To look at her, you’d swear she’s just a small yearling.
To put a bidle on her, and a jock, you’d think she would collapse under the impost.
Step her up in trip, give her a touch of maturity (with 3 race starts) and we have a racehorse who came in at 186 to 1 – Woodbine’s longest priced winner of the entire year….probably the decade.
And she did it with such late race fanfare and rallying, you’d have to feel there are more wins in store for tiny Toy Show (Bodemeister-Dance America).
To recap, just a few weeks back on a frigid December evening in Ontario, with a ‘I hate Canada’ type of minus 10 degree wind blowing in their faces, little, tiny, blinker-hooded Toy Show for trainer Ross Armata Jnr, and unfashionable rider Sunny Singh, stormed home from 2nd last of 11 to win her maiden running away. And at that price, she probably had just one person betting her because it seemed only the Expat Aussie racecaller, Rob Geller, was excited by the victory.
No-one made a sound or applauded the win on track other than Geller.
“And while I smiled a lot, it wasn’t me who bet her either, “ claimed Armata looking for a cat to kick. “I was in the bar leading up to the race with a few friends and no one bothered to even talk about her.
“I wasn’t asked if she even had a chance that night, but after the race I knew the bar and my friends was not a place I wanted to go back to. They would have killed me for not tipping her to them.”
But how could he have?
After all the immature filly had run last on debut beaten 26 lengths by the winner. That was in an Allowance. So after that inglorious effort, she was dropped in for a $40k claimer and was beaten 10 lengths, again finishing at the rear.
“Both those runs made me scratch my head,” recalled Armata. “She had worked really, really well. I mean, like an allowance horse or better.
“She was exciting to watch, not just for me, but anyone who rode her in the morning. I even had Raffi (Raphael Hernandez the No 2 jockey in all of Woodbine) ride her one morning and I swear he jumped off and said, “She moves beautifully. She is special. I’d like to ride her in a race.’
“But then she raced like that and no-one, from Max my regular stable work rider and other jocks could figure it out.”
She just appeared incapable of stretching out once they turned for home. “So the owner said her pedigree was that of an Oaks filly so let’s train her for a trip.
“Which I did. And she responded. She just relaxed and worked the house down and after a few weeks I ran her over a mile for a $25,000 tag.
Finally she showed something. She was 2nd to the home bend but just ran out of gas in the straight and was eased back to 8th I think as they crossed the line.”
Ross told the owner not to give up on her after that run, advice the owner kinda, sorta maybe didn’t want to hear. What helped him believe Ross was the fact the run was better but, right about that time, the progeny of Bodemeister started winning all over North America too. They just needed time.
Bodexpress being one of them. He, you may recall, lost his rider in one of the Triple Crown races, the Preakness, then ran the entire race with the field, but was then spelled.
Since resuming as a late 3YO he has taken all before him winning major races by big margins.
And he started his win campaign at the same time Toy Show ran an improved 8th, if that’s possible, in a $25k claimer.
“I truly thought that day,” recalled Armata, “that she tried hard and was beaten primarily by the huge step up in trip, not because she was a hopeless racehorse, so we decided to come down a furlong and see what she really can do.
“So I had her in another $25k claimer and this was 7 furlongs. I told the owner she will run a huge race I guarantee it. But the morning of the race I noticed her hobbling a little. I picked up the hoof and saw she had an abscess. I think she may have had it in there for some time, and who knows, while she ran so poorly, and every time she was asked to go hard, it hurt her.
“Anyway, I drained it, gave her a week off and watched her steadily come back. Every morning was the same. Riders would tell me how good she was.”
The healing hoof was perhaps one side of this tale, but we know that horses are pack animals so they tend to run together and chase each other.
Very young ones, like Toy Show was, knowingly and unashamedly imitated others running beside the older ones, snorting and breathing hard just to stay close. Then, ever-so-slowly, by what process I have no idea, possibly it’s something as finite as maturity, their running styles tend to crystallize, to take shape.
All the moves they’ve learned from all these guys who ride, them, and the horses who raced them, are somehow incorporated into their own style.
Pretty soon you’re not imitating any longer.
“And that’s obviously what happened with her. She ran without pain and she ran like her pedigree suggests and her trackwork indicated. That final quarter mile coming from that far back on such a cold night was breathtaking,” said Armata.
So, though, is that it for the longest shot to have won at Woodbine in many, many years? A maiden win? Now that it’s done – now the story ends?
To the outsider looking on, probably so, because it was a freak, never-to-occur run again. Horses just don’t keep winning after doing nothing for three starts, then winning at 186-1. Their 15 minutes of fame is the art of fiction, which in reality is dead.
Because, hasn’t reality strangled invention? Only the utterly impossible, the inexpressibly fantastic, can ever be plausible again.
So is Toy Show inexpressibly fantastic?
And how did she get that name?
Well, question one will be answered when she returns from her well-earned winter rest in Ontario next year. “I think she may be special,” said Ross. “She does need to grow a bit though.” Question two is easier to answer.
And I shall answer it for I know the story better than anyone. That’s because I named her!
As a child, I attended racing in Sydney for the first time one Saturday afternoon and saw a wonder 2YO filly called Toy Show. She just dominated her peers with contempt, and I thought her the grandest creature I’d ever seen. I followed her every start and it was the Aussie Toy Show that thrust me headlong into horse racing.
After she won the world’s richest 2YO race, the Gr 1 Golden Slipper, she came back as a 3YO and won the Gr 1 Newmarket Hcp, an open race. Fillies just don’t do that.
Those wins meant her name was struck from EVER being used in Australia again. But not so here.
Toy Show, the Canadian-named version meant nothing to anyone in North America, so I chose it to start her career off. I even purchased the exact colours – cerise (hot pink) with a yellow cap – that the original Toy Show carried to immortality back in Australia. She did that in the mid 1970s.
It is well known that the older a man grows, the faster he could run as a boy. Much the same principle applies to the telling of tales, but the original Aussie Toy Show was very fast.
Is this Canadian version as fast? Again, hard to say. She certainly isn’t as quick but that last quarter spurt to win her maiden leaves the imagination open to many possibilities. “Jockey Sunny Singh got off and just looked me in the face with bewilderment that night she won.
“He said, ‘Ross, this filly didn’t even let go. She still has another gear.’
“So who knows, but the owner and I are looking forward to her racing next season.”
Aghh, true indeed Ross. But the price she won at remains a dark moment for the owner.
When will she or any horse ever win paying 186-1 at Woodbine again?
And no, sadly, the owner didn’t have a coin on her.
I know….because I’m the owner….. and she represents the best advertisement I’ve ever seen for people to buy a race horse.
On with the Show…this is it!