Down The Stretch

“And they’re off!”
It didn’t take long for last year’s Queen’s Plate-winning jockey Justin Stein to find the winning stride Friday at Toronto’s Woodbine Racetrack.

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The 33-year-old Barriere, BC, native, riding Renegade Man, eased into third spot for most of the seven furlong Race 1 and then bolted into the lead past the quarter pole for his first win of the day.
Stein rode four more times during the day taking another win aboard Classical Humour in the ninth race and twice riding to second in the fourth and fifth races.
Stein was even nice enough to invite me into the very-off-limits-to-the-public jockeys’ room where he signed my photo of him taking Strait of Dover to the 2012 Queen’s Plate win last June.
Stein is looking forward to keeping up his winning edge this racing season because “the more wins you get, the more chances at rides you’ll get”, he said.

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The number of chances at rides this year at Woodbine for Stein and all his fellow jockeys was nearly jeopardized when the Ontario Government decided last year to remove slot machines, and its huge revenue sharing profits, from Ontario racetracks.
The government and Woodbine Entertainment Group, headed by CEO Nick Eaves, below, reached an agreement which will see racing, and the very popular Queen’s Plate, continue into 2014.

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Luis Contreras, below, emerges from the Woodbine paddock area prior to mounting his first ride of the day.

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Contreras, 27 and originally from Mexico City, rode to 212 wins in 2011, won the Queen’s Plate in 2011 aboard Inglorious and the Prince of Wales and Breeders’ Stakes with Pender Harbour.

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Race 3 winner Daniel J. David, below, returns from the track after riding Cinder Tyme.

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And the fans of the racing are just as interesting and photogenic as the horses and riders themselves…

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