Championship titles were up for grabs Saturday, Nov. 21, at Woodbine, a cloudy, cool afternoon with 11 races and four stakes races.
The results of the races did not put an exclamation mark on any particular horse, however, as the mighty PINK LLOYD flattened out and was third in the Grade 2 Kennedy Road Stakes to RIDE A COMET, only recently back from a 2-year layoff.
Queen’s Plate and Prince of Wales winner MIGHTY HEART was back with his Breeders’ Stakes conqueror BELICHICK in the Grade 3 Ontario Derby on Tapeta but US invader FIELD PASS surged away to victory when he got room.
MERVEILLEUX has blossomed this fall and easily won the Ontario Damsel Stakes while rival and Woodbine Oaks winner Curlin’s Voyage floundered and the filly and mare division went haywire when the 3-year-olds ARTIE’S PRINCESS and BOARDROOM ran 1-2 in the Grade 2 Bessarabian Stakes.
The Thoroughbred industry was on pins and needles all day, hoping for a last-minute decision in which horse racing would be exempted from the Toronto/Peel lockdown, which begins at midnight Sunday. The rising number of COVID-19 cases in the Greater Toronto Area led to the province and health officials to set a lockdown for 28 days and horse racing, which was locked down in April (training only) is once again on the list.
The argument, however, is that the season has just 12 dates remaining over 3 weeks and the closed community on the backstretch are the only people going over with horses to race. The industry, HBPA and Woodbine, will hope to get an exemption today with continued talks.
So what about those races yesterday? Wagering topped $8 million on a super card.
Field Pass runs down rivals late to take Ontario Derby
It looked as though Field Pass (Lemon Drop Kid – Only Me by Runaway Groom) would be standing on the sidelines rather than the winner’s circle, but a late burst of speed netted the son of Lemon Drop Kid top prize in a thrilling edition of the $134,000 Ontario Derby (Grade 3), Saturday at Woodbine.
Ridden by Kazushi Kimura, Field Pass found a seam in deep stretch and recorded a one-length win as the 5-2 second choice, as he held off Breeders’ Stakes champ Belichick and a game Malibu Mambo to win the 1 1/8-mile added-money event. Mutuel favourite Mighty Heart, who won the Queen’s Plate and Prince of Wales Stakes, finished fourth.
It was Mighty Heart who seized control of the three-year-old race early on, with Malibu Mambo, Field Pass and Dune of Pilat keeping tabs on the Maryland-bred grey through an opening quarter-mile in :24.30 and a half-mile clocked in :47.92.
As Rafael Hernandez urged Mighty Heart to continue his front-running ways, Malibu Mambo, under Justin Stein, and Belichick, with Luis Contreras in the irons, began to circle in on the leader. Meanwhile, Field Pass found himself in traffic trouble, as Kimura worked to find an opening with the Three Diamonds Farm silks bearer.
In deep stretch, Kimura and Field Pass bulled their way between Belichick and Malibu Mambo en route to the Michael Maker trainee’s sixth career win in 15 starts.
The well-traveled colt covered the distance in an impressive 1:48.35, just missing the track record of 1:48.24 established by Global Access on September 28, 2019.
“My planning was that I didn’t want to get too forward, but I didn’t want to send him to the front,” said Kimura. “That was the perfect position, just waiting for room.”
The win was the fifth from nine starts on the campaign for Field Pass, who now has a trio of Grade 3s (the others are this year’s runnings of the Jeff Ruby Steaks, and Kentucky Utilities Transylvania Stakes).
He arrived for his first Woodbine start after back-to-back finishes in a pair of Grade 2 events, the American Turf Stakes on September 5 at Churchill Downs, and the Twilight Derby on October 18 at Santa Anita.
With the Ontario Derby win, Field Pass, who broke his maiden in his second start on July 13, 2019 at Saratoga, is 6-2-3 from 15 starts.
“Such a classy horse,” praised Kimura. “I’ve watched him many times, winning replays. He’s nice, a nice horse.”
Merveilleux a late-season marvel in Ontario Damsel
Following up her three-length Wonder Where win, Merveilleux turned in another dazzling performance in the $150,000 Ontario Damsel Stakes for Ontario-bred three-year-old fillies on Saturday at Woodbine Racetrack.
With Rafael Hernandez aboard, the Kevin Attard trainee stalked the duelling front-runners before launching her winning bid three-wide in the final turn of the 1-1/16-mile main track stakes event.
Avie’s Samurai left sharply and darted to the lead with Justleaveitalone joining her on top to trade blows through fractions of :24.91, :48.68 and 1:26.61. Reigning divisional champion and Woodbine Oaks winner Curlin’s Voyage attempted to circle the pacemakers approaching three-quarters, but the even-money favourite posed no threat down the lane.
At the top of the stretch, Merveilleux exploded with late pace and drew off by 3-1/4 lengths in 1:44.37, with Avie’s Samurai staying for second over the late-rallying Afleet Katherine, also trained by Attard. Ann of Cleves, Curlin’s Voyage and Justleaveitalone completed the order of finish.
“I just wanted to make sure to get the right move, at the right time,” said Hernandez. “I didn’t want to get it too early and then flatten out in the lane, but everything worked good in the whole race. We sat behind the speed horse, relaxed good and everything worked perfect today.”
Bred by Mike Carroll, the daughter of Paynter out of Breech Inlet now boasts three wins and third (in the Woodbine Oaks) from five sophomore starts for owners Al and Bill Ulwelling. The consistent filly has hit the board in eight of her 11 races lifetime.
“She was kind of misfortunate earlier in the year to have some rough trips and some bad racing luck, but she’s really put it together lately and I’m just happy to see it for the owners,” said Attard, via a video call after watching the race from home.
Merveilleux’s late-season stakes success puts her in the conversation for divisional Sovereign Award honours.
“The championship is not based on one or two months of the year, it’s over the season, and she’s obviously gotten better as the season’s gone on and she’s at the top of the division right now,” noted Attard. “We’re just happy that she’s progressed like we wanted her to and hopefully she turns out to be a nice four-year-old.”
Ride a Comet leads Casse exacta in Grade 2 Kennedy Road Stakes
Mark Casse trainees Ride a Comet and Souper Stonehenge swept the Kennedy Road Stakes exacta on Saturday at Woodbine, ending the win streak of reigning three-time champion male sprinter Pink Lloyd.
Patrick Husbands engineered the winning trip aboard the 5-2 second choice, Ride a Comet, who is now two-for-two since returning to action last month after a two-year layoff due to tendon issues.
Multiple graded stakes winner Silent Poet sprinted out to lead the talented field of seven in the six-furlong Grade 2 stakes with Eskiminzin pressing through fractions of :22.77 and :44.79, while Souper Stonehenge and Dixie’s Gamble stalked the pace.
Riding a 10-race win streak, even-money favourite Pink Lloyd raced outside of foes and staged a late rally from the four-path on the turn, but early trailer Ride a Comet gained ground along the rail and shot outside the front-runners in the stretch en route to a 1-1/4-length victory, with Live Oak Plantation’s Souper Stonehenge finishing second under Emma-Jayne Wilson.
Owned by breeder My Meadowview Farm and John Oxley, the five-year-old son of Candy Ride and Appealing Zophie came within one-fifth of a second of Pink Lloyd’s track record, winning in 1:08.25.
Ride a Comet paid $6.90 to win and combined with 9-1 shot Souper Stonehenge for a 2-1 exacta worth $50.30 for a $2 ticket. Pink Lloyd was a game third, finishing two lengths behind the runner-up and just ahead of Silent Poet. Eskiminzin, Roaring Forties and Dixie’s Gamble completed the field.
“He’s my favourite horse of all time…He went a good race, he showed he’s all class,” said Husbands, who was aboard for all four of Ride a Comet’s Woodbine starts including his impressive two-length comeback victory here on October 16.
“The last time I rode him, it was the first time we sprint and his first time in two years going seven-eighths. And he broke sharp, you know, and I eased him back because it was his first time in a long time so after the race I said to Mark, ‘he left there running and I eased him back.’ He said ‘alright, we’re going against Pink Lloyd next start.’
“Pink Lloyd, you have to respect him. He’s a legend at Woodbine, and it’s a great honour to run against him and try to beat him. When you beat him, you’ve got to be really happy, but you have to respect him.”
Ride a Comet, who also won the Charlie Barley Stakes over one-mile of turf at Woodbine in 2018 with Husbands and the Grade 2 Del Mar Derby over 1-1/8 miles later that year, now has seven wins from a dozen lifetime starts.
Ontario-bred Artie’s Princess queen of the Grade 2 Bessarabian
Artie’s Princess, a three-year-old Ontario-bred daughter of We Miss Artie, won her second straight stakes at Woodbine, and notched her first graded crown, in taking the $197,750 Bessarabian (Grade 2) at the Toronto oval on Saturday.
The trio of Jakarta, Souper Escape and Artie’s Princess zipped out of the gate in the seven-furlong Bessarabian, matching strides through an opening-quarter mile in a swift :22.31. It was Jakarta who eventually assumed command with her other two rivals tracking her every move. Artie’s Princess, who came into the race off a sharp score in the Ruling Angel Stakes on September 12, sat in third for Kazushi Kimura.
Jakarta continued to call the shots on the front end, taking her rivals through a half-mile clip in :44.41, as Princess Artie kept the pacesetter well within her sights.
As the field turned for home, Artie’s Princess surged to the lead, holding a two-length advantage at Robert Geller’s stretch call. Looking like a lock mid-way down the lane, the Wesley Ward trainee had to fend off a late-race meeting with hard-charging Boardroom, who fell a head short of collaring the winner. Our Secret Agent rallied to net third, while Amalfi Coast, last year’s Bessarabian champ, finished fourth.
“Basically, if I could go to the front I wanted to go to the front, but I knew that just the two horses wanted to go to the front, and it looked a little bit fast that’s why I was just patient, watched from behind,” said Kimura, who earlier in the card teamed with Field Pass to take the Grade 3 Ontario Derby Stakes. “She was just so comfortable today.”
The final time was 1:20.90.
The ultra-consistent filly, bred and owned by Ken and Sarah Ramsey, now has three wins from four outings in 2020. Last year, the Ontario-bred went 2-1-0 from three starts, taking her first two races before a runner-up effort in the Frost King Stakes in November.
Her sire, We Miss Artie, also owned by Ken and Sarah Ramsey, won the 2014 Plate Trial at Woodbine before finishing third in the Queen’s Plate. He stood briefly in Ontario, moved to Kentucky and was recently sold for $6,500 at the Keeneland November sale.