Favored Red Rifle and jockey Alan Garcia held Florida Won safe in a late stretch duel, then had to withstand a steward's inquiry before officially being declared the winner of the featured $150,000, Grade 3 Dominion Day Stakes on Canada Day at Woodbine.
Placed in sixth for most of the mile and one-quarter contest, while Patrioticandproud led the field through fractions of :23.36, :47.26, 1:12.07 and 1:36.61, Red Rifle moved to challenge the leaders turning for home, cut across in front of Pender Harbour (hence the inquiry) in mid-stretch to take command, then beat back a late rail bid from Florida Won for the one and one-quarter length victory. The final time was 2:01.93.
The venerable seven-year-old Pender Harbour, a Sovereign Award winner as a three-year-old and career earner of over $1.7 million, finished third, another two and one-half lengths behind, as the 5-2 second choice.
Trained by North America's perennial leader Todd Pletcher, who was winning his first Dominion Day, Red Rifle, a five-year-old gelded son of Giant's Causeway, was scoring his sixth victory in only 18 life outings, but has been second five times and third once.
He entered the Dominion Day winless in four starts this year, but had won one of his two starts over Keeneland's synthetic surface in 2013 and 2014. Hence the reason for his owner and co-breeder, Twin Creeks Racing Stables, to supplement him at a cost of $3,000 to the race over Woodbine's Polytrack. The decision netted a significant quick return, since the winner received $90,000 and has now banked $564,270 in his career to date.
“He (Pletcher) told me let him run his race,” said Garcia, who was winning a leading seventh stakes race at Woodbine. “(He said) If he breaks good, then go on with him. He's got a beautiful stride and can run all day long. (But) He broke a step slow, so I said, 'let me be patient and come running.' Unbelievable, today, this horse. Pletcher also said if he's rating and he's happy, don't worry about what position you are in.”
Red Rifle, the 2-1 favourite, paid $6.40, $3.50 and $3, combining with Florida Won ($3.80, $3.20) for a $27.40 (5-1) exactor. A 5-1-4 (Pender Harbour, $2.70) triactor was worth $69.70 while a $1 Superfecta [5-1-4-7 (Patrioticandproud)] was worth $114.20.
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