Johnny Bear rewarding connections for their patience in six-year-old horse | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Johnny Bear rewarding connections for their patience in six-year-old horse

Famed jockey and drawmaster Sandy Hawley holds the trophy for the Pattison International thoroughbred turf race Wednesday, Oct.11, 2017 at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto. Idaho is the early 5/2 favourite for the $800,000 Pattison International to be held Sunday at Woodbine.THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Michael Burns MANDATORY CREDIT
October 11, 2017 - 2:34 PM

TORONTO - It's taken Johnny Bear nearly six years to repay John Burness's faith in him.

Burness and partner Danny (Bear) Dion spent over $278,000 for Johnny Bear, making him the 2012 Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society yearling sale topper. But their patience has paid off, with the son of English Channel claiming five of his seven all-time wins this season as a six-year-old while amassing a career-best $384,424 in earnings.

Johnny Bear defeated highly regarded Hawkbill, the 3/5 favourite, to win the Grade 1 $300,000 Northern Dancer, a 1 1/2-mile turf race at Woodbine Racetrack on Sept. 16 at 9/1 odds. On Wednesday, Johnny Bear was made an early 12/1 pick for the $800,000 Pattison International, a 1 1/2-mile turf race that goes Sunday at Woodbine.

"I think he forced us to be patient because horses from English Channel tend to do better as they age," Burness said after drawing the No. 5 post Wednesday. "We were fortunate enough to keep him sound, that's the big thing."

Keeping Johnny Bear healthy has been challenging. Trainer Ashlee Brnjas, Burness's daughter, said the horse has had an assortment of minor ailments that, while all treatable, have impacted his ability to race.

"His thyroid levels have been a little out of whack, his hemoglobin sometimes is up and down," Barnjas said. "Sometimes he's had ulcers in his stomach, all horses have ulcers but some are worse than others.

"When he was younger he had a bit of a fur infection that went on for a little while. They're small, fixable things but they can all add up."

Brnjas said constantly monitoring Johnny Bear and allowing him to be a horse have all helped keep him healthy this season.

"We done a lot of bloodwork on him just making sure his levels are where they should be," she said. "After almost every race he's gone right back to the farm and been allowed to be a horse before coming back to train."

European horses have won the last six International races. So it's no surprise the top three picks for this year's edition are all Irish-breds.

Idaho is the early 5/2 favourite trained by Aidan O'Brien and ridden by Ryan Moore. O'Brien has 23 Grade 1 wins this year, two short of Bobbie Frankel's record. He has multiple horses entered in two Group 1 events at Newmarket, England, this weekend so the International could be a chance for O'Brien to tie or even break Frankel's mark.

Moore will also chase a record fourth International victory.

Erupt, the 7/2 second choice, is the defending champion and will attempt to become fourth horse to capture consecutive International titles. However, the American-owned five-year-old is winless in four races since last year's International triumph.

Chemical Charge is the 5/1 third pick and has two wins and a second-place effort in his last three starts. Overall, the five-year-old has five victories from 13 career races.

The field, with post, horse, jockey and odds, includes: 1) Oscar Nominated, Julien Leparoux, 8/1; 2) Flamboyant, Joel Rosario, 6/1; 3) Enterprising, Rafael Hernandez, 20/1; 4) Idaho, Moore, 5/2; 5) Johnny Bear, Luis Contreras, 12/1; 6) Postulation, Jorge A. Vargas Jr., 12/1; 7) Bullards Alley, Eurico Rosa da Silva, 20/1; 8) Messi, Jose Ortiz, 8/1; 9) Erupt, Junior Alvarado, 7/2; 10) Chemical Charge, Oisin Murphy, 5/1.

Johnny Bear has won two straight races and three of his last four. But Brnjas said that early on the horse didn't sport the look of a champion.

"When he was a yearling and two-year-old you knew he'd be impressive at some point but he looked like a little chubby kindergarten kid," she said. "We were hoping he had potential after that kind of pricetag (as a yearling) but he's wonderful to have, he's really developed.

"But if you'd asked me if I'd be taking Johnny Bear to the International, I probably would've laughed at you."

Despite having a Grade 1 stakes win under his belt and favourable genetics — Johnny Bear is the full brother of Breeders Stakes champion Channel Maker — he's expected to come into Sunday's race well under everyone's radar. And that's fine with Burness.

"Fortunately, horses can't read odds boards and I'm definitely not going to tell him he's at 12/1," he said. "When you come from where we came from . . . you're not going to get the respect horses that run in graded stakes races do.

"But it (winning International) would be over the top. We've had horses run in the Queen's Plate and win a Grade 3 race but you hardly ever have a horse that you can think of putting into a Grade 1 race, never mind winning it."

News from © The Canadian Press, 2017
The Canadian Press

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