Manitoba-bred star filly Hidden Grace capped off a perfect 7-for-7 season with what appeared to be a hard-fought victory in the $50,000 CTHS Stakes at Century Downs on Oct. 26, but it really wasn’t.

Four-wide into the first turn of the seven-furlong sales stakes, the smooth, rangy bay forced the pace through a quick quarter mile of 21.86 seconds, took a short lead out of the turn, got the half mile in :44.89 while opening up on her own steam, took a clear lead into the stretch, and still had enough left to hold off multiple stakes-winning second choice Raider by a half-length, stopping the timer in 1:23.50. And that was after a seven-week layoff with only one work.

“I gave her a strong gallop two days before her prep race and she coughed four times afterwards,” said trainer Mike Nault. “That’s not like her, so we scoped her and found a minor lung infection. So we couldn’t run her in the prep. It was tricky to get her ready after that.

“I had to train her lighter, and she likes to train hard. We had to back off and get her healthy at the same time. We only had the one five-eighths work in her. It was a good work in 1:02, but if we’d been able to get another work or race into her, I would have been a lot more comfortable.”

It was a superb way to end the year for Hidden Grace and her owner/breeders Cam Ziprick, Charles Fouillard and Barry Arnason. The veteran ownership team had managed their filly through a perfect season without overdoing it, in a fashion similar to that of 2018 Sovereign Award winner Escape Clause, who had similar connections.

Escape Clause was bred by Cam Ziprick and Arnason Farms and trained by Don Schnell. Nault was working for Schnell while Escape Clause was developing, and when Schnell went on the road with Escape Clause, Nault took over the training of Hidden Grace. Laura Garrett groomed both Escape Clause and Hidden Grace at Assiniboia Downs, while Brittany McDonald cared Hidden Grace at Century Downs.

Obvious comparisons are already being drawn between the two, being by the same sire and having similar connections and records. Some say Hidden Grace has done more that Escape Clause had done at this point in her career, but we’re not so sure. Although Escape Clause wasn’t undefeated at the same point in her career, she did have a knock-down, drag-out second-place finish against the boys in the Manitoba Derby that revealed her true character, something that was on display for the world to see when she came back gamely to just miss to Midnight Bisou in the Apple Blossom Grade 1 at Oaklawn Park earlier this year.

Hidden Grace didn’t run in the Manitoba Derby, but she showed flashes of brilliance and gave possible previews of the future while testing steadily tougher horses. In her second start as a 3-year-old, she moved into open company in the Chantilly Stakes at Assiniboia Downs, got left mildly in the gate, gradually moved to the lead inside, and accelerated on the turn to get the half in a sharp 46 flat, running away from her field to win by 5 ½ -lengths.

From there, Hidden Grace went on to win the restricted R C Anderson Stakes, the Manitoba Oaks, the restricted Distaff Stakes over older horses and finally, before heading to Century Downs, the Manitoba Matron over favoured older mare Tadaa, who also happens to be by Going Commando.

Hidden Grace is by Going Commando out of the mare High Pioneer by Pioneering, which makes her a full sister to local stakes winners Jet Again and Paint My Ride. Going Commando (Unbridled’s Song) is a full brother to Rockport Harbor, who was a pure runner, and the Werk Nick Rating for a son of Unbridled’s Song with daughters of Mr. Prospector is an A++, showing some minor stakes winners.

Digging a little deeper, Unbridled’s Song crossed with a mare having the Mr. Prospector/Secretariat cross on the top line of the broodmare sire, produced millionaire and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies-Grade 1 winner Ria Antonia. And if we really want to get into dreamland, Eclipse Award and Breeders’ Cup Classic-Grade 1 winner Arrogate is also by Unbridled’s Song out of a Mr. Prospector line mare.

We also have more to look forward to in 2020, as both Escape Clause and Hidden Grace have full sisters coming to the races as 2-year-olds, and both of their dams are again in foal to Going Commando.

How good is Hidden Grace?

It’s difficult to say, as she has never really been tested. She’s now 9-for-9, all in stakes, and she’s earned $133,140 U.S. Perhaps more importantly, she has been allowed to grow up and mature, which is a luxury too many young horses never get to experience. She’s also getting a rest right now on Barry Arnason’s farm in Manitoba. Plans are to her to go to Phoenix for spring training and then come back to Assiniboia Downs, where she can continue to develop, and, if she keeps winning, move her up to the next level late in the season, similar to the path Escape Clause took.

“She’s the best horse I’ve ever ridden,” said jockey Renaldo Cumberbatch, who rode Hidden Grace to all nine of her victories and who also won on Escape Clause. “Words can’t describe her. She knows where the winning pole is at any racetrack. This horse is a freak of nature.”