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MacIntosh High On Star Students

Published: May 7, 2020 7:59 pm ET

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With Courtly Choice taking his talent to the breeding shed after a brilliant career on the track, trainer Blake MacIntosh has a gaping hole to fill in his roster of stars. While his army of two-year-olds continues to learn the ropes, two of his older performers are primed for much anticipated returns to stakes events.

One of those bright lights is Groovy Joe -- a colt that caught the eye of MacIntosh last summer during a trip stateside.

“He was at the Goshen Sale, and the mare [Chotat Milk] has not produced anything,” said MacIntosh when asked about his early recollections of Groovy Joe. “But I loved the mare; the mare was such a nice mare. I saw him and I’ve had good luck buying out of the Goshen Sale, I bought Clear Idea and Rootin Tootin and a couple of others that have done very well for me.

“Roll With Joes weren’t real high on people’s list [that] year, and I’ve had good luck with Roll With Joes, too,” he added when talking about Groovy Joe’s sire. “I liked the colt and bought him. Paying $17,000 for that sale that year was a pretty good price because they were pretty cheap at that sale that year.”

That $17,000 U.S. turned out to be money well spent when you consider the colt banked just over $230,000 -- an average in excess of $23,000 per start during an incredibly successful rookie campaign.

“He’s a nice horse, it’s tough to judge and I’m a little biased only because he always tries so hard,” said MacIntosh when asked about the ultra-consistent performer. “He never missed the top two all year, and the only time he raced on the Grand Circuit he won the race. He’s just a nice horse and he gives you everything he’s got.

“He’s matured a lot,” MacIntosh added when asked about changes he’s noticed in the pacer from last year to this season. “I think that’s a big reason why I’m so high on him. Last year he was a little small and a little frail, but this year he’s filled out a lot to a nice size. He’s the same size as Courtly [Choice] now. He’s just got a little ‘go’ to him and a little fight. I like him, he’s just a really nice horse who just does everything right.”

MacIntosh and the Hutt Racing Stable have showed a great deal of faith in the star of the New York Sire Stakes program by making him eligible to more than just NYSS events in the upcoming season.

“We staked him to the Somebeachsomewhere, the North America Cup, the Hempt, the Messenger and everything out in Indiana for the end of the year,” claimed MacIntosh. “It’s scary though because I don’t know what’s going to happen to New York because Governor Cuomo isn’t going to open things up soon. I’m scared of the NYSS and what the year is going to be like for them, so I’m sort of glad we’ve got Groovy Joe paid into some of the other races.

“When you get a horse that raced 10 or 11 times and never missed the top two and then was in the final [NYSS] and had the eight-hole in Buffalo and still finished second, that’s pretty good,” stated MacIntosh. “He’s not going to get much respect because nobody knows who he is and he never raced in the big dances, but I like him and I thought he was worth a shot of putting in the Cup. We hope that everything goes right.”

One thing that hasn’t gone right for MacIntosh is the scheduled return to the racetrack with the seven-time winner. That return has been postponed due to the ripple effect of the COVID-19 pandemic throughout the entire industry.

“As of right now what happened was when all the tracks got shut down we trained 2:20 on Tuesdays and 2:15 on Fridays for a month,” stated MacIntosh when asked about his plan of attack for getting his youngsters primed and ready for stakes season. “And last week we put them in racebikes and went a mile in 2:04 with them, and as of Friday we’ll go in 2:00 with them over the farm because they’re going to have to go in 1:51 right off the hop.

While there’s no certainty when it comes to racing action returning to tracks, MacIntosh is hoping -- like many in the industry -- that the wait won’t be a long one.

“It’s looking like a June 15th start up for everything, it’s what we’re hoping for,” admitted MacIntosh. “So we’re going to plan like it’s June 15 so we’ll start training them harder now. We’ll have to train them over the farm in 1:55 which is a big mile. That will be like a 1:53 mile over Mohawk at least. We’ll try to have them ready to qualify on June 1st and go from there. That’s our plan now. That gives us a month to drop five or six seconds on them. We’ll drop to 2:00 on Friday, and then we’ll go 1:58, 1:57, 1:56, 1:55 the following week and then have them ready to qualify. That’s what our plan will be.”

Another plan that got derailed was the one that involved one of top three-year-olds from the 2019 campaign, Fast N First. The four-year-old put some serious money on his card last season, but he hit a snag while preparing for his 2020 campaign.

“He was down in New York and he was training great and he had a little slight tear in the XYZ, so we took him out of the all the four-year-old events,” admitted MacIntosh. “Now he’s back training and he’s training great and he’s back 100 percent. We were going to miss everything early like the Confederation Cup, and I didn’t know if we’d be back in time for Quebec [Prix D’Ete] and the Graduate. With an XYZ [tear] I didn’t want to throw him in right off the bat onto the Meadowlands. I was just going to protect him for the year and race him at Yonkers. That was the plan.

“Now he’s not in the Confederation Cup which is the race I want to win and one that he would have a very good shot at because of the half-mile track,” admitted MacIntosh. “Now it’s (likely) going to be in September and I wonder if they’re going to just have it as an Open.”

Fast N First has shown the ability to bounce back, and MacIntosh is hoping he won’t hit any bumps along the way.

“He’s come back great now, and we’re really pleased with him and the way everything healed,” said MacIntosh. “We’ve PRPd it a couple of times and shockwaved it and it’s healed up now and he’s looking great. He’s actually due to train the end of this week for the first time. He’d been in 1:57 over the farm at Mark Ford’s and Jess [Dowse] called me and said he wasn’t jogging great. I just happened to be down there the next day and I jogged him and said he sort of jogs like that but lets get him scanned. There was just like a five percent or 10 percent tear in the XYZ, but after PRPing it and shocking it he’s good now.”

The 2019 season in the Ontario Sires Stakes program was a challenging one based on the star power that kicked around in the provincial program all season. With that in mind, MacIntosh was patient with his youngster.

“I protected him all year, I’m not going to lie,” continued MacIntosh. “He’s more of a half-mile horse, because he doesn’t wear a boot and he can get around any size track. With the [OSS] Golds not being on the small tracks anymore, it’s just better to protect those horses. I protected him and it worked out for us in the end by making just over $300,000.”

Staying on the half-mile track is something on MacIntosh’s mind once again in 2020, and as a result a trip to the Maritimes could be in order for the graduate of the OSS program.

“Maybe if they race the Gold Cup & Saucer this year maybe we’ll take him out there,” said MacIntosh. “It would be something different and he’s not paid into anything else. I know he can get around a half and that’s a good half so that’s an option, too. It’s tentatively slated for him to go to the Gold Cup & Saucer in August if there is one.”

While that event is something to look forward to later this summer, now is the time to focus on finishing off an army of rookies.

“We’re going full steam ahead as if we’re going to qualify on June 15th, but it’s very tough to plot out your stakes season,” added MacIntosh. The New York breds are the ones I’m really worried about. I think I counted the other day around 20 two- and three-year-olds that are New York breds and that’s a lot of money that’s tied up. With the Ontario sired horses we just ploughed right ahead with them. I think we’ll be OK in Ontario. Mr. Lawson [WEG’s CEO Jim Lawson] said the other day it looks like six weeks, so hopefully we can get that timeline and hopefully Premier Ford is willing to do that for us.”


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