O’Connell en­joy­ing mile­stone

Daily Racing Form National Digital Edition - - Daily Racing Form - By Mary Ram­pellini

It was fit­ting that Kath­leen O’Connell picked up the 2,000th train­ing win of her ca­reer with a 2-year-old. She long has en­joyed work­ing with young horses and has had sig­nif­i­cant suc­cess with them on the track.

Wish­ful Qual­ity lifted O’Connell to the mile­stone Wed­nes­day at Delaware Park, where the filly won her de­but in a photo. Wish­ful Qual­ity came back along the rail for a head vic­tory in the maiden spe­cial weight and re­turned $53.80.

“It was re­ally an ex­cit­ing race,” O’Connell said Fri­day. “And of course it was with my first love – the first-time starter. I was re­ally proud of the fact that she bat­tled back the way she did and ended up win­ning. It’s so hard on the ba­bies from the one post. I was re­ally, re­ally proud of her.”

O’Connell won her first race as a trainer in June 1981 at Hazel Park. The na­tive of Detroit started out as a hot­walker. Be­fore she be­gan her train­ing ca­reer, she also spent time work­ing with young horses on the farm.

“I broke horses for a long time,” she said.

On the track, O’Connell worked for such train­ers as Jack Van Berg, Ronnie Allen Sr., Sturges Du­co­ing, and W.R. Harp. She now has di­vi­sions of her sta­ble at Gulf­stream Park West and Mon­mouth Park.

“I was telling some peo­ple I’m very lucky to have such a great, pas­sion­ate ca­reer [path], be­cause it’s not like a job,” she said. “How great is it to get to do some­thing you truly love?”

O’Connell said she shares the mile­stone with many, in­clud­ing horses, own­ers, barn staff, and jock­eys.

“I’ve been blessed,” she said. “Two thou­sand vic­to­ries is a huge ef­fort. It takes a whole team.”

As for Wish­ful Think­ing, she is a Florida-bred run­ner for her breeder, Char­lie Ru­nion, and at some point she will land in South Florida.

“The rea­son she ran up north is that she didn’t re­ally han­dle the heat,” O’Connell said. “We’ll wait an­other race to bring her back down south.”

O’Connell’s long list of 2-yearold stakes win­ners in­cludes Blaz­ing Sword, Ivanav­inalot (dam of Song­bird), My Brown Eyed Guy, Scan­dalous Act, and Two T’s At Two B.

Stormy Em­brace eye­ing BC prep

The O’Connell-trained Stormy Em­brace, win­ner of the Grade 2 Princess Rooney at Gulf­stream Park and third in the track’s $100,000 Sheer Drama on Sept. 8, re­mains un­der con­sid­er­a­tion for the Breed­ers’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint.

“We still have Breed­ers’ Cup hopes,” O’Connell said Fri­day.

Stormy Em­brace could have one more race – po­ten­tially in the Grade 2, $250,000 Thor­ough­bred Club of Amer­ica on Oct. 6 at Keeneland – be­fore a po­ten­tial Breed­ers’ Cup start Nov. 3 at Churchill Downs, but no de­ci­sions have been made, O’Connell said.

Stormy Em­brace led through­out when she won the Princess Rooney by six lengths June 30, earn­ing a ca­reer-high Beyer Speed Fig­ure of 97. The ef­fort made her the 1-2 fa­vorite in the Sheer Drama, a race in which she broke last of all, had a ri­val im­me­di­ately come over on her, then hit traf­fic in the field of 10.

“She re­ally got elim­i­nated leav­ing there at the start,” O’Connell said. “She’s never been that far out of it down the back­side. It was a valiant ef­fort to get third.

“It seems like she came out of the race great.”

Stormy Em­brace races for her breeder, Mat­alona Thor­ough­breds.

Horse weights now tracked

Gulf­stream Park has been post­ing the weights of starters in each of their races this meet. The horses are weighed on a scale lo­cated in the pad­dock area by rac­ing of­fi­cial Ge­orge Berry, who then sends the numbers to the graph­ics de­part­ment to be posted along­side the odds for the up­com­ing race. The prac­tice started dur­ing the cham­pi­onship meet, but on a lim­ited ba­sis, said Chris Ca­mac, rac­ing sec­re­tary at Gulf­stream.

“We started in Jan­uary, just a few races, just a few horses,” he said. “Since April 4, we’ve been weigh­ing ev­ery horse, ev­ery race.”

Ca­mac said The Stronach Group and its chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer, Tim Ritvo, wanted to launch the pro­gram to serve as an added tool for the hand­i­cap­per to use.

“So, we’ve been keep­ing a spread­sheet, work­ing with Equibase and The Jockey Club on a way to have it put in the pro­gram, so the past per­for­mances will have the horses’ weight the last time they ran,” Ca­mac said.

Trainer David Fawkes said he be­lieves the data, when tak­ing into ac­count a horse’s per­for­mance over a span of races, will be of use to horse­play­ers.

“I think it will catch on,” he said. “In ev­ery other coun­try they weigh the horses. It’s a hand­i­cap­ping tool. I don’t see why it wouldn’t be in our coun­try. If a horse’s op­ti­mum weight is say, 1,000 pounds, and he’s at 900 or 925, you’d have to think that plays into it.”

Ca­mac said plans are to pro­vide weights for each race dur­ing the cham­pi­onship meet at Gulf­stream.

Pay Any Price to tote 130

Pay Any Price will be tot­ing 130 pounds Sun­day when he seeks to win his fourth straight race in the $75,000 Tami­ami Hand­i­cap at Gulf­stream Park. He will be spot­ting his ri­vals be­tween 12 and 15 pounds each in the five-fur­long turf sprint that drew seven, plus a pair of main track-only en­trants.

Pay Any Price has won his last three starts by a com­bined mar­gin of 9 3/4 lengths, all at Gulf­stream. His streak started in an op­tional $16,000 claim­ing race May 4 and con­tin­ued with the $75,000 Crys­tal River on June 3 and the $92,000 Bob Um­phrey Turf Sprint in his most re­cent out June 30.

Pay Any Price won un­der 121 pounds in his last start and has never car­ried more than 124 pounds. Edgard Zayas has the mount for trainer Ge­orgina Bax­ter.


Stormy Em­brace wins Gulf­stream’s Princess Rooney Stakes, earn­ing a berth in the Breed­ers’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint.

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