Is Bob McIntosh primed for a big year?

The Hall of Fame trainer sports a .540 training average already this year — and that’s before the return of such stars as L A Delight and Tony Soprano and some other promising youngsters hit full stride.

by Sandra Snyder

With two months to go before the major stakes season begins, trainer Bob McIntosh already has his LaSalle, ON-based operation firing on all cylinders. In addition to supervising the preparations for L A Delight and Tony Soprano’s sophomore seasons and readying this year’s two-year-olds for their racing careers, McIntosh and his staff have been racking up wins at Woodbine Racetrack, The Raceway at Western Fair District and Flamboro Downs.

“I’ve been pretty happy so far, the way things have been racing and the way they’re coming back. It’s been a pretty good start to the year, that’s for sure,” said McIntosh. “Just got to keep it up, that’s all; keep the nose to the grindstone.”

McIntosh horses have made 45 starts through March 25, posting 18 wins, six seconds and nine thirds for earnings of $120,745. The Hall of Fame horseman sports a sharp .540 training average and has horses such as Mach Power and Thoughtyoudlikeit to thank.

Through six starts, Mach Power, a three-year-old son of Mach Three, has posted five wins and one third, winning his March 10 start at Woodbine Racetrack in a personal best 1:53.2. Four-year-old Ponder son Thoughtyoudlikeit had strung together six straight wins over The Raceway at Western Fair District oval before injuring himself in a third-place effort at Flamboro Downs on March 13.

Both colts had been pleasant surprises to McIntosh, especially Mach Power, who was not among his favorites as a two-year-old.

“I’ve had some surprises, like Mach Power. I would have given him away last fall as a two-year-old and he’s just totally one of those nice surprises, where you can’t believe how good he is, because he trained down okay and then he got to racing and he blew me away,” McIntosh said. “And I think I got another nice colt — he didn’t race at all last year, hardly — called Emperor, he’s a Ponder. He’s in the Youthful on Saturday night (March 26), and I won’t say he’ll do it Saturday night, but he’s going to work into a pretty nice horse.”

A half-sibling to three $100,000-plus winners, Emperor finished third in his March 13 debut at Flamboro Downs in spite of broken equipment. McIntosh shares ownership of Mach Power with Dave Boyle of Bowmanville, ON and Emperor with his cousin Al McIntosh of Leamington, ON and Gordon Wright of Charlotte, MI.

While Mach Power and Emperor are attempting to make their mark on the local stakes circuit, stable stars L A Delight and Tony Soprano continue to prep for their return to major stakes competition, and McIntosh said both horses are right on track.

“We’re 2:18 now and we’ll be in 2:15 next week. She couldn’t be training any better,” said the trainer of O’Brien award winner L A Delight. “We’ve let her hopples out a couple inches longer and she’s put some muscle on — I wouldn’t say she grew a whole lot, but she got a lot thicker — and her attitude is just tremendous. She’s right where I want her to be.”

Staked only in Ontario as a two-year-old, L A Delight will have an opportunity to race across North America if her sophomore efforts match her freshman exploits. The daughter of Bettors Delight and West of L A went 11 for 12 at two, earning just over $533,000 for McIntosh and his partners C S X Stables of Liberty Center, OH and the trainer’s cousin, Al.

The filly’s first sophomore start could come in the WEG-SBOA Stake Eliminations at Mohawk Racetrack on May 21 or the Ontario Sires Stakes (OSS) Gold Series season opener June 4 at Mohawk.

“That SBOA, it’s May 21st, and we might be ready, but I’m sure as hell not going to press a panic button to get her ready for it,” the trainer said. “But I’m hoping she’s ready for that. It would be a great place to start. We’ll just have to see how it plays out. If not that, she’ll start in a Sires Stake.”

Like L A Delight, Tony Soprano has been in 2:18 as of March 25 and McIntosh is expecting another strong year from the OSS champion, who tallied four wins, one second, two thirds and $225,094 in 11 starts last season.

“He’s coming great too,” says McIntosh, who owns the son of Kadabra and Windsong Soprano with Mardon Stables of Loretto, ON, Paradox Farm Inc. of Caledon East, ON and Dave Boyle. “I actually measured his height after the Breeders Crown and he was like 15.2hh, and I sent him down to Carter Duer’s for a while, and when I brought him back I measured him and he’s 16.2hh now. So, he grew longer and taller. I think he’s going to have a good year if nothing goes wrong.”

McIntosh said he hopes to see Tony Soprano make his 2016 debut in the Goodtimes Stake at Mohawk on June 10 where he’ll be reunited with Hall of Fame reinsman John Campbell.

“I just got off the phone with John actually a few minutes ago and we were talking about him,” McIntosh said. “I talk to him every couple weeks, every two or three weeks. We touch base and talk shop of course a lot of the times, but about a lot of things too going on in the business, not just my horses. Beyond anything else he’s been a great friend for more years than I care to admit.”

Among the other horses that come up in McIntosh and Campbell’s conversations is Mach Three colt New Talent. Out of You See L A, a half-sister to L A Delight’s dam, New Talent made 11 starts last season, scoring one win, three seconds and $65,258 for McIntosh, C S X Stables and Al McIntosh. The colt showed flashes of potential at two, and both trainer and driver are hoping some added maturity translates into greater success this season.

“That horse has a big motor and a big set of lungs. And John, that’s one he always asks about. He is very high on his potential, John is. Last year, training him as a two-year-old, he wasn’t too smart,” McIntosh said. “I think he’s mentally matured quite a bit, so if he can do that I think he’ll be a force to be reckoned with.”

McIntosh said he is also hoping for a strong sophomore season from Ponder colt Think On It, who ranked among the trainer’s favorites last season before injury cut his campaign short after just five starts.

“I thought he was the best colt I had last year. If you look back at his early lines, I think he won his maiden in 1:54, and then he raced in a Gold and was locked in tight and paced in 1:52 and a bit, with loads of pace, and then he popped a curb,” McIntosh said. “I trained him in 2:01 on Monday.”

McIntosh owns Think On It with Dave Boyle and James Walker of Port Perry, ON. “He’s a big gorgeous animal. He’s staked up good; right or wrong I staked him to everything. He showed he’s got a lot of ability, lots of ability.”

Among the other horses McIntosh expects strong a strong effort from this season is trotting filly Tough Affair, the runner-up in the Grassroots Championship last fall.

“She was always kind of a slight filly last year, not a lot of muscle mass, and this year she’s thickened up,” said McIntosh of the Muscle Mass daughter he owns with C S X Stables. “Where she’ll fit in I don’t know. It would be nice to be a Gold, but if she’s not a Gold she’ll be a top Grassrooter, I think, anyway.”

As for two-year-olds McIntosh is training a sizeable contingent, as usual, but is reluctant to point to any future stars at this stage in their education.

“I’d just say I’m pretty pleased with the way things are going. This time of year you know the ones you hate. The ones you like, you don’t know how good they are, but you do know the ones you hate,” said the horseman with a laugh. “That’s about the best way I could put it — I’ve got more that I like than I hate — that’s my way of summing up my two-year-olds.”