This Saturday at Woodbine, Awesometank, a four-year-old daughter of Intense Focus, will look to go one better than she did in her impressive Grade 1 effort last time out.
Owned by Lee Yuk Lun Alan, and trained by William Haggas, the dark bay heads into the Grade 1, $1 million Ricoh Woodbine Mile off an outstanding North American debut in the Beverly D. Stakes on August 10 at Arlington.
Under Florent Geroux, Awesometank, at 15-1, finished second to favored Sistercharlie in the 1 3/16-mile turf feature in Illinois.
England-based Haggas, who trains horses for Queen Elizabeth II, was ecstatic with the performance of the British-bred miss.
“She ran a terrific race in Chicago,” he said. “She took to the training really well. As soon as she got there, she loved being ponied on the track. She was relaxed and calm. I knew she was going to run well because she'd gone into the race well.”
Prior to a seventh-place effort in the Group 2 Fred Cowley MBE Memorial Summer Mile at Ascot in July, Awesometank finished second in the Group 3 Princess Elizabeth Stakes on June 1 at Epsom.
Last year, she took the Coral Distaff at Sandown Park, and in May of this year, she was victorious in the Conqueror Stakes at Goodwood.
In the latter, Awesometank duelled with a rival in the late stages, eventually getting the better of that foe, before Anna Nerium came calling late. At the wire, Awesometank held on for a gutsy head score in the one-mile race run over 'good' going.
A five-time winner, along with five seconds, the filly appears to be on the right track heading into her Canadian debut.
Haggas believes the world-renowned E.P. Taylor Turf Course suits his starter well.
“It's a big, galloping track,” he noted. “And that's what she's used to.”
The accomplished trainer knows Awesometank will have to step up her game on Saturday afternoon at Canada's Showplace of Racing. After contesting the Mile, she'll head south of the border to continue her North American racing career.
“We've had her from a yearling,” said Haggas. “She's always been a very sound, very tough, very consistent filly. She upgraded her performances in Chicago. The plan is to leave her in America now. After she runs in Canada, she'll go down to Keeneland to run. We'll take it from there.”
Awestometank was one of four Europeans who checked in late Monday night for the major turf stakes here this weekend following a flight from Amsterdam.
Magnetic Charm, a candidate for Saturday's Grade 2, $250,000 Canadian Stakes; Walk In Marrakesh and Diamond Sparkles, for Sunday's Grade 1 Natalma; and Vitalogy, for Sunday's Grade 1 Summer, were on the same transatlantic flight.
Magnetic Charm, like Awesometank, is trained by Haggas, whose only previous starter in Canada was 2016 Woodbine Mile finisher Mutakayyef. The three-year-old is owned by Her Majesty, The Queen, whose only previous starter here was 2016 Canadian International runner-up Dartmouth.
Exercise riders Annie Martin and Jessica Campbell accompanied the fillies and Haggas is expected to arrive on Friday.
The $250,000 Natalma, a one-mile race for two-year-old fillies, is a “Win and You're In” for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Fillies.
Mark Johnston trains Walk In Marraskesh, who is here with traveling head lad Mark Billingham.
Diamond Sparkles, a recent private purchase who will race for Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Gary Barber, now is trained by Mark Casse and will be heading south of the border next week.
Johnston was the trainer of record when La Pelosa won last year's Natalma. He also has been represented in six runnings of the Grade 1 Canadian International, finishing second with Jukebox Jury in 2017 and with Fruits of Love in 1999, and third with Yavana's Pace in 2002.
The Summer, also at one mile and worth $250,000, is a “Win and You're In” for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf.
Vitalogy, conditioned by Joseph O'Brien, was accompanied by traveling head lad Gary O'Connor and will be his trainer's first Canadian starter.
Old Persian, whose target is Saturday's Grade 1, $300,000 Northern Dancer, has been on the grounds since last Saturday night and cantered on the main track Monday and Tuesday.
Trained by Charlie Appleby, Old Persian won the Group 1, $6 million Dubai Sheema Classic over 1 ½ miles of ”good” going in Dubai this spring.
Traveling head lass Sophie Chretien and rider Jason Tate will oversee Old Persian's preparations here.
Chretien also was here with Hawkbill when that Appleby trainee ran in two editions of the Northern
Dancer, favoured on each occasion but eighth last year after ending a close second in 2017.
Both of those Northern Dancers were won by locally-based Johnny Bear, who currently is on the farm after being injured in Florida this winter.
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