Albert Frassetto's Can'thelpbelieving passed the dueling race leaders down the homestretch to claim the victory in the $175,000 Sky Classic Stakes (Gr. 2) on Sunday afternoon at Woodbine Racetrack.
Trainer Graham Motion earned his second consecutive win in the 1-3/8 mile turf event for horses three years old and up following a victory with Messi in last year's edition.
Jockey Joe Bravo had Can'thelpbelieving positioned in fourth-place along the rail throughout before taking a run at the leaders down the lane. Bravo angled the six-year-old bay gelding outside entering the stretch and rallied to the top to win by one and a quarter lengths in 2:14:95, with fellow late-closer Noble Thought (Patrick Husbands) checking in second.
“It makes my job a lot easier when Graham ran the best horse this afternoon,” said Bravo after the victory. “It made my job easy and he's a pro. He's kind of like a barn pet because he has that personality of just 'laid back, relaxed, takes everything in stride,' but when he needs to he kind of jumps into it like he seemed to at the top of the lane today.”
Putting her five-race win streak on the line, the lone mare in the field Starship Jubilee (Luis Contreras) established the lead through a :25.91 first quarter with Nijinsky Stakes champion Dragon Bay (Gary Boulanger) racing to her outside and Pumpkin Rumble (Jesse Campbell) looming in third-place. Dragon Bay took a short lead on the outside racing to the half in :50.92 and held command as their battled continued through three-quarters in 1:15.68. Starship Jubilee tried to fight back and they raced head-to-head past the mile marker in 1:39.74 and through the stretch, but Can'thelpbelieving stole the spotlight with his late-closing antics.
Sent postward as the even-money favourite following a pair of runner-up finishes in the United Nations Stakes (Gr. 1) at Monmouth Park and Nijinsky Stakes (Gr. 2) at Woodbine, Can'thelpbelieving paid $4.10, $2.80 and $2.40.
“You know turf racing, it's all about position and knowing the animal too,” said Bravo. “I rode this horse, not this year's United Nations, it was last year's United Nations [finishing fifth], and I begged to ride him back just because he's a little quirky. All horses you've got to know and I felt that race taught me a lot and it showed today, it made my job really easy.”
Woodbine's Northern Dancer and Pattison Canadian International are among the upcoming stakes possibly on the radar for Can'thelpbelieving.
“You've got a really nice turf program here so I'm sure,” said Jane Buchanan, racing manager for Graham Motion. “We'll just see how he comes back and I'm pretty sure we'll probably reconsider coming back up here.”
Bred by G. Kelly, Milltownmore & Pinnacle B/S in Ireland, the son of Duke of Marmalade and Embark surpassed the $500,000 earnings mark with his fifth career win from 23 starts.
Can'thelpbelieving combined with Noble Thought ($6.90, $5.10) for a 1-2 exactor worth $23.30. Pumpkin Rumble ($5.60) finished third, edging out Dragon Bay and Starship Jubilee in a photo for show. Calileo's Spear completed the field.
A $1 triactor of 1-2-5 paid $53.40 and the winning 1-2-5-4 combination for the superfecta returned $98.95.
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