Woodbine Winter Watch: Josie Carroll and Rafael Hernandez
TORONTO, February 27, 2023 – Each week, in the lead-up to Opening Day (April 22) of the 2023 Woodbine Thoroughbred season, the Woodbine Communications department will spotlight Woodbine-based horses and horse people ahead of the new season.
From horses on the King’s Plate trail, to Woodbine trainers and jockeys sharing their views on 2022 and the upcoming campaign, to some of the stars to keep tabs on 2023, the Woodbine Winter Watch will cover key players, horses and horse people, at Canada’s Showplace of Racing.
In this week’s report, trainer Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame trainer Josie Carroll looks back at her 2022 season and looks ahead to the upcoming 2023 Woodbine campaign.
Inside Track: Josie Carroll
- 939 career wins
- 165 career stakes wins
- Top horses include Inglorious, Mighty Heart, Avie’s Flatter, Edenwold, Careless Jewel, Ami’s Holiday, Amis Gizmo, Serenading, Ami’s Flatter, Lukes Alley, Gamble’s Ghost, Curlin’s Voyage
- Won 43 races in 2022, including eight stakes. Duke of Love won the Prince of Wales. Boardroom took the Grade 2 Royal North. Carroll reached the $2.1 million (U.S.) mark in earnings for the fourth straight year. Is once again a finalist for the Sovereign Award as Canada’s champion trainer.
The 2022 campaign
“We had some interesting horses last year. I think it was a building year for us. We had a lot of young horses, 2-year-olds, and a lot of 3-year-olds who were just starting their careers. So, that makes you very excited about the upcoming year with the ones who launched their careers in 2022. Some of them stood out. Loyalty, she’s going to develop into a really nice horse. We had one race on the grass, which was her only poor race. I’m not sure if it was the grass or if it was just a bad day. While we’ll probably be aiming for the synthetic with her for this year, with her pedigree, we aren’t going to rule out the possibility of turf either. I just brought Collecting Flatter in from off the farm in Ocala. Mike Cook had her there and has done a great job prepping her. She’s come in ready to start breezing. Once we see the Woodbine stakes schedule, we’ll figure out whether we run her early there or on the synthetic at Turfway on the way up there.”
An interesting year
“We retired some of our stars, Boardroom, Avie’s Flatter, Belichick, and we were looking forward to big years from them. Retiring those three at the beginning of the season made it more of a challenge for the year, but I saw a lot of promise in our young horses, which was very encouraging. We really have a good 2023 to look forward to. There is nothing to complain about. We had a lot of nice horses win a lot of nice races. As I mentioned, it was a bit of a transition year as the younger horses were coming along. We have a lot of nice horses in the barn.”
“I would say that excitement about the new season is right now. We’re already looking at our year, horses that could stand out. We had a couple of horses, Striker and Silver Peak recently win here [Florida] this week, who look like they could go on to be something special. I’ve always thought Striker was a special horse and his 3-year-old brother, Silver Peak, jumped up and ran a bang-up race. There are a couple of strong horses right there. A few of the 2-year-olds who broke their maidens last fall, a lot of our horses really seem to come into themselves at that time. Often you will find that it’s the fall of that 2-year-old year where you see them jump up and show you something.”
“There was a lot of excitement last year. As we’re breezing these young horses here in Florida, we’re getting excited. We have a lot of owners who breed for a more classic horse, so when you look at the overall picture, the mix of young horses and more established ones, we’re really looking forward to this year.”
Jock Talk: Rafael Hernandez
- 2,961 career wins
- 140 stakes victories
- Top horses include Moira, Shaman Ghost, Pink Lloyd, Summer Sunday, Not So Quiet, Merveilleux, Skywire and Are You Kidding Me
- Won 135 races in 2022, including 17 stakes, the third straight year he has reached that number. Notable 2022 wins include the Fury Stakes, Woodbine Oaks and Queen’s Plate with Moira, Grade 2 Nassau with Crystal Cliffs (FR) (dead heat with Lady Speightspeare), Grade 2 Royal North with Boardroom, Grade 2 Dance Smartly with Wakanaka (IRE) and Grade 3 Mazarine with Renegade Rebel.
“Things have gone well riding at Turfway over the winter. I go back and forth between here and Canada, so on my off days, I come home to spend time with my family. The last two years, I’ve come to ride in the States after the Woodbine season comes to an end. I try to take two weeks to relax and then I want to start working again. By the start of January, I get that feeling of wanting to start riding again. I like to have that bit of time off between the end of the Woodbine season and the new year to recharge and relax, and to give my body and mind a little rest.”
Plenty on the Plate, Part 1
“I still watch highlights of the Queen’s Plate. I think it’s always going to be one of my top memories, winning the Plate with Moira. We also won the Woodbine Oaks with her too, so to be able to win those with [trainer] Kevin Attard makes it extra special. He had been trying to win the race for so many years and to see how happy he was and how much he deserved it, that really meant a lot to me. When I first worked her, Kevin didn’t tell me anything about her. When I got back, I said, ‘Who is this horse?’ She was amazing. We had a good connection from the start. After that first work, I just fell in love. She does everything professionally and she’s a dream horse for me. Hopefully, she can get Horse of the Year and the other Sovereign Awards (3-year-old female and turf female).”
Plenty on the Plate, Part 2
“I won the 2015 Queen’s Plate with Shaman Ghost and at the time, I knew it was a big race and one you wanted to win, but since that time and the more I’ve ridden at Woodbine, the more you learn to appreciate just how important this race is and what it means. It’s so hard to find a horse that can win this race, to win on that day. I’ve been lucky to have won it twice. Now, I want to win the King’s Plate this year. We won the last Queen’s Plate – you never know when the next time it will be named that – and I would love to win the first King’s Plate (since 1951). It would be so special to win the last Queen’s Plate and first King’s Plate.”
Back in the saddle
“It was tough mentally and physically, the injury that I had near the end of the season at Woodbine. It ended up being a few broken ribs after the accident during the race, and whenever I would cough, it would hurt. I lost a lot of horses and a lot of them won over the next three days, so it was tough to not be out there. At least it was the end of the season, and now we’re healthy. It could have been a lot worse, so I’m grateful to be back. I always try to be positive. It is what it is. This is part of the game, unfortunately, but we all know that.”
“If I want to relax, I like to go on vacation to where there is a nice beach. I like to go with my family and have fun together. But I only like it to be about five days or a week, so I can come back fresh. If I go too long away from riding and being around the horses, I miss it. Two weeks is too much. I love what I do. I don’t look at it like a job. When you do something that you love it’s not a job. Hopefully, I can stay healthy and do this for many, many years.”
2022 Race Rewind:
Watch Rafael Hernandez and Moira take the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks Presented by Budweiser on July 24, 2022.
Click here (www.youtube.com/watch?v=emCZBzdU8v0) to watch the race.
Chris Lomon, Woodbine Communications / @WoodbineComms