October 13, 2016 - 2:20 PM
TORONTO - Woodbine Racetrack has been very good to trainer Mike Maker.
The 47-year-old native of Garden City, Mich., has registered six stakes victories at the track, including this year's Queen's Plate with Sir Dudley Digges. Maker will look for another Oct. 16 when he sends a streaking Da Big Hoss postward in the $1-million Pattison Canadian International.
The five-year-old comes in having won his last four events and is expected to be the early favourite for the 1 1/2-mile turf race. Since being claimed by Maker for US$50,000 in June 2015, Da Big Hoss has won eight-of-11 starts for new owners Skychai Racing LLC, including five graded competitions.
"He still looked good on form," Maker said. "We went in thinking that we'd get a high-priced claimer with the idea of stretching him out and see how it went.
"Obviously, it's gone very well."
Maker's first stakes win at Woodbine came in 2010 with Stately Victor in the Ontario Derby. He captured the 2011 edition with Derby Kitten before finding the winner's circle with Joha (2012 Colin), International Star (2014 G3 Grey) and Serious Talk (2015 Woodstock) before returning with Sir Dudley Digges in this year's Plate.
Da Big Hoss will make just his second Grade 1 start in the International. He was sixth in his first, last year's Breeders' Cup Turf.
Da Big Hoss has won four five-of-six starts this year. The lone blemish was a fifth-place finish in the Grade 2 Mac Diarmida at Gulfstream on Mar. 5 as Ontario-bred Kaigun finished second to Grand Tito in that race.
"He hasn't done much wrong since we had him, but we're going to find out how good he is," said Maker. "It just didn't seem like he handled Gulfstream's turf course for whatever reason."
Regular jockey Florent Geroux rides Da Big Hoss for a seventh time this year. Geroux has won five stakes events at Woodbine and will make his third International appearance.
Geroux was fourth aboard The Pizza Man in 2014 and rode Power Ped to a fifth-place finish last year.
Da Big Hoss's connections considered shipping him to Australia to compete in the Melbourne Cup on Nov. 1 but Maker said the decision to come to Woodbine was an easy one.
"Well, it's a $1-million purse," he said. "We considered the race last year and didn't come but it's a prestigious race and I think a very good spot for him.
"He should love Woodbine. It's a beautiful big track and I think he'll really relish the turf there."
Maker will also have a horse in the $500,000 Grade 1 E.P. Taylor Stakes that day, with Al's Gal running in the 1 1/4-mile event for fillies and mares. The five-year-old hasn't won a graded race yet but was second by a half-length to Beverly D at Arlington Park on Aug. 13.
Al's Gal earned a 1 1/2-length win in her last race, the $350,000 Ladies Marathon at Kentucky Downs on Sept. 15.
"She was unlucky to lose the Beverly D but she shows up every time," Maker said.
NOTES— Woodbine Mile champion Tepin will run in the Grade 1 $400,000 First Lady Stakes at Keeneland on Saturday. North America's reigning champion turf female is the early 2/5 favourite and will break from the No. 2 post. Tepin chases a ninth straight win for Mark Casse, eight times Canada's top trainer and a recent inductee into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame.
News from © The Canadian Press, 2016