Joe Takach

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We now continue with the major “players” who import turf runners.

JOHN SHIRREFFS (B+) He recently took over as the major trainer for the Thoroughbred Corp. in Southern California, even though they spread their horses among many of the top trainers.  For those of you unaware of John Shirreffs, he was the “private” trainer for the once very powerful 505 Farms which was dissolved some time back.  Make no mistake, the guy can train though shunning the “limelight”.   He prefers to blend into the crowd in his decidedly dressed-down clothing and favorite sneakers!  Since the Thoroughbred Corp. brings in many overseas horses, Shirreffs must be reckoned with.  In fact, he’s one of the most “bettable” trainers on the grounds as mutuel “price” is of absolutely NO concern to Shirreffs or the Thoroughbred Corp.   Their horses actually “pick up their feet” @ 3-5 and 4-5 with regularity!

Never be afraid to bet one of their runners provided a few things are present.  First lasix is a must as is seems to be with all overseas imports regardless of who brings them in. (They must ALL suddenly and very mysteriously “bleed” as they step off the plane, or do they ALL need a masking agent?)  Secondly, Shirreffs tries to hide NOTHING when it comes to his imports morning worktab---again, mutuel price doesn’t matter so there is no reason to “hide” anything from anyone!  These morning worktabs must be evenly spaced every 5 to 8 days with NO GAPS of anykind!  Thirdly, his winners all look magnificent in the paddock and get excellent pre-race warm-ups when they are planning on getting their pictures taken.  Shirreffs is talented off the layoff be it turf or dirt---long or short.  NEVER dismiss any of his horses “out of hand”, as he’s shocked me more than once over the past 5 years!  First time starters also seem to pose NO problem for John and win more than their fair share.  He’s simply always a threat and uses all the top riders. 

JULIO CANANI (B) The legendary Julio Canani needs little introduction to regular and long time fans of Southern California racing.  Simply put, the man “can” whenever the basic raw material  to work with.  If he’s in a race, he’s most likely “trying” to include his turf imports with very few exceptions.  He returned to training a few years back after a short absence and came back with a vengeance with runners like Ladies Din, Tranquility Lake and a host of other multiple “Graded” winners far too many to mention.  Though a bit quiet of late, when his barn erupts, everybody under his entire shed row “comes alive”! 

Very solid morning worktabs that are evenly spaced (longer drills of 6 to 8 furlongs not at all uncommon) with absolutely NO GAPS, might be the key or best “tell” to when Julio is cracking down and “sending”.  And, of course, lasix is a “given” with all stateside debuters.

Before closing on Canani, be aware that in this family, the apple (son Nick) fell about as close to the tree as you could possibly get.   Simply put, like father, like son!  And when they are both in the same race, it’s almost a “given” that one or both will make their presence felt if not winning it all and/or running first and second respectively with no preference given to either from a betting standpoint.

WALLY DOLLASE (B) Before Wally gave up his extensive and diverse public stable to train exclusively for The Thoroughbred Corp., he was on my “A” list when it came to IMPORTED turf newcomers! 

His relationship with the Thoroughbred Corp. didn’t take long to turn very sour.  They split up at far less than amicable terms and at this very moment, Wally is slowly “refurbishing” his entire shed row.  When he was on his own in the past with multiple and more patient and understanding owners, you could never throw him out of any turf race, much the way I now respect Frankel and Drysdale.  He’s making a strong comeback and will one day be on top of the heap.

Should you need any proof of his abilities, one only need look to Persianlux (a former 50K claimer) who on 4/14/01 nearly handled Bienamado a humiliating defeat at Santa Anita in the Grade 1 and 400K pursed San Juan Capistrano.  Persianlux  was only beaten only a mere ½ length in deep stretch after leading thruout in this 1 ¾ mile affair and Bienamado was life and death to beat him! 

This, of course, was after this reborn and talented 50K claimer had won the 200K Grade 2 San Luis Obispo 56 days earlier on 2/17/01!!!   I think that says it all about his training abilities even though he’s been downright “chilly” thru the first 1/3 of the 2001 racing season.  From a wagering standpoint, his runners go very well “fresh” off the bench and, of course, lasix is a must!

Wally hides nothing as evidenced by very solid and evenly-spaced workouts that have become “standard fare” with all his well-intended runners no matter if imported of domestic .  If there is any interruption in morning drills, today’s race is usually nothing more than a “public workout” with an intended “crackdown” most likely occurring next out! 

He uses all the major jockeys to include son-in-law Corey Nakatani with no real preference to any and interchanges them at will.  Even 2nd tier riders like Brice Blanc are used on occasion.

As his stable fills out a bit with both imports and domestics, it won’t be long before he’s back on my “A” list! 

And perhaps even more so than Julio’s Canani’s son Nick, “Kid” Dollase is now one of the premier young “upstarts” in the nation, if not the Tiger Woods of horseracing’s younger “elite”!  

The multi-talented lad already has a Breeder’s Cup win (Reraise) under his belt while still shy of 30 years of age.  This “apple” never left the tree, let alone falling close to it.  While “Kid” Dollase only brings in an import once in a blue moon, loooooooook out---he’s absolutely deadly in any scenario.  One of his current champions and one of my all-time favorites (though not an import) is the unbelievable El Cielo------what a tremendous job of managing and training.  This multi Graded winner’s story should be “required reading” for all new trainers!!!!  

PART 3 NEXT WEEK----The second and third tier IMPORTED turf trainers!



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