Friday, 30 September 2016 01:01

Put on your Dancing Shoes Baby

Written by Curtis Stock
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That old song lyric is exactly what Caro’s Song does when she’s about to run. Especially when she’s about to run another big race - which, lately, is just about all the time. “When she gets to the paddock before a race she gets to prancing around; she really goes to town,” said Scott Allen, the groom for the seven-year-old mare, who, with five wins in seven starts this year at Edmonton’s Northlands Park, is a leading contender for this season’s Claimer of the Year. “And when she’s really sharp she really likes to dance around.”

Thoroughbred racing’s answer to Hollywood’s former singer, actress and dancer Ginger Rogers, Caro’s Song is so good at dancing she should be on Dancing With the Stars. The Samba, the Tango, a little tap dancing and a lot of Irish jig it doesn’t matter to Caro’s Song. The dancing queen has all the moves.

“Right from when she was really young she was always prancing around,” said Bob Beaverford, who bought Caro’s Song as a yearling for just $1,000 and owned her until two years ago when she was claimed away from him for $17,500 by Bar None Ranches. “I was sorry to lose her but that’s the claiming game. When they are in a claiming race they are up for sale. You know that going in.”

In 47 starts Caro’s Song - a big dark brown mare both tall and wide - has won 12 of her 47 starts and has thrown in nine seconds and seven thirds while earning just under $180,000. “She’s been pretty consistent from the time we’ve had her,” said Allen, who works for trainer Ron Grieves. “But this is the best year she’s ever had. She just seems to be getting better and better.”

“The big thing about Caro is that she was always sound,” said Beaverford. “We never had any big vet bills and that’s the key to having a successful season.” Soundness, however, does come with a bit of an asterisk when it comes to Caro’s Song. Last year she went winless in five starts. “She got a puss pocket in her right front foot and it just wouldn’t heal,” said Grieves.

“We soaked it and put poultices on it but it just wouldn’t mend,” concurred Allen, 51, who has been at the track since he was 12 starting out at Assiniboia Downs in Winnipeg but for the last 28 years has been in Alberta. “The only thing that finally worked was when we put her in a hyperbaric chamber,” said Grieves of a therapy which delivers 100 per cent pure oxygen and where the air pressure is increased three times higher than normal.

Because blood carries oxygen, a hyperbaric chamber is said to fight bacteria and stimulate the release of substances called growth factors. “It definitely helped her,” said Grieves, who is consistently one of Alberta’s top trainers. Off for eight months, Grieves said her extended layoff may have actually helped.

“You just don’t see too many thoroughbreds win four or five races in back-to-back seasons. All the rest she had probably helped. “The other thing is that when mares get good they usually stay good for quite a long time.” Grieves said Caro’s Song has also benefitted from quite a bit of luck which you can never have too much of in horse racing or just about anything else. “She won one race when there was only three horses in the field and won another when she just raced four rivals. “And in both of those races she was the only speed.”

Caro’s Song also got one of her victories this year - in her most recent appearance on Sept. 10 - when the winner, Flattering Life, interfered with the third-place finisher, Holy Force, and was disqualified. Crossing the finish line second - defeated by just a head - Caro’s Song was moved up to first. “Flattering Life didn’t bother us at all,” said Grieves. “We just got lucky.”

Caro’s Song’s first appearance this season was for the same $17,500 claiming price that Beaverford lost her for. “I was tempted to claim her back but I was worried about her foot problems,” said Beaverford. “In retrospect I guess I didn’t need to be worried. She’s had another great year.”

While Caro’s Song has been both lucky and good this year, Sherwood Park’s Beaverford was the recipient of some good luck himself. “I was at the Pomona California fall yearling sale in 2010 where I had and have bought horses for several years. It looked like I was going to go home with no horses that year but, after the sale was over, I ran into Andy Havens, one of the bigger bloodstock agents at Pomona and a guy who I had bought quite a few horses from his consignments.

“He told me that I should come down and have a look at a horse who had gone through the sale with no bid. Andy said I should take a minute and look at her.  They had her shaved down so much that you could see every bone in her body. I couldn’t see anything wrong with her so I gave Andy $1,000 and she was mine."

“She’s just been a marvelous mare. She gives you everything she has every time she runs.” While Beaverford lost Caro’s Song to Grieves and Bar None Ranches, it certainly looks like he got his revenge this year when he claimed Major Moment this summer for just $7,000 from Bar None in the three-year-old colt’s debut on June 11.

That was even though Beaverford wasn’t exactly sure what he had got because in that June 11 race, Major Moment bolted around the final turn and didn’t even finish the race. The same thing happened when Major Moment ran for Beaverford for the first time a month later.

“It was quite the race. He was in front by about five lengths and did the same thing - bolting to the outside of the track. I thought ‘Oh no,’ but this time Major Moment somehow regrouped with jockey Shamaree Muir. He came back on and - running in the middle of the track right where the track photographer (Ryan Haynes) usually stands - won anyway.”

Co-owned by Beaverford’s wife, Denise, and Amber and Jim Meyaard’s Starline Thoroughbred racing stable, Major Moment also won his most recent start - an allowance race. “He’s two for four lifetime and won over $25,000. He’s already paid for himself,” said Beaverford. “As they say, what goes around comes around.” As for Caro’s Song, Grieves said Allen, who gives the mare plenty of carrots and peppermints, “spoils her rotten.”

But then why not? With a horse like Caro’s Song you’ll do whatever you can to keep them happy. “I get to the track pretty early in the morning - usually about 4 a.m.,” said Allen, who is In his fourth year working for Grieves. “When Caro sees me coming she starts to holler right away. With the exception of on days they are racing, I walk all of my horses on the hot walking machine every morning. She always wants to be the first one out.

“On days when they are running I walk them by hand and Caro really likes that. “She stops and looks around - checks everything out. “She’s really kind of special.”

Grieves said he plans to run her two more times before the season ends at Northlands. “Both for a claiming price. There’s a $35,000 claiming race in the condition book a week from Saturday and then a $25,000 race for her in the final week of the season.” So, if you’re thinking of betting her, make sure you head down and watch her in the paddock. If she’s feeling good she’ll certainly let you know.

As Allen said, the more she dances the better she’ll run.

STOCK REPORT - Alberta’s leading trainer Greg Tracy has sent nine horses - mostly three-year-olds - to Toronto to race at Woodbine this fall. “We’ll work them a couple of times each before they race so they get used to the different poly track surface they’ll be running on,” said Tracy. “We’ll see which horses fit what kind of races and also kind of see what kind of horses it takes to run there.”

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