Ernie Semersky is becoming a regular at Woodbine these days. And he's hard to miss, particularly when he has a filly, My Conquestadory, that earned her way to the Breeders' Cup in her very first start.
My Conquestadory, a $240,000 purchase from the OBS sale of 2-year-olds in June, scratched out of the $200,000 Grade 2 Natalma Stakes, the Breeders' Cup Win and You're In race for turf fillies, in favor of running against the boys in the $200,000 Summer Stakes on Saturday at Woodbine. The daughter of WinStar Farm stallion Artie Schiller showed her heels to them all in the G2 race, winning by 3 ¼ lengths after taking the lead at the three-sixteenths pole.
And she finished in 1:34.81 for the mile race on turf, more than a second faster than it took Llanarmon to win an accident-marred Natalma. Still, according to Breeders' Cup rules, My Conquestadory cannot run in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf; she'll have to settle for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. She'll meet Llanarmon there.
Semersky is going to Santa Anita in November. He makes no secret of it. The 63-year-old Porsche and Audi dealer from Chicago likes his chances at his first Breeders' Cup. On Saturday, he sported a specially designed pair of orange sunglasses, with one lens glowing green, the other orange: his racing colors. “Ernie always sees things through rose-colored glasses,” quipped his business partner, former model Dory Newell, (who is the namesake of their fleet filly.)
“It's cool,” said Semersky, sporting a bright orange pair of trousers, too, not one to blend into the woodwork. “I'll tell you one thing that these glasses don't see: losers. They have a losing editing device in there.”
Together, Semersky and Newell form the Conquest Stables, and they haven't been in business very long. Semersky said he bought a horse last year, and then a friend of a friend mentioned that Woodbine's leading trainer, Mark Casse, might be a good go-to trainer. Semersky interviewed several trainers and decided: “There was something about him [Casse] that was correct.”
For one thing, they think alike. Semersky doesn't believe in over-racing 2-year-olds. Neither does Casse. My Conquestadory could have raced all summer and remained undefeated, but “It's not about that,” Semersky said.
The Conquest-Casse partnership, although young, is already flourishing beyond belief. With a stable of about 28 horses, 15 of them yearlings, they are cleaning up the 2-year-old stakes races at Woodbine this season. Conquest Titan won the Swynford Stakes by 5 ¼ lengths in his first start (He was a $475,000 buy at the Ocala 2-year-olds in training sale). Conquest Whiplash ($370,000) defeated colts in the Victoria Stakes at Woodbine, (She was named for the style at which she took the turns while training: like a motorcycle) and Conquest Two Step, a $420,000 buy, broke his maiden at Churchill Downs impressively in the spring, before coming to Woodbine and finishing second to the top local colt Go Greeley in the Colin Stakes.
Now, here is My Conquestadory and “she is all Mark Casse,” Semersky said, not at all surprised that she won such an important event on Saturday in her first start. “She's the most consistent horse in the barn, outside of a couple of colts,” he said. “She's maybe better than a lot of colts. She is a really special horse.”
Jockey Eurico Rosa da Silva, one of the leading riders at Woodbine, never showed My Conquestadory the whip. “I didn't' think about losing,” he said afterward. “It never entered my mind that she could be beat.” She wasn't close to being tired at the end of the mile race.
And herein lies another Semersky thing: he's not a great fan of a jockey going to the whip. “My horses have the same kind of heart I've got, and we just want to win,” he said. “If the horse wants to win, they don't need to be beaten.”
If it weren't for a whip, perhaps there would have been a different ending to the Natalma. Ready to Act, a More Than Ready filly making only her second start, took over the lead on the turn and with a two-length lead, appeared headed to victory when jockey Rajiv Maragh struck her with the whip.
The grey filly took a sharp left turn into the rail and Maragh came off, landing in a tangle with her hooves flying above him. Unspurned, who had given up the lead and was behind her, had to jump the fallen jockey. When help arrived, Maragh had a difficult time breathing, and was taken to a local hospital with possible cracked ribs. The accident delayed the start of the next race about half an hour. Ready to Act had been the race favorite.
With Ready to Act out of the running, 9-1 shot Llanarmon, a daughter of 2005 Woodbine Oaks winner Gold Strike, inherited the win and the trip to the Breeders' Cup with a three-quarter length victory over Spanish Flower. She's trained by Hall of Famer Roger Attfield for the Harlequin Stables.
“When I called on her, despite the activity, she was really strong,” said jockey Emma-Jayne Wilson, aboard the winner. “She stalled, had a look at everything, regained her focus and finished up.”
As for the Conquest people from Chicago, they've decided they love Canada and were in Toronto for the race. Casse, on the other hand, was at Keeneland, looking for some Canadian-bred yearlings for them. He's had quick results for Semersky-Newell, with purchases that came from two sales in Ocala earlier this year.
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