Fans flocked to see local star Mr Havercamp up close and personal during this past weekend's Backstretch Tour at Woodbine Racetrack, where he will be seeking Grade 1 glory in the upcoming $800,000 Ricoh Woodbine Mile on Saturday, Sept. 15.
“He's a bit of a ham, he enjoys the cameras,” said trainer Catherine Day Phillips, who hosted a stop on the behind-the-scenes tour at her stable and introduced fans to the multiple stakes winner. “He's a pretty cool customer.”
Named for the Caddyshack character, the son of 2010 Ricoh Woodbine Mile champion Court Vision is owned and was bred in Ontario by Sean and Dorothy Fitzhenry. The longtime horse lovers celebrated their first graded stakes win courtesy of Mr Havercamp's impressive run in the Play the King over seven furlongs on August 25 at Woodbine.
In the Play the King, the four-year-old gelding split horses down the stretch and surged to victory while proving he could handle yielding turf conditions.
“He ran a very good race in the Play the King and has come out of it well. We were fairly easy on him for the first week or so because he had a hard race and he's coming up into the Mile in good order,” said Day Phillips of the six-time winner who has earned $437,210 from nine career starts. “He had a nice breeze [Saturday]. Not a hard breeze, but a nice breeze. Now he's in good order and he's ready to go.”
Following a strong debut season as a three-year-old, Mr Havercamp regrouped from a winter setback while in Florida and kicked off his current campaign defeating Ontario-sired horses in the Steady Growth Stakes on June 16 over 1-1/16 miles on the Tapeta course at Woodbine.
Between both of his 2018 wins, he travelled to Belmont Park where he finished fourth in the one-mile Forbidden Apple turf stakes won by Voodoo Song in mid-July.
“I thought he ran a very good race there. I thought, maybe because of the different track or what not, he was a little bit distracted. It was Junior Alvarado who rode him and he said [Mr Havercamp] just really wasn't paying attention and that probably didn't help his chances. But I thought he ran against a very tough field and I thought he raced well against a tough field. Even if it maybe wasn't his best performance, I thought he ran a good race.”
Back at home, Mr Havercamp boasts a perfect four-for-four career record while competing over Woodbine's world-renowned E.P. Taylor Turf Course. His previous turf successes here include last year's Vice Regent and Bunty Lawless Stakes, both contested over one mile.
“He really travels well. He enjoys the attention on the road. There's three people fussing over one horse and he seems to relish in the attention for a good day on the road, but I think this course seems to suit him,” said Day Phillips. “He seems to like the long stretch. The added distance in the stretch just seems to suit his running style.”
Mr Havercamp will be aiming to become the first Ontario-bred to win the Woodbine Mile in a decade since Rahy's Attorney prevailed in the 2008 edition.
He will be the first Woodbine Mile starter for Day Phillips and the Fitzhenrys. His regular jockey Eurico Rosa Da Silva has competed in this 'Breeders' Cup Win And You're In' event eight times before, with his best result a second-place finish in 2016 aboard Tower of Texas.
Da Silva will also ride the Day Phillips-trained two-year-old filly Artilena in Sunday's $250,000 Natalma Stakes, also a Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Challenge Series event contest over one-mile on the turf.
Owned by George Philip Ledson, Braconcrest, Anderson Farms Ontario and Kingfield Racing Stable, the Artie Schiller filly is the first foal out of the unraced mare Helena's Triomphe, who is a half-sister to Grade 1 stakes winner Collected.
Artilena was a runner-up in her career debut at Woodbine and heads into the Natalma off a maiden-breaking 11-length romp over seven furlongs while racing on the Tapeta track on August 22.
“She's been fairly uncomplicated. Her first start, she had some traffic issues. The race really didn't go perfectly for her, but I think she gained a lot of experience from that race and it also showed that she was a proper racehorse,” said Day Phillips. “She came back in her maiden race and, while it was a small field, we couldn't have asked her to do it any better than she did. She just cantered away from everybody, which was a bit nerve-wracking to watch but exciting nonetheless. She's a nice filly, she really is. She's very, very professional.”
Artilena breezed five furlongs on the main turf in :59.60 on Saturday in preparation for her stakes debut.
“She seems to settle nicely and she's not over-aggressive. She seems to do whatever is asked of her, which is great for a young horse.”
Day Phillips is expected to have six runners in total over the Woodbine Mile weekend including the stakes-debuting mare Veil, who is set to run the $100,000 Sweet Briar Too on Saturday's undercard. Javier Castellano will take the reins for the 6-1/2 furlong main track event for fillies and mares.
Owned by Andrew Rosen, the five-year-old daughter of Hat Trick has consistently finished first or second in four starts racing this year under Day Phillips' care.
“She had a nice breeze [Saturday] morning,” said the third-generation trainer. “The stake is a little step up for her, but she's run well, and I think she deserves a chance at the distance she loves and on the surface she seems to love. I think, all being well, we'll give it a go.”
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