Horse Racing in Canada heads into Next Year with Momentum

Wager on WoodbineThe business of Ontario horse racing heads into 2015 with growth and momentum riding the wave of increased mainstream television exposure, improved Standardbred wagering numbers and steady numbers from Woodbine’s premier Thoroughbred meeting.
Figures released by Woodbine Entertainment Group Thursday on the recently completed 133-day Thoroughbred meeting showed a slight, 2.9% dip in total wagering on… [Read more…]

Trainer Profile: Mark Casse

by Art Parker, author of the bi-annual guide “Keeneland Winning Trainer Patterns”

Few of Casse’s second time starters drop in class, in fact, more will undergo a distance change than a class drop.

Woodbine has been the foundation of Canadian racing for a long time. Each year the track holds a meet that lasts from approximately mid-April to mid-December, roughly eight months of the year.

Woodbine has favorable takeout rates and excellent racing surfaces. The polytrack has remained consistent for a long time and has always seemed to be fair. The turf surface seems to be one of the best in North America and is not overused. The stretch on the turf course is the longest in North America and, since so many turf races have horses bunch up, it allows for more competitors to have the time to have a fair run. The quality of racing may not equal to Saratoga or Keeneland, but it is well above average.

Wager on WoodbineThe Toronto oval offers a special Wednesday night card from May until the end of the meet. Woodbine also offers a 20 cent wager on all exotics other than exactas and doubles. The other thing about Woodbine is its commentary. The track has excellent commentators and analysts that I believe are the best anywhere. I’ve been playing the horses for decades and now almost all of my activity is via Advance Deposit Wagering (ADW), and I don’t hesitate to tell you that I rate Woodbine at the top when it comes to the overall, day to day, experience.

But where Woodbine is no different is when it comes to the winning trainers. Woodbine has many top notch trainers that do well with limited stock, but like most any other track, or circuit, there are a smaller number of trainers that garner a large percentage of the wins.

The top ten trainers at Woodbine in the last 5 plus years (April 2009 to present) based upon the number of wins at the track, which are noted in parenthesis, are: Mark Casse (503), Reade Baker (310), Bob Tiller (263), Sid Attard (234), Nick Gonzalez (196), Scott Fairlie (194), Roger Attfield (164), Josie Carroll (164), Malcolm Pierce (152), Brian Lynch (151). In the same time period, only three additional trainers have accumulated 100 or more wins.

Let’s take a look at the top trainer.

Mark Casse is the King of Canada when it comes to a trainer winning races. His 503 wins are basically at least double all others (except for Reade Baker). Casse needs no introduction to American players that pay attention to major stakes races since he has had several good horses invade the U.S. and perform well over the last few years. Even though Casse has been on top for quite some time he just reached what is perhaps the top milestone for a Canadian trainer when he won his first Queen’s Plate this year with the filly Lexie Lou, which was ridden by Patrick Husbands.

Speaking of Husbands, he has been the pilot for more than fifty percent of all Casse winners in the aforementioned time frame. Whenever I see a Casse entrant with Husbands riding I instantly write “Top Combo” by the name of the horse. From Casse’s 503 wins Husbands has ridden 261 of them. Other jocks you may see ride for Casse, but not all others, and the number of wins are Luis Contreras (64), Gary Boulanger (29), who has only been around Woodbine since April 2013 as far as these numbers are concerned, and Eurico Da Silva (21).

Casse wins most with horses coming off a layoff (at least 45 days away). Over 25% of his wins are first time layoff runners. Compared to other trainers, Casse does well with those that have extended layoffs – off for at least one year. You will rarely see a class jumper win for Casse after a layoff. With his first layoff horses Casse is notably dangerous with surface changes (15% of layoff wins), distance changes (21% of layoff wins) or class droppers (a whopping 64% of layoff wins). And, Casse’s runners shipping in from Keeneland and Gulfstream usually have their guns loaded.

Casse’s work regimen is mostly 6-8 days break in works with the last coming 6-8 days prior to race day. Casse seems to adhere to an equal time lapse before the race day if he works horses 9-12 days apart-those runners will probably have their last work 9-12 days prior to the actual race day.

One area where close attention is needed for Casse is inexperienced horses. Approximately 10% of his wins come from debut runners and about 12% of his wins come from second time starters. Over 3/5 of Casse’s debut winners are two year olds, and 1/3 of the two year old winners are for owner John Oxley. One can tell Casse develops plans for his horses considering that over 20% of his winners are either first or second time starters. Few of Casse’s second time starters drop in class, in fact, more will undergo a distance change than a class drop. When Casse changes distance for a second time starter it has always been from sprint to a route, and that appears to be a move by design.

Join this Horseplayer in Handicapping Woodbine

By Art Parker

One of the things that simulcasting and Advance Deposit Wagering (ADW) gave horseplayers was the opportunity to broaden our horizons. When simulcasting came around we were able to stay at our home track and play a couple of other tracks from around the country. The simulcast menu at most tracks has grown to the point where plenty of track options are available everyday you walk in the door. ADW extended the opportunity since most ADW companies do their best to offer any track that is running.

In case you haven’t played Woodbine, the premier track in Canada. then consider what the Toronto track offers.

Woodbine currently has the lowest take out on straight bets in North America. That’s very enticing, particularly if you also get rebates on your wagers. Along the player-friendly lines, Woodbine offers a 20 cents minimum on trifectas, superfectas, pick 3s and pick4s…the door is open to everyone on the exotics wagering menu. Plus, the pick 4s have guaranteed minimum pools every day.

The Woodbine meet is long, starting in April and finishing in mid-December. It is a great track for keeping records and being acclimated to everyday play. The track offers racing almost every Wednesday with a card consistent in quality with its normal daytime cards. The quality of racing at Woodbine is very good and, even though many of the stakes are restricted to Canadian bred runners, Woodbine has a very good stakes program, including quite a few graded events that always give the player a big race to look forward to.  A perfect example is this Sunday (July 7) with the $1 Million Queen’s Plate card.

The surfaces at Woodbine are excellent. The layout is unique since the main track is located inside the turf course. The Polytrack has performed well with its consistency and safety.

For the player that wants to have a track that is on the ball and providing plenty of information, then Woodbine is your track. I’m convinced the track has the best commentary and analysis in the racing world. Excellent commentary before the card begins, with analysis before each race that also includes a paddock analysis. When you put this together with an excellent audio/visual system then you have a horse player’s dream. Woodbine also does a great job with its website where information available to the player is far more in-depth than at most track websites.

I believe Woodbine is, indeed, the true “Player’s Track.” Take a look at Woodbine.  Check it out the next time you play the horses. I think you will wind up agreeing with me.

— Art Parker  is the author of “Keeneland Winning Trainer Patterns.”  Art keeps detailed trainer notes on both Keeneland and Woodbine racing.  His Keeneland publication comes out every spring and fall here at

Trainer Frostad works pair for Sunday’s Queen’s Plate

Trainer Mark Frostad, who has won the Queen’s Plate on four occasions, worked his two hopefuls for this year’s ‘Gallop for the Guineas’ Saturday morning at Woodbine.

Pyrite Mountain, winner of the Wando and Kingarvie Stakes, and stablemate County Lineman breezed six furlongs in tandem over the Polytrack in 1:12.20.

“We wanted to go three-quarters today,” said Frostad. “They galloped out very well in (1):26 (for seven furlongs) and a mile in 1:40. It was a very good work.”

Luis Contreras, who won the 2011 Queen’s Plate aboard Inglorious, will pilot Pyrite Mountain in the $1 million classic for Canadian-foaled three-year-olds, on July 7, while Alex Solis, who was aboard Frostad trainee Irish Mission for wins in last year’s Woodbine Oaks and Breeders’ Stakes, along with a runner-up finish to Strait of Dover in the Plate, has been named on County Lineman.

Pyrite Mountain, owned by Awesome Again Racing, enters the Plate off a closing fourth place finish to Dynamic Sky in the Plate Trial on June 9 as the mild favourite.

“I thought he ran a great race,” said Frostad. “The first quarter was a good solid quarter, then they slowed it down in the next two quarters. They went in 50 and change. That didn’t help him. It gave him a lot to do, but he was getting there late and he galloped out very strongly. It’s tough to close into a pace like that.”

On the other hand, County Lineman, a two-time winner in six outings for Ginger Punch Racing, will be making his stakes debut in the Plate and enters off a third place finish in an allowance race.

“He might surprise a few people,” continued Frostad. “He’s a different type than the other one (Pyrite Mountain). He’s very active. He gets revved up pretty easily, but he’s been getting better and I think he’ll give a good account of himself.”

Frostad’s four Plate wins came with Victor Cooley (1996), Scatter The Gold (2000), Dancethruthedawn (2001) and Eye of the Leopard (2009).

The Queen’s Plate, set for its 154th consecutive edition on Sunday, July 7, 2013 at Woodbine, will be aired live in HD on CBC from 4:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

For more on the historic race, visit

To wager on this race, U.S. residents should visit  Enter promo code “AGOS” for a $100 sign-up bonus, special cash back rates on every wager, and take advantage of the July promo – 10% cash back, win or lose, on Woodbine Trifectas, Superfectas & Pick-3 wagers.

As It Relates to Horse Racing

Undesirable government and politicians not limited to America


Being a newspaper editor in Alabama provides me with terrific opportunities to see the crookedness and stupidity of politicians and the incompetent practices of government. One of our former Governors shut down a racing facility that had charity electronic bingo, at the point of a gun, after he took campaign money from an Indian Tribe outside our state, an obvious competitor to the Alabama-based business he shut down. The bottom line is that we saw a facility shut down and hundreds of people in one of our poorest counties out of work. Furthermore, it eliminated a tourism draw that brought thousands in from Georgia every year.

That’s the way we do it down here. The tools are dishonesty, stupidity, greed and an inexplicable desire to make many lives miserable by forcing them into unemployment, usually for political reasons.

It looks like some of those tools have migrated north of the border to Canada, specifically the province of Ontario.

In the interest of full disclosure, let me say that my favorite race track is Woodbine, the gem of thoroughbred racing in Canada. No, I’ve never been there. But like many Americans who play the races via Advance Deposit Wagering (ADW) I have the opportunity to play Woodbine frequently, and I love the track.

This year the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) announced the termination of the contract it has with Ontario race tracks for the tracks to house slot machine facilities. The OLG, which is actually an arm of the provincial government of Ontario, wants to dump the tracks and build its own facilities, but most importantly take money away from the tracks. This is after the tracks changed their lives years ago to accommodate the slot machine business and since then have pretty much done all the work and paid to maintain it. This past week the OLG went to Ft. Erie race track and padlocked the machines. This is while the track is still operational. Why? Ft. Erie still has plenty of racing this season and to padlock the machines is like saying you do not want money the machines can generate. Stupid. Of course, Ft. Erie has already announced it will go ahead and close after 115 years of business due to the move of the OLG. More jobs, community pride, history and all other good things down the drain.

This past week Woodbine held one of the oldest and most prestigious races in North America, The Queen’s Plate. For those of you not familiar with it, the race is kind of like our Kentucky Derby.  It’s a fantastic race with a great history. Woodbine announced just a few days before the race that his may be the last Queen’s Plate because of the actions of the OLG. Woodbine leadership also stated clearly that day to day racing could be in danger, and not just the stakes program, because of the OLG.

Since the OLG is actually the governments gaming agency the race tracks are at a double disadvantage. Woodbine’s CEO said it best, “How are we expected to compete when the referee is also our opponent?”

Don’t forget the extensive damage that will be done to the Canadian thoroughbred breeding business after OLG finishes execution of its mandate.

I look at my home state (and others) and I look at what has happened in Ontario and I see the same problems; the ruination of people, businesses and our economy. Just look at the government and the politicians and you see the problem. I’m sure the culprits are dishonesty, stupidity, greed, and yes, somewhere someone wants to hurt someone else.

Too bad this has to happen to racing in a great racing location like Ontario. The only advice I can give to the people of Ontario is to prepare for the next election and run these officials out of Canada. Just don’t send them down here. We already have enough just like them.

Handicapper Art Parker — Art Parker is a frequent contributer to A Game of




From earlier this year (February 2012)

HANA made this statement in their [February] newsletter:

Officials in Pennsylvania, New York and Ontario (Canada) have been making noise lately about cutting off slots subsidies to racetracks.  Anyone who has spent any time at racinos knows that in just about all of them, the racing is an afterthought to the big money that is to be made from slots.  And, more and more, it appears the companies that own the racinos are keeping racing alive only because they are mandated to by the state.  If subsidies are cut or eliminated–as seems likely in the near future–expect to see date cuts for the races, and possibly the disappearance of some tracks.  — HANA

“Over the past few decades, an explosion in gambling opportunities and increased competition for leisure dollars have reduced horse racing to a small, cult sport. It would have already faded into oblivion in many small centres, including Fort Erie, if the province had not introduced slot machines at racetracks. A significant percentage of the money that sad sacks chronically lose at the slots goes to subsidize the host track.

Neither the province nor the Drummond report has any problem with sad sacks continuing to lose their shirts by mindlessly depositing tokens in machines. Indeed, the report recommends creating more opportunities for people to gamble away their earnings.

However, the Drummond team does suggest there might be more deserving recipients of the province’s slice of this pie than just the horse racing industry.”

Latest Update: Woodbine States that their Future is in Doubt

Off the Charts Trip Notes –

Off the Charts Trip Notes spotlights horses throughout the country who encountered some type of significant trouble in their most recent start. Horses spotlighted in Off the Charts Trip Notes are never an automatic bet back, but rather runners to give a serious look at given the trouble spotted by our expert handicappers at  Horses below listed in date order.

At Arlington Park
Static Kill (Race 5, May 12 at AP; 6 furlongs). Third choice in wagering, field of 9. Checked just past ½ mile pole when competitor rushed up and came out in center of track. Raced well behind leading group drawing close in turn while under tight restraint, then had no place to go the entire stretch. Never had an opportunity for a fully extended run and was behind a wall of 7 horses at one point, from rail outward. Ran evenly the entire stretch.

At Presque Isle
No Contest (Race 3, May 15 at PID; 5 furlongs). Third choice in wagering, field of 10. Broke directly left toward the rail and was left behind. Move outward at ½ mile pole and moved further out entering the turn. Very wide throughout turn and was 8 wide at top of the stretch. Ran well in stretch and gained more than 2 lengths on leaders in last 1/8 mile without being pushed.

At Woodbine
Sisterdini (Race 5, May 16 at WO; 5 ½ furlongs). Sixth choice in field of 12. Had horrible debut start. The filly jumped slightly at start and appeared tangled in the gate. When she finally left the gate she was easily 6 lengths behind the back of the field and a dozen or so from the front. She went around horses entering the turn and then came back to the rail in the last portion of the turn. Moved outward toward track center when in stretch and had to hesitate slightly for racing room just past 3/16 pole. When straight she closed very well and barely missed third, seemed determined all the way in what was a very impressive run for a rookie.

At Churchill
Original Kitten (race 3, May 18 at CD, 1 mile 1/16 Turf). Second choice in field of seven. Moved out wide into first turn and forced out foe in process. Out of first turn she came back inside to rail and enjoyed an uneventful ground saving trip, under tight restraint, until the top of the stretch. Looked to move down on rail when entering stretched but cut off by leader and foe running second. Moved out for racing room but was cut off again and bumped by eventual winner. Did not shake free until last 100 yards and closed well to gain third.

At Belmont Park
Ibid (Race 3, May 20 at Bel, 6 furlongs). Debut runner was fourth choice in field of eight. Jumped up at start and into the left side of gate then forced to pull back slightly when shut off in the first 100 yards. She was cut off again and squeezed back a second time near the 5/8 pole then dropped back next to last with her effort showing inexperience. Once into the turn the filly rallied well while wide and moved into contention at the top of the stretch where she was seven wide and, at that point, tried to move inward bumping with a foe. Once free from interaction with opponents in center track she ran well to gain third. The race was a combination of bad luck and inexperience. She was more than a handful for her rider.

“Hot” Mr. Rod named AGameofSkill Claimer of the Week

Claimer of the Week at AGameofSkill.comMr. Rod has set Woodbine’s Polytrack on fire recently. Claimed for $6,250 on the second day of the meeting by trainer Scott Fairlie, Mr. Rod stepped out a couple of weeks later to blister an $8,000 field by 4 lengths. Last Wednesday (May 16) the 6 year old horse did the same to a field of $10,000 claimers in the Toronto night and won by more than 2 lengths. Ridden by Todd Kabel, Mr. Rod ran the 6 panels in an impressive 109.44 and paid $9.20 to win. Owned by Ace Racing Stable the dark bay recorded his sixth career victory and has finished in the money 13 times from 32 career starts. Mr. Rod’s lifetime earnings now exceed $200,000.

— Art Parker

Woodbine runner tabbed as AGameofSkill Claimer of the Week

Claimer of the Week at AGameofSkill.comTurfiste shipped into Toronto from Tampa, dropped in class and took the sixth race from Woodbine last Friday afternoon. The 6 year old horse is no stranger to Woodbine winning his two previous starts there. Turfiste has raced at 7 different tracks in the last year, on all surfaces and faced the challenges of one and two turn races. The Michael Catania trainee was part of the early pace and then held off late challengers in the $8,000 event at 7 panels. Owned by Nichange Enterprises, Ltd. and ridden by Matt Moore, the dark bay stopped the timer at 1:24.58 and paid $6.20 to win. Sired by Military, Turfiste has now won 8 races and finished in the money 15 times from 30 career starts, and has accumulated $235,000 in earnings.

— Art Parker