Scotty’s Model, at age eight, registered her first stakes victory last time out in the restricted Ballade Stakes. On Sunday, the Bruno Schickedanz-owned homebred could be in line for graded stakes success in the $125,000 Hendrie Stakes (Grade 3), a 6 1/2 furlong race for fillies and mares.
“She’s been an iron-tough old mare,” said Scotty’s Model’s trainer, Norm McKnight. “Unfortunately, she’s been nosed out a couple of times in graded races but she’s never been able to get there.”
Scotty’s Model was part of McKnight’s string when the trainer wintered at Oaklawn Park for the first time this year but was unplaced in two starts.
“We could tell she didn’t like the dirt the first time she breezed on it,” said McKnight, who leads the Woodbine meeting with 28 scores for an astonishing win percentage of 49. “She wanted no part of it.
“But, we had her down there and the game plan was just to try and keep her up so she’d be ready when we got back here.”
Scotty’s Model returned to form when making her local seasonal bow in the Grade 3 Whimsical, a six-furlong race in which she closed strongly to be beaten just over a half-length by Let It Ride Mom and Moonlit Promise.
Three weeks later, she was a going-away two-length winner of the Ballade after breaking from the inside post.
“She seems to have come out of that last race in good shape; she breezed back really well,” said McKnight. “Everything looks positive at the moment.
“I think she’s probably doing as good as I’ve ever seen her. I hope she’ll show that on Sunday.”
Leading rider Rafael Hernandez, who has enjoyed much success with McKnight, retains the mount on Scotty’s Model, who drew favourably in post eight.
Let It Ride Mom and Moonlit Promise also are back for the Hendrie.
The Kentucky-bred four-year-old Let It Ride Mom, who had won stakes here at seven furlongs and 1 1/16 miles, was making her first start of 2018 for trainer Mark Casse.
“I thought the Whimsical might be a little short for her,” said Casse. “But she was able to overcome some traffic problems and still win. I thought she was impressive.”
Let It Ride Mom will begin from post seven under returning rider Patrick Husbands.
Moonlit Promise was three-for-three in 2017, with all of her starts here in stakes including a head win over Scotty’s Model in the Grade 2 Bessarabian.
The five-year-old Kentucky-bred, conditioned by Josie Carroll, was the runner-up in the Sovereign Award voting behind stablemate Ami’s Mesa in both the female sprinter and older female categories.
Beginning her current campaign at Gulfstream, Moonlit Promise competed in two seven-furlong graded stakes, finishing fourth in the Grade 3 Hurricane Bertie but last of seven in the Grade 2 Inside Information.
“Her first race was good,” said Carroll. “We were a little disappointed with her trip in her second race.”
Back at Woodbine, Moonlit Promise was back to herself with her near-miss as the favourite in the Whimsical.
“I was pretty happy with the way she ran up here,” said Carroll. “She shows up every time; she’s a very consistent filly.”
Moonlit Promise must overcome the one-hole with regular rider Gary Boulanger doing the honours.
Code Warrior, runner-up in the Ballade, won last year’s Hendrie when trained by Rachel Halden.
The Florida-bred five-year-old was purchased for $190,000 at Keeneland last November and will seek the Hendrie repeat for new owner Rob Marzilli and trainer Mike DePaulo.
Code Warrior was successful first time out for her new barn, taking Gulfstream’s Abundantia over five furlongs of turf, but then finished sixth there in the Ladies’ Turf Sprint at the same distance.
In the Ballade, Code Warrior found herself on the front end early and could not contain the late charge of Scotty’s Model.
“She ran really, really good last time; I’m a little concerned she’s coming back too quick,” said DePaulo, who again will give rider Luis Contreras a leg up on Code Warrior.
Jennifer Lynnette, beaten 1 1/4 lengths when third in last year’s Hendrie, is a second Team Casse entrant in this year’s edition.
The five-year-old became a stakes winner here in last summer’s Grade 3 Royal North, a six-furlong turf race, and was slated to make her local seasonal bow on that surface in the May 27 Nassau.
“That morning she had a temperature so we had to scratch her,” said Casse. “She only missed two days of training.
“She’s probably a little better on the grass.”
Just Be Kind won a minor stake in Florida this winter, capturing the six-furlong Minaret at Tampa Bay Downs.
The four-year-old Kentucky-bred finished an even seventh in the Whimsical, beaten less than three lengths while trapped on the rail.
“She’s doing great; she’s just got to get a trip,” said trainer Reade Baker, who also owns Just Be Kind in partnership with Roger Fortier and Rick Mah.
“Last time, she never got a chance to run until the last 70 yards.”
Rounding out the Hendrie field will be shippers Tulsa Queen, Moon River and Lady Oak.
The four-year-old Tulsa Queen, winner of the seven-furlong Duchess Stakes here last summer, is trained by Ryan Walsh.
Based at Presque Isle Downs, Walsh sent out Cactus Kris to win the 2016 Hendrie and two earlier Woodbine stakes.
The Irish-bred Moon River, a multiple minor stakes winner in England, is winless in six starts this side of the pond and is based in Kentucky with trainer and part-owner Fred Seitz.
Lady Oak, also bred in Ireland, won her maiden there and has been on the improve while racing at Presque Isle Downs.
$125,000 Hendrie Stakes (Grade 3)
1/Moonlit Promise/Gary Boulanger/Josie Carroll
2/Just Be Kind/Chris Husbands/Reade Baker
3/Code Warrior/Luis Contreras/Michael De Paulo
4/Lucky Oak/David Moran/Glenn Wismer
5/Jennifer Lynnette/Eurico Rosa da Silva/Mark Casse
6/Moon River/Steven Bahen/Fred Seitz
7/Let It Ride Mom/Patrick Husbands/Mark Casse
8/Scotty’s Model/Rafael Hernandez/Norm McKnight
9/Tulsa Queen/Huber Villa-Gomez/Ryan Walsh