The Grand Forks International Baseball Tournament (GFI) is pleased to announce that for the first time in tournament history Australia will be coming to Grand Forks. The Geelong Baycats will be representing the Australian Baseball Federation. Their team manager, Nathan Holmes, said, “The Geelong Baycats are extremely proud to be offered an invitation to this prestigious tournament. Our players are thrilled at the opportunity of representing Australian baseball and the Geelong community on the international stage in Grand Forks.” Australia will take its place alongside other nations who have previously participated at the GFI. Taiwan, Japan, China, Russia and Mexico have all been here. However, one tournament record will be broken even before play begins on Aug. 31 – this will be the farthest any team has travelled to attend this tournament. Geelong is a city of almost 200,000 and is in Victoria, the second most populous state in Australia. Melbourne, 75 kilometres from Geelong, is its capital. The Geelong Baseball Club has been very active in developing the sport in Australia. This season the Baycats won their first ever Division One Club Championship and made their second appearance in the Championship series, losing a hotly contested final to the Waverly Wildcats. They were selected as the Club of the Year and Nathan Holmes received Coach of the Year honours. They have arguably the best playing facility in Australia. There are about 25 baseball players from Australia who have made it to the major leagues. The Geelong Baycats organization has long been producing young baseball talent and their most recognizable export to the big leagues in the United States is Graeme Lloyd. Lloyd pitched for 10 years while playing for 7 different clubs which included helping the New York Yankees to World Series titles in 1996 and ’98. Most fittingly he also played for both the Toronto Blue Jays and Montreal Expos during his pro career. His birthplace was Geelong, Victoria, Australia. And years later the team from his home town will participate in Canada’s richest invitational baseball tournament. In the letter confirming their attendance at the GFI they wrote, “We can’t wait for the umpire to call ‘Play Ball’ on our first game in Grand Forks. City of Grand Forks, province of BC and yes, even Canada, get ready, plan to be at the GFI August 31 to September 5 for the Aussies are coming!
IN ADDITION TO ‘ABBEY’ TRAINER D’AMATO WILL ALSO BE REPRESENTED BY CLASSY COMEBACKER BIG JOHN B ARCADIA, Calif. (April 19, 2015)–Although they will both be racing for the second time off lengthy layoffs, the similarities end there as up and coming Abbey Vale and classy Quick Casablanca figure prominently among a field of eight older horses set to go 1 ¼ miles on turf in Saturday’s Grade III, $100,000 Last Tycoon Stakes at Santa Anita.Speedy Abbey Vale overcame an 11-month absence to win a second condition allowance here on March 27, as he pressed the pace and went on to an impressive one length win at 1 1/8 miles on turf. Trained by Phil D’Amato, the 5-year-old Irish-bred was originally conditioned by the late Mike Mitchell, who sent him out to a 1 ¼ length win in his U.S. debut going a flat mile on turf on March 8, 2014.With two wins from three Southern California starts, Abbey Vale, who is owned by Ellis, R/M Racing and Sim, will try graded stakes competition for the first time and is 18-3-4-1 overall with earnings of $98,014.D’Amato will also be represented by classy Big John B, who has been idle since running ninth, beaten 5 ¼ lengths in the Grade I, 1 ½ miles Breeders’ Cup Turf on Nov. 1. A winner of the Grade II, 1 3/8 miles turf Del Mar Handicap three starts back on Aug. 23, the late running Big John B will again be handled by regular rider Mike Smith. Owned by Michael House, the 6-year-old gelding by Hard Spun is 30-11-5-4 overall with earnings of $482,805.Chilean-bred Quick Casablanca, an imposing physical specimen who won last year’s Last Tycoon in his first start for Ron McAnally, came off a nine-month freshening to run a close eighth, beaten 5 ½ lengths, in the one mile turf Thunder Road Stakes on April 4. A Group I winner in Argentina in March, 2012, 7-year-old Quick Casablanca is 20-4-7-5, with earnings of $612,830.Neil Drysdale’s Power Foot comes off a good third in the Grade II, 1 ½ miles turf San Luis Rey Stakes on March 21 and he’ll get the services for the first time of Rafael Bejarano.The complete field for the Grade III Last Tycoon, to be run as the eighth race on a nine-race card Saturday, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Big John B, Mike Smith, 122; Power Foot, Rafael Bejarano, 120; Ganesh, Flavien Prat, 122; Joes Blazing Aaron, Tyler Baze, 120; Play Hard to Get, Kent Desormeaux, 120; Si Sage, Elvis Trujillo, 120; Quick Casablanca, Gary Stevens, 120, and Abbey Vale, Tiago Periera, 120. First post time on Saturday is at 12:30 p.m. Admission gates open at 10:30 a.m.