MERVEILLEUX got her chance to strut her stuff in Sunday’s $250,000 Wonder Where Stakes at Woodbine, performing as many expected she could by winning by 3 lengths in the 1 1/4 mile turf race for Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies.
It was the third jewel of the Triple Tiara following the Woodbine Oaks and Bison City Stakes.
(See below for more on the great mare Wonder Where!)
Al and Bill Ulwelling’s hard luck filly by Paynter – Breech Inlet, by Holy Bull is a robust, long-striding gal bred by Mike Carroll and trained by Kevin Attard, but she was unlucky in the big ones this year.
Merveilleux showed her potential as a youngster, finishing a close second in both the Princess Elizabeth Stakes and Ontario Lassie to complete her two-year-old campaign in 2019.
She won her June 21 sophomore debut before contesting a trio of stakes events, including the Woodbine Oaks Presented by Budweiser, where she finished a game third despite traffic trouble, and ending up sixth in the Queen’s Plate against a speed-favouring bias.
In the Wonder Where, however, jockey Rafael Hernandez worked out the winning trip aboard the filly who was rated mid-pack along the rail early in the 1-1/4-mile turf test for three-year-old fillies foaled in Canada.
Leaving from the inside post on the turn of the E.P. Taylor Turf Course, She’s a Dream assumed command with Justleaveitalone just to her outside before crossing in front as the field moved down the backstretch.
Justleaveitalone clocked an opening quarter in :24.99, half-mile in :50.89 and three-quarters in 1:16.60 with She’s a Dream pressing the pace in second and Merveilleux, racing without blinkers here, behind the leaders and poised to make a move on the final turn.
Hernandez tipped Merveilleux outside coming into the stretch approaching the one-mile mark in 1:41:16, and the Paynter-Breech Inlet filly took off to score by three lengths. The winning time was 2:05.34 over a firm course.
Closing from the backfield, Gun Society finished second and the Josie Carroll-trained Curlin’s Voyage, who was the 2-1 favourite after winning the Woodbine Oaks and finishing fifth in the Queen’s Plate, was third. She’s a Dream edged out Justleaveitalone for fourth by a half-length.
“We’ve been having a rough meet with this one,” noted Hernandez. “I was impressed with the performance and we had a clean trip today.”
Hernandez said his filly was relaxed in the first turn and all the way down the backside.
“Turning for home, you switch and I said, ‘Come on baby, keep it up, we have to do it!’”
Sent postward as the 5-1 third choice on the toteboard, Merveilleux paid $13.80 to win.
“She’s been hard luck,” said Attard. “We’ve always liked her a lot. We thought heading into the Oaks we had the right kind of horse and even heading into the Plate with her we were really excited. Unfortunately, things haven’t gone her way. It’s been a tough season for the Ulwellings to boot, so it’s just kind of the way the cards stack up and everything lined up our way today and she just had a good trip and ran to our expectations.”
Merveilleux now sports a career record reading 3-3-1 from 10 starts with earnings climbing over $550,000.
WONDER WHERE, Horse of the Year 1959, beating out Triple Crown winner New Providence for the honour. This gal is in the Canadian Horse racing Hall of Fame, read more here: