the Canadian Triple Crown; a $500,000 purse; 12 furlongs on the lawn; and the top two finishers from the 10-furlong turf Queen's Plate -- Eye of the Leopard and Mr. Foricos Two U -- are among the 21 nominations, although it's anyone's guess who'll actually go to post.

Beyond the competition, the race conditions will be a tall order. Few horses are asked for a mile and a half these days, and not all of those that are asked will answer with authority. But Minshall and Jeanpierre have a degree of confidence in their horse. Although Parabola's sire, Trajectory, was essentially a miler, the gelding's dam, Flying Tabriz, was both a turf winner and a daughter of Turkoman, a classic-distance Grade 1 winner and a distinct stamina influence in pedigrees.

Regardless whether Parabola proves himself at the distance, Jeanpierre is pleased that Sutherland is scheduled to breeze her horse on Sunday, as she did the week before, and that the jockey seems committed to him for the race.

"A lot of jockeys would have refused to ride Parabola after his pre-race antics. Or, if they had ridden him, would have just wrapped up on him as soon as he left the gate. Based on his 2009 form, no one would have known," Jeanpierre says of that July 8 victory.

"Not Chantal. she rode him as if nothing had happened. She is a very courageous rider with excellent instincts."

1 comment:

  1. A great report! As a Woodbine local, I appreciate seeing such a well thought out piece. There are a slew of great horses here and plenty of stories to be told.

    We have our own filly fanatic fest going on with Milwaukee Appeal and Tasty Tempation - though it's going unnoticed due to the RA and Zenyatta craze.

    Hope to see more Woodbine writing here when you're inspired!
    Keith - Triple Dead Heat


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