TORONTO, October 21 – “We’re dreaming the dream.”
With his undefeated, ultra-impressive colt slated to take on the world nine days from now in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, it’s easy to understand why trainer Nick Gonzalez is dreaming big.
As he watched Riker in the final yards of the Grade 3 Grey Stakes at Woodbine earlier this month, Gonzalez marveled at the ease in which the dark bay went about his business in the 1 1/16-mile feature, while notching his fourth win in as many starts for owner Tucci Stables.
He also knew the question was coming in the winner’s circle...Are you going to the Breeders’ Cup?
His answer, understandably, was measured on that Sunday afternoon. The veteran conditioner wanted to see how Riker would come out of the Grey before delivering a definitive statement on whether a trip to Keeneland Racecourse (Kentucky) was in the cards.
Not long after, Gonzalez knew everything had come up aces for a spot in the Grade 1, $2 million Juvenile, on October 31.
“The thought of being in a race like the Breeders’ Cup – that always makes you feel great,” he said. “I was thinking after the race (Grey) about when I was a kid. I was pretty good in sports, but I always worked on keeping my composure because I knew I’d do a better job out there. So, even though you’re excited about the possibility of being in the Breeders’, sometimes you have to step back for a bit.”
He added, with a laugh, “Lou and Carlo (Tucci) are like two little kids. That was wonderful to see.”
Wonderful is a term Gonzalez also uses in describing Riker.
“He keeps getting better every time he races,” he praised of the Kentucky-bred. “It’s been wonderful to see that progression. I was really impressed by how he galloped out after the Grey.”
Riker debuted in a five-furlong race, notching a half-length win over Conquest Nitro, going on to another half-length triumph at six panels in the Colin Stakes over well-regarded The Zip Zip Man. Prior to the Grey, Riker stretched out to seven furlongs with a strong 2 1/2-length victory over Tizzarunner.
Gonzalez, who is already at Keeneland, will soon get set to welcome Riker to the Bluegrass State.
“If all goes well, he’ll leave in the van from Woodbine early Friday morning (Oct. 23),” he offered. “The approach now is for us and our staff to just keep it simple.”
Not that it’s easy to curb your enthusiasm leading up to the biggest weekend in horse racing.
“We all have our moments, don’t we?” said Gonzalez, who won the 2010 Queen’s Plate with Big Red Mike, raising the trophy three years later with Midnight Aria. “You really do have to keep your emotions in check. I get carried away, but those moments come in private.”
Soon enough, the whole world, including a legion of fellow Woodbine horsemen and Canadian fans, will be watching Gonzalez and his prized pupil go for Breeders’ Cup glory.
“We’re obviously thrilled with how he’s raced,” he said. “I have a really good feeling about this horse.”
It’s why Nick Gonzalez is truly dreaming the dream, in his own quiet way.
Plenty of Can-Con for Breeders’ Cup
TORONTO, October 21 – The following is an early look at the Canadian-connected horses for the 32nd Breeders' Cup World Championships, set for Keeneland Race Course, in Lexington, Kentucky, Friday, October 30, and Saturday, October 31.
The pre-entries for the $26 million event were announced today.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 30, 2015
GRADE 1 $1-MILLION JUVENILE TURF Airoforce (trainer Mark Casse)
GRADE 1 $1-MILLION JUVENILE FILLIES TURF Catch a Glimpse (trainer Mark Casse, Woodbine-based, Canadian-owned by Windways (Jeff Begg) & Mike Ambler) Gliding By (trainer Josie Carroll, Woodbine-based) Land Over Sea (ex-pat Canadian owned by Reddam Racing (John Paul Reddam))
GRADE 1 $2-MILLION DISTAFF Got Lucky (owner Hill ‘n’ Dale Equine Holdings)
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 31, 2015
GRADE 1 $2-MILLION JUVENILE FILLIES Land Over Sea (ex-pat Canadian owned by Reddam Racing (John Paul Reddam))
GRADE 1 $1-MILLION TURF SPRINT Jimmy Bouncer (ex-pat Canadian owned by Reddam Racing (John Paul Reddam)) Sharp Sensation (trainer Reade Baker, Woodbine-based, owner Jim & Susan Hill) Something Extra (trainer/co-owner Gail Cox, Woodbine-based) Stacked Deck (trainer Barbara Minshall, Woodbine-based)
GRADE 1 $1-MILLION FILLY & MARE SPRINT Judy the Beauty (Canadian-bred) Wavell Avenue (Canadian-bred)
GRADE 1 $1-MILLION FILLY & MARE TURF Hard Not to Like (Canadian-bred)
GRADE 1 $1-MILLION SPRINT Jimmy Bouncer (ex-pat Canadian owned by Reddam Racing (John Paul Reddam)) Private Zone (Canadian-bred)
GRADE 1 $2-MILLION MILE Grand Arch (trainer Brian Lynch, Woodbine-based, owner Jim & Susan Hill) Tepin (trainer Mark Casse)
GRADE 1 $2-MILLION JUVENILE Conquest Big E (trainer Mark Casse) Nyquist (ex-pat Canadian owned by Reddam Racing (John Paul Reddam)) Ralis (ex-pat Canadian owned by Reddam Racing (John Paul Reddam)) Riker (trainer Nick Gonzalez, Woodbine-based, Tucci Stables) Siding Spring (trainer Mark Casse) Tale of S’avall (owner-breeder Charles Fipke)