Monday, June 27, 2011

A Day Fit For a Queen

--Christina Bossinakis

   Queen’s Plate day started out sunny but, by the time the Bossinakis tribe (my mother Lily, uncle Costa and aunt Artemis) set off for Woodbine, it looked like we might get yet another round of rain. Luckily for us, we were spared the predominant theme since my arrival in Toronto last Wednesday. Back up in the Woodbine Club dining room, we found ourselves in great company–seated nearby was Martin Schwartz (owner of Plate runner Bowman’s Causeway); the West Point team, headed by the always dapper Terry Finley (represented by Enduring Star); and the connections of Queen’splatekitten (Nicholas Brady’s Mill House), including agent Steve Young and trainer Todd Pletcher. It’s interesting to note that Mr. Pletcher, who was at Belmont Saturday to accept the trophy for Buster’s Ready’s runaway victory in the GI Mother Goose S., arrived at the Toronto oval shortly after noon before jumping back on a plane to New York not long after a fifth with the ‘Kitten’ in the feature. Oh, did I forget to mention that this is the way he spent his birthday? And that’s one of the reasons why I refer to him as ‘T-Train.’ (other than the obvious reason, of course). Sometimes I swear he is superhuman. His dedication, discipline and commitment to his clients and horses are really quite admirable.

   As for our dining experience, the staff was very attentive, and accommodating, and the food was superb, with plenty of fresh seafood and a tasty dessert selection (and this coming from the daughter of an accomplished pastry chef!). As for the Bossinakis crew, we kicked off Sunday the same way we concluded Saturday–winning. The big score of the day, however, came from Costa, who hit a healthy payday of $600. That’s the great thing about horse racing, sometimes blind luck proves more lucrative than over analysis.
A couple of races prior to the Plate, we accompanied the Romeo family (of Big Red Mike fame) down to the paddock to watch their horse, Daniel Be Good, in an allowance (optional claimer). (FYI: ‘Daniel’ came home a winner in the race prior to last year’s Queen’s Plate...that’s TWO wins in front of the Queen for Terra Racing). The whole crew seemed to be in the paddock Sunday: Dom, and his sons Steve and Frank, who also had his wife Rose and son Mike in tow. (Note: If you have the chance to see Mike, you will know precisely why he is the namesake for the Queen’s Plate hero). With speed appearing to hold up well earlier in the day, ‘Daniel’ seemed to have a very good chance at 7-1, and though he ran admirably, he weakened late to be a close-up third. I must say that it was such a pleasure to get to know the Romeos. They are people of the highest class who have a tremendous passion and affection for our game. We certainly would be blessed if we had more of them in our industry.
Christina and Lily Bossinakis in the Woodbine Paddock
   The paddock area prior to the Queen’s Plate can best be described as a mass of humanity, and horseflesh. Inglorious was led out of the saddling enclosure and into the paddock fairly early, and never seemed to turn a hair. I observed her owner, Vernon Dubinsky, rushing back and forth between the bay filly (Post 9, saddled in the center of the enclosure) and his other entrant, Seawatch (Post 12, situated at the far corner). In all honesty, if races were based on looks, I would have given the nod to Check Your Soul, who looked absolutely stupendous. Just a picture of health and confidence. Also getting a notable mention was Queen’splatekitten. While those two might have collected the ribbon for sexiness (at least of the equine variety), it was obviously not their day. (Check Your Soul tired late to be seventh). On the front side, the atmosphere leading into the race was almost electric, only muted by the seemingly endless loading process. The stands looked filled to capacity, however, I am told that was nothing compared to last year when Queen Elizabeth II was in attendance. When all was said and done, the winner of the Woodbine Oaks came away with a 2 1/2-length win, becoming the 34th filly to collect the first leg of Canada’s Triple Crown. Returning in front of the stands amid a rousing ovation, the filly was greeted by her visibly moved trainer, Josie Carroll, who was collecting her second Plate win following her 2006 score with Edenwold. The day couldn’t have ended more fittingly with a pair of gallant ladies collaborating to win the "Gallop for the Guineas." Bringing down the curtain on my Queen’s Plate experience, I couldn’t help but think just how gracious and helpful our friends at Woodbine were during my visit, which really added to the whole experience.

March to the Winner's Circle
   This morning, I was greeted with an absolutely stunning day for my departure (after most of my trip was spent under an umbrella!). However, I can’t really complain, because the weather really cooperated when it had to. And while I was sitting in the airport sipping on my Tim Horton’s coffee (Dunkin’ who??), I couldn’t help thinking, this may not be my town, but they sure are my people.

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