Villeneuve seeks second Frost King crown, this time as trainer
The son of Silent Name (JPN) heads into the 6 ½-furlong main track event for Ontario-sired two-year-olds off two strong performances to start his career, including a mettlesome head victory at one mile and 70 yards over the Tapeta on October 31, in a race originally slated for the turf.
“He’s been really exciting,” said trainer and former jockey Francine Villeneuve, who rode Copper Trail to victory in the 2003 edition of the Frost King. “He’s been precocious right from the beginning. He was a little difficult at first, but he’s just taken everything in stride.”
The win came three weeks after Classy Whisper, owned by T and T Racing Team, debuted at the Toronto oval.
With Rafael Hernandez in the irons, the bay gelding, sent off at 18-1, held a head advantage at the stretch call of the 6 ½-furlong main track race, going on to finish second, a neck back of the winner Hunt Master.
Villeneuve, who enjoyed a successful career in the irons prior to her training career, is buoyed by the pair of gritty efforts ahead of her rookie’s first added-money test.
“He’s learning and getting better and better all the time. When he ran the first time and showed all that speed and determination, I was pleasantly surprised. I didn’t really expect that from him. On the second asking, when we stretched him out, we still didn’t know what to expect, thinking that he might be just speed. But apparently, he’s the kind of horse you can put where you want. He just has the will to win. That’s why we made the decision to go in this race. I don’t like to shorten him up again after going long, but I don’t think it’s going to be a big problem for him.”
Villeneuve, who received the 2004 Avelino Gomez Memorial Award (contributions to the sport on and off the racetrack), is expecting another game showing from her rookie charge.
“Like I said, he looks like a horse that you can kind of put wherever you want. He doesn’t need the lead, he doesn’t have to be right up there… he’s pretty agreeable. And Rafael [jockey, Hernandez] now knows him better as well, so I feel pretty confident in him. There are some tough ones in there, but we’ll get an idea of what he’s made of. It’s been a long year, but he’s very encouraging.”
Classy Whisper will be fashioning a similar look from his previous start.
“His first race, we had him closed up, his blinkers, and the second race, I opened them up because maybe if he could see the other horse, it might help him a little bit, and I think it did. So, we’re going to keep it that way and let Rafael make a decision, based on the pace, of where he wants to be.”
Villeneuve is hopeful the journey finishes with a return trip to the Frost King winner’s circle.
“To win this race with Classy Whisper, 18 years after winning it as a rider, that would be amazing.”
The race is named after Canada’s 1982 Horse of the Year, a winner of 21 stakes, who was inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 1986.
The $100,000 South Ocean Stakes is also on tap for Sunday. Seven two-year-old Ontario-sired fillies will travel 6 ½-panels on the Tapeta.
Trainer Mark Casse is represented by Lois Len and Ya Mar. A chestnut daughter of Hunters Bay, Lois Len is 1-0-1 from five starts and will contest her fifth straight stakes race. A dark bay daughter of Silent Name (JPN), Ya Mar is 1-0-1 from three starts.
Thatsitthatsall, a daughter of Silver Max, was second in both the Muskoka and Victorian Queen. Trained and owned by Debra Rombis, the chestnut is 1-3-0 from four starts.
The Frost King is slated as race nine on Sunday’s 11-race card. The South Ocean goes as race three. First post time is 12:55 p.m. Fans can also watch and wager on all the action via HPIbet.com and the Dark Horse Bets app.
FROST KING STAKES
Post – Horse – Jockey – Trainer
1 – Sir for Sure – Luis Contreras – Mark Casse
2 – Where’s Neal – Kazushi Kimura – Daniel Vella
3 – J M R Best of Turf – Christopher Husbands – Steven Chircop
4 – Lucys Child (S) – Gary Boulanger – Phil Gracey
5 – Gatling Gun – Patrick Husbands – Barbara Minshall
6 – Silent Runner – David Moran – Michael Doyle
7 – Classy Whisper – Rafael Hernandez – Francine Villeneuve
SOUTH OCEAN STAKES
Post – Horse – Jockey – Trainer
1 – Loaded Vixen – Luis Contreras – Andrew Smith
2 – Allpaidup (S) – Justin Stein – Randy Thompson
3 – Thatsitthatsall – Kirk Johnson – Debra Rombis
4 – Lois Len – Patrick Husbands – Mark Casse
5 – Ya Mar – Kazushi Kimura – Mark Casse
6 – My Girl Sky – Steven Bahen – Katerina Vassilieva
7 – Swinging Mandy – Emma-Jayne Wilson – Dale Desruisseaux