Hailing from the red-hot Martin Drexler stable, Blurricane will seek a repeat victory in the $100,000 Ballade Stakes for Ontario-sired fillies and mares this Sunday at Woodbine Racetrack.

Owned by the Lee, Mitchell, Bell and Bell partnership, the experienced mare won the six-furlong sprint last year and is the leading victress in this year’s full field of 10 for wins with nine and top earnings of $468,449. The six-year-old daughter of Rebellion will be making her season’s debut in Sunday’s stakes feature.

“It was a little bit of a rough time getting her going because of the weather so we were a little bit up against it for awhile, but I think we’ve got her there now,” reported Drexler. “You always think you want to be a little bit tighter I suppose first time out going in a stakes race, but she actually won this race last year off a pretty similar lay off and similar work pattern leading up to it. I’m reasonably comfortable with where I am, but like I said, it’s not an easy spot.

“We claimed her for $25,000 three years ago so she doesn’t own us anything, but she’s a nice filly, she’s a game filly and she’s doing really well right now. We’ll just take a shot. The owners are coming in from out west. They’re going to be in town for the weekend so hopefully it works out.”

Blurricane captured the 2017 Ballade with a driving rally from near the back of the pack, upsetting at odds of 14-1. On Sunday, the defending champion will face some familiar foes that she defeated in last year’s race including Crumlin Spirit, graded stakes winner Code Warrior and Sparkles’ Girl, who finished second through fourth.

Jockey Jerome Lermyte will be partnered with Blurricane for the first time, but Drexler said everything else is status quo.

“Towards the end of last year, she had a couple of rough trips,” he said. “She’s a little bit quirky to ride so that’s why we have a new rider on her. She only has one way of running. She’s a deep, deep off the pace closer even though she seems to have shown a little more speed lately. When Da Silva won with her last year, she closed from near last to win it by a neck at the wire. I think you’re always at the mercy of the traffic and how the pace sets up. That’s kind of the one thing with a horse like her, you always have to find your way through a bunch of horses and it’s just not always the easiest thing to do.”

The Ballade was Drexler’s only stakes win in 2017 and just his second at Woodbine since he relocated from Manitoba in 2009 to race fulltime at the Toronto racetrack. His other Woodbine stakes win was with Wildcat Marie in the Grade 3 Whimsical in 2011.

“Toronto has been great. I couldn’t have asked for more really. Every year seems like it’s getting a little better, a little stronger,” said Drexler, who currently trains a stable of 35 horses. “We do like claiming so that’s one thing with our operation, we’re kind of at the mercy of what’s out there for the most part. We run a claiming stable for the most part, and I really enjoy claiming a lot, but I would obviously like to get my hands on a few more decent, higher end stakes-type of horses to be able to run for a little more money.”

Following a career-year in 2017 in which he tied for fourth-place in the Woodbine trainer standings with 42 victories and cracked the million-dollar earnings mark, Drexler is off to a fantastic start at the current meet with wins in half of his 10 starts and on-the-board finishes 80 per cent of the time.

“It’s been a good go. I’m happy with how the year has started,” he said.

Listenlindalisten, a two-time stakes winner last year, will make her four-year-old debut in the Ballade for Mark Casse, who also trains supplemental entry West L. A. Girl. The field also included the lightly-raced four-year-old filly Little Christy, who won her first start of the year from the Catherine Day Phillips stable on April 29. Scotty’s Model, Silent Sonet and Sugar Jones, who all competed in the Whimsical Stakes, are also contenders.

Here is a look at the complete field for Sunday’s Ballade Stakes, which is scheduled as race eight on the 1 p.m. program:

$100,000 Ballade Stakes
Post – Horse – Jockey – Trainer – Weight
1. Scotty’s Model – Rafael Hernandez – Norman McKnight – 118
2. Blurricane – Jerome Lermyte – Martin Drexler – 120
3. Silent Sonet – Eurico Rosa Da Silva – Nicholas Gonzalez – 120
4. West L. A. Girl (S) – Patrick Husbands – Mark Casse – 118
5. Sugar Jones – Alan Garcia – Michael Mattine – 118
6. Crumlin Spirit – David Moran – Michael Doyle – 118
7. Sparkles’ Girl – Slade Callaghan – John Charalambous – 120
8. Code Warrior – Luis Contreras – Michael De Paulo – 120
9. Listenlindalisten – Patrick Husbands – Mark Casse – 122
10. Little Christy – Gary Boulanger – Catherine Day Phillips – 118