BUFFERY: Kimura and Casse on course to win titles

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The Japanese Express keeps on rolling at Woodbine.

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With three weeks left of racing at the venerable Etobicoke oval, Kazushi Kimura is on track to win his second straight jockey title. The native of Hokkaido, Japan has recorded 138 victories this year, 26 more than Rafael Hernandez. Kimura, who won the riders’ title last year also with 138 wins, has recorded earnings of $6.38 million while Hernandez’s earnings so far this season amount to $5.57 million.

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Mark Casse has run away with the trainer’s title again. He has recorded 107 firsts with Kevin Attard second with 81, although Casse has started 622 races compared with 408 by Attard. Attard should get some consideration for Canadian trainer of the year (which Casse has owned for over a decade) based on the fact that he has won some of the top races at Woodbine this season, including the Queen’s Plate and the Woodbine Oaks with his outstanding filly Moira, as well as the Grade 1 Natalma Stakes with Last Call and the Coronation Futurity with Velocitor. Casse also won a number of graded stakes races at Woodbine, as well as the Breeders’ Stakes with Sir For Sure. His best horse, the filly Wonder Wheel, won four out of five races this year, including the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Filles Stakes, but she never raced at Woodbine.

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Meanwhile, at Woodbine on Sunday, the Grade 2, $175,000 Kennedy Road Stakes was postponed until Nov. 27 because of inclement weather, which resulted in races 3-10 on Sunday’s card being cancelled. The cold conditions created some havoc on Saturday. Prior to the sixth race, jockey Eswan Flores was ruled off his mount What’s My Name just before the horses entered the starting gate for the 1 mile, seventy yards, maiden optional claiming race for $70,700. Turns out, Flores had a heating device inside his gloves. What’s My Name, who is trained by Casse for owner Gabe Grossberg, was taken to the paddock to get a new rider. That caused about a 15 minute delay and the other jockeys scrambled into nearby trucks to keep warm. Eventually, What’s My Name was brought back to the starting gate with Daisuke Fukumoto in the saddle. Alas, What’s My Name finished eighth in the 12-horse event, won by Fortyfiveseventy for trainer Barb Minshall with Kimura riding. After winning the next race aboard Hard Edge for trainer Stuart Simon, Flores told the Toronto Sun that it was “inhumane” to race under such conditions without some kind of warming device for the hands.

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Trainer Dave Cotey won his 10th race of the year at Woodbine on Thursday with Thunderheavyrain with jockey Skye Chernetz on board – the two-year-old filly’s first win in five starts this season.
Cotey has enjoyed a solid career as a thoroughbred trainer at the Etobicoke track and is best known as the man who discovered, trained and co-owned Mine That Bird. Under Cotey, Mine That Bird won four races as a two-year-old in 2008, three of those scores coming in stakes events. Along with co-owners Hugh Galbraith and Derek Ball, Cotey sold Mine That Bird to American interests for $400,000. The daughter of Birdstone went on to win the 2009 Kentucky Derby (at 50–1 odds) and earned $2,228,637 (US) in her career. Toronto Maple Leafs diehards might also remember the name Dave Cotey. Cotey was a second round selection by the Buds (11th overall) in the 1964 NHL amateur draft as a 15-year-old out of the Jr. C Aurora Tigers.

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“I tell everybody I was a bad claim,” said Cotey with a laugh, using horse racing vernacular in talking about his hockey past.

Cotey was scouted by the club’s top scout Bob Davidson and future Leafs’ GM Jim Gregory. With the Tigers, Cotey played with former NHL left winger John Gould, and current Vancouver Canucks president of hockey operations and former NHL goaltender Jim Rutherford.

“We used to call him Rainbow Rutherford,” said Cotey. “He was a funny little guy. Really nice, dry sense of humour. And very good goalie.

In the same draft, the Leafs selected right winger Tom Martin in the first round and defenseman Mike Pelyk in the third. Pelyk played nine seasons with the Leafs. Also selected in the 1962 amateur draft was Hall of Fame goaltender Ken Dryden (third round) by Boston (later traded to Montreal) and long-time NHL center Syl Apps Jr. (fourth round) by the New York Rangers. Cotey never made it to the NHL but he was able to carve out a fine career in horse racing, recording close to 300 wins and winning 13 different stakes races, including the Canadian Derby and, aptly, the Maple Leaf Stakes in 2002.

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“I love hockey. And I love the horses,” Cotey told the Toronto Sun. “I’ve had an exceptionally nice life.”

The Woodbine-based, three-year-old gelding Churchtown won the $135,000 Gio Ponti Stakes on the grass at Aqueduct on Saturday for Canadian training legend Roger Attfield. The son of Air Force Blue was second in the Toronto Cup at Woodbine on Sept.10 and went wire to wire at 5-1 to capture the Gio Ponti with Junior Alvarado in the saddle. Churchtown has four wins and two seconds in eight career starts … The Ontario Sire Heritage Series concluded Friday at Woodbine with the Kevin Attard-conditioned Strega winning the $100,000 Ashbridges Bay Stakes with Kimura on board for Lanni Bloodstock. The gelding Full Screen, trained by Julie Belhumeur and ridden by Jeffrey Alderson, took the $100,000 Lake Ontario Stakes for owner Nidel Charfi.

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