O’Connell enjoying milestone
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.