Cooler Mike is hot stuff to his trainer, despite falling short in stakes race

Cooler Mike finished second by a neck in the $100,000 Steady Growth Stakes Saturday. (Michael Burns photo)

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Woodbine trainer Nick Nosowenko was all smiles on Saturday afternoon, despite the fact Lady Luck delivered yet another right hook to his solar plexus.

Nosowenko’s four-year-old chestnut Cooler Mike finished second by a neck to the outstanding bay Kingsport in the $100,000 Steady Growth Stakes at the Rexdale track, a 1 1/16 mile race the son of Giant Gizmo out of Executive Affair looked like he might win. But in the end, the Sid Attard-trained Kingsport prevailed with an inspired charge in the stretch.

For Cooler Mike, that’s two second-place finishes, two thirds and three fourths in the seven stakes he has started, and no wins. Two of those third finishes came in Canadian Triple Crown races in 2018 the Queen’s Plate and the Prince of Wales Stakes, finishing behind superstar Wonder Gadot and Aheadbyacentury on both occasions.

Some trainers might be bitter with so many near-misses in money-added races, but an upbeat Nosowenko, who co-owns Cooler Mike in partnership with his father Mike Nosowenko, had nothing praise for his horse and his jockey, Jesse Campbell, after the Steady Growth Stakes.

“Don’t worry, we’ll win a stakes,” Nosowenko said of Cooler Mike, whose career earnings with Saturday’s place pay-off takes his lifetime earnings close to $300,000.

“He’s a solid horse. He’s honest. He was on fire today. You know, he’s the last one standing right out off the Queen’s Plate last year. Hopefully we’ll keep rolling and do some damage.”

Nosowenko said the 4-5 favorite Kingsport, ridden by Patrick Husbands, just proved to be the better horse on the day, catching the leaders, Nipigon, Thor’s Rocket and Cooler Mike in the stretch for the victory in 1:43.35. Thor’s Rocket finished third.

“He left (the starting gate) sharp,” said Husbands of Kingsport. “He relaxed going in the first turn and I was just smiling seeing three of them going head-to-head, you know, and I got a perfect trip. When I reached about the three-eighths pole, I said, ‘Let’s go, boy!’, and he just jumped on the bridle and it was just a matter of time.”

A career winner of nearly $950,000 in purses, Kingsport now has a dozen victories (including nine stakes) to go along with 10 other top three finishes from 32 starts for Goldmart Farms and Royal Laser Racing Inc.

Despite missing the winner’s circle again, Nosowenko said he’s a lucky man to have a horse like Cooler Mike, who has won three times in 13 career starts.

“He’s a cool dude,” said Nosowenko of his homebred who almost got away.

“We put a reserve on the horse at the sale. And he got sold, he met the reserve, and the guy wouldn’t sign the ticket. So we had to take the horse back,” Nosowenko said. “It’s funny how it works out sometimes.”

Mike and Nick Nosowenko have been staples at the Woodbine backstretch for decades and a custom started by Mike many years ago is how Cooler Mike got his name.

“Every time one of (my dad’s) horses ran, he’d bring a cooler (to his workers in the backside) and have a few beers with everybody and it just became a regular thing,” said Nick. “And we figured, ‘Well, let’s name this one after him’ and Cooler Mike was fitting.

“My dad’s been here for 40 years looking after the people on the backside. He knows how hard they work,” Nick continued. “It’s a tough game back there. People work odd hours and a lot of people don’t realize what goes in to get a horse to the this stage. Three o’clock in the morning comes early sometimes.”

“You don’t get to see all the basketball games,” Nosowenko added with a laugh.
Nosowenko was asked if he and his dad would be taking a cooler to the backside after Cooler Mike’s second place finish on Saturday.

“The cooler’s packed and ready to go and we’ll crack it open,” he said.

SBuffery@postmedia.com
Twitter @Beezersun

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