Gigantic Breeze and Gamble’s Ghost will set out to defend their titles in this year’s editions of the Grade 2 Autumn and Grade 3 Maple Leaf Stakes co-featured on Saturday’s 11-race program, which will have a special post time of 12:20 p.m.
Trained by Alex ‘Sandy’ McPherson for Hopefield Farm, Gigantic Breeze will face eight other formidable foes in the $175,000 Autumn Stakes to be run over 1-1/16 miles.
The five-year-old Giant’s Causeway gelding has been a top contender in his first three graded stakes assignments this year at Woodbine, including a second-place effort in the Grade 3 Seagram Cup on August 12. From there, he shipped stateside and rallied from the back of an 11-horse field to finish fifth in the mid-September Presque Isle Mile, a race he won last year before taking the Autumn Stakes.
“He’s had a light campaign as far as racing goes,” said McPherson. “He’s been firing on all eight cylinders all year. He’s been good, but not really, really good. He’s had some physical issues, little things, but we’ve freshened him up a bit after the trip down to Presque Isle and he’s had two good works. We’re just hoping that things will go his way. It helps when things go your way.”
With his former jockey Gary Boulanger opting to ride the Norm McKnight-trained Decorated Solider, who won the Seagram Cup and Presque Isle Mile, Kazushi Kimura will pick up the mount on Gigantic Breeze.
“Gary took off him to ride Norm McKnight’s horse and that proved to be a good decision because he won the race [Seagram Cup] and we were second in it and then the horse went down to Presque Isle and beat us again down there so he’s tough. He’s in good form right now. I saw the horse – we were stabled right beside him – and he looks great. He’s a formidable horse and he’s really good right now.”
McPherson also tipped his hat to Grade 1 Ricoh Woodbine Mile runner-up Mr Havercamp, the 7-5 morning line favourite from the Catherine Day Phillips stable, and the accomplished Roger Attfield trainees Shakhimat and millionaire Are You Kidding Me, who won back-to-back Autumn Stakes editions in 2015-16.
“It’s not an easy race, but we’re in it,” said McPherson. “It’s our last start of the year. We’ll freshen up and regroup again and hope to be back for next year. But like I say, it’s no easy race. These horses are tough, they’re not a bunch of pretenders.”
The field also includes Florida Won and Giant Storm, both also conditioned by McKnight, as well as a pair of Mark Casse trainees fresh off graded stakes wins at Woodbine, Lookin for Eight and Lookin to Strike.
Gamble’s Ghost headlines a field of 11 fillies and mares as the 5-2 morning line favourite in Saturday’s co-featured $125,000 Maple Leaf Stakes. The five-year-old Ghostzapper mare heads into the 1-1/4 mile event riding a three-race win streak that includes victories in the Grade 3 Trillium, Grade 3 Ontario Matron and Belle Mahone for trainer Josie Carroll and owner/breeder Ivan Dalos. She will have top jockey Eurico Rosa Da Silva aboard as she tries to repeat in the Maple Leaf from the outside post and add to Dalos’ meeting-leading stakes win total of seven.
With the Breeders’ Cup continuing on Saturday at Churchill Downs, local horse racing fans can experience the world championships in style at Woodbine’s inaugural Breeders’ Cup Bash in partnership with Friends of We Care. Hosted by Brigitte Truong, the party will begin at 12 p.m. in the Northern Dancer Room and includes a special selection of gourmet food and specialty cocktails prepared by Woodbine’s culinary team. For complete event information or to purchase tickets, visit https://woodbine.com/events/breeders-cup-bash/
Here is a look at the complete fields for Saturday’s stakes at Woodbine:
$175,000 Autumn Stakes (Grade 2) – Race 8
1. Lookin for Eight – Jerome Lermyte – Mark Casse
2. Florida Won – Patrick Husbands – Norm McKnight
3. Gigantic Breeze – Kazushi Kimura – Alex McPherson
4. Lookin to Strike – Jerome Lermyte – Mark Casse
5. Decorated Soldier – Gary Boulanger – Norm McKnight
6. Are You Kidding Me – Rafale Hernandez – Roger Attfield
7. Shakhimat – Emma-Jayne Wilson – Roger Attfield
8. Giant Storm – Ademar Santos – Norm McKnight
9. Mr Havercamp – Eurico Rosa Da Silva – Catherine Day Phillips
$125,000 Maple Leaf Stakes (Grade 3) – Race 6
1. Pamina – Emma-Jayne Wilson – Michael Dickinson
2. Lift Up – Patrick Husbands – Michael Dickinson
3. Giada Vegas – Jerome Lermyte – Mark Casse
4. Empressof the Nile – Rafael Hernandez – Harold James Bond
5. Mythical Mission – Alan Garcia – Graham Motion
6. Not Taken – Ashley Castrenze – Jeremiah O’Dwyer
7. A. A. Azula’s Arch – Omar Moreno – Kevin Attard
8. Trini Brewnette – Kazushi Kimura – Kevin Attard
9. Summer Luck – Gary Boulanger – Mark Casse
10. Bletchley (GB) – Jerome Lermyte – Mark Casse
11. Gamble’s Ghost – Eurico Rosa Da Silva – Josie Carroll